Thesis statements and topic sentences for Essay 1

September 9, 2019

The thesis for Essay 1 will be a generalization about Luma’s personality and character that you want to explain to your reader.

Your goal will be to figure out what you think Luma’s main characteristics are or what drives her in terms of your personality.

Once you have enough material to write about, then you can draft a thesis statement and the main ideas in your body paragraphs that develop that thesis.

Here’s a sample thesis statement for that assignment:

Luma Mufleh is a self-sufficient, self-motivated person, with a desire to have a life she can truly call her own.

This thesis tells the reader that the rest of the essay will illustrate this general claim.

A topic sentence is different from your thesis statement. The topic sentence shows only what the paragraph it is attached to is about.

Thesis: Luma Mufleh is a self-sufficient, self-motivated person, with a desire to have a life she can truly call her own.

These are the main ideas of the body paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: Self-sufficient

Paragraph 2: Self-motivated

Paragraph 3: A desire for a life of her own

All of these aspects of Luma need to be discussed further, and they all explain the thesis statement.

And each of these three ideas can become topic sentences. For each idea, there will be a paragraph that explains it.

Change each of these main ideas into a complete sentence, and you’ve drafted a good topic sentence.

Example: One of the strongest aspects of Luma’s character is her self-sufficiency in any situation.

The rest of the sentences in that paragraph will explain this topic sentence.

Keep in mind: effective topic sentence has three characteristics:

1. A topic sentence is a complete sentence.

There’s a difference between a topic and a topic sentence.

The topic is what the paragraph is about; a topic sentence, however, is a complete sentence that includes a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought.

Topic: Luma’s self-sufficiency

Topic sentence: One of the strongest aspects of Luma’s character is her self-sufficiency in any situation.

2. A topic sentence is more than just an announcement of what you plan to write about.

In this paragraph, I will explain my ideas about Luma’s self-sufficiency.

A topic sentence makes a point about the topic that the paragraph discusses.

How is she self-sufficient? What is an example of that self-sufficiency?

3. A topic sentence presents an idea that can be discussed in a single paragraph.

If your topic sentence is too broad, you won’t be able to discuss in just one paragraph. If it’s too narrow, you won’t be able to say much about it.

Topic sentence too broad: Luma’s experience living in America reflects the issues encountered by immigrants after 9/11.

As you draft your working thesis statement, ask yourself:

Is your thesis statement a complete sentence?

Does your thesis clearly express the main point of your essay?

Is your thesis specific and focused?

Do you avoid just making a statement or an announcement, but instead make a point about Luma’s character and personality?

Planning Essay 1

September 9, 2019

At this stage, you need to brainstorm a list of qualities of Luma’s personality and character.

Ask yourself:

What are the most important aspects of her personality?

What does she value the most?

What is the strongest part of her character?


Jot these down on notebook paper or on your computer.

Once you have a bunch of qualities, circle the ones that are most important or most revealing about who she is as a person. Then you can start drafting a working thesis statement.

Remember: A good thesis statement for an illustration is the main idea you want your readers to understand.

So your thesis is the main point you want to make about Luma’s personality or character.

Your topic sentences give specific examples that explain or show that main point.

Key elements of an illustration paragraph

September 8, 2019

An illustration paragraph should have a topic sentence that states that paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should present evidence – in the form of examples from the book – that supports and clarifies the general statement made in the topic sentence.

Examples in an illustration essay, by the way, should be arranged in logical order – for example, from least to most important or from general to specific.

You might be asking yourself: How many examples do I need to include in my body paragraphs?

The number of examples you will need depends on your topic sentence.

An illustration paragraph should end with a summary statement that reinforces the paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should also include transitions – that introduce the examples and connect them one to another and to the topic sentence.

These transitions help readers follow your discussion by indicating how your examples are related and how each example supports the topic sentence. Here are some examples:


in addition



one example

another example

The first … The second …

for example

for instance

Key elements of an illustration essay

September 8, 2019

The introduction of an illustration essay should include a clear thesis statement that identifies the essay’s main idea – the idea the examples will support.

The body paragraphs should present evidence – fully developed examples that support the thesis.

Each body paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence that identifies the example or group of related examples that the paragraph will discuss.

The conclusion of an illustration essay should include a summary statement that reinforces the essay’s thesis.

An illustration essay should use appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect examples within paragraphs and between paragraphs.

Basic guidelines: Writing a summary

August 29, 2019

Start your summary with the title of the book (in italics or underlined) and the author’s full name.

After you have introduced basic information about the introduction, the content of your summary should begin by providing the reader with the main idea or overall purpose of the introduction.

Use your own words throughout most of your summary.

Be sure to place any exact words or phrases from your text in quotation marks.

Limit your use of quotations in the summary to the author’s words or expressions that cannot be condensed or stated in your own way.

Your summary should contain only the main points of the text and avoid mentioning minor details.

Remember that a summary does not include your own opinion of the text on the issue. Save your opinion/thesis for essay writing.

In a summary, you are just summarizing up what someone else has written, not writing your own opinion.

After naming the author in the opening sentence of your summary, use the author’s last name along with the words “the author” throughout the summary to remind the reader that the ideas belong to the author. Use signal phrases such as:

According to the author
St. John also states
The author adds
The author points out that
The author asserts that

Model MLA essay format

February 5, 2019

Sample MLA Essay Format_MLA 8th Ed.

“Introduction” to Outcasts United

February 5, 2019

Attached below is a scanned PDF of the book’s introduction, for students who are unable to purchase a copy of the book in the first two weeks. (But all students are required to buy the book for the semester.)


List of Revision Symbols

September 7, 2018

Below is a list of revision symbols that I use when I give feedback to your essay drafts. I use these symbols as shorthand. (There’s also a list of these symbols in the back of your Pocket Style Manual.)

A check mark next to a sentence or a paragraph means “Good” or “Excellent”

add   Add word

agr   Agreement

awk  Awkward

cap  capitalize

cs  comma splice

dm  dangling modifier

ds   double space

-ed  -ed ending

frag  fragment

fs  fused sentence

ital   italics

lc   lower case

^    insert  (comma, period, semi-colon, etc.)

;    semi-colon

:    colon

” ”  quotation marks

?   Confusing or awkward

¶  New paragraph

pn agr  pronoun agreement

run-on (or ro)   run-on

ref  pronoun reference

sv agr  subject-verb agreement

tense  verb tense/tense shift

//   faulty parallelism

X   cut

#  insert space

[ ]  brackets

( )  parentheses







Welcome to English 101!

January 14, 2018

Welcome to English 101 at West Los Angeles College. Here are the two books we will be reading this semester:


Outcasts United by Warren St. John



Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson