Recognizing the main idea is considered a secondary reading skill

False. Determining the main idea, or point, is the most important key to good comprehension. The main idea is a general “umbrella” idea; all the specific supporting material of the passage fits under it.

Three strategies that will help you find the main idea are to:

1) look for general versus specific ideas

2) use the topic (the general subject of a section) to lead you to the main idea

3) use key words—verbal clues that lead you to a main idea

The main idea often appears at the beginning of a paragraph, though it may appear elsewhere in a paragraph.

A closely related reading skill is locating supporting details—the added information you need to make sense of the main idea (specific evidence such as examples, causes, reasons, or facts).


Main idea: Many people are strangely passive when they visit a doctor.

Supporting details: 1. Don’t provide enough information about their problem; 2. Don’t get a full explanation about their problem; 3. Don’t understand a doctor’s orders.

See's Understanding Main Idea and Supporting Details as a Reading Strategy to learn more.