Reading for main ideas

Reading for main ideas


Where do I start? 

Great question. Let's start with thinking about the text. Is it an essay? A newspaper article? A magazine article? An opinion piece? This will tell us a bit more about the structure. We know essays have quite strict, predictable (easy to guess) structures while articles in newspapers and magazines are less structured. However, they all have one main idea per paragraph. 

What's the topic? 

First, think about the text. What is it talking about? This is something broad and general, not detailed. For example, advantages of tourism, reasons to ban smoking, problems with pollution, and how to write essays are all topics. When you know the topic, you can predict what the text might say about it. This can help you read faster. 

What do I know about this topic? 

Ask yourself what you already know about the text's topic. This helps prepare your background knowledge and vocabulary about the topic, which can help you read more quickly and accurately. 

What is the purpose of each paragraph?

Look at how paragraphs are connected. Find linking words. How many background paragraphs are there? One? Three? Maybe the last two paragraphs are final comments and aren't main ideas. Why should you think about this? Because background information and concluding paragraphs won't include main ideas. 

What is the most important thing about the topic in this paragraph?

Now that you know which paragraphs to pay attention to, you can find the most important information. This is the main idea. Another question you could ask is What is the text mostly about? And from a different angle, you could ask What do the details explain

stool idea

Where can I practise?

  • Online ILC. Go to> myStudies > ILC1 > 4. Packages or 5. e-learning and find the reading activities for your level.
  • Software
    • Road to IELTS has great reading practice - find it on the RMIT Learning Lab (use your RMIT login) along with other reading tutorials
    • Active Reading - get a free login for City Library to access this software. Go to their ESL resources page, then e-resources link, and click on 'Active Reading' to open. 
    • Study Skills Success - also free at the City Library site. 
  • Readers
    • Study Support has graded readers, and City Library and Carlton library have numerous books you can access for free. 
  • Online 

Come and see us at Study Support if you want help looking for resources. 

26 August 2019


  • Reading
  • Vocabulary
  • Academic
  • Study English
  • Writing

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