Basic Terms and Terminology Relating to Evaluating the Author's Purpose in a Given Text

  • The purpose of a text: The purpose of a is the author's aim or intention in terms of the writing of a text. Questions that can assist you in determining the purpose of a text include questions such as, "What is the author attempting to do by writing this text?" and "Why did the author write this text?"
  • The purpose of narrative texts: The purpose of a narrative text is to relate and tell a story. A narrative text can tell a personal story about the author themselves, a story about another actual person, or a story about someone or something that is fictional.
  • The purpose of descriptive texts: The purpose pf descriptive texts is to describe people, places and things with vivid detail that gives the reader of the descriptive text an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation of the topic that is being discussed.
  • The purpose of expository texts: The purpose of expository texts is to expose and relate facts and facts alone in order to provide the readers of the text with the opportunity to get an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it.
  • The purpose of a problem and solution texts: The purpose of a problem and solution text is to present a problem, some possible solutions to the problem and what the reader can do to solve the problem.
  • The purpose of a cause and effect text: The purpose of cause and effect texts is to present the cause or causes of a particular effect or problematic result(s) and why these causes occur.
  • The purpose of a persuasive text: The purpose of persuasive texts is to persuade and convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and their point of view.
  • The purpose of an argumentative text: The purpose of argumentative texts is to detail and compare the author's arguments with details about the pros and the cons of the argument so that the author can bolster their argument and refute the cons against the author's argument, respectively.
  • The purpose of a compare and contrast text: The purpose of compare and contrast texts is to explore the similarities and differences between and among different things.
  • The purpose of an informational text: The purpose of informational texts is to inform the readers by providing information and/or education.
  • The purpose of entertainment and humor texts: The purpose of entertainment and humor texts is to simply provide the reader with entertainment, including humor.
  • The Dewy Decimal System: The Dewy Decimal System, also referred to as the Dewey Classification, consists of the major classifications and sub classifications of nonfiction works in a library so these works can be easily located among the vast collection of books that libraries typically hold and maintain.
  • Professional or trade journals: Texts that meet the needs of those professional and trades people within a specific discipline and within a specific trade like carpenters, plumbers, homebuilders, heath care workers, lawyers, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, doctors, and educators and others.
  • Peer reviewed articles: Articles that are closely scrutinized by experts in the particular field after the journal articles are submitted by the author. This peer review is done to insure that the article that was submitted is pertinent to the field, accurate and one that meets the standards of scholarly inquiry and the standards set forth by the particular journal.

The Purpose of a Text

Simply stated, the purpose of a text is the author's aim or intention in terms of the writing. Questions that can assist you in determining the purpose of a text include questions such as, "What is the author attempting to do by writing this text?" and "Why did the author write this text?"

Knowing and being able to identify the purpose of a text or reading passage is essential to the comprehension and the understanding of the entire text. At times, the purpose of a text is referred to as authorial intent, which means the author's intent or intention.

Determining and committing to the purpose of a writing or speech, is also an essential part of the prewriting process when you are authoring a text or a speech. Prior to planning the content of the writing, the author must engage in efforts and activities to clearly decide upon and determine the purpose, or goal, of the writing project. A clear purpose of the writing provides the piece of writing with its basic foundation which is vitally necessary for a coherent and unified piece of writing. For example, is the purpose of this writing project to communicate with others in the business environment? Is the purpose of this writing project to fulfill a school course requirement? Is the purpose of this writing project to present a fictional story or a non fictional topic? Is the purpose of this writing project to describe something? Is the purpose of this writing project to persuade others to your point of view? Is the purpose of this writing project to debate your point or belief?

The author's purpose in terms of the text can often be found in the first and last paragraph of an essay, the preface or introduction to a book, and in the introduction and/or the conclusion or summary of a piece of writing.

For example, the first paragraph of an essay, regardless of the type of the essay, should, according to the rules of formal writing, include an interesting and compelling brief overview about the topic that will be discussed in order to encourage and motivate the reader to read the entire essay as well as of the reasons that the author wrote the essay, which in essence is the purpose of the essay. The introduction to the essay should also include some very brief interesting information that will be included in the body of the essay and perhaps even the importance of knowing about the information that will be included in the essay. It should be interesting and it should motivate the reader to want to read the entire essay.

Similarly, the conclusion of the essay should, according to the formal rules of the English language in terms of essays and their format, a summary of the topic discussed in the essay as well as a reinforcement of the goals and purpose of the particular essay.

Likewise, the purpose of a text can be found in the preface or the introduction of a nonfiction or fictional book. Here is an example of the partial Introduction to the current ATI Study Manual (2016).

"Welcome to the ATI TEAS Study Manual….This book provides the best insight on what type of content will be included on the TEAS and how to most effectively prepare yourself for the test….It will provide you with the critical information you need to know about the test itself, an overview of the various objectives covered in each section of the TEAS., examples of the type of content covered for each objective, and practice opportunities for answering questions about each objective."

As you can see in the above excerpt for the ATI TEAS Study Manual, the purpose of the authors in terms of this ATI TEAS Study Manual is to present content so that a person who plans on taking TEAS examination can be successful in this test.

Lastly, among other ways to identify the author's purpose for composing a text, is the strategy to closely examine the introduction and/or the conclusion or summary of a piece of writing such as a nonfictional novel.

For example, excerpts from the introduction to The Civil War Almanac edited by John S. Bauman with an introduction by Henry Steele Commager and published by World Almanac Publications of New York in 1983, include:

"This Almanac does not purport to be either a narrative or an interpretation of the Civil War….What the Almanac provides is something at once practical and- shall we say-disciplined; a combination of chronology, a statistical record, a biographical dictionary, and an atlas. It is an encyclopedia that strives for accuracy, thoroughness and succinctness."

As you can see in the above excerpt, the purpose of the The Civil War Almanac is to present content that is a "combination of chronology, a statistical record, a biographical dictionary, and an atlas."

If the piece of writing is fictional, the purpose will most likely be for entertainment or humor which may or may not be explicitly related in the piece of work, however, the implicit purpose of fictional writings is to entertain.

Some of the other things that you can do to identify the author's aim and purpose in the text include:

Identifying and Analyzing the Text for Hints About the Type of Text It Is

As more fully described and detailed in the section, "Recognizing the Structure of Texts in Various Formats", there are several types of texts, each of which has its own purpose and each of which has hint and clue words associated with the particular type of text.

The different types of texts and their purposes include:

  • Narrative Texts: The purpose of a narrative text is to relate and tell a story. A narrative text can tell a personal story about the author themselves, a story about another actual person, or a story about someone or something that is fictional.
  • Descriptive Texts: The purpose pf descriptive texts is to describe people, places and things with vivid detail that gives the reader of the descriptive text an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation of the topic that is being discussed.
  • Expository Texts: The purpose of expository texts is to expose and relate facts and facts alone in order to provide the readers of the text with the opportunity to get an analysis of subject or topic of the text and the facts relating to it.
  • Problem and Solution Texts: The purpose of a problem and solution text is to present a problem, some possible solutions to the problem and what the reader can do to solve the problem.
  • Cause and Effect Texts: The purpose of cause and effect texts is to present the cause or causes of a particular effect or problematic result(s) and why these causes occur.
  • Persuasive Texts: The purpose of persuasive texts is to persuade and convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and their point of view.
  • Argumentative Texts: The purpose of argumentative texts is to detail and compare the author's arguments with details about the pros and the cons of the argument so that the author can bolster their argument and refute the cons against the author's argument, respectively.
  • Compare and Contrast Texts: The purpose of compare and contrast texts is to explore the similarities and differences between and among different things.
  • Informational Texts: The purpose of informational texts is to inform the readers by providing information and/or education.
  • Entertainment and Humor Texts: The purpose of entertainment and humor texts is to simply provide the reader with entertainment, including humor.

The clue words and hints for each of the above types of texts in terms of their purposes are listed below:

  • Narrative Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Signal words referring to time such as today, yesterday, in a few days and a few days ago; signal words referring to the sequence of events like first, last, instantly, recently, previously and not long ago

If the text is a narrative text by the author, the text will be in the first person; and when the story is about a person other than the author, the text is authored in the third person. Additionally, narrative texts can be fictional or non fictional.

  • Descriptive Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Words about people, places and things that include thorough and vivid details such as an altruistic person, a lush garden filled with fragrant flowers and an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier or wall.

  • Expository Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words associated with an expository text include the most important, the least important, then, later, after and first.

The author's personal opinions, beliefs, values and subjective thoughts are NOT injected into an expository essay. Expository texts present only objective facts that logically and rationally support and defend the author's position. The use of the first person is not used in an expository essay; they are written in the factual third person and also in the present tense.

  • Problem and Solution Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that can be found in a problem and solution text can include problem, solution, because, and the possible alternatives for action.Cause and Effect Texts:

  • Cause and Effect Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that can be found in cause and effect texts can include cause, causes, impacts on, leads to, due to and results from.

  • Persuasive Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that are often found in persuasive texts include based on, the fact that, in my opinion, I believe that, without a doubt, certainly and in my opinion or it is my belief.

  • Argumentative Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that are often found in argumentative texts include based on, the fact that, in my opinion, I believe strongly that, without any doubt, most certainly and in my strong opinion or it is my firm or strong belief.

  • Compare and Contrast Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that can be found in compare and contrast texts include similar, similar to, like, commonalities, different, different, differentiated from, different from, in contrast to, and as compared and/or contrasted to.

  • Informational Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Some of the clue words that can often be found in informational texts include, first, next, because, the fact that and for this reason.

  • Entertainment and Humor Texts:

Clue words and Hints: Most entertainment and humor texts are fictional, like a fictional piece of prose or poetry, but they can also be nonfictions. For example, a newspaper article about travel or the art of cooking can be intended to entertain.

Determining the Place Where the Text Appears

Written text can be found in a number of places. Some of the locations where written texts appear are:

Libraries

Current day libraries house and maintain large collections of books, magazines, journals, and other media.

The book collections of libraries are carefully categorized, separated and numbered according to the type of book it is and according to the standardized method of book categorization known as the Dewy Decimal System.

The Dewy Decimal System, also referred to as the Dewey Classification, consists of major classifications in addition to multiple sub classifications and topics as shown below.

  • 000 Computer Science, Knowledge & Systems
    • 000 Computer science, information & general works
    • 001 Knowledge
    • 002 The book (writing, libraries, and book-related topics)
    • 003 Systems
    • 004 Data processing & computer science
    • 005 Computer programming, programs & data
    • 006 Special computer methods
    • 007-009 [Unassigned]
  • 010 Bibliographies
    • 010 Bibliography
    • 011 Bibliographies
    • 012 Bibliographies of individuals
    • 013 [Unassigned]
    • 014 Bibliographies of anonymous & pseudonymous works
    • 015 Bibliographies of works from specific places
    • 016 Bibliographies of works on specific subjects
    • 017 General subject catalogs
    • 018 Catalogs arranged by author, date, etc.
    • 019 Dictionary catalogs
  • 020 Library & Information Sciences
    • 020 Library & information sciences
    • 021 Library relationships (with archives, information centers, etc.)
    • 022 Administration of physical plant
    • 023 Personnel management
    • 024 [Unassigned]
    • 025 Library operations
    • 026 Libraries for specific subjects
    • 027 General libraries
    • 028 Reading & use of other information media
    • 029 [Unassigned]

The other major classifications of the Dewey Decimal System without their numerous subcategories are:

  • 030 Encyclopedias & books of facts
  • 040 Unassigned (formerly Biographies)
  • 050 Magazines, journals & serials
  • 060 Associations, organizations & museums
  • 070 News media, journalism & publishing
  • 080 Quotations
  • 090 Manuscripts & rare books
  • 100 Philosophy and psychology
  • 110 Metaphysics
  • 120 Epistemology
  • 130 Parapsychology & occultism
  • 140 Philosophical schools of thought
  • 150 Psychology
  • 160 Philosophical logic
  • 170 Ethics
  • 180 Ancient, medieval, & Eastern philosophy
  • 190 Modern Western philosophy (19th-century, 20th-century)
  • 200 Religion
  • 210 Philosophy & theory of religion
  • 220 The Bible
  • 230 Christianity
  • 240 Christian practice & observance
  • 250 Christian orders & local church
  • 260 Social & ecclesiastical theology
  • 270 History of Christianity
  • 280 Christian denominations
  • 290 Other religions
  • 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
  • 310 Statistics
  • 320 Political science
  • 330 Economics
  • 340 Law
  • 350 Public administration & military science
  • 360 Social problems & social services
  • 370 Education
  • 380 Commerce, communications, & transportation
  • 390 Customs, etiquette, & folklore
  • 400 Language
  • 410 Linguistics
  • 420 English & Old English languages
  • 430 German & related languages
  • 440 French & related languages
  • 450 Italian, Romanian, & related languages
  • 460 Spanish, Portuguese, Galician
  • 470 Latin & Italic languages
  • 480 Classical & modern Greek languages
  • 490 Other languages
  • 500 Science
  • 510 Mathematics
  • 520 Astronomy
  • 530 Physics
  • 540 Chemistry
  • 550 Earth sciences & geology
  • 560 Fossils & prehistoric life
  • 570 Biology
  • 580 Plants
  • 590 Animals & Zoology
  • 600 Technology
  • 610 Medicine & health
  • 620 Engineering
  • 630 Agriculture
  • 640 Home & family management
  • 650 Management & public relations
  • 660 Chemical engineering
  • 670 Manufacturing
  • 680 Manufacture for specific uses
  • 690 Construction of buildings
  • 700 Arts
  • 710 Area planning & landscape architecture
  • 720 Architecture
  • 730 Sculpture, ceramics, & metalwork
  • 740 Graphic arts & decorative arts
  • 750 Painting
  • 760 Printmaking & prints
  • 770 Photography, computer art, film, video
  • 780 Music
  • 790 Sports, games & entertainment
  • 800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
  • 810 American literature in English
  • 820 English & Old English literatures
  • 830 German & related literatures
  • 840 French & related literatures
  • 850 Italian, Romanian, & related literatures
  • 860 Spanish, Portuguese, Galician literatures
  • 870 Latin & Italic literatures
  • 880 Classical & modern Greek literatures
  • 890 Other literatures
  • 900 History
  • 910 Geography & travel
  • 920 Biography & genealogy
  • 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
  • 940 History of Europe
  • 950 History of Asia
  • 960 History of Africa
  • 970 History of North America
  • 980 History of South America
  • 990 History of other areas
  • 800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism

As you can see from the above list of Dewey Decimal System categories only the 800 category from 810 to 880, as shown below may contain some sections and excerpts of fictional works, however, this entire category is typically filled with nonfictional books that present facts about the particular type and origin of the literature such as the history of a particular kind of literature, the factual evolution and origin of a new type of literature, and factual, nonfiction biographical information about various authors of the literature.

Below is the 800 category from 810 to 880

  • 810 American literature in English
  • 820 English & Old English literatures
  • 830 German & related literatures
  • 840 French & related literatures
  • 850 Italian, Romanian, & related literatures
  • 860 Spanish, Portuguese, Galician literatures
  • 870 Latin & Italic literatures
  • 880 Classical & modern Greek literatures
  • 890 Other literatures

In summary, books in the library with a Dewey Decimal System number are nonfiction and books without a Dewey Decimal System number are fiction. These fiction books are organized and categorized according to the author's last name in alphabetical order.

Texts Found In Newspapers

Articles and other things included in newspapers all have a purpose. Newspapers contain an index to different parts of the paper; they often contain sections which are titled with large print, and, throughout the newspaper itself there are various commercial ads and advertisements.

Newspapers are typically published on a daily basis.

Newspapers have sections such as:

  • International news
  • National news
  • Local news
  • Editorial columns and letters to the editor
  • Special interest sections such as business, travel and cooking
  • Obituaries
  • Commercial advertisements and classified advertisements
  • Comics
  • Crossword puzzles and other puzzles
The Purpose of Texts Found in News and Current Events

The international news, national news a d local news sections of a newspaper are informative texts with the distinct purpose of informing and educating the readers of these news articles about current events and situations throughout the world, within the nation and at the level of the local community. These articles are factual, nonfiction texts that are devoid of the author's own opinion but, instead, fill with facts and evidence that has been researched and deemed to be true and accurate by the members of the editorial team of the particular newspaper and the authors themselves.

These texts, within international news, national news a d local news sections of a newspaper, are informational texts. The authors' purpose for writing these articles is to educate and inform the readers of the newspaper about events and situations around the world, within the nation and within our local communities. You should be able to identify the author's purpose as to inform and educate when you see factual articles in these sections of a newspaper.

The Purpose of Texts Found in Editorial Columns and Letters to the Editor

Editorial columns in newspapers and letters from the public reading audience about certain issues are written with the purpose to expose something, to persuade readers to take a certain action or to accept and believe in the author's opinion, belief and point of view.

Letters to the editor from the readers and subscribers to the newspaper also aim to expose something, to persuade readers to take a certain action and/or to accept and believe in the author's opinion, belief and point of view.

These texts, within both the editorial and the letters to the editor sections of a newspaper, are considered expository texts, persuasive text and argumentative texts. The newspaper's authors have their purposes for writing these articles as to persuade and to convince the readers of the text to accept the author's position, their opinion, their recommendations and their point of view (a persuasive text), to assert their opinions and to strongly argue their point of view by presenting the pros and the cons for and against the author's asserted argument (an argumentative text) and/or to expose facts about a controversial subject or issue (an expository text).

The Purpose of Texts Found in Special Interest Sections

Special interest sections such as business, travel and cooking are also included in many newspapers often on a regular recurring basis. For example, XYZ newspaper may include a business section in their Friday editions, a travel section in their Wednesday editions and a cooking and food section in their Monday editions of the newspaper.

All of these special interest sections relating to business, travel and cooking are informational; for example, they educate and inform the target audience of interested readers about the different events and trends in business and the stock markets, interesting articles about wonderful places to see and travel to, and cooking tips, cooking ingredients and even cooking recipes, respectively.

Some content within these special interest sections, such as the travel and cooking, can also be descriptive because, some of these articles can describe people, places and things with vivid detail that gives the reader of the descriptive text an opportunity to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation of the topic, such as cooking and travel, that is being discussed in these sections.

In summary, special interest articles are typically informative, but some may also have portions that are descriptive texts. The purpose of the author in these articles is, therefore, to inform the readers and, at times, to provide the reader with a description of something in vivid details.

The Purpose of Texts Found in Obituaries

Obituaries are a public service that, for a cost, allows the loved ones of a deceased person to inform the public about the death of their loved one and some details about their life including the names of their survivors and the times and places where the funeral will occur.

The Purpose of Texts Found in Commercial Advertisements and Classified Advertisements

Commercial advertisements in newspapers are the primary source of revenue for newspapers. Without commercial advertisements, and to a lesser extent, obituaries, subscriber fees and classified advertisements, newspapers could not survive and remain financially viable.

The purpose of commercial advertisements in newspapers for the business is to lure the readers of the newspaper to purchase their goods or services. The advertising businesses that pay for these advertisements use emotionally charged and powerful marketing words and images that persuade the reader to buy their services and/or goods.

Classified advertisements in a newspaper are also a source of revenue and income for the newspaper. Classified advertisements are placed by the readers and businesses to advertise and announce job openings and to sell items and services such as cars, boats and motorcycles, and house cleaning and house maintenance services. The purpose of these classified advertisements for the newspaper is to earn money and the purpose of these classified ads for the person or business that places and pays for these ads hope to increase their sales of goods and services or to find an appropriate and qualified candidate for an available job opening in a company.

The Purpose of Texts Found in Comics

The purpose of a comic in a newspaper or another media is simply to entertain and to provide humor.

The Purpose of Texts Found in Newspaper Crossword Puzzles and Other Puzzles

Crossword puzzles and other puzzles like word jumbles and Sudoku puzzles, such as the one above, primarily provide entertainment for the reading audience, however, at times, they are used to educate and inform older children to use logic, as is done with Sudoku puzzles, and to master the English language and vocabulary with puzzles like crossword puzzles and word jumbles.

Texts Found in Magazines

Like newspapers, magazines may have different sections and these sections can vary greatly among different magazines,. Unlike newspapers which have the general public as the target audience, magazines typically have a more narrow and specific target audience. For example, some magazines like Seventeen have teens as their target audience; magazines like Playboy have adult males as their target audience; magazines like Southern Living and Better Housekeeping have an audience that typically consists of adults who are interested in things like decorating, cooking, gardening and other things that are done in and around the house; others, such as the Rolling Stone, has a rather narrow and specific audience and rather narrow, rather than diverse, texts within it; and magazines such as the PC Magazine have a relatively narrow target audience that includes typically only those who are computer enthusiasts and who have an interest in learning more about the intricacies of computers and their capabilities.

The more general the magazine, the more diverse are the topics and sections in it. For example, People Magazine may have a broader and more diverse collection of texts than a more narrowly targeted and focused magazine like the PC Magazine.

Like newspapers, magazines have articles and other things included in them and all of these texts and other things, like advertisments, have a purpose. Magazines also contain an index to different parts of the magazine.

It is possible that a few, many or most magazines have the same sections as a newspaper with the exception of obituaries. These sections can include the following with the same purposes as detailed above with newspaper sections and texts.

  • International news
  • National news
  • Local news
  • Editorial columns and letters to the editor
  • Special interest sections such as business, travel and cooking
  • Commercial advertisements and classified advertisements
  • Comics
  • Crossword puzzles and other puzzles

Additionally, many magazines have more pop culture texts than other media like newspapers and they also have fictional short stories which newspapers do not have. The pop culture texts in a magazine are authored to entertain and to inform the readers, and the fictional short stores, if present in the particular magazine, are authored with the purpose to entertain the reader.

Magazines are typically published on a monthly basis.

Texts Found In Professional and Trade Journals

Professional or trade journals contain texts that meet the needs of those professional and trades people within a specific discipline and within a specific trade. For example, professional and trade journals are published for carpenters, plumbers, homebuilders, heath care workers, lawyers, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, doctors, and educators and others.

For example, some of the professional journals that have nurses are:

As you can see from the brief list above, one of these journals, The American Journal of Nursing, is specifically targeted to all nurses so its content is more broad and diverse when compared and contrasted to other professional nursing journals, like Nursing Management and Nursing Research, which are targeted to specific nurses who are in a specific area of specialty, such as nursing management and nursing research.

A major difference between magazines and professional journals is that professional journals consist of only factual and nonfictional texts and all of the articles in the particular journal are peer reviewed.

Peer reviewed articles are closely scrutinized by experts in the particular field after the journal articles are submitted by the author. This peer review is done to insure that the article that was submitted is pertinent to the field, accurate and one that meets the standards of scholarly inquiry and the standards set forth by the particular journal.

All articles in scholarly professional journals are informative and nonfiction and all evidence is cited with professional and, ideally, all primary sources. So, when you are reading a text that originated from a journal, you can readily identify the fact that the purpose of this article is to inform and educate the readers of the professional journal.

Determining the Tone of the Text as Put Forth by the Author Throughout The Text

Lastly, you can often determine the purpose of the text by identifying the tone of the text as put forth by the author throughout the text.

For example, when the tone of the text is emotionless, straightforward and a neutral or flat tone, the text is typically an informational text; when the tone of the text is charged with emotion and strong feelings as well as strong messages, the text is an argumentative text or a persuasive text.

Most often the tone of the text is more challenging and difficult to identify and define than the purpose of the text. The purpose of the text is very often located at the beginning of the text and/or in the conclusion of the text, as previously described and discussed.

Based on the tone of the author's words in a text, you can discover the author's purpose in terms of the text. The author may be informing or educating the reader, or the author may be persuading and convincing the reader to accept their strong beliefs and options.

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