Student Counseling Center
Finding the Main Idea
The main idea is the most important point the author wants you to understand in the paragraph. Why is this so valuable and how does it benefit you as a reader? How do you find the main idea?
It is also known as the topic sentence. The main idea is the one central idea which the author wants you to under stand about the subject matter. Once you identify the main idea what you are reading will become more clear.
Selecting the Main Idea Benefits you in four ways:
- By actively searching for the main idea you will focus your concentration on what you are reading.
- The main idea is the “glue” that holds the details of the paragraph together, enabling you to recall many more the details explaining it.
- Identifying the main idea is an aid to studying.
- Knowing the main ideas of separate paragraphs will allow you to create effective summaries of longer selections.
To find the main idea:
- Read the paragraph carefully.
- Determine the subject matter of the paragraph by asking WHO or WHAT is the passage about?
- Answer – What is it that the author wants me to understand about the subject?
Find a single sentence in the paragraph that answers that question. That sentence is the main idea of the paragraph.
Often, the first sentence of the paragraph states the main idea. Sometimes, the last sentence in the paragraph states the main idea. Occasionally, the main idea is nether the first or the last but one of the other sentences in the paragraph. If a passage is difficult it may be tempting to select a sentence just because it contains familiar or interesting information. Always remember to select the sentence which answers the questions “What does the author want me to understand about the subject matter?”
When you read, locate the main idea by asking these questions in this order:
- What is the subject matter? Or Who or what is the passage about?
- What does the author want me to understand about the subject? (Remember the answer is the main idea)
- Does the first or last sentence of the paragraph answer the question?
- If the above answer is no, then look within the body of the paragraph for a sentence that states the main idea.
Check again to be sure the main idea says something about the subject matter and the sentence you selected covers all the important information in the paragraph.
Appointments:Appointments for Study Skills may be made by contacting:Student Counseling Center University Center, Room 3170 Phone: (903) 566-7254Office hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.