Finding the Main Idea

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How Can I Locate the Main Idea?

Once you can find the topic, you are ready to find the main idea. The main idea is the point of the paragraph. It is the most important thought about the topic.

To figure out the main idea, ask yourself this question: What is being said about the person, thing, or idea (the topic)?

The author can locate the main idea in different places within a paragraph. The main idea is usually a sentence, and it is usually the first sentence. The writer then uses the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea.

Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First find the topic, then look for the main idea.

Summer is a wonderful time to spend at West Beach. It is a beach with light- colored, soft sand. The coastline goes on for a long way and many people enjoy walking along it. Children like to play in the surf and walk along the rocks that are visible at low tide. This is a fun beach for people of all ages. 

In this paragraph:    

  • the topic is West Beach
  • the main idea (what the writer is saying about the topic) is that summer is a wonderful time at West Beach

Here is another example:

The movie Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995. It is an exciting story about space exploration. In the movie, the astronauts get in trouble while they are trying to return to Earth. People in the audience are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens. What makes it even more exciting is that it is a true story. 

In this paragraph:  

  • the topic is the movie Apollo 13
  • the main idea is in the first sentence: Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995

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