Drawing Inferences from Informational Texts

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  • 0:03 Inferences
  • 0:59 The Goals of Inference
  • 1:57 How To Draw Inferences
  • 4:24 Drawing Inferences: An Example
  • 6:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
As it turns out, you may be learning more from a text than you realize. That's because in every text, some information is inferred. In this lesson, we're going to see how drawing inferences from an informational text can help us better understand it.

Inferences

This is an informational lesson. In this lesson, you're going to be exposed to a lot of information, which you'll ideally learn from. That's the goal of this video. However, not everything you learn from this lesson is directly presented in the words and visuals. That's because it presents information both directly and through inference.

An inference is a piece of information that's not given to you directly, but which you're able to understand from context and your own experiences. If a passage said, ''the ground was covered in a blanket of white,'' you would probably be able to infer that it snowed, despite the fact that the passage never uses the word ''snow.''

Because of the description and your past experiences with snow (or with hearing people describe snow), you know what the author is talking about. This is a crucial part of effective, critical reading. Once you learn how to find the inferred information in a text, you open yourself up to whole new range of things you can learn from reading.

The Goals of Inference

So, why bother learning about inferences in informational texts? Why don't authors just tell you everything you need to know? Well, there may be a few reasons for this. Perhaps the author is assuming that you already have some knowledge on the topic, so he or she doesn't state it directly. Perhaps he or she is trying to build a sense of mystery or establish a more literary, poetic tone. Of course, maybe authors simply aren't aware of what they're inferring because they're letting their personal biases impact the way they present information.

The goal of learning to draw inferences from text is to draw all the information out of it - both the information authors intentionally put in there and the information they subconsciously put in there. It's only by understanding all of the information encoded in a text that we really get to interact with it. Do we agree with the arguments? Are the points valid and supported by evidence? What's the author really trying to say? These are the questions we try to answer by reading a text literally and by drawing inferences from it.

How to Draw Inferences

Inferences are obviously an important part of communication, so how do we begin to draw them out of the text? There's a three-step process we can use to try and do this:

Step One: Identify the Type of Text

Authors write different kinds of texts in different ways. A science fiction author might use inferences to build up mystery or suspense, while an author presenting a nonfictional research paper will use inference to fill in knowledge that he or she doesn't have the time to talk about directly.

So, our first step is to look at the text and figure out what kind of information the author is trying to present. Is it a fictional story? Is it an editorial of their opinions? Is it the results of scientific study? Is it a poem? Is it a textbook meant to educate the general public? Or, is it something else? Think about what kind of text this is and what the author's goals are likely to be in a text of this kind.

Step Two: Look for Clues

Now that we've figured out what kind of text it is and theorized about the author's goals, we can look for clues to help us confirm or disprove our theories. This step involves critical reading, or reading with an eye on how the passage was constructed.

First, we can look for specific words. Adjectives are a great place to start. Adjectives are the descriptors that help your mind form a picture and often rely on assumptions about the reader's past experiences to help infer information.

For example, if a passage refers to water as ''twinkling,'' there's an inference that there's a light source reflecting off this water. You can probably picture that in your mind. Look through the entire passage for words and phrases that the author uses to communicate information in different ways.

Step Three: Put It All Together

Finally, we can take the next step of analyzing the direct and inferred information in the text. Specifically, we need to start thinking about what the author is telling us directly, as well as what he or she is choosing to omit.

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