Understand the Main Idea and Supporting Details in Written Material
Recognizing Ideas That Support, Illustrate, or Elaborate the Main Idea of a Passage
The topic sentences are shown in red. The main idea for the passage should be similar to the topic sentence of the first paragraph.
A passage may contain some sentences that are questions or exclamations, but most of the sentences will be declarative statements. The distinguishing feature of a declarative statement is that it makes a claim. Two types of declarative statements, facts and opinions, are used in most passages. A college level reader needs the ability to recognize those statements that are facts and those statements that are opinions.
A factual statement makes a claim that can be confirmed or denied by other sources of information. The reader is not required to know whether a factual statement is true or false, but it is absolutely necessary that the claim can be checked or verified. For example, a factual statement is: Both Eisenhower and Kennedy were Republican Presidents. A trip to the library or a web site on the Internet may provide the information needed to prove that statement is false. The important feature of a fact is that there is acceptable evidence (some authority) to confirm or deny its validity.
A statement of opinion is a claim, but it is the author’s point of view. The claim of an opinion can be neither proved or disproved because no conclusive evidence exists. For example, a statement of opinion is: Democracy is the best form of government. Although many people agree with that statement, it is an opinion. No authority exists for judging a statement of opinion as true or false.
A college level reader must recognize when a statement is a fact and when it is an opinion. If the truth of a factual statement is questioned, then the reader can find a source to verify or deny it. If the value of an opinion is questioned, then the reader must make a determination about its logic, completeness, and validity. Distinguishing between facts and opinions is an essential skill for literal comprehension.