Watching a Reader Formulate an Implied Main Idea Sentence
Here is a sample paragraph. Read it, and then read what is written beneath it. It shows the thought processes a reader might go through as he or she figures out what the main idea is. You have a chance to peek inside the reader's head. This can be helpful because you will use the same thought processes.
Because convenience stores are small, they carry only a limited number of products. You might be able to buy milk and bread, for example, but not fresh strawberries or soy sauce. Also, convenience stores do not offer a very big choice of brands on the products they carry. For example, they might carry only two or three brands of shampoo, not twenty or more like the big grocery stores do. Another disadvantage is that convenience stores usually charge more than bigger stores do for exactly the same products.
First I need to determine the topic, so I need to ask myself, “Who or what is the paragraph talking about?”
There isn't a heading or any words in special print, but “convenience stores” are mentioned three times. The topic of the paragraph seems to be convenience stores.
The author has told me these details about convenience stores:
- They carry only a limited number of products.
- They do not offer a very big choice of brands.
- They usually charge more.
Based on the details, what can I deduce is the most important or main point the author is making about convenience stores? I can determine the main idea by asking myself, “What is the one most important thing the author wants me to understand about the topic (convenience stores)?”
Well, he discusses limitations of convenience stores. He wants me to understand that convenience stores have certain limitations or disadvantages. I need to write the main idea as a complete sentence, so I can formulate it this way:
Convenience stores have three disadvantages.
(I could also say the main idea like this since these sentences say the same thing:
There are three disadvantages of shopping at convenience stores or
There are some disadvantages of using convenience stores.)
I can tell I am right because my formulated main idea sentence
(1) contains the topic (convenience stores);
(2) “sums up” the details in the paragraph;
(3) tells the one most important thing the author wants me to understand about convenience stores.