Don't want to cite by hand?

Search and cite automatically with EasyBib!

1. Choose Source Type

Determining Author’s Purpose

Overview

You will learn how to determine author’s purpose in an informational text

Author’s Purpose

Author’s purpose is the REASON the source was created.

Here are examples of an author’s purpose:

  • A photographer took a picture to capture the intensity of a protest
  • A professor wrote a textbook to inform students about the past
  • A blogger writes articles to share her opinion with her readers

PIE

Authors’ purposes can usually fit into one of three categories: to Persuade, to Inform, or to Entertain. Need help remembering? Just think of PIE!

Why Identify Purpose?

When you understand why a source was created, it helps you think critically about what information is there, what information is missing, and what you can expect to take away from the source.

If I’m trying to learn more about the Tyrannosaurus rex, I know that ​this comic strip, which was created primarily to entertain, is not going to be very informative.

Persuasive Texts

You should be especially critical of persuasive texts. Sometimes they’re hard to spot – persuasive texts can be in the form of advertisements, sponsored articles on a news site, or editorials in a newspaper.

The purpose of persuasive texts is to convince you of something. Either to buy a product, or to believe an idea. ​

When you identify the purpose of a text as persuasive, you have to be careful about what you take away from it. The authors of these texts may be leaving out information, or only highlighting specific information, in order to convince you of what they think.

How to Identify Purpose

There are a few questions you can ask yourself as you read a text that will help you identify purpose.

Start with, “Why did the author create this text?

Sometimes, this is very obvious. ​The author may state it or you may be able to tell from the type of media.

If the author’s purpose isn’t obvious, ask

How did this make me feel?

Author’s usually try to elicit very specific emotions from their readers. Do you suddenly feel compelled to go buy a product that was mentioned? Are you rolling on the floor laughing? How you react to the text is a great hint as to the author’s purpose.

Dual Purposes

Sometimes a text fits into more than purpose. Political cartoons both inform and entertain. Newspaper editorials can inform as they persuade.

When you come across these texts, just remember that they have limitations. The value of the information ​in a political cartoon may be limited because it is manipulated to make it funny.

The same can be true for the information in an editorial – you can definitely learn from the editorial, but remember its limits as you weigh the information.

Conclusion

You learned:

  • How to determine an author’s purpose.