Connecting Main Ideas to Related Sources & Topics

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Writing a paper can be a daunting task: you must pick a main idea, then figure out which topics, details, and evidence you will use to make that main idea clear to your readers. Sound difficult? Fear not, this lesson will show you exactly how to get this done.

What is the Main Idea?

First thing's first, what is the main idea? The main idea is the key concept being presented to readers. This is the overall purpose of your essay, or the idea or concept you want readers to take away from what you have written. The main idea will let your readers know what the overall purpose of your writing is; however, you still need to tell them why it matters.

In order to inform your readers why your purpose is relevant, you need to connect your main idea to other topics and sources. That is where this lesson comes in. We will go over the ways you will format your writing so readers are informed with valid and relevant details pertaining to your main idea. Before we begin, we need learn about the structure of writing, and why it is important for making connections. Let's get started.

It's All About Structure

Making connections between the main idea, other sub-topics, and outside sources is much easier when you follow a structured format. Including a thesis statement in your writing will lay the foundation for strong topic sentences, which then sets the stage for fully developed and supported body paragraphs. This structure ensures your readers are thoroughly informed of your main idea. Let's go over these individual sections so you can see how connections are made between the main idea, topics, and sources.

Thesis Statement

Once you decide upon your main idea, the first thing you will need to do is determine which sub-topics you will want to discuss. What related ideas can you talk about to help readers understand the purpose of your main idea? What sub-topics will support the argument or idea you are discussing? Once you choose these subtopics, you will use them to write a thesis statement.

The thesis statement lets readers know exactly what will be discussed in your writing. In an essay, an effective thesis will give background information, explain the author's position, and also provides examples as to why that position is valid. Here is an example:

The university campus should implement an outdoor smoking ban because it will prevent problems with second-hand smoke, encourage students to make healthier choices, and reduce the amount of litter.

Look closely; can you spot the main idea and sub-topics within this thesis statement? The main idea is that a university campus should implement an outdoor smoking ban. We are now going to focus on the sub-topics.


The related ideas you chose to support and prove your main idea are the sub-topics you included in your thesis statement. Each one of these subtopics will become a topic sentence used to introduce a body paragraph. The topic sentence not only connects ideas to your main idea, it also lets readers know what is going to be discussed in that particular paragraph, which brings organization and clarity to the essay. In referencing back to the example thesis statement above, here are our three sub topics:

• Sub-topic 1: To prevent problems with second-hand smoke

• Sub-topic 2: To encourage students to make healthier choices

• Sub-topic 3: To reduce problems with litter

To create a topic sentence that introduces a body paragraph, you want to not only use your sub-topic, but also expand upon it. Adding more details to your sub-topic will allow you to further the discussion and provide more opportunity to connect with other sources. For example:

Unless an outdoor smoking ban is implemented at the university, there is potential for numerous health issues as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke.

This topic sentence introduces readers to the information that is about to be shared in the proceeding paragraph. From here, the next step would be to gather other resources that connect to this topic.

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