Office of Education Development and Gateway Education
Online Student Guide for OBTL

Selecting Main Ideas

Idea!The main idea is the central point of a paragraph.

Very often, the main idea appears in one sentence. The rest of the paragraph contains sentences made up of specific ideas and details that support and explain the main idea.

You know that your professors love to ask you questions and sometimes you do not know what to answer, especially wnen you read a small chapter or a short paragraph and suddenly the question is: What is the main idea of this chapter/paragraph?

The first thing you should know is that in order to be called a paragraph, a paragraph needs to be about one topic. The second thing you need to focus on is "WHAT" or "WHO" is this paragraph about? Think of yourself as a journalist: When you read Metro or the Apple Daily in the MTR, do you read the full text of every single article or do you look first at the title, photographs and subtitles?

What about the Assessment Tasks (AT's)? I wonder sometimes if I clearly understand what the tutor is asking us to do.

First of all, at City University the Assessment Tasks use actions verbs ("compare/contrast", "apply", "analyze", "describe", "theorize") and are constructively aligned with the TLA's and the ILO's of your programme/course. Thus you shouldn't have any difficulty to identify the keys points of the AT's.

Secondly, often assignments contain key words that offer clues about what your tutor is looking for. This is always a good place to start in deciding what you should focus on.

Want to know more? Join our Learning & Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI) Workshops