Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.
Informational Texts Defined
At first, the phrase ''informational text'' sounds a bit self-explanatory, right? Perhaps you're thinking it must be any writing that informs the reader, like another way of saying ''nonfiction.''
Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that this is not the definition of informational text. The good news is that you're on the right track overall.
Informational text is a category within nonfiction writing. This form of communication transfers information from one person to another about the nature of the world and human beings. It has various features that help set it apart from other types of text.
Examples of informational text include reference books (like encyclopedias), newspapers, and even online articles just like this one. This lesson will go into more detail about the features of this form of text and the audience for this type of writing.
Informational Text: Purpose
The purpose of informational text is to uncover information about a subject area and to educate the reader about that specific topic. For example, if you pick up a book called The History of Popcorn, you expect to come away with information about the origins of popcorn and how it became a popular snack. When you read the biography of Orville Redenbacher, the businessmen associated with the popcorn brand, you expect to learn about his life: where he was born, how he lived his life, and what challenges he faced. You would find out that he began his career selling popcorn kernels outside the back of his car.
This sounds informative. So why isn't it considered informational text?
Biographies are not considered informational texts because they have a different purpose. The focus of a biography is on the story and timeline of a specific individual and not an overall subject. The biography does cover the topic of popcorn, but the book's primary subject would be the life of Redenbacher in particular.
By contrast, informational text is typically written without characters to tell the story. A book called The History of Popcorn might include information about those who sold popcorn, but the primary focus would still be on the subject of popcorn overall.
Not the Same as Instructions
So what about a pamphlet you pick up in the grocery store for ''How to Make the Perfect Stovetop Popcorn?'' This sounds informative and doesn't include any characters. Is this informational text? Nope again.
Instructions like these are educational and helpful (not to mention tasty, in this case), but their purpose is to teach you how to do something and guide you through the steps to accomplish a task. Instructions like these are sometimes called procedural text, since you're following a procedure when you walk through each step. Procedural text teaches you how to do something, whether it's making popcorn in a pan on the stove or caulking your tub.
By contrast, informational text will teach you about a topic but not necessarily how to take specific actions to achieve a goal. It may help to remember the term ''informational'' by thinking of how the main job of this type of text is to 'inform' you in an overall way about a subject rather than sharing an individual story or teaching you how to accomplish something.
Informational Text: Audience
We're all readers of informational text simply by living in the world. From a young age, we are exposed to books in school that are considered this genre. When we go online to do any type of research, we typically end up reviewing articles that are informational text.
When do we seek out informational text? We've already discussed how informational text is not learning about the life of a particular individual alone, like a biography of Orville Redenbacher. It's not procedural text like instructions for making popcorn. So, when do we need it?
We are an audience for informational text anytime we have a need to learn to how the world works, from the perspective of the author. The author is writing to share knowledge and research on a subject, and when we consume informational text by reading it, we are taking on this information ourselves.
Informational Text: Examples
The following are examples of informational text:
- An article about the latest cell phone technology that's being released
- A magazine story about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world
- A book called Everything You Need to Know about Hiking
- A brochure covering different philosophies of cat nutrition
The following are not generally considered examples of informational text:
- A manual on how to setup a new cell phone
- A personal account of how climate change is affecting one woman's life
- A novel about lost hikers surviving in the wilderness
- A flyer labeled ''A Step-By Step Guide to Feeding Your Cat''
Typically, informational text will be structured and formatted in such a way that it's easy to navigate. For example, this lesson and others on this website are designed with bold terms and headers and separate sections for better organization with bullet points to highlight examples.
All right, let's take a moment or two to review. As we learned, an informational text is a category within nonfiction writing in which information is transferred from one person to another describing the nature of the world and/or human beings.
While instructions explaining the different steps of a process, known as procedural text, as well as biographies and other nonfiction can be informative, too, informational text does not focus on an individual or steps for completing a task. Instead, the primary purpose of informational text is to educate the reader about a specific topic. We become the audience for informational text whenever we want to learn about a subject in this way.
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