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

What Is an Informational Text?

Each day we learn new information. Sometimes this just happens, like when we watch a news show or learn a new hobby. Maybe a friend shared something with you that was completely new to you. Other times we may plan to learn new information. This can happen when you study or when you seek out new ideas through research. Often times, the mission to find new ideas leads you to informational texts.

Informational texts are factual, nonfiction writings. Informational texts inform the audience in an organized, easy to follow format. Informational texts can be essays, articles, books, handouts, or brochures.

Informational texts have unique qualities that make them easy to identify. They all contain similar organizational features, such as a table of contents, preface, index, and glossary. They also follow similar structures and patterns. Within these, there are several ways an author may connect ideas in an informational text. Let’s explore some of these now.

Print Features

One of the main ways an author may connect ideas in an informational text is the organizational print features. These features are aids that guide the main ideas of the text. It is a good idea to first preview a text before reading by looking over these print features.

First, the author will list all of the key concepts in the table of contents. By skimming through the table of contents, you can see how the paper is organized and in what order the author will present the main ideas to you. This way, you can keep a lookout for those main ideas as you read the writing.

Next, read the preface, or introduction, to the writing. The preface will give you a bit of a preview of the author’s reason for writing, the main goals of the paper, and the importance behind key ideas.

At the end of the paper, the author may include a glossary, which is a list of key words and definitions used in the writing. Even though it may sound strange, you should read through the glossary before you start reading. Take a few minutes to look over the key words to get an idea of some of the important main ideas that will be included in the paper.

Organizational Aids

After you preview the text, it’s time to read. As you read the content, the author will include several different organizational aids that will help connect the main ideas. The first thing you may notice are headings and subheadings. The headings of a writing will represent the main ideas. Under these main ideas, you will find the major support of the headings through the subheadings. These headings and subheadings help an author connect the details first to each main idea but also to the overall thesis and goal of the paper. For example, if an author was writing an informational text on bears, he/she may have several main headings that could include polar bears, brown bears, and panda bears. Under each of these main headings, the author may include subheadings on population, survival, and behavior.

Next, an informational text may also include different fonts to emphasize key words and ideas. By doing this, we can identify the important terms and make the connection to our earlier preview of the glossary. In addition, the author can identify these key words to explain the importance to the main idea they support. There are several different ways an author may use font for key words including bold font, italics, and different colors. In our earlier example of bears, an author may use bold font for each of the headings and then italics for the subheadings. In addition, the author may introduce a definition and use bold here as well.

Finally, an author may use sidebar lists to review key ideas. The first place you may notice these are in the margins as you read. Sidebars are an easy way for the author to review the section or to make a separate note of a key idea. For example, as you read the bear essay, you may find a sidebar that further explains the diet of a polar bear. Or, the author may separate a key idea about their survival. At the end of the chapter or paper, the author may also include a chapter review of key ideas. This short review allows us to review the main ideas of the paper and to make sure we have a full understanding of the material that we read.

Lesson Summary

Informational texts are nonfiction, factual writings that inform an audience about a topic or build upon a previously known idea. Informational texts can be essays, articles, books, handouts, or brochures. An informational text has very specific characteristics that not only make it easier to identify but that makes the main ideas of the writing also easy to find.

Before reading an informational text, you should first preview the writing. By doing so, you will find the print features, or aids that help organize the main ideas of the writing. First, the table of contents will show you the main goals of the writing and how the author will organize these ideas. You may also find a preface that will explain the author’s goal for writing and how he/she intends to reach this goal. Finally, at the end of the text, you may find a glossary. Spend time reviewing these key words because they will be presented as main details in the paper.

While reading, an author will use organizational aids that help separate and link the main ideas of the essay. First, an author will divide the paper into main ideas and details through headings and subheadings. Within these sections, an author may change the font to make the key details easier to find. This may include bold font, italics, or different colors. Finally, an author may separate main ideas through side bar lists or chapter reviews.

Informational texts can teach us so much information on a topic and in so many different writing styles. By identifying the main ideas before reading and looking for the new connection during reading, these new ideas will become easier to find and understand.

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