“Reading for the Main Idea”–Blake Hausman


>>Blake Hausman: O’-Si-Yo’. Hello and welcome to our video
on Reading for the Main Idea. To begin, let’s identify
the topic and main idea of this video. The topic is reading
for main idea. And the main idea is that there
are strategies you can use to help you efficiently and
effectively locate the main idea in a text that you are reading. This is important because topic and main idea are very closely
related as we consider how to focus on a writer’s
main idea. Now, having said that,
let’s define some key terms. Topic: what’s a topic? Topic is a subject of a
discussion or a conversation, a general field of conversation. An idea is a thought,
conception, or notion. And a main idea is
the most important or most central thought of a
paragraph or an entire text, something that tells the
reader what the text is about. So, if you think about
it, the main idea is that most important
point, most important idea about the general subject or
general field of conversation. Now, let’s briefly consider
some different kinds of texts that we might read,
because different kinds or different genres of texts
will typically structure their main ideas in different ways or
put them in different places. For instance, a formal letter,
or an email, or a flyer, or an article in the
Oregonian or Willamette Week, or an academic essay, or
an article in a magazine, or perhaps an assignment sheet that your instructor
has given to you. These are all different
kinds of texts. So how you as a reader
might seek out and locate both the
topic and the main idea when you read these kinds
of texts would be different. And that all depends on how
the text itself is structured. Now, some questions that
you should ask when trying to consider the main idea of an
article or an academic essay — and let’s focus specifically
on articles in academic essays right now
— first, what is the title? And does the title
identify the topic? Then, can you locate
the topic somewhere in the first paragraph? Then, what are the key terms,
specifically nouns and verbs, that help to express this topic? And where do you see these
key terms, these key nouns and verbs, appearing in the
body of the text itself? And also, where can you as a reader identify
the writer’s main idea about this topic within
the body of the text, and how can you locate
those places again by considering the key terms? Now, for the remainder of this
video, we’re going to focus on reading an article, something that was published
a few years ago in the magazine,
Scientific American. It’s called “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction
Improves Empathy.” It’s a kind of an article
that you might locate by doing a Google search or by searching your
college library databases. And it’s the kind of text
you could definitely cite as a credible source
in an academic essay, including the essays
that you might write for a classier that
you’re taking. FYI: This text is also being
referenced in another video which we’ve produced here at
PCC about writing a summary. So hopefully these two videos
can be even more useful when viewed and considered
together. Now, let’s consider three
different strategies to read for the main idea in this text. Strategy number 1:
Focus on the places where you’ve likely been
trained as a student writer to emphasize your own
main ideas in an essay. What do I mean? I mean the last sentence
of the first paragraph, which is where you may have been
taught to locate your thesis or which is often the
main idea of an essay, and also the first sentences
of each of the body paragraphs, often called topic sentences. To consider then how we can see
the main idea of the text coming through in these
particular places. So if I were to read
this sentence: How important is fiction in
socializing schoolchildren? Researchers at the New School in New York City
have found evidence that literary fiction
improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others
are thinking and feeling. That definitely gives
me a pretty strong sense of the main idea of
this particular article. And if I go through and I trace
the development of this idea from one paragraph to
the next by focusing on the first sentence,
the topic sentence, I can probably get a good sense
of how this is going to develop, how this idea is
going to develop. I’m seeing a contrast
between literary fiction and popular fiction. I’m also seeing here at
the end an important point about socializing and how
reading fiction can be valuable in terms of socialization. This is a useful strategy,
one you should definitely use, and it may be a strategy that
you frequently use to read through textbooks because it can
help you glean some information pretty quickly. However, I’m going encourage
you to consider a couple of other strategies to
build on top of that to delve a little bit more
deeper into the concepts within each of the
body paragraphs. And to do that, let’s
consider those keywords, in particular nouns and verbs. So let’s focus here
on nouns and verbs — literary fiction
improves empathy that we see in the title. If I go through and I look to
consider how these keywords show up in each of the paragraphs,
I’m going to see them in that last sentence
of the first paragraph but I’m also going
to see them appearing in some really important
places elsewhere in the body paragraphs,
places that I might not notice if I’m skimming through
the article too quickly and focusing just on
the topic sentences. For instance, the
significant difference between literary fiction
and genre fiction. The specific example of Louise
Erdrich’s “The Round House”. The point that it stands to
reason that popular fiction or genre fiction does not expand
the capacity to empathize. This is an important point
which the article makes. I might not have noticed
that if I didn’t read through the entire paragraph
and focus on these key terms. Here I can see these ideas
appearing in the topic sentence: Literary fiction
focuses on the characters and their relationships. That’s an important concept. However, I can also see
this idea developing more as I get a little further
into the paragraph. And this relates to
disrupting expectations and challenging stereotypes
and encouraging me as a reader to delve more into the
psychology of the characters. I’m also going to see some
really important ideas in the conclusion that
I might not have noticed if I just skimmed through
the topic sentences for each paragraph. So by applying this strategy,
considering how the key terms in the title appear in the
body paragraphs, I’m starting to get a better sense,
a more focused sense, of the main idea of the article. One more strategy,
strategy number 3, is to examine the subjects
and verbs of each sentence — in particular, active verbs that
really help me to see motion, to follow a flow of motion
throughout a sentence and help me to see
who is doing what. I won’t lead you through
every sentence in the article to see what this looks like,
but I will put my nouns in blue, I’ll put my verbs in red, and
I’ll put my objects in green. And I’m going to go through and trace these ideas
throughout the article. I’m going to see that, yet
again, that last sentence of the first paragraph stands
out as a really important place to see a flow of ideas,
but I’m also going to see some really important
concepts show up, like here, about the participants
taking the test, what the researchers found. What did the test
results indicate? How did the characters in literary fiction
disrupt stereotypes? I can follow these concepts, and
they’re very important concepts for the article overall. I can follow these concepts from
sentence to sentence by focusing on the verbs and the
nouns in these sentences. Now, after using
these strategies, do we have a better sense of
the main idea of this article? I’d like to think so. And as a reader, I might put
the main idea of this article like this: A recent
psychological study shows that reading literary
fiction is more effective for helping readers empathize
with and relate to others than reading nonfiction
or genre fiction does. Now, remember, the main idea
of a text may be something that you disagree with. And personally, I’m not
convinced by this article, because even after reading
about this study I still think that nonfiction and genre
fiction can both do wonders for boosting empathy in readers. I’m also curious
about the example of Louise Erdrich’s
book, “The Round House,” which is a phenomenal book, and maybe the reason it
boosts empathy isn’t just because it’s literary fiction,
maybe it’s something to do with that particular book. Now, that’s fine. We don’t need to always
agree with the writers. In fact, we often
want to question and challenge the
things that we read. You do however need an accurate
understanding of a text in order to express how and why you
disagree with the writer. Going forward, you can
empower yourself as a reader with some specific
strategies for reading actively to determine the topic
and main idea of a text. You can read with intention. Don’t just skim for
information, rather, think about how the information
has been structured in order to present a main idea
to you as a reader. And one more good strategy to
consider, talking with others. The more you share and discuss
your thoughts about the topic and main idea of a text that
you’ve read with other readers, the more that you’ll be able to either confirm your own
understanding and/or challenge your understanding and
arrive at a better one. So keep reading, read
actively and intentionally for the main idea, and share
your thoughts with other folks who have read the same text. I hope this has been useful. Good thoughts and good luck. Wado. [ Music ]