Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What Are Informational Texts?

How many times have you read something today? While you may not have sat down with a new book, you might have read other things. Maybe you read a quick article, perused posts on social media, read a textbook, or even visited the websites of your favorite newspapers and magazines. Each time you read today, you learned new information or built upon information you already have.

When we learn new information from reading, we are exploring informational texts. Informational texts are nonfiction, factual writings. When an author writes an informational text, he/she wants to inform the audience of the topic in an easy-to-follow format. You can find informational text in essays, articles, books, handouts, or brochures.

An informational text is different than other nonfiction writings because its purpose is to share information about our social world. This is different from other nonfiction that may share a process, tell a biography, or retell an event.

While informational texts are a type of nonfiction, they do have unique qualities that make them easy to identify through organizational features and structure. In this lesson, we will discuss the characteristics of informational texts.

Organizational Features

Before discussing the different types of informational texts, let’s first discuss some of the features that most informational texts share. Imagine for a moment that you are reading an informational text for the first time.

Informational texts are well-organized and contain aids throughout. When you begin reading the text, you may find a table of contents, index, or a preface. At the end of the text, you may see a glossary or appendix.

There are also things throughout the text that make it easier to follow. First, the author may use print features, such as fonts, headings, bolding, italics, or bullets. These print features help to organize the main idea of the paper. They can also help to draw the learner’s eye to vocabulary terms or other key concepts.

Next, you may see that the text contains many different kinds of visual aids. Examples of visual aids include diagrams, graphs, maps, charts, or tables. Visual aids can help an author share a lot of information in a small setting. For example, a graph can tell years of data that would normally take several paragraphs. Finally, the informational text may contain illustrations or drawings. Since the goal of an informational text is to inform, the author may use many different visuals and pictures to help with this.

In addition to these organizational features, informational texts will focus on the topic through repetition of key words, introducing new vocabulary, and including illustrations or diagrams.

Structure & Examples

There are many different kinds of informational texts and each follows its own structure. Let’s explore some of these now!

A comparison and contrast structure will discuss the similarities and differences between two topics. To organize a comparison and contrast text, an author should research characteristics of each topic and then share how they are alike or different. For example, if you were comparing and contrasting online classes and campus-based classes, you could research the similarities and differences in delivery, classroom environment, and course requirements. The comparison and contrast structure is organized by the topics and should inform the audience equally about each one.

Another type of informational text is cause and effect. In this structure, an author is researching either the reasons an event occurred or the effects of this event. An author would want to present explanations and reasons why something happened. This essay is normally organized by explaining the event, what led up to it (the reasons), and then the results of that event. For example, an author could research the causes of divorce, the effects of video games, or even the causes and the effects of one topic, like stress.

Problem and solution is another type of informational text. Here the author is identifying a problem and looking for a solution. Really, any type of problem can be an informational topic, but some common categories include social problems, family, relationship, and education.

Finally, an author may follow a description pattern. In this structure, an author’s goal would be to have the audience visualize the topic. This pattern relies on descriptive details and images. You may find a description pattern when reading an article about a vacation spot, a new place to visit in town, or even a description of new fashions.

While an informational text may follow any of these patterns, the overall goal of this type of writing will stay the same. In any of these informational writings, the author wants to inform the audience through facts and evidence.

Lesson Summary

Informational texts are nonfiction, factual writings. Although a type of nonfiction, informational texts do follow their own organizational structure and contain unique features. Informational texts are well-organized and contain aids throughout, such as a table of contents, index, appendix, or preface. Throughout the text, an author may use visual aids, like graphs, diagrams, and illustrations.

There are several different patterns that informational texts follow. These include comparison and contrast, discussion of similarities and differences; cause and effect, the reasons and results of an action; problem and solution, identifying a problem and looking for a solution; and description, descriptive details and images. For all of these patterns, an author’s goal would be to inform the audience about the topic in an organized, structured paper.

Although you may read several times throughout a day, you may not have thought about the different topics you have learned. When you read an informational text, you are learning new topics and building upon ideas you may already have. So, no matter how small the reading may seem, you may just be learning something new and exploring new ideas!

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