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Listening  for  Main  Idea  

What is the purpose of listening?

We always have a purpose for listening. We may listen to the radio in the morning to
decide whether to wear a coat or take an umbrella. We may listen to a song for
pleasure. We listen in different ways based on our purpose. Having a purpose helps
us listen more effectively.

In most lectures, several main ideas are presented. These are the concepts the lecturer
wants the audience to remember. Sometimes, the lecturer provides a general, or
thesis, statement that includes all the concepts. When the lecture is well organized
with a clear beginning, middle, and end, the main idea is easy to identify.
The  Model  Lecture  Has  Three  Parts  

1.  Introduction
Usually the general, or thesis, statement is included here. Sometimes the main
ideas are mentioned, but not fully explained.

2. Body
The main idea and examples are always presented here.

3. Conclusion
Traditionally, this section contains a summary of all the main ideas. The general,
or thesis, statement will be repeated, or it may be introduced here for the first time.
Keys  to  Identify  Main  Idea    
There are four keys to identifying main ideas in lectures and presentations:
1.  a speaker may signal a main idea through discourse markers; that is, there are
certain phrases that tell you a main idea is coming. Here are some examples:

The point I want to make/cover here is... The main point is...
The important thing here is...
What I’m trying to show is...
What I’m going to talk about today is...
The purpose of my remarks is ...
This afternoon I’d like to explain/focus on...

Speakers often use rhetorical questions to signal main ideas, topics, and themes. These
are questions that the speaker asks out loud, and that the speaker plans to answer in his/
her presentation. In general, rhetorical questions will always be answered in the lecture
or presentation. Therefore, rhetorical questions are important discourse markers to pay
attention to.
2. Repetition, or how many times a word or phrase is repeated. If something is
repeated several times, it suggests importance.

3. Pace. Pace is the speed of speech. Unimportant points or small details are usually
spoken more quickly. Important points, such as main ideas, are usually spoken more
slowly and clearly.

4. A lecturer’s visual aids, such as outlines, lists or drawings, often provide obvious
clues to a speaker’s main points. These visual aids should be taken advantage of.