Focusing on Unstated Main Ideas
Prepared by Julie & Debbie
How can we find the main idea when
there is not a topic sentence?
To understand the paragraph, it’s important to find the
• The TOPIC is the GENERAL IDEA to which all of the
details in the paragraph refer;
• A TOPIC often refers to the TWO main points of the
• A TOPIC is usually expressed as a phrase
TIP: When reading a paragraph, look for repeating words of
Example: body signals feeling
The Main Idea
The MAIN IDEA expresses the MAIN
MESSAGE / IDEA
– The MAIN IDEA makes a claim about
– The MAIN IDEA is expressed in a
Example: Some signals of body language, like
some facial expressions, seem to be “spoken”
– The writer includes SUPPORTING
DETAILS in the paragraph to
strengthen the claim.
– SUPPORTING DETAILS are more
Example: When people are depressed, it shows in
their walk, stance, and head position.
What do supporting details do?
– Details make up most of what you read.
– Details have different purposes:
THE DETAILS help the writer MAKE A POINT and help
the reader SEE IT!!!
to set the tone or mood
to give reasons for an opinion
to explain a fact
to define the topic
to describe the topic
to give examples of the topic
Stated and Unstated Main Ideas
Many paragraphs have a topic sentence.
These are called “stated main ideas.”
But sometimes the paragraph does not have
a topic sentence, YOU need to figure out the
main idea. These are called “unstated main
Unstated Main Idea – Let’s Practice
“In Australia and Belgium, non-voters are subject to fines; not only the fine
itself but the clear expectation that everyone is legally required to vote helps
generate 90+ percent turnout rates. In Italy, non-voters are not fined, but “Did
Not Vote” is stamped on their identification papers, threatening non-voters
with the prospect of unsympathetic treatment at the hands of public officials
should they get into trouble or need help with a problem.”
The New American Democracy, Election Update Edition, by Morris Fiorina and Paul Peterson
1. Who or what is the topic of this passage?
2. What are the supporting details?
3. What claim is the author making about nonvoting?
Consequence of not voting
What happens in Australia,
Belgium and Italy
When citizens of a country do not vote, there are consequences:
they are punished in some way.
Stated Main Idea vs. Unstated Main
Unstated MAIN IDEAStated MAIN IDEA
Only suggested (not clearly stated in one
Clearly stated (found in the topic
How to find:
• Topic (look for repeated words) – Who or
What is the paragraph about
• Supporting details (illustrate the MAIN Idea)
• Ask yourself
1. “What is the main point/message the
author is trying to make about the
2. “ Does ALL or most of the material
support this point/message/idea?”
How to find:
• Topic (look for repeated words) –
Who or What is the paragraph
• Topic Sentence
• Main idea sentence= topic