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Top Ten Tips for Selecting Main Ideas

In Class

  1. Listen carefully and write down the points your professors say they are going to cover, it will help you organize your notes. Write down any lesson/lecture objectives your professors put on an overhead or board.
  2. Survey notes from your readings before each lecture to listen for additional information about topics. Raise questions in your mind as your professors talk.
  3. Listen for main ideas which the professors may highlight by using:
    1. little phrases such as "And now let us turn to. . .;"
    2. statements such as "The main point is. . ." or "Remember this. . .;"
    3. statements that they repeat or emphasize;
    4. a change in their tone of voice or rate of speaking.
  4. 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.
  5. Talk with classmates. They may pick up things you miss and vice versa.

While Reading

  1. The first paragraph of a reading will usually tell you what you are going to be reading about. Look for main ideas there.
  2. 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.
  3. Examine the table of contents, section headings of chapters, chapter summaries and chapter quizzes for main ideas.
  4. Pick out key terms and concepts and make a "quiz sheet" outlining the bare bones of the course.
  5. Sometimes there is an implied main idea. Read over the details of a section and ask yourself, "What’s the point?"

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