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[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER: Part of being a skilled academic writer is knowing how to craft a well-written paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting details. Just like a thesis statement guides the structure of an entire essay, a topic sentence guides the structure of an individual paragraph. We typically find topic sentences within the first two sentences of a paragraph. This is a common location because their job is to communicate the main idea of the paragraph to the reader. A topic sentence is followed by supporting details. These are sentences which give the reader more information about the topic of that paragraph. These details can give reasons to explain something. They can show cause and effect, give an example, tell a story, outline the steps in a process, persuade someone to believe something, and much more. The type of supporting details you choose for each paragraph is determined by your topic sentence. We can think of this
relationship like a table. Here, we see that the topic sentence of your paragraph is the top of the table. And each leg is a supporting detail. If the table legs didn't appropriately match the top of the table or if there were no table legs at all, the top could not function as a table. It needs support. This is the same for a paragraph. Your topic sentence needs the support of appropriately chosen details to successfully communicate your ideas. Let's take a look at some more examples to learn more. Here is a paragraph from an essay called "The Russian and US School Systems" by Kate Atkinson. The thesis statement guiding this essay is, "Though both systems are highly acclaimed, they are each as different as the countries they belong to." This lets us know that the following paragraphs will most likely explain the differences between the Russian and American education systems. Here's the first body paragraph. We can easily find the topic sentence of the paragraph at the beginning. We know that this is the topic sentence because the main idea matches the supporting details that follow. The supporting details in this paragraph explain how Russian students determine their area of specialization after secondary education. Here's another body paragraph from the same essay. Notice how the second and third sentences give further information about the education path of students who have graduated from secondary school, which is the topic of this paragraph. The topic sentences in both of these paragraphs are good because they are neither too broad nor too specific. If a topic sentence is too broad-- for instance, studying is difficult-- the writer will probably have a difficult time squeezing all of the information
that should be detailed into a single paragraph. We could improve this topic sentence by including more information like a specific group of people and a specific subject. For example, studying for university science courses is often difficult for students. On the other hand, if the topic sentence is too narrow-- United States shares a border with Canada and Mexico-- the writer will have a difficult time finding enough supporting details to create a full paragraph. This example topic sentence is simply a statement of fact. We can't really expand it into a full paragraph with supporting details. Let's improve it. The United States' shared borders with Mexico and Canada have helped improve the economies of all three countries. Now, we need to add some supporting details. Which of these would not be an appropriate supporting detail for our topic sentence? If you picked the third choice, you're correct. While the other choices could certainly support our topic sentence, this sentence is not appropriate. It gives information that is unrelated to the topic. After this video, you'll have more opportunities to practice selecting strong topic sentences and appropriate supporting details.

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