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The central idea is the message the author is trying to convey. It tells what the text is mainly about. Texts may include an overall central idea for the text as a whole, or several central ideas for sections — or group of paragraphs — of the text. The central ideas are the most important points that the author is trying to make.

The summary is your statement of what the central idea is. When you summarize, it is important that you include only the information that is contained in the text and not information that you know from other sources or your opinion about the information in a text.

Watch the video below to review how to identify the central ideas of a text and to learn how central ideas can be used to develop a summary.

This video player plays a video on Central Idea and Summarizing.

> Text version for video

After you have written your summary, be sure that you can answer yes to each of the following questions. If you can, you have written a good summary.

  • Does it state the overall central idea for the text?
  • Does it include the most important central ideas from the different sections in the text?
  • Do all of the central ideas included in the summary support the overall central idea?
  • Have you included the most important key details that support one or more of the central ideas?
  • Does it contain only information from the text?
  • Are all the sentences written in your own words?