Searching for Supporting Details

A paragraph consist mostly of three components

The supporting details are examples, explanation, proofs, statistics, etc. that support and illustrate the point being made by the main idea of a paragraph. They are supporting because they lift up the main idea and help to make it clearer through providing deeper explanation of the author’s main point.

In order to find the supporting details, a reader needs to find the main idea and turn it into a question. The aspects of the paragraph that answers these questions are the supporting details. Let’s look at an example.

Example

There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you. First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities. Second, smoking harms your health. Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.

Here is a breakdown of the paragraph. We know that the first sentence is the main idea.

Topic: Smoking

Main idea: There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you.

Supporting Details: First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities.
Second, smoking harms your health.
Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.

Perhaps you noticed that most of the time, everything that is not the main idea is normally a supporting detail but there are exceptions to this.

As stated earlier, in order to identify the supporting details, a reader needs to turn the main idea into a question(s). Below is an example.

Topic: Smoking

Main idea: There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you.
Conversion of main idea into a question: What are the reasons that smoking is bad for you?

Supporting Details: First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities.
Second, smoking harms your health.
Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.
Conversion of supporting
details into answer: 
First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities.
Second, smoking harms your health.
Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.

Clues for Finding Main Ideas

In addition to turning the main idea into a question, there are three clues for finding supporting details.

  1. Supporting details often appear as a list of bullets, as a set of numbers, or lettered list.
  2. After the first supporting detail, additional details are introduced by words and phrases such as In addition, also, moreover, another, next, then, first, second, last, finally, etc.
  3. The main idea sentence itself often provides hints about the number or type of supporting details. Such words and phrases such as four reasons, two kinds, six types, certain ways, three categories, etc.

We will take the previous paragraph and provide examples of each.

Clue 1 List

There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you.

  • It waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities.
  • It harms your health.
  • It is a bad example for children.

This is not much of paragraph but it provides reasons for the main idea.

Clue 2 Introductory Phrases

There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you. First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities. In addition, smoking harms your health. Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.

In this example, the introductory phrases are bold and it shows the addition of another supporting detail.

Clue 3 Main Idea Clue

There are several reasons why smoking is bad for you. First, smoking waste a lot of money that can be used for other activities. Second, smoking harms your health. Lastly, smoking is a bad example for children.

This example highlights how the main idea can provide the clue. The phrase “several reasons” in bold is a signal to a reader that there should be several supporting details that explain the main idea about smoking.

Conclusion

As you can see several clues can be used to find the supporting details in the same paragraph. It does not matter how you find the main idea as long as you separate the point from the details. For writers, it is important that there is consistency between the main idea and supporting details. Many times, writers will only have details and no main idea or the say that they have several reasons and only provide one. Understanding the importance of supporting details and their role in reading and writing will enhance reading comprehension and writing clarity.

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5 thoughts on “Searching for Supporting Details

  1. Pingback: Searching for Supporting Details | Education | ...

  2. Pingback: Finding the Implied Main Idea | educationalresearchtechniques

  3. Laka Mado

    I am a English language teacher who teach English essay writing skills and other skills as well. Very enriching lesson from writing expert. Thank you.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Understanding ESL Writing Patterns Across Cultures | educational research techniques

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