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Analyzing Informational Texts

Analyzing Informational Texts

When people think of analyzing texts, they often think of poring over literary works for elements like figurative language and theme. However, it is also important to analyze non-fictional texts, like informational texts. While informational texts might not contain literary elements like metaphors and symbols, their writers still make deliberate choices that shape the meaning and impact of their writing. Understanding how to analyze informational texts makes people more critical readers.

Analyzing Informational Texts Definition

When people analyze something, they critically examine it to generate a deep understanding. Readers can analyze all types of written texts to discern their meanings and how the author created them. When analyzing informational texts, readers examine the reason and way that an author presents information to a reader.

Analyzing informational texts, newspapers, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Newspaper articles are examples of informational texts.

Informational Text Definition

To understand how to analyze an informational text, you first need to understand what an informational text is. An informational text is a non-fictional text that, as the name suggests, informs the reader about a topic. For example, textbooks, biographies, and instruction manuals are all informational texts. You are even reading an informational text right now!

An informational text is a non-fictional text that educates the reader about a topic.

Analyzing Informational Texts Purpose

The purpose of analyzing informational texts is to understand more about the author's purpose for presenting the information. Authors' purposes are typically to inform, entertain, or persuade. Analyzing informational texts can also help readers understand concepts on an in-depth level and make connections between ideas.

To analyze an informational text, readers can ask questions like the following:

  • What was the author's reason for writing this text?

  • What is the main idea of this text?

  • How does the author use elements like headings, illustrations, and bolded text to make a point?

  • How can readers use the information in this text?

  • Is the author using credible sources and citing them?

The main idea is typically easy to find in an informational text. Writers usually state the main idea in one of the first paragraphs to introduce the reader to the point of the text. See if you can find the main idea in this article!

Understanding how to analyze informational texts is particularly important for spotting credible news sources. When reading a piece of media like a magazine or newspaper article, readers should pay attention to how the author presents information, what elements they are using, and how they structure the information. Transparent, credible pieces of news are signs of a trustworthy source. In contrast, pieces of media that seem illogical, do not have reliable sources, and are not clear and organized are signs of non-reliable information.

Readers should also be looking for informational bias when analyzing informational texts. Writers exhibit bias when their claims are based on personal viewpoints rather than supported by reliable facts. When writers make unsubstantiated, opinionated claims, readers should note this and be speculative of the text's credibility.

Analyzing informational texts, magazine, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Magazines often contain informational texts.

Analyzing Informational Text Elements and Structures

When analyzing informational texts, readers should focus on the elements of the author's argument as well as the text's structure.

Analyzing Informational Text Elements

A key part of analyzing informational text is identifying and evaluating the textual elements that the author used to present information to the reader. For instance, the following list features elements that writers frequently include in informational texts.

  • Bolded/Italicized Text

  • Charts

  • Glossary

  • Graphics

  • Headings

  • Images

  • Index

  • Maps

  • Subheadings

  • Summaries

  • Table of Contents

  • Title

Authors of informational texts include different elements depending on what their purpose is. For example, a chapter in a textbook might have a summary at the end to make it easy for students to review the information. On the other hand, a magazine article will likely not have a summary at the end because it does not present information that readers need to study or memorize.

When analyzing informational texts, readers should note what elements the author uses and why they used those to make their point. This helps unpack the text to understand how it functions. In understanding an informational text on a more in-depth level, the reader will develop a deeper understanding of the material.

Highlight or underline essential elements in an informational text you come across. Making notes like these will make it easier to go back and examine how the informational text comes together.

Analyzing informational texts, map, StudySmarterFig. 3 - When analyzing an informational text, reflect on the author's use of images, among other elements.

Analyzing Informational Text Structures

Informational texts tend to one have the following structures. When analyzing informational texts, readers should identify which structure the author is using. They should then ask analytical questions to reflect on how the structure impacts the text.

Cause and Effect Structure

In a cause and effect informational text, the author demonstrates the causal relationship between two concepts. For example, a writer might write a cause-and-effect informational text about how smoking causes lung cancer.

To analyze a cause-and-effect informational text, readers can ask questions like the following:

  • What cause or causes does the author discuss, and what are the effects?

  • How does the structure of this text help readers understand how one concept caused another?

To identify a cause and effect informational text, readers should look for keywords like "because of," "therefore," and "as a result."

Chronological Order

Chronological informational texts tell the reader about a sequence of events or steps in the order that they happened in. For instance, a chapter in a history textbook that informs readers about the events of the American Revolution in order would be a chronological informational text.

When analyzing a chronological informational text, readers can ask questions like:

  • In what order did the events occur in?

  • How does the author present the information so that readers understand their order?

Key phrases to look for when identifying a chronological text include "After that happened…" or "Following that…"

Comparison and Contrast

In a comparison and contrast informational text, the author notes the similarities and differences between various concepts. For example, a writer might compare and contrast the experience of living in two different cities.

To analyze a comparison and contrast informational text, readers can ask analytical questions like these:

  • How are these concepts similar? How are they different?

  • How does the text's structure help readers understand the differences and similarities between the concepts?

To analyze a comparison and contrast informational text, readers should look for keywords like "similarly," and "in contrast…"

Description

In a description informational text, the writer describes a concept to the reader. For example, a textbook chapter about the Harlem Renaissance would be a description informational text.

Analytical questions about description informational texts look like the following:

  • What is the main point of this text?

  • How does the author's description of the topic help the reader understand it objectively?

Keywords that indicate a text is a description informational text are "For example," "In fact,".

Analyzing informational texts, textbook, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Textbook chapters are often description informative texts.

How-To

A how-to informational text, also known as process or sequence, is when the writer provides instructions about how to do something. The authors typically present the information in sequential order. For instance, an article about how to bake brownies would be a how-to text. Readers can ask themselves questions like the following when analyzing a how-to information text:

  • How does the author present the information to help the reader learn?

Look for sequential words to identify a how-to text, like "first" or "next."

How-to informational texts are different from chronological order texts because how-to texts explicitly provide instructions about how to complete a certain task. Meanwhile, chronological informational texts describe a sequence. For instance, a chronological informational text may educate readers about the order of events in the French Revolution. A how-to informational text on the French Revolution might instruct readers on how to re-enact famous events from the time period.

Problem and Solution

In a problem and solution informational text, a writer describes a problem and then proposes at least one solution to the problem. For instance, a writer might describe the issue of climate change and propose a solution. To analyze such a text, readers should ask a question like the following:

  • How does the structure of the text shape the reader's understanding of the problem and the potential solutions?

Look for phrases like "the problem is" or "to solve this…"

Analyzing Informational Text Example

This article is an example of an informational text. Imagine that you are tasked with analyzing this article. First, read the entire article and highlight essential information, such as the main idea, key definitions, and important points. For instance, the main idea can be found in the first paragraph. The author likely included that there to immediately inform the reader what the article would be about and ensure they have context for the topic before reading about it in more detail.

After reading through the text, consider the elements that the author of this text used to present the information. For instance, there are headings, subheadings, and bolded definitions. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What elements did the writer use to help present this information?

  • What impact do these text elements have not the reader's understanding of the information?

  • Why would the author have chosen these textual elements?

The author of this article uses headings and subheadings to organize the information in a clear, logical manner. The headings make the article easy to follow and allow readers to skip to certain sections if they only need information about one aspect of the topic. The author also uses elements like bolded text to highlight key terms and a summary at the end to make it easy for readers to review the topic.

Analyzing informational texts, higlighter, StudySmarterFig. 5 - Highlighting important points like the main idea helps streamline analysis.

In addition to analyzing text elements like headings, note what the text's structure is and ask yourself:

  • How does the writer use the structure to communicate the main idea?

This article is a description article. The writer describes different aspects of the topic in distinct sections to allow readers to understand many dimensions of it. Understanding this structure can help readers check their understanding of all of the subtopics and ensure they understand important details. For instance, the way the author arranged the description of each type of text structure makes it easy for the reader to check their understanding of each distinct type.


Analyzing Informational Texts - Key Takeaways

  • An informational text is a non-fictional text that educates the reader about a topic.
  • The purpose of analyzing informational text is to understand how the writer makes their point.
  • Readers should note elements such as headings and graphics when analyzing informational texts.
  • Readers should note the impact of the text's structure on the information presented.
  • Informational texts are either comparison and contrast, cause and effect, description, how-to, or problem and solution.

Frequently Asked Questions about Analyzing Informational Texts

An example of an informational text is a textbook chapter. 

Informational texts are objective presentations of information. 

Examples of informational texts include textbook chapters, newspaper articles, and policy reports. 

Comparison and contrast, cause and effect, description, how-to, or problem and solution. 

To inform readers about a topic. 

Final Analyzing Informational Texts Quiz

Question

Richard is writing an article about the French spoken in Canada and the French spoken in France. He uses phrases like “In contrast…” What type of informational text is he writing?


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Answer

Comparison and Contrast


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Question

Which of the following is not an element of an informational text?


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Answer

Index


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Question

True or False? All informational texts use the same elements


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Answer

False


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Question

Which of the following is an informational text?


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Answer

Autobiography 

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Question

What key words or phrases indicate a description informational text?


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Answer

For example,

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Question

Where is the main idea of an informational text typically located?


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Answer

The beginning

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Question

True or False. Analyzing informational texts includes noting how the author used and cited sources. 


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Answer

True

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Question

Claire is reading a magazine article about what steps to follow to set up a hammock. What type of informational text is she reading?


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Answer

How-to

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Question

Author’s purposes are typically to inform, entertain, or - 


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Answer

Persuade 

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Question

You are reading a newspaper article about the negative environmental impact of leaving lights on all day. What type of informational text are you reading?


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Answer

Cause and effect 


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