What Is The Main Idea And How To Find It?

Finding the main idea of a text is one of the most basic and crucial reading skills.

It is key to understanding what you read. The main idea holds all the pieces of the text together. Once you identify the main idea, everything else becomes easy to decipher and comprehend.

What Is The Main Idea?

The main idea is a linchpin of any text. Basically, it answers the question: what the passage is about. In this post, you will learn a few simple strategies that you can use to find the main idea of any text you read.

Here I share a few strategies to help you understand what we mean by the “main idea” and how to identify it in a passage. 

How To Find The Main Idea?

The first step is to identify the topic of the passage. Once you are able to find the topic, you are ready to find the main idea, the most important or thought about the topic. 

To locate the main idea, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is being discussed about the person, thing, or idea (the topic)?
  • Who or what the paragraph or passage is about?
  • What is the most important information about the ‘who’ or ‘what’ in the passage?

The authors state the main idea in different places within the text. They can state it explicitly and openly in a sentence or hide it and let the readers discover it after reading the entire passage.

Spotting it allows you to differentiate between the main topic, idea and the supporting details (details that support the main point). 

Sometimes, the authors write the main idea in the first sentence and use the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea with the supporting details.


Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First, identify the topic of the given paragraph and then try to articulate the main idea in five to ten words.

The United States is by all accounts in affection with the idea of “going out to eat”. Along these lines, a genuine assortment of eateries has come about to spend significant time in a wide range of food varieties. McDonald’s is the ruler of a subgroup of cafés called “Drive-Thru Eateries”. Chances are, regardless of where you live, there is a McDonald’s café close to you. Even in Soviet Union one can find McDonald’s. Presently, McDonald’s is taking a stab at a genuinely new thing. It goes by the name ‘McDonald’s Express’. It is essential for a Mobil service station. This permits you to top off with gas and top off on food simultaneously. Who knows what will they consider as the next step? 

In this paragraph, try to find:    

  • the topic
  • the main idea 

Yes, you got it. The topic of this paragraph is McDonald’s and the main idea of this paragraph is located in the third line suggesting that McDonald’s rules the Drive-Thru Eateries category.

In the same way, you can find the main idea also known as central ideas in all kinds of texts. 

Non-Fictional Texts:

You can read non-fiction texts such as biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, historical accounts, anecdotes, how-to guides, cookbooks, blogs, and articles and practice to locate the main ideas/ central ideas and analyze how they are developed throughout the text. This will also allow you to identify the related ideas and details that support the main idea. Practicing this skill will also prepare you to provide an objective summary of the text.

Fictional Texts:

You can also read fictional texts such as poetry and narratives including mystery, science fiction, fables, folktales, myths, and fairy tales, and practice identifying the main ideas/ central ideas. This will help you to not only determine the main idea but also the theme (the main message) of the story. Also, you will practice analyzing the connection between the main idea and characters, setting, and plot.

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