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Organizational Features & Structures of Informational Texts

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

How do authors make informational texts easier to read for their audience? This lesson explains the different types of organizational structures and text structures that can be used in an informational text.

Informational Texts

How do authors communicate information? Without a few helpful techniques, nonfiction writing could be as overwhelming and monotonous as a phone book or the list of classified ads at the end of a newspaper - boring!

First things first. What is informational text? An informational text is a nonfiction text that's meant to inform, explain, or teach the reader about something. In school, you use many different types of informational texts:

  • textbooks
  • encyclopedias
  • dictionaries
  • journals or other publications

Authors of information texts use a number of different organizational features and structures to help you better understand what you're about to read.

Organizational Features

Organizational features are ways for an author to break up a text so information is easier to find and read. One of the most common organizational features found in an informational text is the heading. Headings appear at the top of major sections and give the reader an idea of what to expect. The section you're currently reading has the heading 'Organizational Features'...as you can see the heading tells you exactly what the information in the section is about!

Underneath headings, you may also find subheadings that give you clues about parts of the larger section. Both headings and subheadings are usually indicated by a different style or font than the rest of the text. These differences may be from a different font size or if the text is bold, underlined, or italicized. Bold, underlined, or italicized fonts may also be used to highlight key words, phrases, or quotes for the reader.

Text Structures

In addition to organizational features, authors can also organize the information using different text structures. Informational texts usually use one of five different text structures:

  • compare-contrast
  • sequential
  • cause-effect
  • descriptive
  • problem-solution

In many instances, you'll find that informational texts use more than one type of text structure at the same time. Let's go over these structures in more detail.

Compare-Contrast

Compare-contrast text structure highlights the similarities and differences between two or more things. Authors can use this structure to compare two or more things in a single paragraph. They can also dedicate entire paragraphs and even sections to a single point of comparison. For example, a literature essay might compare and contrast plot developments in Shakespeare's Hamlet to that of the movie The Lion King. Both have a proud king killed by accident (supposedly) by the evil brother, and after some time the prince returns to reveal the truth after having ghostly visions.

Sequential

Sequential text structure is used to organize information chronologically, or in the order that events happened. It can also be used to explain steps in a process. Sequential text structure is especially helpful in social studies and science. Imagine learning about historical events like the conquest of America or reading steps in a scientific experiment out of order - that would be very confusing!

Cause-Effect

Cause-effect text structure shows the relationship between an event or action and the events that happened after it. To determine if a structure is cause-effect, it has to meet two criteria:

  • the causal event has to happen before the effect event
  • the effect event could not have happened without the causal event

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