Identifying the Stated Main IdeaSentenceand theSupporting Detailsof a Paragraph
The SkillEvery paragraph has a topic.Every paragraph has a main idea.When an author includes a sentence in aparagraph that tells his or her most importantpoint about the topic, that sentence is calledthe stated main idea sentence.
Main IdeaThe main idea answers the question,“What is the author’s one most important pointabout the topic?”
Characteristics of aMain Idea Sentence Must always contain the topic (the word, name, orphrase that tells who or what the paragraph is about) Must always make complete sense by itself (even ifyou couldn’t read the rest of the paragraph) Must be a general sentence that sums up the detailsin the paragraph
Location of theStated Main Idea SentenceCan appear anywhere in a paragraph: Most often it appears at the beginning. The next most likely location is at the end. The third possibility is somewhere else within theparagraph.Regardless of where it appears, it will have supporting details thatexplain more about it, give examples of it, or prove it.
How to Test the Sentence You HaveIdentified as the Stated Main IdeaWhen you think you have located a statedmain idea sentence, see if it meets thesecriteria:1. The sentence contains the topic.2. The sentence tells the author’s most importantpoint about the topic.3. The sentence makes complete sense by itself.
Main Idea CadenceIt’s important that you findThe point the author has in mind.The main idea is its name,But “topic sentence” is the same.The main idea is top-shelf;It makes sense all by itself.And never once should you doubt it:Details all tell more about it.This sentence has the topic, too.It gives a summary or overview.Stated main ideas you can find,So highlight them or underline.
Supporting Details =Additional Information to Help YouUnderstand the Main Idea Details consists of specific information such asexamples, explanations, descriptions, proof,and statistics. Who, what, when, where, why, how?The answers will be in the details.
The Edge:Pointers from Ms. Lowans Only ONE sentence can be the stated main idea in aparagraph. Avoid choosing a sentence just because it interestsyou or you think it sounds important. Be sure you understand the sentence. The main idea is NEVER a question. Examples are details that support the main idea, soexamples cannot be the main idea. Watch for words or phrases authors use to signal theirmain idea: The point is, It is important, Thus, etc.
The Edge (continued) Read the entire paragraph before you decide ifthere is a stated main idea sentence. Longer selections (such as textbook sections,essays, articles, and editorials) can haveoverall stated main ideas. Locating the main idea is a skill that underliesseveral important study skills, such as markinga text, outlining, making concept maps, andwriting summaries.
The Edge: Pointersabout the Stated Main Ideaand Supporting Details Main idea and details are not the same. The main idea is general. Details are specific. Examples are always details. Underline the main idea, but number the details in aparagraph. Details are often presented in a bulleted, numbered, orlettered list. Details are often introduced by In addition, also,moreover, another, next, then, last, finally, etc. The main idea may give a clue about the number oftypes of details: “There are four categories of galaxies.”
Main Idea andSupporting Details “House”Main IdeaSupporting Details