Chapter Three: Implied Main Ideas

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TEN STEPS TO ADVANCED READING
John Langan

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Chapter Three: Implied Main Ideas

What does this cartoon imply about the newly married couple whose car has broken down?

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

The details tell you the implied point.
The newlyweds’ car has broken down. Since they are hitchhiking in opposite directions, the implied point is that their marriage has broken down as well.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

• An implied main idea is only suggested; it is not clearly stated in one sentence.
• To figure out an implied main idea, we must look at the supporting details.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

To find the main idea when it is not directly stated, we must ask the same questions we’ve already used to find main ideas:

• Who or what is the paragraph about? (What is the topic?)
• What is the main point the author is trying to make about the topic?

When we think we know the main point, we can test it by asking:

• Does all or most of the material in the paragraph support this idea?

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Read the paragraph below. Then answer the question.

Researchers who study the “science” of shopping note that men always move faster than women through a store’s aisle. Men spend less time looking, too. They usually don’t like asking where things are, or any other questions. When a man takes clothing into a dressing room, the only thing that stops him from buying it is if it doesn’t fit. Women, on the other hand, try things on as only part of the consideration process, and garments that fit just fine may still be rejected on other grounds. Here’s another contrast: 86 percent of women look at price tags when they shop. Only 72 percent of men do. For a man, ignoring the price tag is almost a measure of his masculinity. As a result, men are far more easily encouraged to buy more expensive versions of the same product than are women shoppers. They are also far more suggestible than women—men seem so anxious to get out of the store that they’ll say yes to almost anything.

The topic of the paragraph is men and women shoppers. Choose the point the author is trying to make about this topic.

A. Men always move faster than women when shopping.
B. Women look at price tags more than men.
C. Men and women behave differently when shopping.
D. Men make more expensive choices when shopping.

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C is the correct answer.

• All of the details in the paragraph support the point that men and women behave differently when shopping.
• Choices A, B, and D are all supporting details for this main idea.

A. Men always move faster than women when shopping.
B. Women look at price tags more than men.
C. Men and women behave differently when shopping.
D. Men make more expensive choices when shopping.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Read the paragraph below. Then answer the question.

Fifty years ago, Americans were sleeping an average of eight to twelve hours a night, but by 1990 they were down to only seven hours a night. Now many Americans average only about six hours of sleep a night. Extensive research shows that losing an hour or two of sleep every night, week after week, month after month, makes it more difficult for people to pay attention (especially to monotonous tasks) and to remember things. Reaction time slows down, behavior becomes unpredictable, logical reasoning is impaired, and accidents and errors in judgment increase, while productivity and the ability to make decisions decline. Students fall asleep in class and fail to learn all that they should. Marriages become more stressful as sleep-exhausted parents try to cope with their children and each other. Truck and auto drivers fall asleep at the wheel, and experts estimate that accidents result in over 1,500 deaths in this country a year. Workers perform less efficiently, and those in high-risk positions can endanger us all. For example, sleep deprivation led to the accident at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania.

What is the topic of the paragraph?
A. Sleep
B. Loss of sleep in America
C. Sleep loss for students and parents
D. Sleep loss for drivers and workers

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS
B is the correct answer - Loss of sleep in America

The topic is referred to directly or indirectly in several sentences.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Which statement best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

Fifty years ago, Americans were sleeping an average of eight to twelve hours a night, but by 1990 they were down to only seven hours a night. Now many Americans average only about six hours of sleep a night. Extensive research shows that losing an hour or two of sleep every night, week after week, month after month, makes it more difficult for people to pay attention (especially to monotonous tasks) and to remember things. Reaction time slows down, behavior becomes unpredictable, logical reasoning is impaired, and accidents and errors in judgment increase, while productivity and the ability to make decisions decline. Students fall asleep in class and fail to learn all that they should. Marriages become more stressful as sleep-exhausted parents try to cope with their children and each other. Truck and auto drivers fall asleep at the wheel, and experts estimate that accidents result in over 1,500 deaths in this country a year. Workers perform less efficiently, and those in high-risk positions can endanger us all. For example, sleep deprivation led to the accident at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania.

A. The loss of sleep in America has led to serious problems.
B. Americans have lost sleep steadily over the last fifty years.
C. Sleep loss affects the performance of students and parents.
D. Sleep loss affects the performance of drivers and workers.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

A is the correct answer.

• All of the supporting details in the paragraph are about problems resulting from loss of sleep.
• Choice B does not include the serious problems that result from loss of sleep.
• Choices C and D are too narrow. Each refers to only two groups that are affected by sleep loss.

A. The loss of sleep in America has led to serious problems.
B. Americans have lost sleep steadily over the last fifty years.
C. Sleep loss affects the performance of students and parents.
D. Sleep loss affects the performance of drivers and workers.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Hints for identifying the topic and main idea:
• Remember to look for repeated words.
• Mark major supporting details. Major details are often signaled by addition words.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Read the paragraph below. Then answer the question.

All people have a strong need to belong to groups, stemming from evolutionary pressures that increased people’s chance of survival and reproduction when in groups rather than in isolation. This need may also be driven by the desire to feel protected against threat and uncertainty in everyday life or to gain a greater sense of personal and social identity. Moreover, people join specific groups in order to accomplish things that they cannot accomplish as individuals. Neither symphonies nor football games can be played by one person alone, and many types of work require team effort. Further, people join groups because of the social status and identity that they offer. An important part of people’s feelings of self-worth comes from their identification with particular groups. Even a relatively low-status group can be a source of pride for individuals who are held in high esteem within the group; being big fish in small ponds can make people feel good about themselves, particularly people from individualist cultures. Finally, people may join groups simply because they like the members and want to have the opportunity to interact with them.

What is the topic of the paragraph?

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

All people have a strong need to belong to groups, stemming from evolutionary pressures that increased people’s chance of survival and reproduction when in groups rather than in isolation. This need may also be driven by the desire to feel protected against threat and uncertainty in everyday life or to gain a greater sense of personal and social identity. Moreover, people join specific groups in order to accomplish things that they cannot accomplish as individuals. Neither symphonies nor football games can be played by one person alone, and many types of work require team effort. Further, people join groups because of the social status and identity that they offer. An important part of people’s feelings of self-worth comes from their identification with particular groups. Even a relatively low-status group can be a source of pride for individuals who are held in high esteem within the group; being big fish in small ponds can make people feel good about themselves, particularly people from individualist cultures. Finally, people may join groups simply because they like the members and want to have the opportunity to interact with them.

What is the topic of the paragraph?

Joining groups

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

Read the paragraph again. Then answer the question.

All people have a strong need to belong to groups, stemming from evolutionary pressures that increased people’s chance of survival and reproduction when in groups rather than in isolation. This need may also be driven by the desire to feel protected against threat and uncertainty in everyday life or to gain a greater sense of personal and social identity. Moreover, people join specific groups in order to accomplish things that they cannot accomplish as individuals. Neither symphonies nor football games can be played by one person alone, and many types of work require team effort. Further, people join groups because of the social status and identity that they offer. An important part of people’s feelings of self-worth comes from their identification with particular groups. Even a relatively low-status group can be a source of pride for individuals who are held in high esteem within the group; being big fish in small ponds can make people feel good about themselves, particularly people from individualist cultures. Finally, people may join groups simply because they like the members and want to have the opportunity to interact with them.

What is the implied main idea of the paragraph?

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS

All people have a strong need to belong to groups, stemming from evolutionary pressures that increased people’s chance of survival and reproduction when in groups rather than in isolation. This need may also be driven by the desire to feel protected against threat and uncertainty in everyday life or to gain a greater sense of personal and social identity. Moreover, people join specific groups in order to accomplish things that they cannot accomplish as individuals. Neither symphonies nor football games can be played by one person alone, and many types of work require team effort. Further, people join groups because of the social status and identity that they offer. An important part of people’s feelings of self-worth comes from their identification with particular groups. Even a relatively low-status group can be a source of pride for individuals who are held in high esteem within the group; being big fish in small ponds can make people feel good about themselves, particularly people from individualist cultures. Finally, people may join groups simply because they like the members and want to have the opportunity to interact with them.

What is the implied main idea of the paragraph?

People join groups for a number of reasons.

Each major detail in the paragraph is one reason that people join groups. Note that four of the major details are signaled by addition words.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS in Longer Passages

• When you read, you may have to infer—figure out on your own—an author’s unstated central idea in a longer passage.
• The central idea is also called a thesis.

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IMPLIED MAIN IDEAS in Longer Passages

To find the implied central idea in a longer passage, you must ask the same three questions you used to find the main ideas in paragraphs:

• Who or what is this passage about? (What is the topic?)
• What is the central point the author is trying to make about that topic?

When you think you know the central idea, you can test it by asking:

• Does all or most of the material in the passage support this idea?

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CHAPTER REVIEW
In this chapter, you learned the following:

• At times authors imply, or suggest, a main idea without stating it clearly in one sentence. In such cases, you must figure out that main idea by considering the supporting details. When you think you know the main idea, test it by asking, “Does all or most of the material support this idea?”
• To find implied central ideas in longer reading selections, you must again look closely at the supporting material.

The next two chapters—Chapters 4 and 5—will explain common ways that authors organize their material.