Implied Main Idea: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Implied Main Idea Defined
  • 1:13 Finding an Implied Main Idea
  • 3:16 Example 1: Standardized Tests
  • 4:59 Example 2: Political Cartoons
  • 6:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

What's the point? If you're having trouble answering this question, you might need to learn more about implied main ideas. This lesson gives a definition and examples, along with explanations on how to identify them!

Implied Main Idea Defined

Have you ever looked everywhere for something, only to find it sitting right in front of you the whole time? Searching endlessly for something you know is there can be extremely frustrating. This is also true in a situation where you're trying to figure out what someone is talking about. If we have to really try to figure out what people are talking about, it probably means they're using an implied main idea, or the primary point of a sentence or passage that is not clearly stated, but instead deduced from surrounding details.

Of course, the main idea of a sentence or passage is its primary point or argument. And in everyday conversation, we tend to state our main ideas clearly, not wanting anyone to be distracted or confused. For instance, this lesson's primary point is to talk about implied main ideas, and everywhere you look here, you should be able to find clear evidence of that fact. We might digress here and there to discuss particular details, but it's always evident that we're talking about implied main ideas. But how do we find implied main ideas when they're not the center of attention?

Finding an Implied Main Idea

Why would we ever need to imply a main idea when it's so easy to say it outright? People use implied main ideas for all sorts of reasons - from disguising their real intentions, to keeping us on our toes. In fact, you've probably even used an implied main idea or two in the form of what we might call 'dropping hints.' Take for example this seemingly rambling account from a theoretical 13-year-old.

Did you know snowboarding started from surfing? They even have snowboarding in the Olympics now! I wonder how long it takes to build a snowboard. I saw one the other day, though, down at the mall…

Although it might look like these sentences are only thinly connected, their implied main idea actually keeps them all tightly linked. And here's how we can tell…

Read the passage entirely first. All the details might not make sense immediately, but you should start to see patterns. For instance, the young teenager appears to be jumping from one idea to the next; but if we look closely, we can see that snowboards feature prominently throughout the passage.

Examine individual details to see how they relate to the common thread. The first sentence relates snowboarding to surfing (maybe the parents are surfers?); the second hypes its place in the Olympic Games; while the third and last imply the difficulties of building a board and the efficiency of finding one at the mall.

Put the details together to find out what the main idea is. We can look at the details together to see that the implied main idea of this teenager's hint-dropping is that he or she wants a snowboard: each detail attempts to add some sort of value to the sport so that the parents will finally be convinced to buy the snowboard at the mall. Re-reading the passage or summarizing it can also be helpful at this stage in the process.

Now that we've seen how to find the implied main idea hidden in plain sight, let's take a look at a couple more examples.

Example 1: Standardized tests

In the classroom, using passages containing implied main ideas is a great way to test and exercise your reading comprehension and analysis skills. And many standardized tests, such as the SAT and the ACT, typically include such passages in their reading sections for just that reason. A passage like the one below could show up on the next SAT, so give it a look to see if you can find the implied main idea:

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