How to Find the Implied Main Idea

The main idea of a paragraph is the point of the passage

University students taking exam
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Before getting into a discussion on how to find an implied main idea, you have to know what the main idea is in the first place. The main idea of a paragraph is the point of the passage, minus all the details. It's the big picture — the Solar System vs. the planets. The football game vs. the fans, cheerleaders, quarterback, and uniforms. The Oscars vs. actors, the red carpet, designer gowns, and films. It's the summary.

What Is an Implied Main Idea?

Sometimes, a reader will get lucky and the main idea will be a stated main idea, where the main idea is easy to find because it's written directly in the text.

However, many of the passages you'll read on a standardized test like the SAT or GRE will have an implied main idea, which is a little trickier. If the author doesn't directly state the main idea of the text, it's up to you to infer what the main idea is.

Finding the implied main idea is easier if you think of the passage as a box. Inside the box, is a random group of stuff (the details of the passage). Pull each item from the box and try to figure out what they each have in common, kind of like the game Tri-Bond. Once you've figured out what the common bond is among each of the items, you'll be able to summarize the passage in a snap.

How to Find the Implied Main Idea

  1. Read the passage of text.
  2. Ask this question to yourself: "What do each of the details of the passage have in common?"
  3. In your own words, find the common bond among all the details of the passage and the author's point about this bond.
  4. Compose a short sentence stating the bond and what the author says about the bond.

Step 1: Read the Implied Main Idea Example

When you're with your friends, it's okay to be loud and use slang. They'll expect it and they aren't grading you on your grammar. When you're standing in a boardroom or sitting for an interview, you should use your best English possible, and keep your tone suitable to the working environment. Try to gauge the personality of the interviewer and the setting of the workplace before cracking jokes or speaking out of turn. If you're ever in a position to speak publicly, always ask about your audience, and modify your language, tone, pitch and topic based on what you think the audience's preferences would be. You'd never give a lecture about atoms to third-graders!

Step 2: What's the Common Thread?

In this case, the author is writing about hanging out with friends, going on an interview, and speaking publicly, which, at first glance, don't seem to relate to each other that much. If you find a common bond among all them, though, you'll see that the author is giving you different situations and then telling us to speak differently in each setting (use slang with friends, be respectful and quiet in an interview, modify your tone publicly). The common bond is speaking, which will have to be part of the implied main idea.

Step 3. Summarize the Passage

A sentence like "Different situations requires different kinds of speech" would fit perfectly as the implied main idea of that passage. We had to infer that because the sentence doesn't appear anywhere in the paragraph, but it was easy enough to find this implied main idea when you looked at the common bond uniting each idea.

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "How to Find the Implied Main Idea." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Roell, Kelly. (2021, July 31). How to Find the Implied Main Idea. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "How to Find the Implied Main Idea." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).