Introduction to Topics and Main Ideas

Most of what you read contains three important elements:

  1. a topic,
  2. a main idea, and
  3. supporting details.

Everything you read is “about” something. That something—the general subject of a piece of writing—is its topic.

A writer usually has a point, something in particular he or she wants you to understand about the topic. That point, the main idea, is what the writer has to say about the topic.

Writers don’t expect their readers to just accept what they have to say, so they include as much information as they need to help convince readers that their main idea is valid. This additional information takes the form of supporting details, particular pieces of information about the topic that help prove a writer’s point.


This video demonstrates how to find topics and main ideas.

Download transcript.


The study pages explain how to look for topics and main ideas in paragraphs and longer passages. As read you through the study pages and practice with LearningCurve before taking the post-test, try stating the topic and main idea of the examples in your own words, even before reading through the answer options.

Don’t forget to work smartly!