Finding the Main Idea

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Determining Main Idea
Finding the Main Idea

What is the author trying to tell us?
What is the Main Idea?

The main idea is the “big idea” of the whole work,
one section, or single paragraph.

It is the point the author is trying to get across.

The main idea is different from the subject or the
topic. The subject is what the writing is about

The main idea is the “so what?” about the subject.
Example: In an article, the subject is penguins.
Well, so what? What about penguins? The article is
about how penguins can’t fly.  This is the main
idea.
Formula for Finding the Main Idea
Subject or Topic
+
What the author says
about the subject or topic
(supporting details)
______________________
= The Main Idea
Supporting Details
What the author says about the subject
 Reasons, examples, other kinds of evidence
that develop and support a main idea.

Supporting Detail
Supporting Detail
Main Idea
Supporting Detail
Tips for Finding the Subject

Look at the title or the heading.

Look at the first sentence.

Look at key words or repeated words or
names.
Where is the Main Idea?
The main idea can be found in three places:
1. In the beginning, perhaps the first
sentence.
2. In the end, maybe the last sentence.
3. Not stated, but inferred) through all the
sentences.
Find the Main Idea in the Passage
Americans love to send greeting cards. For
instance, over 4 million birthday cards are
sent out in this country every day. Around
Valentine’s Day last year, over 900 million
cards were mailed. And close to 3 billion
holiday greeting cards were sent out during
the Christmas season.
What is the subject?
What is the main idea?
What are some supporting details?
Find the Main Idea in the Passage
Sea Otters collect large hard-shelled abalones in their teeth
during dives to the sea bottom, then each picks up a stone
with its forepaws. Surfacing, the otters roll onto their backs,
place the abalones on their bellies, and clasping a stone in
both front feet, smash the shells open. Therefore, Sea
Otters use these stones as hammers.
What is the subject?
What is the main idea?
What are some supporting details?
Find the Main Idea in the Passage
In high school, I tried writing my own novels and short
stories. After high school, I married a woman who was
a fine poet and who became an editorial assistant at a
publishing company. As a private joke for her, I began
to write a science fiction novel. When I showed it to her,
she suggested I submit it to her boss. I did and it was
accepted.
What is the main idea?
The speaker wrote Science Fiction as a joke for his wife
but it ended up being published.
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