In an academic essay, the first sentence of each new paragraph is called the topic sentence. Topic sentences are often considered “mini-thesis statements,” offering a subsection of the paper’s main argument. In fact, if you read the thesis statement and topic sentences alone, you should have an outline detailing exactly what the paper is about and the relationships between paragraphs and supporting evidence. To write good topic sentences in your next paper, remember these four tips:
1. Give the reader an idea of what the paragraph is about—and be specific.
Say you are writing an essay about Romeo & Juliet, and your argument is that the play is not the great romance people think it is. Your topic sentences should reinforce this idea but offer something a little more specific than just restating the main argument. For example, you might have a topic sentence that states, “Romeo is not romantic because at the beginning of the play, his love interest is Rosaline, not Juliet.” The rest of the paragraph would provide evidence showing how Romeo is in love with another woman until he quickly “falls in love” with Juliet and forgets his former flame. This topic sentence introduces an example and gives just the right amount of detail for the reader.
2. Avoid using lists.
Each paragraph in your essay should have one solid idea backed up with supporting evidence from the text or outside research. Therefore, a topic sentence should never have the format, “In this paragraph, I will discuss x, y, and z.” To use our Romeo & Juliet example, the topic sentence should not state, “Romeo & Juliet is a bad example of romance because the lovers have only known each other for three days, are too young for love, and are too immature.” A better tactic would be to break each of these three ideas (“known each other for three days,” “too young for love,” and “too immature”) into three paragraphs, with a topic sentence for each one.
3. Provide a transition between paragraphs.
While a topic sentence is meant to advance an argument and add new evidence, it should also reach back to the previous paragraph and ensure a smooth transition between ideas. There are four main types of transitions:
- Compare: Likewise, similar
Example: “Like Romeo’s constant praises of Juliet’s beauty, Juliet’s conversations with her Nurse suggest that physical attraction is the main motivation for Romeo and Juliet’s relationship.”
- Contrast: On the other hand, conversely, although, while, though, however, unlike
Example: “Unlike Romeo, who once courted Rosaline, Juliet has a lack of experience with men and is immature in matters of love.”
- Addition: Additionally, in addition, moreover, also, furthermore
Example: “Furthermore, Juliet’s lack of interest in Paris suggests that she is predisposed to ‘fall in love’ with a man who she thinks is a better alternative.”
- Passage of time: At the beginning, at the end, then, next, after, finally
Example: “At the end of the play, Romeo kills himself not only because of his love for Juliet, but because of his combined grief brought about by her supposed death, his exile, and the murders of Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris.”
4. Avoid overuse of rhetorical questions or quotes.
Student writers are tempted to start new paragraphs by posing a question, such as “Why is Romeo & Juliet considered a great romance?” However, in most academic essays, these questions tend to waste valuable space and do not add much to the paper. Using strong, declarative statements better supports an argument than asking a question for readers to interpret for themselves.
In addition, quotes should be used sparingly or not at all in topic sentences. For example, a poor topic sentence is, “In Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare writes, ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.” This sentence does not add any analysis or any of the writer’s own thoughts; it only quotes from the text. For writers who like to use quotes often, a better method is to integrate a snippet of a quote into a topic sentence. For example, “Shakespeare’s ‘star-crossed lovers’ are neither star-crossed nor lovers: they are two immature teenagers whose poor decisions lead to too many deaths throughout the play.” This sentence borrows from one of the play’s most famous lines (“star-crossed lovers”), but the argument is entirely the writer’s own and is much more compelling.
What are some of your best topic sentences? Let us know in the comments below.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Romeo and Juliet and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Romeo and Juliet at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Use of Foreshadowing in Romeo and JulietShakespeare uses foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet to warn the reader that danger or a perilous situation is near. As the play opens in the city of Verona, and the audience settles down to hear the tale of the star-crossed lovers, it is evident that things are not going to turn out well for the pair. The story of Romeo and Juliet progresses and the foreshadowing becomes heavier. The witty word play that Shakespeare so often employs serves as a double entendre for the impending events, such as Mercutio’s admittance that the next day will find him a “grave man". In what scenes of the play is the foreshadowing the strongest, and what is the event being foreshadowed? What does Shakespeare hope to accomplish with the foreshadowing, and what does use does foreshadowing deliver to the audience? For this essay on Romeo and Juliet, consider the overall importance and role of foreshadowing using the questions listed here as a guide.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Power of Destiny in Romeo and Juliet
The powerful concept of fate and destiny has intrigued many writers, including William Shakespeare. Although Romeo and Juliet scheme up many ways to be together, it is almost certain that they have no hand in their fate; they are merely being pushed along by fate. As Juliet prepares to leave everything she loves, Romeo is caught up in the cosmic warfare between his family and the Capulet’s, fighting for his life against her cousins and is eventually banished by the King. Using these examples, as well as Shakespeare’s own textual hints, describe how destiny controls the end result Romeo and Juliet’s ill-fated union. Did they ever have a chance together? Why or why not?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Role of Religion in Romeo & Juliet
The theme of religion appears quite frequently throughout the text of Romeo and Juliet. In what ways does religion in Romeo and Juliet allude to the feelings that the lovers have for each other? Romeo compares Juliet to a saint as he kisses her hand, saying that he is unworthy to do so, and at several moments, the duo declare their love as divined by God. What is the connection between their affair and the heavens, and do they perhaps overestimate God’s favor? If God really approves of their love, why is it that the one religious figure in the play causes their deaths? Also, in what way does the language used between Romeo and Juliet add to the consecration of their relationship?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Depiction of Romantic Love in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is, at its core, a story about the undeniable power of love. Before Romeo and Juliet meet, both of them are involved with another. Romeo is infatuated with Rosaline, who does not return his feelings, and Juliet is betrothed to Paris by her father, but shows no true feelings towards him. However, once Romeo meets Juliet, their prospective romances fall apart as their feelings for one another eclipse their respective feelings towards Rosaline and Paris. In what instances is their love for one another different from their feelings towards Rosaline and Paris? How do their interactions vary, and in what ways do the people around them notice these changes?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 : Romeo & Juliet and the Role of the Feuding Families
The role of the family in Romeo & Juliet is perhaps the most important, as the feuding families end up being the ultimate downfall for Romeo and Juliet. Were it not for the battle between the Capulets and Montagues, the ending of Romeo and Juliet would have turned out far differently. The feuding causes Romeo’s banishment, the death of Tybalt, and the ultimate suicide of the lovers. In what ways are Romeo and Juliet driven to destruction by the wars of their families? Do the lovers underestimate the hatred between their fathers and overestimate the power of their love to overcome the family feud?
For an open database of freely accessible articles on Shakespeare and other topics, click here to go to ArticleMyriad
This list of important quotations from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Romeo and Juliet listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." (I.v.52-53)
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief That thou her maid are far more fair than she." (II.2. 2-6)
“O, find him! Give this ring to my true knight And bid him come to take his last farewell." (III.ii.142-143)
“I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” (V.i.6).
“Then I defy you, stars!" (V.i.24)
“Oh! I am fortune’s fool" (III.i.131)
“God joined my heart and Romeo's, thou our hands" (IV.i.55)
“Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,/Which is the god of my idolatry,/ And I'll believe thee." (II.ii.113-115)
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet." (II.i.74–78)
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, Whose misadventured piteous overthrows, Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife" (Prologue. 5-8)