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Topics and Main Ideas

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'A topic is a word or phrase that tells what the author is writing about in a paragraph. ... (from Bridging the Gap: College Reading, p.124 ... Acrophobia. Xenophobia. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Topics and Main Ideas


1
Topics and Main Ideas
  • By Tammi Naumann

2
What is a topic?
"A topic is a word or phrase that tells what the
author is writing about in a paragraph."
(from Opening Doors, p.191)
"The topic of a passage is a word or phrase that
labels the subject but does not reveal the
specific contents of the passage."
(from Bridging the Gap College Reading, p.124
3
To find the topic of a paragraph or passage, ask
yourself
Who or what is this paragraph about?
4
Clues to Topic Location
The topic can . . .
  • Appear as a heading or title

Doing Business and Learning About a Culture
Through Its Language (p.192 from Opening Doors)
  • Appear in special type such as bold print,
    italics, or color

"A felony is a serious crime . . . A misdemeanor
is a minor offense, . . ." (p.193 from Opening
Doors)
5
  • Be repeated throughout the paragraph

"Claustrophobia. Acrophobia. Xenophobia. Although
these sound like characters in a Greek tragedy,
they are actually members of a class of
psychological disorders known as phobias. . . ."
(p.193 from Opening Doors)
  • Appear once and then referred to by pronouns or
    other words

"Before the age of 13, Isaac Newton had invented
the mathematical methods . . . His was a lonely .
. . His father died . . ., and after his mother
remarried, he was raised by . . . In 1661, he was
admitted to Cambridge University, . . ."
(pp.193-194 from Opening Doors)
6
"Topics are general categories, like titles, but
they are not main ideas." (from
Bridging the Gap College Reading, p.124)
What is the topic for each set of items?
1) shirt, pants, jacket, sweater
CLOTHES
2) history, reading, math, English
COURSES
7
What is the topic for each set of items?
3) Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia
STATES
4) corn, peas, oranges, apples
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
5) basketball, volleyball, baseball, hockey
SPORTS
8
What is a stated main idea?
"A stated main idea is the sentence in a
paragraph that contains both the topic and the
authors single most important point about the
topic."
(p.172, Opening Doors)
"The main idea of a passage is the central
message that the author is trying to convey about
the material."
(p.122, Bridging the Gap College Reading)
9
To find the main idea of a paragraph or passage,
ask yourself
What is the most important point the author wants
me to understand about the topic?
10
Where can the main idea appear in a paragraph?
  • At the beginning of the paragraph
  • At the end of the paragraph

Where is it usually found?
  • Within the paragraph
  • Not there its understood

11
At the beginning of the paragraph
"Beginning a new job is always exciting and
sometimes intimidating. There is an invigorating
feeling of a fresh start and a clean slate. You
face new challenges and draw on a renewed sense
of energy as you approach them. But you may also
feel apprehensive . . . "

(p.196, Opening Doors)
12
At the end of the paragraph
. . .Most Anglo-Americans, for instance, see the
extensive family obligations of Hispanics as a
burdensome arrangement that inhibits individual
freedom. Hispanics, in contrast, view the
isolated nuclear family of Anglo-Americans as a
lonely institution that cuts people off from the
love and assistance of their kin. This tendency
to view one's own cultural patterns as good and
right and those of others as strange or even
immoral is called ethnocentrism."
(p.197, Opening Doors)
13
Within the paragraph
" Jim always seems to score well on tests. How
does he do it? Jim offers these tips for
successful studying. The first step is to decide
what to study. Find out what topics will be
covered on the test. Next, organize your notes
and other materials on these topics. Third, make
study guides to use as memory aids. Your final
step is to review your notes and study guides
until you feel confident about taking the test."

(from Becoming a Confident Reader, p.200)
14
"All organisms must insure that their offspring
have a reasonable chance to survive and begin a
new generation. Plants, however, face special
challenges. Plants do not have nervous systems,
and they are not able to run away from predators
or pests. Because nearly all plants live in fixed
positions, they must also manage to find mates
without being able to move around. Therefore they
have evolved strategies for dealing with these
problems that are essentially passive. An
important part of such strategies is a
reproductive pattern enabling each individual to
produce large numbers of offspring."
(Levine and Miller, Biology, 1991)
15
What is the most important point the author wants
you to know about plants?
Where is the main idea located?
Within the paragraph (second sentence)
"Plants, however, face special challenges."
16
"Taking vitamins may be beneficial to your health
for several reasons. For one thing, vitamins
provide essential nutrients that may be lacking
in your diet. Also, some vitamins may reduce your
risk of cancer and other diseases. Finally,
vitamins may increase your energy and improve
your well-being." (from Becoming a Confident
Reader, p.161)
17
What is the most important point the author wants
you to know about vitamins?
Where is the main idea located?
At the beginning of the paragraph
"Taking vitamins may be beneficial to your health
for several reasons."
18
"Within the organization, information may be
transmitted from superiors to subordinates
(downward communication), from subordinates to
superiors (upward communication), among people at
the same level on the organizational chart
(horizontal communication), and among people in
different departments within the organization
(cross-channel communication). These four types
of communication make up the organization's
formal communication network."
(Ober,
Contemporary Business Communications, 1995)
19
What is the most important point the author wants
you to know about formal communication network?
Where is the main idea located?
At the end of the paragraph
"These four types of communication make up the
organization's formal communication network."
20
Summary
a word or phrase that tells what the author is
writing about in a paragraph
A topic is
topic as heading or title
clues to find topic are
topic in special type
topic repeated in paragraph
topic appears once and then referred to by
pronouns or other words
21
Summary
sentence in a paragraph that expresses the most
important point about the topic
A stated main idea is
at the beginning of the paragraph
a main idea can be located
at the end of the paragraph
within the paragraph
22
Bibliography
Cortina, Joe and Janet Elder. (2002). Opening
Doors Understanding College Reading. New York
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Kanar, Carol. (2000). Becoming a Confident
Reader. New York Houghton Mifflin Company.
Smith, Brenda. (2000). Bridging the Gap College
Reading. New York Longman.
23
Thank you to the following
My students in READ-D01, D02, P16, P36
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