Textual Evidence and Interpreting an Informational Text

Video Lesson on Author Purpose: Definition and Examples

In this lesson, we will explore informational texts. Along the way, we will discover a few tips to make reading this type of text easier, and we will pay special attention to textual evidence.

Informational Texts

We read for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, our reading merely entertains us. Sometimes, it tries to persuade us. Sometimes, it informs us. Sometimes, it does all of these at the same time. In this lesson, we're going to focus on reading that informs us. We'll explore informational texts, discover some tips to make reading these types of text easier, and pay special attention to the textual evidence that comprises a large portion of an informational text.

An informational text is simply a piece of writing with the primary purpose of conveying knowledge about a topic. These texts often feature well-defined sections with bold headings, highlighted vocabulary and definitions, and visual elements like pictures, graphs, and maps. Informational texts can be history books, biographies, science texts, how-to books, volumes about art or music, business textbooks, or any other book that is chiefly focused on telling you, the reader, something you didn't know before.

Tips for Reading Informational Texts

Efficiently reading an informational text takes a lot of effort because your goal is to transfer the information in the text to your brain. The following tips will help you meet this objective.

First off, before you even start reading an informational text, you should do three things:

  1. Think about what you already know about the subject. This will help you better connect with the text.
  2. Determine what you want to learn from the text. What information are you looking for? Jot down a few questions that you have about the subject. This will help you stay focused as you read.
  3. Survey the text. Look at the headings; notice the vocabulary words; scan the pictures and graphics. This will help you get an initial idea of the text's content and organization.

When you've finished these pre-reading steps, you'll be ready to tackle the text. When you read an informational text, you must be an active reader who engages the text rather than allowing it to fly by. To be an active reader, you should do the following:

  • Read the text slowly so you don't miss anything. Break the text into small chunks and focus on one at a time.
  • Take notes. If you own the book, you can underline, highlight, circle, make notes in the margins, or use whatever other markings that help you identify and call attention to important ideas. If the book belongs to someone else, have a piece of paper handy as you read and jot down key words and ideas on that.
  • Pause after each chunk to write a one- or two-sentence summary of what you just read. Answer the questions you created in the pre-reading stage, if possible. Note any new questions you might have at this point and indicate your reactions to the text.
  • Reread as necessary. You will usually not be able to draw all of the important information out of a text on the first time around. Even after you've done all this, you are still not finished. After you read an informational text, you should go back to your list of questions from pre-reading and those you've jotted down during your reading to see if they've been answered. You should also review your notes, record any further thoughts you might have about the text, and give yourself a little quiz to see how well you remember the text's main ideas and most important details.

Textual Evidence

As you read informational texts, you should be aware that they tend to be built from other texts and consolidate information taken from many different sources. This information is called textual evidence, and good readers are able to identify it, analyze it to determine its credibility and effectiveness, and determine how it strengthens or weakens the informational texts of which it has become a part.

First, you should learn how to identify the pieces of textual evidence that are the building blocks for informational texts. This evidence usually takes the forms of facts, statistics, anecdotes, examples or illustrations, expert testimony, and graphical evidence like charts or tables. Writers sometimes quote textual evidence directly, taking a selection word-for-word from their source. Other times, they paraphrase, writing the information in their own words.

Sometimes, they also summarize their sources, adapting only the most important points to their needs.

After you have identified a text's textual evidence, you should then determine how well each piece of evidence works in the text. Is the evidence logical and clear? Is it relevant? Does it seem accurate? Does it directly support the point the writer is trying to make? Does it come from a reliable source? Does the writer give proper credit to the source? If you can answer, 'yes' to all of these questions, you can be pretty sure that the evidence is strong and valid and contributes to a better understanding of the subject the informational text is presenting.

Let's look at an example of textual evidence in an informational text. If you read any book about the Civil War Battle of Antietam, you'll notice that the writer uses a lot of textual evidence to support his or her points. You might find:

  • Facts about the battle itself: the who, when, what, where, why, and how of the events of September 17, 1862
  • Statistics about the number of soldiers involved for both the Union and the Confederacy
  • Anecdotes about what the battle was like, often drawn from sources like soldiers' diaries and letters
  • Expert testimony from historians who have studied the battle in detail
  • Graphic evidence, like battlefield maps and casualty charts

Learning how to identify and analyze textual evidence like this will greatly increase your understanding of informational texts and the subjects they present.

Lesson Summary

Let's review.

An informational text is simply a piece of writing with the primary purpose of conveying knowledge about a topic. Efficiently reading an informational text takes a lot of effort. Before you even start to read, you should think about what you already know about the topic, jot down some questions about what you want to learn, and survey the text.

Informational texts require active reading. Read the text slowly, breaking it into small chunks. Take notes. Pause to write down summaries, further questions, and your reactions. Reread as necessary. Even after all that, you're still not finished. After reading, you should see if your questions have been answered, review your notes, record any further thoughts, and quiz yourself about main ideas and important details.

Informational texts tend to be built from other texts and consolidate information taken from many different sources. This information is called textual evidence, and it usually takes the forms of facts, statistics, anecdotes, examples or illustrations, expert testimony, and graphical evidence like charts or tables. Writers might quote it directly, paraphrase it, or summarize it from their sources. In any case, textual evidence should be logical, clear, relevant, accurate, directly supportive of the writer's point, and taken from a credible source that is properly credited.

Learning how to read informational texts takes time and effort, but if you master the technique, you'll be thrilled by the worlds of interesting information that open up before your eyes.

Learning Outcomes

When you're finished watching the video, you should be able to:

  • Explain what an informational text is
  • List the steps on how to read an informational text
  • Recognize different types of textual evidence

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