Stated Main Ideas

Learning Objective:

  • Locate the stated main idea by identifying the topic and what the author is saying about the topic.

In this lesson, you will learn how to locate the main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. of a readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage)., which is the most important idea or central thought the authorA person who wrote a text. wants the reader to understand about the topicThe subject of a reading. he or she has chosen to write about. A stated main ideaA main idea that has been explicitly written in an article, essay, or other reading., as opposed to an implied main ideaA main idea—the most important idea or central thought in a paragraph or reading—that is not stated directly, as opposed to an explicit main idea., is one the author writes specifically in the reading, usually within the first or second paragraphA selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation..

Stated Main Idea Process

Use this three-step process to identify an author's stated main idea.

Step 1: Identify the topic. To identify the topic of a reading, ask yourself, "What is this about?" The answer provides the topic of the reading. It does not need to be a complete sentenceA group of words, phrases, or clauses that expresses a complete thought. A complete sentence has these characteristics: a capitalized first word, a subject and a predicate, and end punctuation, such as a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation mark (!)., and it is usually no longer than two to three words. Generally, the topic is the word or words that are used most often in the passageA short portion of a writing taken from a larger source, such as a book, article, speech, or poem.. The author may also use synonymsA word or phrase that has an identical or very similar meaning to another word. Example: tiny is a synonym for small. for the topic, so pay attention to those. Note that it is important to be specific when you state the topic.

Step 2: Identify what the author is saying about the topic. To identify what the author is saying about the topic, ask yourself, "What does the author want me to know about the topic?" Again, this does not need to be a complete sentence and is generally five to seven words long.

Step 3: Identify the stated main idea. To find the stated main idea, first take your answer from Step 1, add it to your answer from Step 2, then find a phraseA set of words that express an idea. A phrase may or may not form a complete sentence. or sentence in the first part of the reading that most closely matches your answers. This should be a complete sentence and may even look like a thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader?.

Looking for keywordsWords that are important to understanding the meaning of a passage or reading. or phrases can help narrow the search for the sentence matching your answers. Below is a partial list of such phrases:

several kinds (or ways) of

several causes of

some factors in

three advantages of

five steps to

among the results

various reasons for

a number of effects

a series of