How to Identify & Analyze Text Structure

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  • 0:03 Text Structure
  • 0:45 Analyzing Text Structure
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Understanding the organization of a piece of writing is imperative to gain a full understanding of the author's message. In this lesson, we'll learn how to identify and analyze several common text structures.

Text Structure

Think about your locker or your bedroom closet. Are your books thrown in at random? Are your clothes in disarray? On the other hand, are your books nice and neat and in the order you will need them? Are your clothes hung up in a specific order or neatly folded into piles?

If you answered yes to the last two questions, then you probably have a clear structure for your locker or closet. This organization helps you find what you need easily and quickly. The same concept applies to writing: with a clear text structure, or organization of ideas in writing, the reader can easily comprehend the author's message. Without a clear structure, the purpose of the text is lost or hard to decipher.

Analyzing Text Structure

Ok, so now you know every piece of text has a specific structure…what now? Well, now you must learn to identify and analyze the varying structures. In short, you need to be able to recognize the type of text structure and examine it to better understand its meaning. Let's say you are reading many different texts on the topic of the Civil War. Each one will use a specific structure in order to accomplish varying purposes. Let's start by looking at some examples of common text structures.

Chronological

Let's begin with chronological order, which is text that is written in a sequence or order of time. You can identify this structure by looking for a clear beginning, middle, and end occurring in a specific timeline. Chronological order is used in almost all fiction.

One fictional text on the topic of Civil War that uses chronological order is the novel Gone with the Wind. The novel follows the story of a Southern belle, Scarlett O'Hara, living in the South during pre-war times, through the war years, and finally several years after the war. The story follows a specific timeline with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

For analyzing this type of text structure, look for how the author might manipulate the timeline in order to achieve a specific effect on the reader. One might use flashbacks or story within a story in order to reveal important details at a specific moment. For instance, in order to emphasize emotional impact, an author writing a tragedy might only reveal an important detail at the end of a novel that dooms the main character. Be aware of these time manipulations when reading a text in chronological order.

Cause and Effect

The next type of text structure is cause and effect. This structure is mostly used in nonfiction, or writing based in real events. The cause is the action or event that occurs, while the effect is the result or consequence of that action. For instance, on the topic of the Civil War, an example of cause and effect could be an article in a textbook that discusses the causes or events that led up to the war. Then, the results could be specific battles, struggles, and death, or just simply the war itself.

Look for specific actions or events in order to identify this structure. Usually, cause and effect will cover several actions that have various effects. On the other hand, there could be one event with several results. Creating a visual aid will help you analyze texts in this structure. For instance, a chart, with causes on one side and effects on the other, will help you see any connections or relationships between ideas.

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