Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

Advanced Reading Course

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The Paragraph: Main Idea and Supporting Details

In this portion of the course, you will learn how to identify patterns of information to determine the main idea and supporting details in a paragraph. You will also learn the difference between the topic and the topic sentence—or the main idea sentence. Finally, you will learn how to use the supporting details to identify the stated main idea or the implied main idea.

Patterns in the Paragraph

Writers organize their paragraphs so that the reader has a mental picture of how the information is presented. If you can use patterns of informaiton in the paragraph—and in the passage as a whole, for that matter—you will be able to understand how the informaiton is organized and what the Writer wanted you learn or conclude from the passage.


Thumbnail: What counts as reading?
Video: What counts as reading?

Location of the Main Idea and Implied Main Ideas

Writers commonly add a main idea sentence to their paragraphs because the paragraph is organized around that sentence. Identifying the main idea and the main idea sentence is an important step to understanding a passage.

However, writers do not always write a main idea sentence in their paragraph, especially if the main idea is fairly clear. You should not “waste time” looking for a main idea sentence that may not be there. The main idea is there, but you will not find a sentence stating it. The important thing to do is to understand the paragraph, and the main idea sentence, if it’s there, will be easy to spot.