Working with a Main Idea Statement

There are two basic types of main idea statement: a thesis statement, which is the main idea of an essay, and a topic sentence, which is the main idea of a major supporting paragraph.

First, when creating a main idea for an essay or a paragraph, don't settle for just one. Play with it, paraphrase yourself, invert the phrasing, turn it around, use synonymous terms/phrases. The key to writing is revision! 

Let's say you come up with about 3 to 5 "test" main idea statements. Turn each one into its "interrogative" equivalent [click here for a brief review about sentence types]; a good main idea statement will ask a good question.


Thesis Statements:

Statement: Physical appearance reveals much about a person.
Interrogative equivalent: What does a person's physical appearance reveal?

Statement: The actions of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" compel Macbeth to perform atrocious acts.
Interrogative equivalent: What actions by Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" compel Macbeth to perform atrocious acts?

Statement: In Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler," Hedda possesses some of the characteristics of the archetypal good mother. 
Interrogative equivalent: What characteristics of the archetypical good mother does Hedda possess in Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler?"

Topic Sentences:

Statement: Posture often reveals much about a person's personality. 
Interrogative equivalent: In what ways is a person's personality revealed through posture?

Statement: One way Lady Macbeth coerces her husband to perform heinous acts is to denigrate his status as a man.
Interrogative equivalent: In what ways does Lady Macbeth denigrate her husband's status as a man?

Statement: One archetypal characteristic of a good mother that Hedda possesses is a great deal of patience.

Interrogative equivalent: In what ways does Hedda exhibit motherly, archetypal characteristics of patience with her children?

Knowlege of the relationship between declarative and interrogative sentences leads to a great technique for writing main idea statements because formulating the "interrogative" equivalent provides multi-benefits: it makes you aware of the question the audience is going to ask of your thesis, it makes you think about the question that must be answered (throughout every step of the process, you want to ask if what you're writing directly or indirectly focuses upon a central or major supporting idea), and the process provides an opportunity to produce a more viable main idea statement, which is, after all, the main focus of the paper or of a major supporting paragraph. 

The reason thesis statements and topic sentences are so much alike is that they both are main idea statements: the thesis statement is what an essay is about; the topic sentence is what a paragraph is about.


B A C K   T O   H A N D O U T S


There are four different types of sentences: 
  • Declarative: a statement (all thesis statements are declarative sentences)
    • A declarative is the inverse (the opposite, i.e.) of an interrogative).
  • Interrogative: an asking sentence ending with a question mark
    • An interrogative is the inverse of a declarative.
There is a most definite correlation (connection) between those two in being able to create a good, solid thesis statement or topic sentence.