This may seem like a stupid question from an English teacher (2nd year), but I am confounded. What is the difference between writing an assertion to start a body paragraph versus writing a statement to begin a body paragraph? My sophomores are working on their research papers and a colleague of mine said he keeps getting statements versus assertion sentences at the beginning of his students' paragraphs. Is there truly a difference between the two? I thought as long as the "topic sentence" mentioned a part of the premise/assertion from the thesis statement, the body paragraph was set up to argue and support that particular line of argument. Am I just getting caught up in the minutiae or is there a literal difference. I want to be clear and concise so my students learn from this experience and I don't want to confuse them or teach them something that is incorrect. This is verbose, but I appreciate any and all advice.

  • My understanding is the same as yours, but see if this is helpful: english.stackexchange.com/questions/70480/… Jan 2, 2016 at 18:41
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    An assertion is a statement that says "such-and-such is true". (But I know of no rule requiring that the "topic sentence" be an assertion. In fact, it would make no sense for this to be the case if the paragraph is, eg, an ostensibly unbiased discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of something.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 2, 2016 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


All assertions are statements, but not all statements are assertions:

  • assertions are positive, but statements may be positive or negative;
  • assertions do not supply proof or support, but statements may supply those.

Given that your colleague is suggesting a difference, it must be in those distinctions. Your colleague is seeing negative statements or statements that provide proof or support, or statements that are both negative and provide proof or support, rather than bald assertions, as topic sentences.

For a simple example, suppose the thesis is that fathers are more able to teach their children how to shoot guns. Then, the statement

Mothers may not have the experience they need to teach children how to shoot, because they have been deprived by their circumstances.

contrasts with the assertion

Mothers are less experienced shooters than fathers.

Whether this is what your colleague has in mind, I don't know (you'd have to ask, caprice being the norm). Likewise, whether or not requiring assertions as opposed to statements for topic sentences is pedagogically correct for your students is outside my purview.

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    Thank you JEL this does clarify the dilemma I am in. I plan on asking my colleague what he meant when we go back to school on Monday. My understanding was that as long as the topic sentence alluded to the thesis statement (meaning students are identifying which point they will be arguing) it should not matter if it's a statement or assertion, as long as there is no opinion/judgement stated, but is guided to a specific point supported by evidence gathered from research. Thank you very much for the clarification.
    – Lisa Ann
    Jan 3, 2016 at 2:37

For what it's worth:

What your Colleague may have in Mind is that an Assertion is like a Hypothesis, while a Statement is a full-fledged Theory.

A Hypothesis does not require Proof: it is just an Idea. It may be Right, or it may be Wrong, and it's up to the Author to supply Evidence in Favor of his or her Hypothesis (assertion).

A Theory, on the other Hand, is Something that may already be Known to Others, along with all the necessary Evidence, just like a Statement.

Here's a statement:

John Singer Sargent was an American painter specializing in Realism and Impressionism.

Here's an assertion:

John Singer Sargent was an American painter who drew his inspiration from Rembrandt, Hals, Delacroix, Manet, and, to a lesser extent, William Meritt Chase.

There former is a well-known fact. The latter is an assertion: the author is expected to supply some evidence, verbal or otherwise, that would prove his point.

  • Hi Ricky,thank you very much for your answer. I'm so glad I found this forum as this particular issue has been bugging me since we left for winter break.
    – Lisa Ann
    Jan 3, 2016 at 2:38
  • @LisaAnn: Any time, dude.
    – Ricky
    Jan 3, 2016 at 2:48

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