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What does "The main idea" mean?



 
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What does "The main idea" mean? #1 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:02 am   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

Hello,

I am just curious..!!
I have a question in every topic I study saying "What is the main idea in the first paragraph? "for example".

How can I pick up the main idea?
Can I pick up the first sentence in the paragraph?
Will my idea be different from the teacher's point of view?

For example, just take a look at this paragraph:

The title of the passage is "Fictional Story Telling"

Human beings expend great amounts of time and resources on creating and experiencing art and entertainment- music, dancing, and static visual arts. Of all the arts, however, it is the category of fictional story-telling that across the globe today is the most intense focus of human addiction. A recent government study in Britain showed that if you add together annual attendances in plays and cinema with hours of watching television drama, the average Briton spends roughly 6% of all waking life watching dramatic performances. And that figure does not even include books and magazines: further vast numbers of hours spent reading short stories, as well as so-called serious fictions, old and new.

So, how just should I pick up the main idea?
What will happen in the world of I mention any sentence included in the paragraph? or a sentence that I feel it's important.

For example I can pick up different main ideas, take a look!

1-Human beings expend great amounts of time and resources on creating and experiencing art and entertainment.

2-Across the globe today is the most intense focus of human addiction.
(This is the main idea which is given as an answer by the teacher.)

3-A recent government study in Britain showed that if you add together annual attendances in plays and cinema with hours of watching television drama, the average Briton spends roughly 6% of all waking life watching dramatic performances.
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Re: What does "The main idea" mean? #2 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:21 am   Re: What does "The main idea" mean?
 

BlackCitadel wrote:
2-Across the globe today is the most intense focus of human addiction.
(This is the main idea which is given as an answer by the teacher.)

But that sentense as it stands doesn't even make any sense, at least in my book. I'm slightly surprised that your teacher would give that answer.
I think it should read:

"The category of fictional story-telling is the most intense focus of human addiction."

But I believe that the gist (main idea) of the article can be summed up in this sentence "People spend a lot of time and resources on various forms of art and entertainment".
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What does "The main idea" mean? #3 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:30 am   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

So, can any idea be correct? The both of the sentences I mentioned, can they be acceptable?
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What does "The main idea" mean? #4 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:03 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

BlackCitadel wrote:
So, can any idea be correct? The both of the sentences I mentioned, can they be acceptable?

Well, it's entirely up to you what you see as the main idea.
It's your point of view, not your teacher's, or mine, or others'. You should always think for yourself. You teacher musn't obtrude his opinions on you.
As long as you can back your ideas up logically, they are all good.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #5 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:41 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

Quote:
1-Human beings expend great amounts of time and resources on creating and experiencing art and entertainment.


In essay writing, people usually use this kind of "hook sentence" to grab readers' attention, or to make them interested in the topic. In this particular paragraph, however, the hook sentence is too general to be the main idea.

Quote:
3-A recent government study in Britain showed that if you add together annual attendances in plays and cinema with hours of watching television drama, the average Briton spends roughly 6% of all waking life watching dramatic performances.


This is certainly not the main idea. Being a supporting detail (in the form of a study), it is used to confirm that the main idea is indeed true.

Quote:
2-Across the globe today is the most intense focus of human addiction.
(This is the main idea which is given as an answer by the teacher.)


Perhaps your teacher made a mistake since this incomplete sentence doesn't make any sense. It should read, "Of all the arts, however, it is the category of fictional story-telling that across the globe today is the most intense focus of human addiction." Only then can it be the main idea of this paragraph.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #6 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 15:43 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

Here is another example, it says "What is the main idea and justify your answer".


War is often seen as only the clash of armies on the battlefield. But it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs. If public opinion in a warring country becomes seriously opposed to a war, the government may be forced to end it, through negotiations. The same is true if there is a serious division within the government. Political alliances are also important. Israel, for example, was able to fight six wars against the Arabs because it has strong political ties with the United States and some Western European countries.

I just chose the main idea to be:
War is often seen as only the clash of armies on the battlefield and I justified the answer by writing the sentence right after it "But it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs.

The teacher's main idea is:

it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs. The rest of the paragraph explains this: public opinion, unity of or division in the government, and political alliances are important in war time.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #7 (permalink) Fri Dec 31, 2010 15:56 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

Read the whole paragraph.
Try to summarize in your mind what it is about.
As a general guide, the main idea will be near the start -- in a well-written paragraph in the first two sentences.

Atomos has already explained the use of a 'hook' sentence. I agree that in this paragraph the 'hook' is a general statement which doesn't convey the basic idea contained in the rest of the paragraph. The first sentence talks about expenditure on the arts in general. The rest of the paragraph talks about time and expenditure on one branch of the arts: that of fictional story telling and the media through which fictional story-telling are portrayed (plays, cinema, TV dramas, books, magazines, etc.)

Therefore it is the second sentence which contains the key idea, as (almost completely!) provided by Tort:
The category of fictional story-telling is, of all the arts, the most intense focus of human addiction in the world today.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #8 (permalink) Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:48 am   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

OK, I don't know how I can answer such questions:
What is the attitude of the writer?

Can anyone please give me an idea of what does this question mean and how I can find its answer, is the answer in the passage??
I will show you example by posting the whole paragraph its title is "The Arab University"
I have no choice but to post you the whole paragraph so it will be clear to you to understand.


Three important institutions were given by the Middle Ages to the modern world – hospitals, observatories and universities. It has been long accepted in the West that the first two of these came from the Arabian civilization of Islam.

Although the Greeks invented a number of astronomical instruments, the observatory came into existence under the Islamic empire. The first permanent observatory was founded by the Caliph Ma’mun (reigned AD 813-833) in Baghdad about the year 830.

The Arabs made many contributions to medicine in the Middle Ages, but the most important was the establishment of numerous hospitals. Although they did not actually invent the hospital, they devoted a great deal to the organization, financing and upkeep of hospitals. Now these are characteristics of hospitals all over the world.

There is also evidence to show that the third great medieval institution, the university, was to a large extent an invention of Islamic civilization. Western historians have, however, been reluctant to recognize the similarities between Muslim and Christian Centre of higher education in the Middle Ages. They have been even more reluctant to accept that these similarities are due to the influence of Muslim learning on Christian learning, even when they admitted that many of the university textbooks used in the Middle Ages were translated from Arabic.

Among the authors of scientific, medical and philosophical textbooks were Muslim scholars such as Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd). This suggests that the European universities which used such textbooks must have had very important links with the civilization which produced them. Thus, we must look for the origins of the medieval university in Islamic culture.

To begin with, it is accepted that there were Muslim centres of higher learning well over a century before the earliest ones in Europe. The mosque-college of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez (Morocco) was founded in AD 859, that of Cordoba in the first half of the tenth century, the “house of Wisdom” (Dar al-Hikmah) in the same city in the eleventh century.

In Europe, the appearance of the first centres of higher learning was much later – the universities of Bologna, Paris and Montpellier were certainly not in existence earlier than the twelfth century.

When these early universities appeared in Christian Europe they had many features in common with their Islamic counterparts. The students were generally organised in ‘nations’-that is, they were grouped for purposes of accommodation for students from Morocco, from Upper Egypt, from Iraq and so on; at the University of Paris the student body included the ‘English nation’ the ‘Flemish nation, and others. Traces of this geographical organisation of students remains in the names of some of the Oxford colleges, such as Lincoln, Worcester, Hertford and so on.

Another similarity was the distinctive form of dress, the gown, worn by university teachers for lectures and other official functions. The wearing of loose gowns of a very similar style to those used in Europe was a feature in the great medicine centres of Islamic learning.

There is also an interesting resemblance between the names of the Christian and Muslim institutions of higher learning. The European term for a university, stadium general, looks very much like a translation of the Arabic term majlis aamm, which means a ‘general gathering for study’.

Again, the tradition of the wandering scholar was known in the lands of Islam long before it became a feature of scholastic life in the Christian world. Muslim students felt that no one professor had a command of a whole field of study, and so moved from one centre of learning to another throughout their academic career


The question:

What is the attitude of the writers towards Islamic Civilization?
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What does "The main idea" mean? #9 (permalink) Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:29 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

BlackCitadel wrote:
Here is another example, it says "What is the main idea and justify your answer".


War is often seen as only the clash of armies on the battlefield. But it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs. If public opinion in a warring country becomes seriously opposed to a war, the government may be forced to end it, through negotiations. The same is true if there is a serious division within the government. Political alliances are also important. Israel, for example, was able to fight six wars against the Arabs because it has strong political ties with the United States and some Western European countries.

I just chose the main idea to be:
War is often seen as only the clash of armies on the battlefield and I justified the answer by writing the sentence right after it "But it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs.

The teacher's main idea is:

it is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs. The rest of the paragraph explains this: public opinion, unity of or division in the government, and political alliances are important in war time.


There is a very strong clue in that paragraph, because of the phrase 'the rest of the paragraph explains...'. If you see this, or something like it, then you can be sure that you have found the main idea in the paragraph!

public opinion, unity of or division in the government, and political alliances are all important in war time and are inter-related.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #10 (permalink) Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:46 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

BlackCitadel wrote:
OK, I don't know how I can answer such questions:
What is the attitude of the writer?

Can anyone please give me an idea of what does this question mean and how I can find its answer, is the answer in the passage??
I will show you example by posting the whole paragraph its title is "The Arab University"
I have no choice but to post you the whole paragraph so it will be clear to you to understand.


Passage edited out for brevity.

The question:

What is the attitude of the writers towards Islamic Civilization?


You should be able to get a feel for the writer's attitude when you read the passage, BC.
Can you tell whether the writer is pro-Islam or not? It should be obvious.

In this case, the 'hook' sentence - the first sentence, tells you what three institutions will be discussed in the rest of the paragraph. He mentions observatories, then goes on to expand on what he means. He mentions hospitals, then goes on to expand on what he means. He mentions universities, then goes on to expand on what he means, but this time, in far more detail, because he has to build more of an argument for his opinion about universities than about hospitals or observatories - the arguments for the latter two are already established: "It has been long accepted in the West that the first two of these came from the Arabian civilization of Islam.")

The writer is of the opinion that Islamic traditions and civilisations were key to the establishment of important modern institutions. He upholds the widely acknowledged opinion that hospitals and observatories were established due to Islam, and sets out a strong argument for the case that modern universities also owe their establishment and structure to Islamic influence.
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What does "The main idea" mean? #11 (permalink) Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:54 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

OK can I answer this kind of question by saying what did the Islamic civilization do. For example My answer will be like:
The writer talks about the Islamic civilization and western civilization, Islamic civilization made great works for western civilization, for example Islamic civilization gave three important institutions to the modern world, the Arabs made a lot of contribution to medicine in the Middle Ages, the observatory came into existence under the Islamic empire, etc...

Can my answer be like that? Talking about the achievements of Islamic and Arab civilization?
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What does "The main idea" mean? #12 (permalink) Sat Jan 01, 2011 13:24 pm   What does "The main idea" mean?
 

I don't know what your teacher will accept, but to me that doesn't answer the question, what is the writer's attitude.
You can talk in those general terms in order to explain the writer's thinking, but I think you have to make it clear what the writer's opinion is. (See my last paragraph above.)

I have to emphaises that my opinion of what constitutes a correct answer might differ from your teacher's opinion though!
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