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To Determine Topic & Main Idea

Parlindungan Pardede Universitas Kristen Indonesia

Why is determining the topic and main idea of a paragraph important?


While reading for enjoyment or obtaining general information, it is not important to remember all the details presented in the selection. Discovering the writers main point (i.e. the topic) and general message (i.e. the main idea) of the passage is enough.

Sample Paragraph

(1) Computer chips have changed our way of life in many ways. (2) With computer chips we can ma ke very small computers. (3) Space scientists use t hese small computers in satellites and space ships. (4) Large companies use these small computers for business. (5) We can make very small calculators w ith computer chips. (6) Some calculators are as sm all as a credit card, and these calculators are not ve ry expensive. (7) Computer chips are also used for making digital watches. (8) A normal watch has a s pring and moving hands, but a digital watch has no moving parts. (9) A digital watch show the time an d date with numbers, and some digital watches eve n have and alarm and a stopwatch. (10) The compu ter chip makes all of this possible.

(1)= TS (2), (5), (7) = Major Sup. Sent. (3), (4), (6), (8), (9)= Minor Sup. Sent. (10)= Concl. Sent.

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 1
Study the following paragraph! Whats the topic & main idea? How many details does it have?
English is undoubtedly the first international language due to several reasons. First, it is the most widely spoken language which is used in some way by at least one out of every seven human beings around the globe. Second, half of the world's books are written in English, and the majority of international telephone calls are made in English. Third, it is also the language of over sixty percent of the world's radio programs. Fourth, more than seventy percent of international mail is written and addressed in English, and eighty percent of all computer text is stored in English. Finally, English has acquired the largest vocabulary of all the world's languages, perhaps as many as two million words, and has generated one of the noblest bodies of literature in the annals of the human race.

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 2
Determine the topic, main idea, and details of this paragraph! For students who are learning a SL/FL, reading is the most crucial skill to master due to several reasons. First, students can usually perform at a higher level in reading than in any other skills. They can quite accurately understand written materials that they could not discuss orally or in writing with equivalent accuracy or thoroughness. Such condition will undoubtedly enhance their motivation to learn. Second, reading necessitates very minimum requirements. Different from speaking which requires opportunities to interact with sparring partner, or from writing which needs a lot of guidance and time to practice, reading necessitates only a text and motivation. Third, reading is a service skill. After learning how to read effectively, students will be able to learn effectively by reading.

DETERMINING TOPIC
EXPLICITLY STATED Find the word or phrase that best expresses the topic

PRESENTATION OF TOPIC

GRADUALLY INTRODUCED (IN STAGES)

Construct the topic by combining words or phrases from different sentences

IMPLICITLY STATED

Infer the topic by reading between the lines

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 5
The topic of this paragraph is gradually presented. Determine it!

The Indians made little progress during the thousands of years before the Europeans came. One reason for this was that horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens were not found in America. Without horses, the Indians had a hard time digging up the soil, and they could only get animal food by hunting. Another reason for their lack of progress was that they did not know how to use metals to make tools. Stones and flat bones do not make good tools.
Reasons why Indians made little progress before the Europeans came

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 3
The topic of this paragraph is gradually presented. Determine it!

How can we differentiate mistakes and errors committed by language learners? Ellis, a language teaching expert suggests two ways to distinguish between the two. The first one is to check the consistency of learners performance. If he sometimes uses the correct form and sometimes the wrong one, it is a mistake. However, if he always uses it incorrectly, it is then an error. The second way is to ask learner to try to correct his own deviant utterance. Where he is unable to, the deviations are errors; where he is successful, they are mistakes.
Two ways for differentiating mistakes and errors in language learning

SAMPLE PARAGRAPH 4
The topic of this paragraph is implied. Infer to determine it!

Indian hunters would sometimes hunt for days without finding anything. They learned to follow animal tracks. They learned to listen. In order to get close to their prey, the Indians had to move quietly. When they were close enough, they could shoot their arrows. Often, the prey got away.
How Indians hunt animals