Understand Main Ideas

In Chapters 1 and 2, we discussed the importance of organizing and presenting main ideas for clear writing and formal speaking in English. Academic writing in English looks like a series of capital letter Ts:

Main Idea / Topic Sentence



Usually, each paragraph has a topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph. Often, this is the first sentence. The rest of the paragraph contains supporting details that develop or explain the main idea. There are many types of supporting details:

• definitions • examples or illustrations

• facts or opinions • descriptions

• statistics • quotations

The first two paragraphs of the reading begin with a topic sentence supported by facts, statistics, examples, and an illustration (chart). (See page 52.) Look back at the reading and find the paragraphs that begin with the following topic sentences. Then find the details that support the main ideas stated in the topic sentence.

1. Topic sentence: Some of the early European Protestant leaders believed that people who were blessed by God might be recognized in the world by their material success, (page 54)

Supporting detail: (quotation) ________________________________________

2. Topic sentence: American religious leaders, however, never encouraged the idea of gaining wealth without hard work and self-discipline, (page 54)

Supporting detail: (definition) _______________________________________

3. Topic sentence: Historically, some of the extremely wealthy Americans have made generous contributions to help others, (page 56)

Supporting details: (example and quotation) ____________________________

4. Topic sentences: All Americans, and probably most people around the world, can remember exactly what they were doing at the moment they heard that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. People in New York City and Washington, D. C., were especially devastated, (page 56)

Supporting details: (descriptions) _____________________________________

5. Topic sentence: The belief that the individual, not the organized church, should be the center of religious life has encouraged a tolerance and acceptance of all faiths, (page 58)

Supporting details: (facts and statistics) ________________________________

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:16 pm