How to Find the Stated Main Idea

Reading for the Stated Main Idea

Getty Images | Tim Robberts

How to Find the Stated Main Idea 

First of all, before we get into the stated main idea strategies and tricks, you have to know what the main idea is in the first place. What does it mean when a professor or teacher asks you to determine the main idea of a paragraph, essay, chapter or even a book? The main idea of a paragraph, essay, or chapter is the point of the passage, minus all the details. The main idea is the big picture. It's what you tell people when they ask you what you did last Saturday. You might say, "I went to the movies," instead of saying, I hopped on the train to go to see Channing Tatum's new movie where he blows up the planet and teams up with his long-lost love to start a new life on Pluto. I ate popcorn, used the restroom, washed my hands, then left the theater and went back to my apartment. The main idea is the general instead of the specifics.  

 It's the Solar System vs. the planets. It's the football game vs. the fans, cheerleaders, quarterback, and uniforms. It's the Oscars vs. actors, the red carpet, designer gowns, and films.

So, how do you find the stated main idea? The good news? It's really easy compared to figuring out the implied main idea. Read on for the details. 

What Is a Stated Main Idea?

Sometimes, a reader will get lucky and the main idea will be a stated main idea, which is the easiest to find in a passage. It is written directly in the text. Authors sometimes come right out and write the main idea in the passage for a variety of reasons – they don't want you to miss the point, they are new writers and have not figured out the art of subtlety, they like clear, informational writing. Whatever the reason, it's there waiting for you; you just need to find it. 

How To Find the Stated Main Idea

  1. Read the passage of text
  2. Ask this question to yourself: "What is this passage mostly about?"
  3. In your own words, explain the answer in one short sentence. Do not includes details or examples from the text. Do not extend your idea beyond what is written in the text, even if you know a ton about the topic. It does not matter for this exercise. 
  4. Look for a sentence in the text that most closely fits with your brief summary.

Stated Main Idea Example:
Because the Internet exists in a world that is already regulated with policies and laws, government officials, upholders of current laws and the voice of the people, should be ultimately responsible for the regulation of the Internet. With this responsibility comes the enormous task of managing the protection of First Amendment rights along with honoring social and public interests across the world. That being said, the ultimate responsibility still rests in the hands of Internet users who vote – they, along with the officials elected to serve them, make up the global community. Voters have the ability to elect responsible individuals to the appropriate posts, and the elected officials have the responsibility to act on the will of the people..

The main idea here is "…government officials…should be ultimately responsible for the regulation of the Internet." That is a stated main idea because it is directly written in the text. The sentence fully encapsulates the passage's meaning as a whole. It does not go beyond the text making inferences outside the scope of the passage, nor does it use the specifics of the passage inside it, either. 

Main Idea Practice

Want to flex those main idea muscles? Here are some worksheets to practice!