How Do Main Ideas Develop Over the Course of a Text? | Reading
Books, articles, and reading passages all contain a main idea. But how do these main ideas develop?
As a high-emphasis topic on the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest, it’s important you are aware of the two primary characteristics of a text:
- The Main Idea
- The Development of the Main Idea
Today we will discuss these two characteristics and discover how they develop over the course of a story or passage.
Understanding the Main Idea
What do you think:
- Is the main idea the most important part of a story or passage?
- Is the development of the main idea just additional detail?
- Or, are they both equally important?
The two primary characteristics of a text – the main idea and the development of the main idea – work together. Without each, an author cannot create a successful argument or claim over the course of a text.
According to Kristen Bowers of the Simply Novel Teaching Blog, the main idea is “the chief, key, most important, most vital, most basic reason for reading the text.”
However, without additional details and thoughtful development, it is difficult to find the main idea – and even more difficult to be persuaded by it.
How do you find the development of the main idea?
After reading the blog post on finding the main idea, you know that a text has many parts. These include:
- The central topic or theme of a paragraph
- The main idea
- Supporting details
Within these parts is the development of the main idea. The development of the main idea occurs across the text, and cannot be isolated to a single section of the text.
For example, if the TASC test reading subtest provides you with a paragraph from a larger text to read, you are probably seeing a section that touches on the central topic. The paragraph may include the main idea, or it may only include a suggestion of what the main idea is. If this is the case, the paragraph will have details that will key you into information about what the main idea is. Those details are unique to that paragraph but a part of a larger text, which uses more details to develop the argument and persuade the reader.
With each paragraph, the argument continues to grow and the main idea is more thoroughly supported.
According to the experts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center, “paragraphs are the building blocks of [texts]. . . and the unity of ideas among [these] sentences is what [helps a paragraph contribute to the main idea].”
Can a text have more than one main idea?
Yes, a text may have more than one main idea.
Once you identify the central topic or theme of the passage or text you’re reading, consider whether or not the topic is multifaceted. In other words, the topic may have more than one main idea to support it.
An author may do this when trying to make more than one argument about a topic. The development across paragraphs will reflect a movement between these multiple main ideas, and – if the author is writing a persuasive argument – will also show a connection between these main ideas to support the overall argument.
Recognizing the main idea or main ideas, and how they are developed, is essential to analyzing a reading passage.
Want some practice? Discover E Reading Worksheets to practice identifying the main idea in a variety of passages.