What’s your point?

One way to skim-read a text is to read just the topic sentence, a summarising sentence that is often the paragraph’s first sentence (but can be near the beginning or at the end of the paragraph). The topic sentence gives the main idea of the paragraph, so a list of topic sentences will be a list of all the main points in the text. You can test the flow of your own argument by reading your topic sentences. This can reveal gaps that need plugging. It can also reveal woolly paragraphs that have no topic sentence and don’t really make a clear point. Ask yourself, ‘What point is each of my paragraphs making? Does a sentence near the beginning or end of the paragraph make that point?’ If not, can you tweak the topic sentence to ensure it encapsulates your argument? If you can’t, you may need to alter or redistribute the contents of the paragraph. This exercise requires you to process a chunk of text and sum up the main point concisely — good practice for note taking, interviews and oral examinations, too.

Heather Dyer
21 February 2018