Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Inference

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Inference

Writers frequently mean more than they actually say. They give hints and clues in their writing to get their message across. You can find these clues to make inferences. To make inferences is to draw conclusions from the evidence. Different types of evidence help you draw conclusions about an author's deeper meaning. If you follow the right steps, you can make inferences about a text and communicate them in your sentences.

Inference Definition

You make inferences all the time! Let's say you wake up, and it's still dark outside. Your alarm has not gone off yet. You infer from these clues that it is not yet time to get up. You don't even need to look at a clock to know this. When you make inferences, you use clues to make educated guesses. Inferring is like playing detective!

An inference is drawing a conclusion from the evidence. You can think of inferring as making educated guesses based on what you know and what a source tells you.

Drawing Inferences to Write

When writing an essay, you might need to make inferences about your sources. Authors do not always directly say what they mean. Sometimes they use clues to help the reader come to their own conclusions. When writing a synthesis essay, put on your detective hat. What points is the author making without saying so?

To make inferences from a source, you have to find clues. Pay close attention to what the author writes AND what the author does not write. What information did they put there subconsciously? What is the author really trying to say?

Types of Inferences

The main types of inference are inferences drawn from context, tone, and examples. Each type of inference looks to different clues for meaning.

Type of InferenceDescription

Inference from context

You can infer meaning from the context of a source. Context is the stuff surrounding a text, like the time, location, and other influences. To determine context, you can look at:
  • setting (time and/or place it was written)
  • situation the author is responding to (an event, issue, or problem influencing the source)
  • type of publication (news source, research report, blog post, novel, etc.)
  • author background (who are they? what kind of stuff do they write about?)
Inference from toneYou can infer what an author means by looking at their tone. The tone is the attitude an author takes when writing. To determine tone, you can look at:
  • descriptive words in the source (do the adjectives and adverbs sound sarcastic? angry? impassioned?)
  • feelings the source brings up (how does the source make you feel? Does the author seem to intend you to feel that way?)
Inference from examplesYou can look for an author's meaning in their examples. Sometimes the examples an author uses show things the author doesn't know how to say.

To infer from examples, you can ask yourself:

  • Why did the author choose these examples?
  • What feelings does this example give me?
  • What can we learn from these examples that the author does not directly state?

Examples of Inferences

Examples of inferences can show you how to infer meaning in different ways, based on context and tone. Here are a few.

Example of Inference from the Context

You are writing an essay comparing arguments about standardized testing in schools. Each author makes compelling points, but you want to understand where each point of view is coming from. You find out a little more about the authors. You find out Author A is a teacher. Author B is a celebrity.

When re-reading both articles, you also notice that Author A's article was published this year. It is fairly new. Author B's article was published ten years ago.

When comparing these arguments, you note how Author B's research might be outdated. You also explain how Author A's position as a teacher affects their point of view. Although Author B makes compelling points, you infer that Author A's arguments are more valid.

Example of Inference from the Tone

You are writing an essay about the impact of social media on children. You find a source that states a lot of facts about social media. However, this source doesn't seem to indicate whether social media is good or bad for children.

Since the author doesn't directly state whether social media is good or bad for children, you look for clues to their opinion. You notice the author sounds sarcastic when discussing the benefits of social media for children. You also notice how angry the author seems when discussing children using social media.

Based on the author's tone, you infer they believe social media is bad for children. You agree with the author. So, you use some of their particularly well-worded quotes to back up your inference.

Inference. Photo montage. StudySmarterInfer using a writer's tone, pixabay.

Example of Inference from Examples

You are writing an essay on the history of libraries. You are hoping to learn why libraries treat their books so carefully. After all, they're just books! You find an article discussing how important it is to keep books in the right conditions. This article discusses temperature controls and storage instructions. But it never states why this matters.

You notice the article uses a lot of examples about older books that were handled incorrectly. They all deteriorated and were destroyed! Most importantly, some of these books were very old and rare.

By looking at these examples, you infer why it is essential to treat books so carefully. Books are sensitive, especially old ones. And once old books are lost, they are lost forever.

Steps for Making an Inference

The steps for making an inference are: read the source to identify the genre, come up with a question, identify clues, make an educated guess, and support that guess with evidence. Together, these steps will help you make inferences for your writing.

1. Read the Source and Identify the Genre

To make inferences, it helps to read the source. Read your source carefully and take notes on the following features:

  • What is the genre?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What is the main idea?
  • What effect does the author intend to have on the reader?

A genre is a category or type of text. For example, science fiction is a genre of creative writing. Opinion-editorial is a genre of journalistic writing.

Genres are defined by their purpose and features. For example, a news report aims to convey facts and up-to-date information. Therefore, news reports include facts, statistics, and quotes from interviews.

However, another journalistic genre, the opinion-editorial (op-ed), has a different purpose. Its purpose is to share an opinion about a subject.

When reading a source, try to identify the genre, purpose, and intended effects. This will help you draw inferences.

Inference. A newspaper half-covers a laptop. StudySmarter.Understand your source to make a solid inference, pixabay.

2. Come Up with a Question

What is it you want to know about your source? What information or ideas were you hoping to get from it? Consider this carefully. Then, write out your question.

For instance, in the previous example, you wanted to know whether social media was good or bad for children. You might have asked: Is social media more harmful or helpful for children?

If you don't have a specific question to ask, you can always start with general questions.

Here are some general questions to start with:

  • What are the goals of the source?
  • What does the author think about ____?
  • What is the author trying to imply about my subject?
  • What does the author think is important or irrelevant?
  • Why does the author think ____ happens/happened?

3. Identify Clues

To answer your question, it's time to put on that detective hat! Read the source closely. Identify clues along the way. Look for the context, tone, or examples used by the author. Do they give any clues to answer your question?

Write down anything you learn from your clues. For instance, in the example above, you might have identified descriptive words that showed the author's tone and written them down.

Track the clues you find. Highlight, underline, circle, and take notes on your source. If your source is online, print it out so you can do this! If the source is something you can't write on, like a library book, use sticky notes to mark important clues. Make them easy to find later.

4. Make an Educated Guess

Try to answer your question. Examine your clues carefully and use them to develop a tentative answer.

For instance, in the above example, your tentative answer might have been: Social media is more harmful than helpful for children.

5. Explain and Support Your Inferences

You have an answer! Now explain how you got there—select evidence (the clues you found) from the source. You can also select evidence from other sources for context.

For instance, in the above example, you might use a direct quote from the source to show the author's tone.

Inference. An incomplete word on stone. StudySmarter.A quote tells you who thinks what, pixabay.

Inference in a Sentence

To write an inference in a sentence, state your point, support it with evidence, and bring it all together. Your sentences should make clear what you have inferred from the text. They should include evidence from the source to show how you made the inference. The connections between the evidence and your inference should be clear.

State the Point

The first thing you need to do is state your point. What did you infer from your source? State it plainly. Make sure it connects to the point you are making in your essay.

Dawn Neeley-Randall believes she offers a unique perspective as a teacher. Being a teacher makes her more concerned with her students than performance data. This makes her points more valid.

Note how this example only states what the writer inferred from the source. It is concise and focused. Try making your statement short and focused as well!

Support with Evidence

Once you have stated your point, you need to back it up. How did you infer this point? Where did you get your inference from? Your reader needs to know to believe you.

Add any evidence that demonstrates your inference. This might mean discussing the context of the source, the author's tone, or quotes that demonstrate what you are talking about. Write out your thoughts on the evidence you used. How did you infer your conclusions?

Neeley-Randall starts her article by stating, "I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a politician. I’m not part of the 1 percent. I don’t own an education testing company. I am just a teacher, and I just want to teach."1

Neeley-Randall is setting herself apart from celebrities, politicians, and others who do not know what teaching is like. She may not be relevant to everyone, but she is important to her students. Her opinion matters because she is "just a teacher."

Note how the writer in the above example used a quote to explain how they made this inference. Even if this wording isn't what the writer uses in their essay, it helps them think it through!

Bring it all Together

You have your inference. You have your evidence. It's time to bring them together in 1-3 sentences! Make sure the connections between your inference and your evidence are clear.

Inference Create an Inference Sandwich to write an inference into your sentences StudySmarterCreate an inference sandwich.

It helps to create an inference sandwich. The bottom bread is your main inference. The middle ingredients are the evidence. You top it all off with an explanation of the evidence and how it illustrates your inference.

Dawn Neeley-Randall offers a unique and valid perspective as a teacher. She starts her article by stating, "I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a politician. I’m not part of the 1 percent. I don’t own an education testing company. I am just a teacher, and I just want to teach." As a teacher, she understands what students need more than many celebrities and politicians who share their opinions on standardized testing in schools.

Inference - Key Takeaways

  • Inference is the process of drawing conclusions from the evidence. You can think of inferring as making educated guesses based on what you know and what a source tells you.
  • The main types of inference are inferences drawn from context, tone, and examples.
  • The steps for making an inference are: read the source to identify the genre, come up with a question, identify clues, make an educated guess, and support that guess with evidence.
  • To write an inference in a sentence, state your point, support it with evidence, and bring it all together.

1 Dawn Neeley-Randall, "Teacher: No longer can I throw my students to the ‘testing wolves,’" The Washington Post, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions about Inference

An inference is a conclusion drawn from the evidence. You can use clues from a text to infer the author's meaning.

An example of inference is looking at a source's examples or tone to figure out why the subject is important and what the author really thinks about it.

To make an inference in English, identify clues from a source to develop an educated guess about the writer's intended meaning. 

Inference is not a figurative language. However, figurative language can be used to make inferences! Just look for comparisons, analogies, and examples in a source to draw conclusions about the writer's intended meaning.

The 5 easy steps to make an inference are: 

1) Read the source and identify the genre. 

2) Come up with a question.

3) Identify clues.

4) Make an educated guess.

5) Explain and support your references. 

To write an inference into a sentence, state your point, support it with evidence, and bring it all together. 

Final Inference Quiz

Question

What is inference?

Show answer

Answer

Inference is the process of drawing conclusions from evidence. You can think of inferring as making educated guesses based on what you know and what a source tells you.

Show question

Question

A writer infers a source's meaning from the source's setting and the author's biographical information.  What type of inference is this an example of? 

Show answer

Answer

Inference from context

Show question

Question

What can one look for when trying to make an inference from tone? 

Show answer

Answer

descriptive words

Show question

Question

When making an inference from examples, what questions can one ask themselves?

Show answer

Answer

Why did the author choose these examples?

Show question

Question

What is the first step in making an inference?

Show answer

Answer

Read the source & identify the genre

Show question

Question

What is a genre?

Show answer

Answer

A genre is a category or type of text. For example, science fiction is a genre of creative writing. Opinion-editorial is a genre of journalistic writing. 

Show question

Question

If one does not have a specific question to ask of a text, what are some questions they can start with?

Show answer

Answer

What are the goals of the source? 

Show question

Question

Finish the following sentence: 

When following the steps to make an inference, one can identify clues to make an ______. 

Show answer

Answer

When making an inference, one can identify clues to make an educated guess on the answer to their question.

Show question

Question

What can one support their inference with?

Show answer

Answer

evidence

Show question

Question

What three things does one need to do to write an inference into a sentence?

Show answer

Answer

State the point

Show question

Question

How many sentences should there be in an inference sandwich?

Show answer

Answer

There can be anywhere from one to three sentences in an inference sandwich.  

Show question

Question

What are the three primary ways to provide evidence in support of an inference?

Show answer

Answer

Direct Quote

Show question

Question

How can one track the clues they find to make inferences?

Show answer

Answer

highlight

Show question

Question

True or false: 

We make inferences all the time. 

Show answer

Answer

True! We make educated guesses about the world around us everyday. 

Show question

Question

A writer determines Author A disagrees with Author B based on how angry they sound when they discuss Author B. What type of inference is this an example of? 

Show answer

Answer

Inference from tone

Show question

Question

It is a category or type of text.

Show answer

Answer

Genre

Show question

Question

How is genre defined?

Show answer

Answer

By its purpose and features

Show question

Question

Genres contain facts and facts from fiction.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

To make an inference, skim a source and list your accusations.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Inference cannot use paraphrase or secondary sources, only direct quotes.

Show answer

Answer

False. You can use many forms of evidence.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Inference quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.