Can key words indicate the main idea of a story? Is the main idea often supported by examples? Is recognizing the main idea the key to understanding the story?

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To help you determine whether these statements about main ideas are true or false, let's discuss the nature of a main idea, which is the central message an author wants to provide about a particular topic.

To discover the main idea of a piece of writing, you need to read closely to determine the topic and what the author wants to assert about it. If you are reading an article about cats, for instance, you will notice that the author mentions cats quite a bit and also refers often to their litter box habits and to solving problems or difficulties. These keys words help you determine the main idea of the article and realize that the author is presenting a solution to the troublesome litter box habits that some cats develop.

The author in this case will probably provide plenty of examples both of the litter box difficulties and of the successful solution to the problem. This is indeed how one supports a main idea. Readers relate well to examples, especially those from actual experience.

Finally, you cannot really comprehend a reading until you grasp the main idea. Since it is the central point, the primary thing that the author wants you to know and that they support and illustrate throughout the piece, missing the main idea means that you miss the message the author wants to relate and thereby fail to understand the reading.

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