Finding the Implied Main Idea

There are at least two types of main ideas. The stated main idea, which was already discussed, is an idea that the author supplies in the paragraph. The topic of this post is the implied main idea.

An implied main idea is stated indirectly. The reader has to develop it based on the information in the paragraph. The author never provides that one single sentence that states the “point” of the paragraph. T

There are several ways to find the implied main idea. Below are just some of many strategies.

  • Strategy 1: Add necessary information (normally the topic) to a sentence in the paragraph that almost shares the main idea.
  • Strategy 2: Combine  two separate sentences in a paragraph into a one sentence to develop the main idea.
  • Strategy 3: Summarize supporting details into one general sentence to serve as the main idea.

Below is an example and explanation of each strategy

Strategy 1: Add Needed Information

Many times, the main idea is present but the topic is replaced with another noun or pronoun. Look at the example paragraph. The implied main idea is underlined and bold for you.

–Dogs are friendly. Dogs love to play. Dogs like to eat food and run. Everyone should own one.

The topic of this paragraph is dogs. The last sentence in the paragraph above is the main idea. However, the word dog is not used in the last paragraph. The author replaces the word dog with the noun one. The word one means dog in this context. In order to develop the main idea, the reader would need to know to replace the noun one with dog.

Strategy 2: Combining Separate Sentences

Sometimes them main idea is spread over two sentences. In this case, the sentences need to be combined in order to develop the main idea. Look at the example paragraph. The implied main idea is underlined and bold for you.

–It is important that people own dogs. It is also important that people love their dogs. Consider that dogs are friendly. They love to play. Finally, dogs like to eat food and run.

This paragraph has two main points in two sentence as shown above. In order to create an implied main idea, we combine these two sentences into one. Below is the answer

It is important that people own and love their dogs.

The rest of the paragraph  is supporting details that explain why people should own and love dogs.

Strategy 3: Summarize Supporting Details

In some instances, an author will develop a paragraph that is only supporting details. The author never shares nor even implies a main idea. The reader must derive the point by examining the details. Below is an example. Nothing is bold or underline because there is no answer anywhere in the paragraph.

–Dogs are cute. Dogs are funny. Dogs love to play. Dog like to eat. Why would anyone not want a dog?

In order to develop the main idea, we have to find a way to summarize this information. There are many different answers. One potential answer would be to count the number of supporting details and determine what they have in common. Look at the following potential answer.

There are at least four reasons why people should want a dog.

If you look at the paragraph there are five sentences, four sentences talk about great things about dogs. The last sentence is a question. Main ideas can never be questions but this sentence provides a clue about what the author was trying to tell us. Instead of giving us the main idea, the author gives the answers to a question and then provides the question at the end of the paragraph. Turn the question into a statement and this is one way to get the main idea.

Again, this is not the only answer. Someone might see something different in the text and derive a slightly different answer. The goals is to try to determine what you think the author is trying to say.


The implied main idea must be derived by the reader. This requires knowing the different strategies to do this. These strategies are particularly useful for people who are struggling with their reading.

NOTE TO WRITERS: In most research settings it is unwise to imply the main idea. Teachers want to know what the point is and they often do not have the patience to try and guess what you are saying. It is better to state the main idea when writing academic papers. Being coy and indirect will usually harm your grade. One major exception is writing in the English department.

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