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 identify patterns of information in the paragraph (and in the passage as a whole),
you will be able to understand how the information is organized and what the writer wanted you learn or conclude from the passage.
Related 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 a main idea.
As a result, 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.
The main idea is there, but you will not find a sentence stating the main idea.
So, you should not “waste time” looking for a main idea sentence that may or may not be there.
The important thing to do is to understand the paragraph and, if the main idea is there, it will be easy to spot.
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