From topics to topic sentences plus paraphrasing
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From Topics to Topic Sentences PLUS Paraphrasing. Chapter 4: Reading for Results. In this chapter you will learn how to:. Identify the topic of a paragraph Ask questions that lead to the main idea Recognize topic sentences See how transitions lead to topic sentences

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From Topics to Topic Sentences PLUS Paraphrasing

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From Topics to Topic SentencesPLUSParaphrasing

Chapter 4:

Reading for Results

In this chapter you will learn how to:

  • Identify the topic of a paragraph

  • Ask questions that lead to the main idea

  • Recognize topic sentences

  • See how transitions lead to topic sentences

  • Paraphrase without changing meaning

Identifying the Topic

  • The topic is the subject being discussed: person, place, or thing.

  • Discover the topic by asking who, or what, is the most referred to subject in the sentence.

  • The topic should be general enough to include aspects that are discussed and specific enough to exclude unrelated items.

  • Most of the time you will need two or more words to fully express the topic.

Example: Identify the topic in the following paragraph by choosing the letter of the correct answer.

Steven Spielberg is an extraordinarily successful movie director. He has directed some of the most successful films of all time. As a result, he is one of the few directors today who can claim a percentage of his movies’ profits. In addition to commercial success, Spielberg has enjoyed a fair range of critical success as well. His most critically acclaimed film, Schindler’s List, won the Academy Award for best picture as well as the award for best director. The profits from Schindler’s List were donated to charity.

  • the success of Steven Spielberg

  • Schindler’s List

  • Stephen Spielberg’s Academy Award

From Topic to Main Idea

Once you have identified the topic, you still need to discover the main idea.

  • The main idea is the central message or point of the paragraph.

  • Discover the main idea by asking: What does the author want to say about the topic?

A paragraph is a group of related sentences that express a single idea about a single topic - the main idea.

Main Idea








Main Ideas

The Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is the one sentence that expresses the main idea.

How to identify Topic Sentences

  • The topic sentence is more general than most of the other sentences in the paragraph.

  • The topic sentence answers the question, “What’s the point of this paragraph?”

  • The topic sentence is developed by both general and specific sentences throughout the paragraph.

  • The topic sentence can be used to sum up the entire paragraph.

  • Anyone can paraphrase the main idea, but only the author can write a topic sentence.

The Topic Sentence First

The author first states his or her main point and then explains it.

Main Point




The Topic Sentence Last

The author leads up to the main point and then directly states it at the end.




Main Point

Topic Sentence in the Middle

Some details lead up to or introduce the main idea while others follow the main idea to further explain or describe it.



Main Point



Topic Sentence First & Last

Writers may emphasize an important idea at the beginning and then again at the end. Or, the first and last sentence together express the paragraph’s main point.

Main Point





Main Point

Identifying Topics and Main IdeasChoose the letter of the correct Topic and Main Idea

The dark side of being famous revealed itself on the night of March 1, 1932. On this night, the twenty-month-old son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh was kidnapped from the couple’s brand-new home in New Jersey. The kidnapper entered the Lindbergh house by means of a homemade ladder and left behind a ransom note written in broken English. Following the kidnapping, a man with a German accent called and demanded a $50,000 ransom. Although the ransom was paid, the baby was not found where it was supposed to be. Eventually, a truck driver discovered the child’s corpse near the Lindbergh home.

Topic:a. Famous kidnappings

b. The Lindbergh kidnapping

c. Charles and Anne Lindbergh

Main Idea:

  • The Lindbergh kidnapping illustrates that fame can have its dangerous side.

  • The Lindberghs never got over the death of their child.


  • Transitions are verbal (or written) bridges that writers use to help readers connect ideas.

  • Transitions are linking words or phrases used to lead the reader from one idea to another.

  • Transitions always signal a reversal or change of some sort.

  • Be aware of “Reversal Transitions” on page 155.

Common Transitions

  • Time-Sequence: first, later, next

  • Example: for instance, such as

  • Enumeration: first, second, next

  • Continuation: also, in addition

  • Contrast: however, in contrast

  • Comparison: similarly, like

  • Cause-Effect: because, therefore


  • Right after you finish reading a paragraph, you should be able to paraphrase its meaning.

  • To paraphrase means to express someone else’s ideas in your own words.

  • 1. Change the words but not the meaning of the sentence (or paragraph).

  • 2. Change the order of the words and phrases in the sentence.

  • If you can express the meaning in your own words, you understand the meaning.

More Practice – Main Ideas

  • Go to:

  • Click on: Topics for definition and practice exercises

  • Click on: Main Ideas for definition and practice exercises

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