How to Identify the Meaning of the Text/Content


It has been established earlier that the whole essence of reading and reading comprehension is the understanding of the passage/materials read.

Therefore, the goal of every reader in reading is to get a proper understanding of the material read. Getting the meaning of a text/passage is not automatic. It involves some demands from the reader. These are as follows:

  • Needed concentration on the topic
  • Anticipating what is to follow in the train of thought
  • Identifying the main points and relevant details
  • Determining the author’s attitude

The above points will be explained briefly.

Needed concentration on the topic or central theme                       


The reader has to concentrate on the topic of the passage as he reads along the passage once the topic is given since the topic usually summarizes the content of the passage.

And if there is no title or topic for the passage, the introductory paragraph will give a clue to the content of the text. This concentration should continue to the end of the reading of the text.

It behooves every reader to adapt him/herself to a very high level of concentration and should not allow his/her attention to be easily distracted from the topic or central theme of the passage being read.

Anticipate what is to follow in the train of thought

Anticipation suggests expectation. It means imagining what is to come next. It is natural to expect what is likely going to follow a trend of thought or a series of events, actions, and incidences already expressed in the passage.

Such anticipation ensures the active involvement of the reader and helps him to be mentally alert in the reading process.

Such mental alertness will equally help recall the content of the material. The anticipation at times will be right. While at other times, the anticipation will be wrong.

Either of the two outcomes is very necessary for reading comprehension which ensures the reader’s active involvement and participation in the exercise.

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Identifying the main points and relative details

The reader must identify the main points and the relative details of a text as an index of comprehension of a passage.

Comprehension has not taken place if the reader cannot identify the main points of the passage as well as the relative details in the passage.

A quick way of picking out the main points is to decide what the central idea in each paragraph is. Keep in mind the fact that in any text each paragraph forms a unit with the sentences contributing to or expanding a central thought.

Do not also forget the importance of the topic sentence in identifying the main points. The main points can therefore be identified paragraph by paragraph and the relationship between the main points be established.

The relative details should also be identified. The relative details are the information that is related to the main ideas. Such give additional information about the main ideas.

Relative details do not exist on their own but as a subsidiary of the main ideas. Relative details may be important or unimportant. Important details may be:

  • A fact or group of facts that are relevant to the main idea.
  • An example of the best example of the main idea
  • A proof or the best proof that makes the main idea worth believing. Furthermore, the detail that is given the most stress and space may also be distinguished as the most important detail. Identifying the main ideas as well as the relative importance of details is an important step in incomprehension.

Determining the author’s attitude

Determining the author’s attitude is another important issue that contributes to proper comprehension. The author’s attitude reveals the author’s opinion, position, or manner of standing on the subject.

The author’s opinion will also reveal his mind, sentiment, and point of view on the subject matter of the text. The author in his attitude may be frank, serious, unserious, contemptuous, sarcastic, non-challenge, etc.

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The author’s attitude can be discerned from his choice of words and his selection of particular details. If the author’s attitude is mistaken or not properly understood, such can affect adequate comprehension of the passage.

For example, an author that is sarcastic but being taken for unseriousness may lead to a wrong comprehension of the passage.

Quick Application of the Strategies

Read the passage below and apply the strategies in ‘Getting the meaning of the text’, to understand the passage.

Early History in Lagos

The first settler in Lagos is said to have been a fisherman called Aromire. Aromire moved his people to the protection of the Island of Iddo.

Here they lived by trading and fishing, the Lagoon providing an excellent environment for both activities. According to legend, Aromire swarmed across from Iddo to Lagos settled there, and began growing peppers on what is today the site of the Oba’s palace.

The legend is a possible explanation of a gradual process that must have taken place around the late 1600s.

Fishermen from Iddo began visiting Lagos as they extended their fishing grounds and, the need for more farmland grew, their temporary dwellings were replaced by more substantial thatched huts, and the patches of dry land that existed on the swampy island were turned over the farming.

To a European eye, the prospect was uninviting; an earlier visitor, the Portuguese explorer Sequeira, described it in 1472 as an Island partly submerged in water and surrounded by a fringe of mangroves.

But it suited Aromire who occupied it and divided the land up with his nine brothers. He and his brothers are regarded as the ancestors of Idaho, the white cap chiefs, who traditionally own all the land in Lagos.

Quite separate from the Idejo chiefs, and established sometime after them, was the office of Oba (King). This office seems to have been introduced at the behest of the distant but mighty Oba of Benin who, according to one version of the story, actually conquered Lagos and installed his man as Oba.

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He was, at any rate, able to exercise an effective veto on the appointment of the Oba of Lagos and the early Obas acknowledged his suzerainty.

They, therefore, had little influence compared to the Idejo Chiefs. But over the years, the links with Benin weakened and the Lagos Obas’ increasing independence gave them a stronger position in the community.

They were not permitted to own land but were able to derive income (which at times was considerable) from dues and levies from traders. They also seem to have been given some payment by the Idejo chiefs when land transactions took place.

Their obligation was the defense of the island: the Idejo chiefs, according to legend, were apt to go off into the bush when danger threatened, leaving the protection of their to the Oba and his warrior.

Lagos Island was originally named Eko, a name that still survives among the local people and has been appropriated by a modern hotel.

The Portuguese called it Lago de Curanmo but later introduced the name Lagos which has survived to this day. The earlier name was passed on the strip of water between Victoria Island and Maroko, which is now known as Kuramo Waters.

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