How do I write a topic sentence about Death in the Lab?

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muharana | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Because I'm not sure what type of essay you need to do or whether Death in the Lab is a novel, article or other type of material, I can't be as specific as I'd like to be. But I can tell you how to write a topic sentence about any subject, so that should get you where you need to go.

As you're reading the selection, start jotting down some of the most important ideas in the text. How do you decide what's important? Try asking yourself, "What's the main thing the author wanted me to remember about this piece?" or, "What was the author trying to teach me by writing this piece?" There may be several things, so write them all down.

If they're really important, there will be lots of paragraphs about those ideas that you can quote and paraphrase. In fact, one way to choose important ideas is to look for headings or titles or even photos or other graphics through the selection. They're clues that those parts of the selection are considered important.

When you're ready to write that topic sentence, go through your "important ideas" list and pick, say, the five most important comments or ideas. Be sure to choose ideas or comments that you could easily support with information from the text.

Once you've chosen those five, really give each one a good "think." Which one will be easiest to write about? Which one do you feel confident about? Which one could you almost write about without having to look back at the text? Which one do you think your teacher would want you to choose? Which one might be something you'd see on a test about the selection?

And finally, ask yourself if there's one topic you really have strong feelings about that you might want to "argue" about on paper. If so, you'll probably enjoy writing about that one.

Once you've chosen that one big idea, it's time to write a topic sentence with it. That means it's time for you to decide exactly what you want your reader to learn from the essay you write, and to say it in one very clear sentence.

I read an article entitled "Death in the Lab," which was about a young researcher who had died from injuries she suffered while working underĀ  dangerous conditions in a university laboratory.

Let's pretend my list included four important ideas like:

  • A student died of burns over 40% of her body after her clothes caught fire in a university laboratory.
  • Her parents sued the university because they said she wasn't taught proper procedures.
  • Experts said her professor had been negligent but the university did not think it was their fault.
  • Experts who examined the lab were upset about some of the things they found and didn't find.
  • The case was settled and Harran went back to his teaching job in spite of all the evidence.

Okay, they're kind of simple, but you get the idea! So here are some topic sentences I might write for that particular article, based on my five important ideas:

1. For an informational or expository essay, which would merely summarize the events that took place or the legal issues that they raised without taking sides:

"Death in the Lab" is a chilling story about the death of a young research assistant and the trial that followed.

2. For an argumentative or persuasive essay, which takes a stand and supports it with facts from the text:

Professor Patrick Harran is obviously responsible for the untimely death of student researcher Sheri Sangji.

Can you see the difference? One topic sentences tells you that the writer is going to merely summarize what happened without taking sides. The other let's the reader know that the essay is going to argue a specific point and prove it with facts from the text.

I hope this helps you get started!

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