Main Ideas: Everything You Need to Know

This refers to the major point upon which a story is based. In case it’s a paragraph or a larger section of text, the main idea refers to the central thought that tells the reader what the paragraph or text is about.

“What does the author want the readers to know about the text/story?” or “What does the author want to teach his readers?” are some questions that are answered by the main idea. An author often states the main idea of his story or text in a single sentence. But if it’s stated in paragraphs, it’s called the topic sentence. The stated main idea in an article is known as the thesis statement. If the author hasn’t declared the main idea clearly or directly, it’s called an implied main idea. To find an implied main idea, readers need to look at the particular statements in the paragraph or text to understand what ideas they suggest. They can also depend on reasons, facts, or examples that give suggestions or hints about the main idea or help to conclude about the main idea. The key is to use the given clues or hints to discover the text’s main idea.

News articles, short stories, novels, poems, essays – all have the main idea. For students, it’s vital to be able to discover the main idea of a text for reading comprehension. Here are some strategies that can help them.

·         Identifying the topic: After they have read the text thoroughly, students should try to identify the topic. They should focus on finding what or who the text is about. They don’t need to think yet about what statement or argument the text is putting forth about this topic.

·         Summarizing the text: After reading the text carefully, students should summarize it in their own words in a single sentence. They may choose to use just ten to twelve words to tell someone what the text is about. Their summary should be what they would say to that person.

·         Focusing on the text’s first and last sentences: Authors often put the main idea in the first or last sentence of the article or paragraph, or closer to either. Thus, students should isolate those sentences to determine if they make sense as the main idea.

Searching for repetition of ideas: If the text doesn’t give adequate information to summarize it, students should look for repeated phrases, words, or related concepts to find the main idea.

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