What is a main idea?   what is a main idea?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A main idea is just another term for a thesis statement.  Now, you ask, what is that?  The thesis statement mightbe the most important statement in your entire essay,  It tells the reader what idea you will support throughout the entire body of your essay.  So, if I were writing an essay about why I like to read, my thesis statement might say something like,"When I read, I have the world at my fingertips.  That is the statement I need to support in the body of my essay, those paragraphs between the introduction and the conclusion. 

You must think about how to support a thesis statement because a statement you cannot support is useless.  The reader will have no reason to keep reading.  There are many ways to support a thesis statement.  You can use examples from your own life, or the lives of people you know. You can use statistics, logic, or examples to prove your point.

Another aspect of the thesis statement you must think about is if there is any purpose behind it.  If there is no purpose, why are you writing about a particular topic? If there is no purpose, why should the reader read? 

A thesis statement should always be a statement, not an "announcement."  An announcement is a sentence like, "This paper will be about X, Y. and Z."  A statement you can support might be something like, "X,Y, and z are important factors to think about when choosing a spouse."  Do you see the difference between a thesis statement and an announcement.

Once you have a thesis statement, you can begin to write about the points you want to make in the essay  Each point should be in its own paragraph, and each point should show a connection and support for your thesis.  This is why your main idea, your thesis statement, is so important to understand. 

kevin0001 | Student

A main idea is a sentence or phrase that informs the reader with what the piece of writing or paragraph is about. It is a very important part in the paragraph or writing. A summary is just like a thesis statement as they both tell the readers tell the reader what is going on or their opinions in one or two sentences.

chrisyhsun | Student

The main idea of a work is the central message that the author wants to leave for his or her readers. Delivering this message is the primary purpose for the author to write the piece.

Perhaps the clearest example of main idea happens in persuasive pieces. The "point" of a persuasive piece is to convince readers to believe as the author does. The main idea of a President's persuasive speech is that we as a country should do _______, _______, and _______.

An easy way to think about what the main idea of a story is to think about how you would describe it in one sentence to a friend.