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2.1: Developing a Main Idea

This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on May 12, 2010 .

This resource covers methods of developing a main idea for your essay.

Choosing a Main Idea

After you have brainstormed about your topic to find many ideas, you must choose a main idea for your essay. A main idea is the major point you will make in your essay. Your essay will also have subpoints, but each subpoint will support this major point. It is very important that your essay have a main idea. It is also very important that your main idea responds adequately to the prompt provided.

Look at your idea map or list and ask yourself the following questions:

What are the connections between the different ideas in my map/list?

In the example map and list, it is clear that getting a better job, finishing school, and learning a new language are all connected.

What major idea in my map/list has the most subpoints?

In the example map and list, getting a better job has the most subpoints. Learning a new language and finishing school also have many subpoints. Since both learning a new language and finishing school are connected to getting a better job, they could also be seen as subpoints of the main idea getting a better job.

What idea in my map/list interests me most and/or do I feel most strongly about?

Based on the number of subpoints, it seems like getting a better job is most interesting to the author of the example map and list.

What main idea best responds to the prompt provided?

All of the ideas in the example map and list respond fairly well to the prompt because they all identify goals that could be achieved in the next few years. Keeping in touch with family and friends may not be as related to the prompt. This is a goal that most people will have throughout a lifetime, not just throughout the next few years.

After you choose a main idea for your essay, write a sentence that reflects this main idea and responds to the prompt provided. Your main idea might sound like:

An important goal I would like to achieve in the next few years is getting a better job.

Now you practice! Look over the idea map and list you created with the sample essay topic. Use the questions above to review your brainstormed ideas, choose a main idea, and write a main idea sentence.

For more information about responding to a writing prompt, please visit these Purdue OWL resources:

To practice responding to a writing prompt, please use the CWEST GED Essay Game.


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