Selecting Main Ideas


Selecting Main Ideas (SMI)
Selecting Main Ideas is similar to information processing.  This section focuses more on your ability to select main ideas during lecture and when reading a textbook.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:   

  • Can you focus and identify on the key points in a lecture?
  • Can you decide what to underline in a textbook?
  • Can you identify key points in your textbook?

Success in college depends on your:

  • Skill at identifying important information for further study
  • Ability to separate more important ideas from less important ideas

If you have problems selecting main ideas, you should:

  • Learn to focus on critical information
  • Create techniques to aid in fast recognition of important information
  • Complete the online module for selecting main ideas

Students should review these online workshops:

  • Effective Note Taking Techniques
  • Reading Techniques that Make Sense – SQ4R
  • Preparing for Academic Success

SMI In Class

Tips for Selecting Main Ideas. 

As a student, it is imperative that you be able to identify and discriminate between main ideas and supporting details during your class lectures. 

In Class

Listen carefully and write down the lesson/lecture points your professor says will be covered in the class.  This includes any notes on the overhead or board.

Survey notes from your readings before each lecture to listen for additional information about topics.  Raise questions in your mind as your professor talks.  If anything is unclear, raise your hand for immediate clarification. 

Listen for the main ideas which the professor may highlight by using:
*    Little phrases such as “And now let us turn to…”
*    Statements such as the main point is…” or “remember this…”
*    Statements that are repeated or emphasized
*    A change in their tone of voice or rate of speaking

Summarize in your own words what you have heard and write it down.  Organize and review your notes after class.  Add main headings as needed.

Talk with classmates.  They may pick up things you miss and vice versa.

SMI While Reading

While Reading

The first paragraph of a reading will usually tell you what you are going to be reading about.  Look for main ideas here.

Usually the topic sentence is the first sentence of the paragraph.  Sometimes it can be the second sentence or the last sentence of the first paragraph.  If it appears at the end of the paragraph, the previous sentences build up to the main idea.  If it is within the paragraph, it is preceded by one or more introductory sentences.

Examine the table of contents, section headings of chapters, chapter summaries and chapter quizzes for main ideas.

Pick out key terms and concepts and make a “quiz sheet” outlining the bare bones of the course.

Sometimes there is an implied main idea.  Read over the details of a section and ask yourself, “What’s the main point?”