MAIN IDEA, TOPIC SENTENCE AND SUPPORTING SENTENCE
1. MAIN IDEA
A main idea is a sentence that states what that essay or article will be about. The main idea sets up the rest of the article and is included in the introduction or first paragraph.
Finding the Main Idea
How Can I Locate the Main Idea?
Once you can find the topic, you are ready to find the main idea. The main idea is the point of the paragraph. It is the most important thought about the topic.
To figure out the main idea, ask yourself this question: What is being said about the person, thing, or idea (the topic)?
The author can locate the main idea in different places within a paragraph. The main idea is usually a sentence, and it is usually the first sentence. The writer then uses the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea.
Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First find the topic, then look for the main idea.
Summer is a wonderful time to spend at West Beach. It is a beach with light- colored, soft sand. The coastline goes on for a long way and many people enjoy walking along it. Children like to play in the surf and walk along the rocks that are visible at low tide. This is a fun beach for people of all ages.
In this paragraph:
· the topic is West Beach
· the main idea (what the writer is saying about the topic) is that summer is a wonderful time at West Beach
While the main idea is usually in the first sentence, the next most common placement is in the last sentence of a paragraph. The author gives supporting information first and then makes the point in the last sentence.
Here’s a paragraph we can use as an example. Try to locate the topic and the main idea.
Most teenagers and young adults do not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. It is a big decision. There are a number of things you can do to narrow the choices. For example you can take an interest test, do some research on your own about a career, try volunteer work in the field in which you are interested, or “job-shadow”, in which you spend a day with a person who is working in a field that interests you. These are just a few helpful ideas as you begin to choose a career.
In this paragraph:
§ the topic is jobs or career choices
§ the main idea is a few ideas to help the reader choose a career
Finally, an author might put the main idea in the middle of a paragraph. The author will spend a few sentences introducing the topic, present the main idea, then spend the rest of the paragraph supporting it. This can make the main idea more difficult to find.
See if you can find the topic and main idea in the paragraph below.
The United States seems to be in love with the idea of going out to eat. Because of this, a real variety of restaurants has come about specializing in all kinds of foods. McDonald’s is the king of a subgroup of restaurants called fast-food restaurants. Chances are, no matter where you live, there is a McDonald’s restaurant near you. There are even McDonald’s in the Soviet Union. Now McDonald’s is trying something new. It is called McDonald’s Express and there is a test site in Peabody, Massachusetts. It is part of a Mobil gas station. This allows you to fill up with gas and fill up on food at the same time. What will they think of next?
In this paragraph:
§ the topic is McDonald’s
§ the main idea is in the middle of the paragraph, in the third sentence: McDonald’s is the king of fast food
2. TOPIC SENTENCE
is the topic sentence?
The topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph.
does it do?
It introduces the main idea of the paragraph.
do I write one?
Summarize the main idea of your paragraph. Indicate to the reader what your paragraph will be about.
There are three reasons why Canada is one of the best countries in the world. First, Canada has an excellent health care system. All Canadians have access to medical services at a reasonable price. Second, Canada has a high standard of education. Students are taught by well-trained teachers and are encouraged to continue studying at university. Finally, Canada’s cities are clean and efficiently managed. Canadian cities have many parks and lots of space for people to live. As a result, Canada is a desirable place to live.
3. SUPPORTING SENTENCE
are supporting sentences?
They come after the topic sentence, making up the body of a paragraph.
do they do?
They give details to develop and support the main idea of the paragraph.
do I write them?
You should give supporting facts, details, and examples.
There are three reasons why Canada is one of the best countries in the world. As a result, Canada is a desirable place to live.