How to Analyze the Purpose of a Text

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Analyze an Argument's Effectiveness & Validity

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 The Purpose of a Text
  • 0:33 A Variety of Purposes
  • 2:54 How to Determine Purpose
  • 3:51 Purpose Practice
  • 6:16 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn how to analyze the purpose of a text. We will explore some of the primary purposes and practice determining purpose using some writing samples.

The Purpose of a Text

Writers write for a reason. They have something to say, and they have a motive for saying it. In other words, every piece of writing has a purpose.

The purpose of a text is simply the writer's reason for writing. Many texts have more than one purpose, but usually one will stand out as primary. Readers have the job of determining the purpose or purposes of a text and understanding why the writer is writing and what the writer wants the reader to do with the text.

A Variety of Purposes

Writers may choose from a variety of purposes, which usually fall into three main categories: to entertain, to inform, and to persuade. Let's take a close look at each of these.

First off, some writers write simply to entertain or amuse their readers. Texts created to entertain are often imaginative works like novels, stories, or poems. Such texts may also, of course, make important observations about human nature and the ways of the world, but the entertainment factor is primary. Think about that mystery novel you had a tough time putting down or a poem you enjoyed years ago or just last week. Were you entertained by these? Then the writer achieved his or her purpose.

Second, writers often write to inform their readers. These texts provide facts about some topic that the writer believes is important and necessary for the reader to understand. Informative writing is usually clear and well-organized. Think about the textbooks you've studied for classes or the encyclopedia articles you've read. These are examples of informative texts.

Writers who write to inform may also be writing to instruct, explain, or describe. When writers instruct their readers, they offer a series of steps to accomplish a specific task. Instruction manuals, how-to books, and recipes are types of instructional writing. When writers explain, they tell their readers how something works. An article about the discovery and use of electricity, for instance, fulfills the purpose of explanation. When writers describe, they provide sensory details that allow their readers to form a mental picture of some person, place, or thing. An eye-witness account of a traffic accident or a personal essay about the writer's childhood are examples of descriptive writing.

Finally, writers frequently write to persuade their readers to assent to a particular belief or opinion or to act in a particular way. Persuasive writing states the writer's position, offers evidence to support that position, and invites the reader to adopt the position. Persuasive writing is found in everything from advertisements to movie reviews and from academic arguments to political speeches.

How to Determine Purpose

To determine a text's purpose, readers should ask themselves the following series of questions.

1. Is the text a novel, a story, or a poem? If the answer is yes, its purpose is probably to entertain.

2. Does the text offer a set of facts? If so, its purpose is probably to inform.

3. Does the text provide a series of steps to accomplish a specific task? If so, it is a text that instructs.

4. Does the text tell how something works? If so, its purpose is to explain.

5. Does the text provide sensory details that allow the reader to form a mental picture? If the answer is yes, it is probably a text that describes.

6. Does the text attempt to change the reader's opinion about something or encourage the reader to act in a particular way? If so, it is probably intended to persuade.

Purpose Practice

Let's practice determining the purpose of a text by looking at some writing samples. For each of the following, decide whether the text's purpose is to entertain, to inform, to instruct, to explain, to describe, or to persuade.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account