Locating Your Main Idea
One of my online students asked me to write more about finding or locating one’s main idea when writing a paragraph.
Sometimes you already have very strong views on a particular topic, so it is quite easy to determine your main idea. However, there are times when you might need to use another method to determine what your main idea will be. This is particularly true if you are floundering about and wasting a lot of time getting nowhere! Often it is a challenge either to think of anything or to narrow down your ideas.
One method is to use brainstorming.
Once you have decided (or been given) a topic, sit down with a blank piece of paper (or your computer).
Give yourself a time limit of 3 – 5 minutes.
During this time, jot down everything you can think of that is in any way connected to your topic.
Do not think about punctuation, quality, sentence structure, or any of that during this short time period – just write.
Once your time limit is over – STOP.
The reason to have a short time is to force you to focus and write, write, write. You don’t need to write furiously, but just steadily keep jotting down your ideas.
If you gave yourself half an hour, you would likely start procrastinating again. If you start thinking about grammar or anything other than getting your ideas down, you will limit yourself too much.
Once you have completed the brainstorming session, look over your list and try to find that golden nugget that you can work with.
There is usually at least one point that can be turned into a paragraph (or essay even). You are looking for the one point that truly sparks your interest.
Ask yourself the following:
Which one of these do I know best?
Which one can I expand upon, providing interesting details?
Of course, now you can eliminate any of the points that are silly or useless. The time for judging quality comes after the brainstorm is complete.
At times, you might need to do some research on a topic before you make a decision upon your main idea. Once again, when you have gathered the necessary information, look it over to see which piece of data is most interesting, most relevant, or most arguable. You want something that you can work with and defend.
If you are researching, you can still use brainstorming. Take one or two of the most interesting pieces of information you discovered during your research.
One at a time, complete a 3-5 minute brainstorm section to see for which one you have the most to say. This makes it easier on you when writing the actual paragraph or assignment.
Once you have determined your main idea, try writing a topic sentence including some support from other excellent points discovered during your brainstorming and/or research session.
They won’t all be main ideas, but some of them will likely serve well in a supporting role.
Finding Your Main Idea: