Finding The Implied Main Idea Help

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Introduction to Finding the Implied Main Idea

Oh, the power of suggestion. Advertisers know it well—and so do writers. They know that they can get an idea across to their readers without directly saying it. Instead of providing a topic sentence that expresses their main idea, many times, they simply omit that sentence and instead provide a series of clues through structure and language to get their ideas across.

Finding an implied main idea is much like finding a stated main idea. If you recall from Lesson 2, a main idea is defined as an assertion about the subject that controls or holds together all the ideas in the passage. Therefore, the main idea must be general enough to encompass all the ideas in the passage. Much like a net, it holds everything in the passage together. So far, all but one of the passages in this book have had a topic sentence that stated the main idea, so finding the main idea was something of a process of elimination: You could eliminate the sentences that weren't general enough to encompass the whole passage. But what do you do when there's no topic sentence?

You use your observations to make an inference—this time, an inference about the main idea or point of the passage.

How to Find an Implied Main Idea

Finding an implied main idea requires you to use your observations to make an inference that, like a topic sentence, encompasses the whole passage. It might take a little detective work, but now that you know how to find details and how to understand word choice, style, and tone, you can make observations that will enable you to find main ideas even when they're not explicitly stated.

Finding the Implied Main Idea Practice and Answers

Practice Passage 1

For the first example of finding an implied main idea, let's look at a statement from a parking garage manager in response to recent thefts:

Radios have been stolen from four cars in our parking garage this month. Each time, the thieves have managed to get by the parking garage security with radios in hand, even though they do not have a parking garage identification card, which people must show as they enter and exit the garage. Yet each time, the security officers say they have seen nothing unusual.

Now, there is no topic sentence in this paragraph, but you should be able to determine the main idea of this statement from the facts provided and from the tone. What does the statement suggest?

  1. Which of the following best summarizes the statement's main idea?
    1. There are too many thefts in the garage.
    2. There are not enough security guards.
    3. There is something wrong with the security in the parking garage.


The correct answer is choice c, "There is something wrong with the security in the parking garage." How can you tell that this is the main idea? For one thing, it's the only one of the three choices general enough to serve as a "net" for the paragraph; choice a is implied only in the first sentence; and choice b isn't mentioned at all. In addition, each sentence on its own suggests that security in the parking garage has not been working properly. Furthermore, the word yet indicates that there is a conflict between the events that have taken place and the duties of the security officers.

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