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ACT Reading Prep Strategies [Video Transcript]
Speaker 1: Context. Sometimes when you’re reading and you come across a word that you don’t know, you can use context clues to make an educated guess as to what the word means. Now, when you’re looking at the word you don’t know, you don’t want to just look right before and after the word. You usually want to look at the sentence before and the sentence after, and sometimes you even have to look at the whole paragraph to get an idea of what that unfamiliar word means.
Now, there are some clues that we can look at to help determine what the word means. One thing you can look at is a description. Sometimes a sentence, or a sentence following or before the unfamiliar word will give you a description. For instance, “the green-feathered macaw.” Well, you may not know the word macaw, but by seeing green-feathered, you can infer that it is some kind of a bird with green feathers.
Another clue you can look at are synonyms. If you hear “the soft and supple leather,” well, since you have soft here and then supple both describing leather, you can figure out that ‘supple’ probably has something to do with being ‘soft’, and in reality, it means ‘moldable’. It’s easily moldable, and it is somewhat soft to be able to do that. We’ll go ahead and note that was our bird.
Now, another clue you can look for are antonyms. “Angie is sweet. She doesn’t have a malevolent bone in her body.” Well, you may not know what ‘malevolent’ means, but you probably know what ‘sweet’ means, and if she isn’t malevolent and she is sweet, then you can figure out ‘malevolent’ is something bad, something negative, the opposite of ‘sweet’. And in reality, malevolent means evil.
Another clue you can look for are definitions. Sometimes the sentence before, after, or a part of the same sentence your word is in will give you the definition of the word. For instance, “The Echidna, an egg-laying mammal native to Australia,” and the name might tell you some interesting fact about the Echidna. Well, in commas right after Echidna is the definition of an Echidna, “an egg-laying mammal native to Australia.” So you know what it is right there.
The last clue you can look for is tone. Is the rest of this paragraph positive, negative, happy, scared? If you have a paragraph that’s all one tone, then the word probably has something to do with that. If it’s a scary tone, then this may be a word that has to do with something scary. If it’s positive, it may be a happy kind of word. So you can always take that into consideration whenever you are taking your educated guess.
So once you’ve looked at clues and you’ve tried to figure out looking before and after the sentence your word is in, looking at the whole paragraph, seeing if you can find a description, a synonym, an antonym, a definition, or figure out the tone surrounding that unfamiliar word, you want to take a guess as to what the word means, and then you want to reread the sentence to see if it makes sense to you and ask yourself, “Does it make sense?” So if we were to insert ‘bird’ here, “the green-feathered bird,” well, it’s something that has feathers, and we have ‘bird’ after it. That makes sense, so that one would work. “The soft and supple leather.” So if we know it means something else soft, maybe moldable, we could say “the soft and moldable leather,” “the soft and flexible leather.” Any kind of word like that that you put in that was similar to soft would work. It would make sense in your sentence.
We were thinking ‘evil’ here, something the opposite of ‘sweet’. “Angie is sweet. She doesn’t have an evil bone in her body.” That makes sense. She is sweet. She doesn’t have an evil bone. Now, the Echidna sentence is a little different. If they plug in a definition for you, then it’s a little harder to check. You would just say “an egg-laying memo native to Australia,” and then maybe tell the sentence after that point, because the definition’s already there for you. There’s not really a synonym for Echidna or anything else you could have come up with for what that one meant.
And once you’ve checked to make sure they all make sense, then you have a pretty good idea of what that word means and you can see how using these context clues of looking for a description, a synonym, an antonym, a definition, or the tone of a paragraph can help you figure out that pesky, unfamiliar word.
Speaker 2: It is a common known fact that different people have different perspectives. And so different people have different perspectives, which means an author is going to have a different perspective from another author, but authors tell a story from their own perspective. So if authors tell a story from their own perspective and different people have different perspectives, that means that authors tell the same story differently. Authors tell the same story differently, not necessarily because one is trying to intentionally lie, but it’s because they tell it according to their point of view. They tell the same story differently because they emphasize different aspects relative to their views.
So a prime example of this is a situation in which two people get into an argument. One person may blame the other for something, and the second person may not see himself at fault, but rather think that his friend did something wrong first. It is for this reason that we had the expression “to stand in someone else’s shoes.” In this way, the same situation may be explained or described differently by two different authors.
Another example of this is, say, someone saw a car wreck happened, and so a truck hits a van. And so there’s two viewers, and so Viewer 1 sees the accident occur and says that the truck is at fault. So I’ll draw an arrow right here and write ‘fault’, because Viewer 1 thinks the truck is at fault because they saw the truck hit the van. But then Viewer 2 was paying more attention to detail, and he cast fault on the van because the van ran a red light. And so because the van ran a red light, it wasn’t supposed to be at an intersection. So that’s why the truck hit the van, because the truck had a green light but the van had a red light.
So we have Viewer 1 and Viewer 2, and so both are just going off what they saw from their point of view, from their angle. Based on the information that they know, Viewer 1 thinks the truck’s at fault, while Viewer 2 thinks the van is at fault. So you can see here both from this example and the earlier example I talked about, the argument, how people’s point of view causes them to emphasize different aspects of a certain story. And so that’s why two authors can tell the same story two different ways.
Speaker 1: Historical context. Historical context can impact literature in a number of ways. The author’s writing can be impacted by the historical period during which it was written or the historical setting of the story. For instance, when Charles Dickens was writing, he was writing during a period where authors were paid by the word, which meant that his novels were very very long, and that was the result of the time period during which his work was written. He was writing long novels because he knew he would get paid more for every word that he wrote.
Dialect is something else you can pay attention to. The dialect could be what the author is used to using in his everyday life, or the dialect could be more related to the historical setting of the story. So dialect is something you want to pay attention to and ask yourself, “Is this the dialect used during the setting or is this more of just the author using his own personal dialect that he is used to?”
Another thing to pay attention to with historical setting is major events that are going on. You want to be familiar with the time period during which a story is set so you can have a better understanding of it. So, one example is the Civil War. During the Civil War, slavery was the normal thing in the South, and whenever the Civil War is over, lots of slaves or people that used to be slaves wanted to tell their story, and so what came about were slave narratives, and these painted a picture of what slave life was actually like during that time. It was an actual account from that time period, and it also told the relationship between slaves and slave holders. So that source of writing is very valuable, and it’s become one of the most important literary genres for African-American writers. Today, people may still write from that perspective and that time period, but the actual slave narratives that gave firsthand accounts were very important.
Another thing to pay attention to with Civil War writings, slave narratives, anything from that time period, are the themes. A lot of times you’ll see themes of power, race, inequality, because when slavery ended, it was because people were saying, “Your skin color doesn’t make you more or less of a person or a better or worse person. Everyone’s equal.” And while equal rights didn’t come about until later, it started that theme of equality around Civil War time.
Another major event that’s common is World War II. There are countless novels based around World War II events, whether it’s based in Nazi Germany, whether it’s based in America as people are dealing with what was going on here, but one of the biggest things that you’ll see is the topic of genocide, destroying a whole race. So your Jewish-Nazi relations, you’re going to see a lot of. “Anne Frank,” very popular book, one that most people are going to know about, was based on this. And if you know the World War II era, then you know what to expect when you’re reading. You know that the Nazis are trying to take over most of Europe. You know that the Jews are being persecuted, and you’ve already got that bit of background knowledge before you even read the rest of the book. And with World War II novels, you’re again going to see themes of race, power, and democracy, because in the end, people were going to say that having a government where some totalitarian dictator took over everything wasn’t the best way to be, and you’re going to see people highlighting the pros of democracy.
So whenever you’re reading, really pay attention to the historical context of the story, because the historical period during which it was written is always going to have an impact, and the historical setting is going to be very important for you to understand so that you can understand why the author gave the character certain motivations and why the author carried out the plot as they did.
Inductive and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning starts with facts and details and moves to a general conclusion. So it lists different details, different examples, and moves to a general conclusion or helps you come to a certain conclusion. Now, inductive reasoning is probabilistic, which means that it’s based on probability. You hear certain facts, and you come to a conclusion, and that conclusion is going to have some level of probability to it. Now, these conclusions can be strong or weak, and they can be proved false. You could come up with a conclusion that doesn’t actually happen. It’s not something that’s true, but based on the examples you were given or the facts you were given, the conclusion makes sense even if it’s not true, and that’s how inductive reasoning works.
So let’s cite some examples. “We have seen 30 white swans, therefore all swans are white.” Well, based on the 30 examples that we’ve seen, this statement makes sense. This conclusion that we drew using inductive reasoning based on our 30 examples would make sense. But is it true? No, not all swans are white. You’ve got other colors. So this isn’t a true thing. This is a false conclusion, but we did use inductive reasoning to get there, basing our conclusion on our examples.
Let’s look at the next one. “Basketball players are tall. John is a basketball player. John must be tall.” Well, we don’t actually know John, so we’re not sure about this one. It’s very probable, so this one would be a stronger conclusion than our one about the white swans, but we don’t know John. John could be short. Just could just be really good at making goals. That doesn’t mean that he is going to be a tall person. So it’s probable.
It’s a stronger conclusion, but we don’t know for sure. We just used inductive reasoning, knowing that basketball players are generally tall and knowing that John is a basketball player, to figure out that John is probably tall. This is called bottom-up logic. We start at the bottom with our example, then we build on those facts, details, examples to come to a conclusion. So bottom up to the top to build our conclusion.
Next let’s talk about deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning starts with a conclusion and then explains the facts, details, and examples that support it. So you start with one basic conclusion, one basic statement, and then give facts and details that can support it or that are examples of that statement. This one links premises with conclusion. So you come up with a certain premise, and it’s linked to your conclusion that you started with. If all premises are true and clear, then the conclusion must also be true.
So you start with this one. “All dogs are mammals.” “All mammals have hearts.” So based on the fact that all dogs are mammals and all mammals have hearts, all dogs must have hearts. So you’ve got dogs are mammals and mammals have hearts, which means that dogs must have hearts since they are mammals and all mammals have hearts. This is a true conclusion, and that’s because all the premises are true. So if all premises are true and clear, then the conclusion must also be true. So on this one, we have true, all dogs are mammals. True, all mammals have hearts. So it’s true that all dogs must have hearts, and this one is a true conclusion based on deductive reasoning.
Now let’s look at example two. “All birds can fly. An ostrich is a bird. All ostriches can fly.” So we use the fact that we know all birds can fly and an ostrich is a bird to tell us that an ostrich must be able to fly. So let’s look at each of those statements. “All birds can fly.” Well, that one is false. There are actually about 40 different species of birds that can’t fly, or are called flightless birds.
“An ostrich is a bird.” Well, that one’s true. “All ostriches can fly.” That one is false. Ostriches are a species of flightless bird. So, since the first sentence was false, our conclusion ended up being false, and that may not always be the cause, but whenever you don’t have all your premises leading up to your conclusion true, your conclusion might not be true either.
Now, we did use deductive reasoning to get there, so even though this is a false conclusion, we were basing it on the information we were given. On the conclusions that were given to us, we came up with this example of an ostrich, and it just wasn’t correct. It wasn’t true. So over here, we had false conclusion, possibly false conclusion, true conclusion, and false conclusion. So using inductive and deductive reasoning is not going to be a 100% accurate, but it is going to give you different ways to reason out information you have and try to make a conclusion based on one of these kind of logics. And deductive reasoning is also called top-down logic, because you start with known conclusions and work your way to specific examples at the bottom. So you start at the top, known conclusion, work your way down to the bottom to specific examples.
So whenever you are trying to figure out a problem or figure out how to connect information that you have, you can use inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning, and just make sure that you are paying attention to whether you have facts and details to start with that you can base the conclusion on or whether you’ve got broader conclusions that you’re going to be coming up with examples for. And remember that they won’t always be true. You might still have to go and research whether the conclusion you come up with is accurate or not.
Inference. Inferences are conclusions that a reader makes using clues in the text. So an author may not explicitly say something, but they leave little hints behind, and you have to connect the dots to form a conclusion. And inference is different than making a guess because it is based on evidence. So you read, you pick up on those clues or hints that the author leaves behind, and you put them all together to form your inference.
So let’s look at a couple of examples. “Charlotte’s toddler is in bed asleep upstairs. She hears a loud pump, and then loud crying.” So knowing that the toddler is in bed asleep, and then hearing a thump and crying, you can infer, or Charlotte can infer when she’s at home, that her toddler fell out of bed. Now, our example doesn’t say the toddler fell out of bed, and it doesn’t say if Charlotte ran upstairs and found her child on the floor, but because you know the kid was in a bed sleeping and then you hear a thump, probably against the floor, and then crying because the kid is hurt or scared from waking up in the middle of the night on the floor unexpectedly, Charlotte can infer that her toddler fell out of bed, or the reader can infer that that’s what happened whenever they are trying to process the story and figure out what the author was trying to tell them with these clues.
So let’s look at another example. “Nolan sees cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son’s mouth.” So cookie crumbs on the floor, chocolate around his mouth is going to tell you that Nolan’s son got into the cookie jar. And it may not be the cookie jar. It may be that he got into a pack of cookies, but you don’t really know the rest of that. You just know that if there are cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son’s mouth that the kid got into cookies somehow. So you can infer he got into a cookie jar or a pack of cookies without knowing, without the author explicitly saying that to you.
And that’s all it is. That’s all inference is, reading something and coming to a conclusion. A lot of the times, it’s really obvious things. If you see a lady come into a store and she’s dripping wet and it’s raining outside, you can infer that she doesn’t have an umbrella. So some things are just common sense. They come to you. You don’t even realize you’re making an inference, but in the end, an inference is just a conclusion that a reader makes based on evidence.
Interpretation of expository or literary text. Well, to determine what your interpretation of a work is going to be, first, let’s refresh ourselves on what expository and literary texts are. Expository writing is going to be something that informs, explains, or describes. It’s going to be very cut and dry. There’s not a plot. It’s basically there to explain something to you, tell you how to do something, give instructions. A science research paper would be an example. Baking instructions for baking a cake, anything like that would be expository.
So what you want to do is outline the basic elements of that paper, and then you want to evaluate their effectiveness. This is how you are going to give your interpretation. Once you outline the basic elements of the research paper or the recipe, then you can evaluate their effectiveness. Did you learn what you were supposed to learn from the research paper? Are you now able to bake a cake following those directions? Very cut and dry.
Literary is a little bit different. Literary works are going to be your narratives, essays, works of fiction. These are going to have a plot. There’s going to be more that you will have to go through, and because there will be so much more to the literary works, you want to focus on just one aspect to give your interpretation. You don’t want to try to cover all of the elements because that would be too much, and you wouldn’t really get to put your personal interpretation on all of the different aspects of that work. So some aspects you could choose from are the topic of the story, major characters in the story, major events, the setting, structure, point of view, use of language, or tone. Any of these would work. Pick one, focus on that one, and what you’re going to do is explained here.
An interpretation should both describe the text and elaborate upon it. So say we were to choose major characters. You would want to describe what’s in the text and elaborate upon it, and I’ve put that into a few steps here for you. So to describe the text, introduce the major characters. In your interpretation, describe the major characters. What do they look like? What are their attitudes? How does the author describe them in the text? Then explain how the author portrays them. Are they liked by other characters? Are they meant to be a villain or a hero? Are they just an everyday Joe? How does the author portray these characters?
And then discuss what the author’s purpose was. Why did the author portray them that way? What did the author want to get across to readers? And because this is an interpretation, there are going to be several different answers. There’s no one right answer because no one is going to know exactly what the author’s purpose was. You’re giving your interpretation, what you think the author meant. So you’ll describe everything that the author put in the book about the characters, and then you’ll elaborate upon what the author put in there by telling what you think the author was trying to tell, what the author’s theme was, what their purpose was for showing characters in a certain light.
So when you are interpreting a text with expository, you want to remember to just outline the basic elements and evaluate their effectiveness. Were you able to bake that cake? Did you learn what you were supposed to from the research paper? With literary works, you want to focus on one aspect out of all the different things you could focus on in a literary text. Pick one, just one, and then describe that one from the text, what the author actually said, and elaborate upon it. Go through and give your opinion on it, what you think the author meant. And the thing is, it’s an interpretation. Everyone’s is going to be a little different. Not everyone’s going to take the same aspect to focus on and not everyone’s going to elaborate upon it the same way. So since the author knew he was is writing to lots of different readers whenever he or she created this work, try to make your interpretation unique.
Multiple meaning words. Some words are spelled exactly the same, but they have different meanings in different contexts. So you have to look at context clues to figure out which version of the word you have in your sentence. One way you can do that is by looking to see if the word is a noun or a verb. The grammatical category that the word is can determine what the word means and vice versa. If you aren’t sure of the pronunciation but you know which version of the word is being used, you can figure out what the part of speech is.
So let’s look at our first example. ‘Trip’. ‘Trip’ can be a vacation, which is a noun, or it can mean to fall over something, which is a verb. So we look at our sentences. “She took a trip to Colorado.” “If you aren’t careful, you might trip over that step.” In this sentence, “She took a trip to Colorado,” she’s taking a vacation, so you know this is a noun.
Alternately, you could say, “Oh, a trip is a thing you might take, so it’s a noun, so it has to mean vacation.” “If you aren’t careful, you might trip over that step.” This one is being used as a verb, so you know it means you might fall over that step. Alternately, you could say, “You might trip over that step.” Oh, in this sentence, trip is something you’re doing. So it has to be a verb in this sentence. So either way, finding out if it’s a noun or a verb can help you figure out which version of the word you’re using in that sentence.
Let’s look at another example. Degree. Degree has at least three different meanings, and this one’s a little trickier, because they are all nouns. Unit of temperature, a noun; a title earned at graduation, if you earn a degree in astrophysics, that is a noun; or the amount or extent of something is a noun. So finding the part of speech won’t help you determine meaning with this particular example, but reading the sentence and using context clues can help you figure out which one we’re talking about. “He didn’t notice when the temperature rose one degree.” In this one, “He didn’t notice when the temperature rose one degree,” you can look at temperature to know that this one is talking about a unit of temperature. So you’re using your context clues to figure out the meaning of this word.
Our next one, “The business is only hiring someone with a degree.” So are they hiring someone with a unit of temperature? Everyone has a temperature of something. Are they hiring only people that have earned a title through graduating or are they only hiring people with an amount or extent? And that one didn’t really go any further, so it wouldn’t be the amount or extent of something. So this one, if you saw then their title earned at graduation, this business is only hiring someone who has graduated. This one is going to have to do more with title at graduation.
And then our last example, “It was hard to tell the degree to which he really cared about the outcome.” And this one, was it hard to tell the temperature to which he cared about the outcome, the title earned at graduation, or the amount or extent to which he really cared? And in this one, it’s the amount or extent to which he cared. Maybe he didn’t care that much about this, and so it was hard to tell, or maybe he was keeping his emotions inside, and so it was still hard to tell the degree to which he cared.
So whenever you’re finding words that could mean more than one thing, our special multiple meaning words, you want to look and see the context around the word. Look at the whole sentence to see what would make sense, and if you know multiple meanings of a word, try each definition that you know to see which one makes sense so you’re understanding the sentence correctly. Those multiple meaning words can be tricky.
Persuasive text and bias. Persuasive texts are written when the author wants to try to get the reader to believe or do something. So the first thing you can do is ask yourself, is the author trying to get me to believe or think or do something? And then go back to the text and find examples of the author being persuasive. And you may say to yourself, “Well, what kind of examples can I find? I know I feel like the author’s trying to get me to say or believe or do something, but what kind of examples can I find?” Well, you can look for persuasive language and persuasive techniques. Some examples of persuasive language would be saying something like ‘obviously’. Using adverbs, like, “Obviously you want to buy this product,” are strong adverbs that make you think, “Oh, it’s very obvious. I should definitely do that.”
Another thing is pre-thinking. This is another persuasive language that you can use, and this is where the author may say, “Thank you in advance for doing this. Oh, thank you. We know we can count on your vote.” Well, once you’ve been thanked, you feel more obligated to do something or act a certain way, so pre-thinking is some persuasive language. And one more example, though there are many, are money words. If you see, “Do you want to get rich fast? You can make thousands of dollars in just five minutes. Are you tired of being broke?” Well, all those sentences or phrases include money words, and a lot of times those will draw people’s interest and persuade you toward wanting to do or buy whatever that product is that is being advertised.
Now, some persuasive techniques are glittering generalities, and this just means that words are being used that are positive words. They have a positive connotation, but they’re very vague. So they’re glittering. They’re positive, but they’re generalities. They’re vague. It doesn’t have any real meaning behind it. So if I said something was good or fair or the best, well, if I don’t have any evidence to back that up, then I’m just using a glittering generality, but hearing those kind of words like good and best, fair, those are words that have a positive connotation and start to persuade you that, “Oh, what I’m hearing about is a good thing.”
Another example of a persuasive technique would be bandwagon appeal, and this is where the author might say, “Oh, everyone’s doing this.” Well, if everyone’s doing it, you need to jump on the bandwagon and do it too, because if everyone’s doing it, you should want to as well. And, again, there are lots more examples, but I’ll give you one more example of persuasive technique, and that would be testimonials. You have a celebrity or some other famous person or a spokesperson for the product or just a satisfied customer telling you this product is good or this candidate is good, and they tell you about their personal experience with it, and that makes you more likely to want to buy it, because you see real people telling you that this product or this idea is good.
Now that you’ve seen about persuasive text, let’s talk about bias, which is somewhat related to persuasion. When an author is not completely objective, they have a bias. That means that they obviously lean toward a certain perspective or side of an argument. So if it’s very obvious that an author is leaning toward one side or another, then they probably have a bias.
So pay close attention to see if both sides of the author’s argument are presented evenly. If you see the author saying lots of positive things about one side of the argument and lots of negative things about the other side, then they have a positive bias toward the one thing and/or a negative bias toward the other.
So you can see how if someone has a bias, they would be trying to persuade you toward whatever side they were positively biased toward, or at least being persuasive and trying to get you not to do something if they were negatively biased. If they were trying to not get you go to a restaurant that they hated, well, they’d be biased against that restaurant. They have a negative bias, and they will try to convince you not to go. They may tell you good things about everywhere else and bad things just about that one restaurant.
So whenever you’re looking at a text, you can ask yourself, “Is the author trying to get me to believe or do something? And if they are, there’s a good chance that you’re looking at a persuasive text, so look for examples of persuasive language and persuasive techniques to back up your idea that this is a persuasive text. And if you see that the author is leaning toward one side or another, then they are probably exemplifying some kind of a bias, whether positive or negative.
Plot line. Every plot line basically follows the same stages: introduction or exposition, rising action, conflict, climax, falling action or denouement, resolution or conclusion. And the introduction, it’s going to set up the plot and tell you what the story is about. It’s at the very beginning, and it’s just there to get everything set up. And on this diagram that can represent plot, you might call this a plot diagram, your introduction would be here. Your rising action is everything leading up to the conflict, all the action leading up to your conflict. So everything that happens before you find out what your conflict is is going to be rising action. And could you see how it rises up the slope of this plot diagram.
Now, your conflict is going to be your main problem. Now, there may be lots of problems in this particular story. So the main problem is what’s your conflict is going to be, and that’s located further up on the diagram. So you’ve got your introduction where everything gets set up, rising action leading up to your conflict or problem. That’s the point in the plot where you find out what the main problem is going to be. The climax is going to be that very important part where the conflict comes to a head, all the trouble comes to a head. It’s the peak of the conflict. If there were people that didn’t know about this problem, the climax is when everyone finally finds out.
So the climax is up here at the top. It’s when all that action that’s been building up and rising finally comes to a head, it comes to the top, and after that, your story starts resolving itself. So with your falling action, it’s going to be, what comes after the conflict? The beginning of a resolution, so things start to resolve themselves. We’ve got our falling action, and it’s going to fall, the same way our rising action began. So the author may be tying up any lose ends, kind of getting you ready for the end of the story with your falling action.
And then we’ve got the resolution or conclusion, and this is where you will probably find, because sometimes the author leaves you wandering, but you will probably find a solution to your conflict. So whatever that main problem was, your resolution is usually going to contain your solution to that, and that’s going to be over here at the bottom. Your resolution or conclusion.
So whenever you’re going through a story, it’s usually going to follow these main stages. You’re going to start with the introduction, where all of your plot information is set up. You know what your story is about. You’ve got rising action. You’ve got characters interacting, you’ve got the plot building. And then you get to the conflict. You get to a problem. And after that, it’s about how the characters are going to solve the problem, and you get to the climax, where everyone now knows about the problem. It’s the very peak of the conflict, and after that you’ve got your falling action. Everyone is kind of wrapping things up. They’re fixing the problem however they decided to fix it after the climax, and then in the resolution you find out what that solution is most of the time, and any loose ends are wrapped up finally in that resolution.
Sometimes you will have an author who leaves some questions hanging. A lot of times if there’s a cliffhanger ending to a book and you know there’s going to be a sequel, or the same with the movie, then the plot line might not give you a solution, because they’re going to give you another book later on that hopefully has a solution in it. So whenever you’re looking at any literary work, look for a plot line in it to help you understand what’s happening. If you can understand your plot, you’re going to be able to understand everything else in the story a lot better.
Point of view. The point of view is the perspective from which a story is told, and the narrator is the person who tells the story. So if we’re looking for point of view, we’re looking to see if we have a first person narrator or a third person narrator that’s telling us the story. In first person, your narrator is going to be your main character, and they’re going to be saying “I,” “me,” “we.” These are the pronouns you’re going to see associated with a first-person narrator. If it’s the main character, you’re only going to get to know what the main character knows. You’re only going to get to read about what that main character does or what he does with someone else, but you won’t know about anything that doesn’t happen involving the main character, because this is written from a first person point of view, and you’re only going to hear from this viewpoint.
Third person is the most common point of view, and you’re going to see pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they.” The narrator is going to talk about other characters, but the narrator is not one of the characters. And third person omniscient is very common as well. Omniscient means all-knowing. So a third-person omniscient narrator is going to be one who describes all other characters at once. So this narrator is going to be able to tell you what every other character in the story is thinking, what every other character in the story is doing.
Now, they may not actually do it all in the same passage. Sometimes they split it into chapters, so one chapter is written to where the author is telling you everything that Johnny does. One chapter [inaudible 00:45:58] tell you everything that Suzy does. So you find out everyone’s point of view, but possibly at different times, but the author is able to do all that without actually being a part of the story. So whenever you’re looking for who your narrator is, the pronouns are the important thing to look at.
Let’s look at this passage. “John walked to school every day. He and his friends were often cold and tired by the time they arrived. They were allowed to warm up by the stove before sitting in their seats.” In this passage, let’s look at the pronouns to help determine the point of view, and your pronouns are going to be words that take the place of nouns, such as “I,” “me,” “we,” “he,” “she,” “they,” “it,” “you.” But these are going to be the ones that are really going to set you off as markers to let you know if it’s a first-person or third-person narrator that you’re listening to. So looking through this, we have “he,” “his friends,” “by the time they arrived,” “They were allowed to warm up by the stove before sitting in their seats,” and it started with John.
So the narrator is using “he” and “they” and someone’s name. Now, first person could use someone’s name, and that’s why it’s important to look at the pronouns, but the narrator starts talking about John, and then he uses all of these third-person pronouns. The narrator is a third-person narrator here. Well, let’s write it out. Third person. And you know this because you’re looking at the pronouns, and the pronouns are all telling you that the narrator is telling you what’s happening, but the narrator is not a part of the action. So the point of view is a third-person point of view.
So whenever you’re going to find point of view, you want to know this, because the perspective of the story, who it’s coming from, is important. If it’s coming from a certain character or if it’s coming from a first-person or a third-person point of view, then you’re going to have a different plot or have more intimate information in first person and a greater variety of information with third person. So it’s always important to determine your point of view whenever you are reading a story. So just keep in mind that the best way to find that is by looking at the pronouns: I, me, and we; he, she, and they.
Textual evidence for predictions. A prediction is an educated guess about what will come later in a text. Now, your predictions can be about an event or about how a character will behave, but any prediction you make must be based on information in the text or based on knowledge about literature in general. For instance, if you’ve seen how a character has acted in a story so far, you can make a prediction about his future actions, and with your knowledge about literature, you know the basic layout of a mystery novel, so you might be able to predict who did something in a story or how the story’s going to end up based on your general knowledge of literature. And the more you read, the more your general knowledge about literature is going to increase, so you may be able to make more predictions the more you read.
Now, one specific way that you might find textual support for prediction is with foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is when the author hints at something that will occur later in the plot. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes the author doesn’t say exactly what will happen. It may mention “storm clouds on the horizon,” and the storm clouds could equal danger or something bad happening. So if you have a character who is going through a tough time and then they see storm clouds on the horizon, or someone mentions a storm might be coming, then that may be the author’s way of hinting that something is bad is coming or danger is approaching.
However, sometimes foreshadowing could be more direct, as in “Romeo and Juliet.” They talk about how they would rather die than live without one another, and that was William Shakespeare’s way of hinting that in the end, when they thought that they might live without one another, they did end up killing themselves rather than live without the other one. Sometimes, foreshadowing comes in the form of a fortune teller. There are a lot of stories that include a fortune teller or someone that happens to tell someone’s fortune or tell their future even without being labeled a fortune teller. They’ll say exactly what’s going to happen, and then later on, that’s how the plot unfolds.
Now, sometimes the author will throw in what’s called a red herring, and that’s when they tell you what’s going to happen but it doesn’t really happen, so when a hint or prediction by the author does not actually happen. You have to pay attention, because sometimes the author may give you a direct foreshadowing example. They may go and say exactly what’s going to happen, and that’ll be true. But sometimes they’ll give a really big hint or they’ll even lay out the prediction with a fortune teller or by the characters just discussing how they feel like things are going to end up, but it’s a red herring, because that’s not really how the author ends the story.
So don’t always think that if the author tells you something is going to happen, it’s going to happen. But foreshadowing can often be a good textual support for any predictions you’re going to make. So whenever you are making predictions while you’re reading a story, make sure that your predictions are based on evidence either from the story itself, information in that text, or information that you’ve gained from reading other books and getting a general knowledge about literature.
Textual support for interpretation. Whenever you’re going to interpret a work, you are going to identify the author’s methods, their tone, their use of language, their plot, major characters, settings. Then you’re going to decide on one of those aspects of the writing, pick just one, and evaluate and analyze that one aspect. You want to give your opinion on what the author was trying to do with the use of this character or with the use of a certain tone. What was their purpose in doing that?
But you want to make it stronger, and one way that you can make your evaluation, your interpretation of this work, stronger is to root your interpretation in the text. That means you go through and you find specific examples in the text that support what your interpretation is. The examples from the text support your ideas. So it doesn’t look like it’s just things that you’re coming up without of your head. It’s things that you came up with because of something specific in the story that made you think.
So one thing you can look at is quotes. Look at what characters say. This could be something that affects the tone or it could be something that reflects on a character or it could be something specific letting you know what’s happening in the plot. Look at details from the story. It could be how someone looks, so physical characteristics. It could be specific things that happen in the plot. It could have to do with the tone as well. It could have to do with specific language that the author used. But find those details and then put them into your evaluation. Find these quotes and put them into your interpretation.
So if you’re trying to describe how a character acts or how you felt about a character, go back and find something specific about that character in the story and put it into your interpretation so that your essay now has roots in the text, and it’s going to be stronger.
Another thing you can do, which isn’t going to pull information directly from the text you read, but is going to make your work stronger, is to find statistics or facts relating to your topic. If you’re writing about cell phones, you might say, “A lot of people use cell phones.” Well, instead of using that general phrase, you could give an actual number of people who use cell phones. Or if it’s people using cell phones while driving or while at home or while at work or under or over a certain age, you could look up that statistic and put it into your paper, and it’s going to help, because it makes things more precise. It shows you did your research. It shows you weren’t just making things up from your head. You were actually going out and finding this information somewhere, the same way that you giving your opinion of a character or of the theme of a work is based on the quotes that you find or details that you find in the writing.
So whenever you are giving an interpretive essay, you want to find textual support for that interpretation. Identifying the author’s methods, finding one aspect to focus on, and evaluating and analyzing that is all important, but to make it even stronger, you want to root your interpretation in the text.
Theme. Theme is the overall idea of a piece of literature. So think about the lesson or moral of the story that the author is trying to get across to you. One thing to remember is do not confuse theme with plot. Plot is what the characters do. It’s the action of the story. It does not have to do with the overall lesson or message that the author is getting across.
Now, obviously what the characters do is going to help you understand the theme, but plot and theme are not the same thing. Plot is going to be more about human nature, society, and life in general. There can also be more than one theme. The author may have one overall message, but there may be a few messages in there, or you may be able to find more than one theme besides the main controlling theme of the story.
Some questions to ask yourself are, “What is the lesson or message?” And some common themes are man’s struggles against society, man’s struggle against nature, overcoming adversity, the importance of family and friendship, man’s struggles with faith, sacrifices bring rewards, and honesty is the best policy. So for all of these, I want us to look at the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare” from Aesop’s Fables. This shows you that there can definitely be more than one theme for one story. Now, all of these may not be what Aesop had in mind when he was coming up with this fable, but I was able to see all of these themes in the story. The last one I couldn’t come up with something for, but I’ve got a good one for that as well.
So man’s struggles against society. You’ve got this tortoise who feels like he’s going to keep going and he’s going to try to win the race, but all of society is against him in saying, “Oh, that hare has got you beat. He’s way faster than you. I don’t know why you think you’re fast enough to beat him.” So I’m sure that tortoise was struggling against society’s views of him.
Another one would be man’s struggle against nature. The tortoise is struggling against the nature of his self, how he’s made. He’s obviously not going to be as fast as the hare. He’s going to have to go up hills. He’s going to be fighting against the very nature of his self, where the hare is made to go much faster.
Overcoming adversity. just simply winning the race. The tortoise ended up winning even though no one expected him to do it, even though people were probably telling him, “Oh, you can’t do that. The hare is always going to beat you.”
The importance of family and friendship. Now, I’ve talked a lot about society telling the tortoise he couldn’t do this, but I’d like to think that the tortoise had some family and friends on his side that were urging him on, that helped him feel like he could actually go through and win this race.
Man’s struggles with faith. The tortoise had to have faith in himself. The hare was very very cocky. He felt like he had this race won so much so that he went and took a nap, where the tortoise didn’t do that. He had faith in himself and knew that he could do this if he just kept going, if he gave it his all.
And then sacrifices bring rewards. The tortoise sacrificed that nap that the hare took, and in the end he won the race because he just kept going. Now, the moral of the story they give you is slow and steady wins the race, but I can see all of these themes in that story. Now, “Honesty is the best policy” I couldn’t really come up with one for, but you can always look at Pinocchio. Pinocchio, every time he told a lie, his nose grew. It was not a good thing. Every time he lied, something bad happened to him. I won’t ruin the whole story for you, but everyone knows about the growing nose, which is a sad punishment for someone who is not using honesty. So it’s showing you honesty is the best policy.
So whenever you’re reading a story, you can look at what the characters are doing to figure out what the plot is, but remember the theme is different. The theme is going to be the controlling idea in that piece of literature, and you want to ask yourself, what is the lesson or moral the author is trying to get across to me?
Speaker 2: Noticing an author’s position is very vital to understanding a piece of writing, because every writer is going to have a personal bias or they’re going to have a certain position on whatever they’re writing about. So the way they portray something in their writing may not be totally accurate, so it’s a vital that you as a reader understand the author’s position so that you can better understand their work of writing.
So, first of all, the author’s position is basically their stance on the issue at hand. It’s what they believe about the issue they are writing about. So to help you find the author’s position, you need to notice several things. Notice each point here starts with the word notice, because to find the author’s position, you can’t just sit back and have it come to you. You, as the reader, are going to have to be proactive and notice these things.
So, first of all, notice personal opinions. This is basically noticing when someone is interjecting their own thoughts about something instead of actually putting fact in there. Notice bias. This is when someone words a sentence or a paragraph so that they portray something as being good or maybe portray something else as being bad. In other words, they’re not giving fact anymore. The way they word something casts something into a negative light or makes something look very good or very positive.
Also, notice emotional language. This is when a writer puts their own thoughts into something or their own opinions into something, and then by using strong emotional language, tries to sway the reader over to their thinking. Now, remember again, we’re not talking about a persuasive paper, because persuasive papers are always going to have a certain author’s position in it, because that’s the idea of a persuasive paper, that the author is trying to sway you a certain way.
So we’re not focusing on persuasive papers. We’re focusing on other kinds of papers when the author really isn’t supposed to have a bias, when they’re not supposed to have a position on the issue. But nevertheless, they are going to have a position, and so sometimes they’ll insert emotional language to try to persuade someone to their thinking. But also notice what information is left out, because when we’re talking about personal opinions and bias and emotional language, these are all things that are going to be added to the paper. This is something an author may add to the paper to insert their bias or to insert their own position.
But noticing what is left out is when the author doesn’t write something to support their position. This may be some fact that would look bad upon their own position, so they just leave it out. So sometimes it’s hard to know what is left out because it’s not there, and if you don’t know anything else about the topic at hand, you may not know what pertinent information is being left out. But sometimes that can be helpful to understanding the author’s position.
So the important thing to take away from this is that the author’s position is their stance on the issue at hand, and any piece of writing that is out there, the author who wrote it is going to have a position on that subject. So it’s up to you as the reader to determine how strong that position is portrayed in the paper and to notice anytime anything is skewed or the facts are twisted a little bit and when the author is trying to persuade you to believe like they do.
You, as the reader, should always be drawing conclusions. I’m going to write that point up here on the board, always be drawing conclusions. In many cases, the conclusion of a writing will not be stated directly, and you have to infer it from the information you already know and the information you are gathering from the text. Those situations are very difficult, and it’s vital that you are always drawing conclusions, because you never know when the right time to draw the conclusion will be. In this case, we’re talking about conclusions that are stated directly, and these are much easier to find. However, you don’t know where in the paper you’re going to find this conclusion that is stated directly.
Read this sentence. It is always more comfortable to draw conclusions from information stated within a passage rather than to draw them from mere implications. So when we’re talking about drawing them from mere implications, that’s called inferring. Now, when you’re able to draw conclusions from information stated within a passage, that’s talking about when the conclusion is stated directly. So these kinds of passages are pretty easy, because the information is going to be stated directly. The important thing here is that you read the entire passage.
Even though the conclusion is stated directly, you still have to find it, and sometimes there may be another sentence in the passage that looks like the conclusion, and so you may see that sentence and think, “Okay, this is the conclusion. I found it.” But then right after that sentence, the author will then be offering a rebuttal to that proposed conclusion, shutting it down and giving a counterargument leading up to the author revealing the best conclusion. So it’s important that you read the entire passage so that you can be sure that the conclusion you find is the same one the author intended for you to find.
When defining words found in a text, often words have a definition that is more than a dictionary definition. So we can say that words have two definitions: a denotative meaning and a connotative meaning. The denotative meaning is the literal meaning of the word. So basically if you’re wondering what the word meant, and it’s the denotative meaning, then you could just look up the word in the dictionary, and the dictionary definition would describe the meaning of that word.
However, the connotative meaning of the word also involves the emotional reaction the word may invoke. It depends on the reader’s associations they may make with that word, so it goes further than the denotative meaning. And so denotative meanings are generally used in nonfiction works, whenever, in a nonfiction work, the writer isn’t trying to be flowery or use figurative language. So the actual definition of the word is what the word means in that context. However, in fiction works, the connotative meaning of a word also is often meant, so it’s important that readers learn to differentiate between when the connotative or denotative meaning is being used. The reader can usually determine by the context clues whether the author is using the denotative or connotative meaning of a word.
When a reader comes across an unfamiliar word, it’s important that they know techniques to understanding the word’s definition. One way to determine a word’s definition is by looking at the prefix and suffix of the word. Although there are many words in the English language, many of those words share a common prefix or suffix. So by understanding the meaning of that prefix or suffix, the reader can then determine the likely meaning of the word.
So, one way to determine word meaning is structural analysis, and that’s by looking at the prefix, the root, and the suffix all of a word. So take the word ‘unacceptable,’ for example. Here you have the root word, ‘accept’, because that can be a word in itself. And then here you have the prefix ‘un’ and the suffix ‘able’. The prefix is always going to come before the root word and the suffix is always going to come after the root word.
Now notice I said the root word is the word that can stand alone. I understand that ‘able’ can also stand alone and is a word, but in this case, it’s a suffix. So if you saw ‘un’ or ‘able’ written by themselves, you would see it written like this. That’s because the dash represents the word. So here, since ‘un’ is a prefix, the word comes after the prefix, and here with ‘able’, the word comes before able, because able is the suffix.
So say you didn’t understand what ‘unacceptable’ meant. Well, you could look at ‘able,’ and you know that means ‘able’ pretty much, and so you know acceptable must be able to accept. Well, ‘un’ you know means not so, from words like unprofessional, because unprofessional means not professional. It means the opposite of. So you know that ‘un’ means not acceptable. It’s something that’s not able to be accepted. So thereby using the prefix and the suffix of the word and knowing the meanings of those, the reader can determine the meaning of the word ‘unacceptable’.
Now, some words, like ‘backward,’ don’t have both a prefix and a suffix. They just have a suffix. So ‘back’ is the root word, and ‘ward’ is the suffix. So, say you didn’t know ‘backward’ meant, but you knew what the root word meant. You knew what ‘back’ meant, but you remember the word ‘toward’, which also has the same suffix, and you know that means going somewhere. So you could get an idea that this suffix has something to do with direction. So since you see the root word ‘back’, you know it means going back to. So that’s another example of how to use the prefix or the suffix to determine the meaning of the word.
And some words just have a prefix. This word, for example, has a prefix and a suffix, but no root word. Here, ‘bio’ is a prefix and ‘ology’ is also a suffix, and they share that ‘o,’.and so you could look at this and think, “Okay, I don’t know what this means, but I know I’ve seen the word ‘bio’ before in the word ‘biography.’ Well, that’s a book about someone’s life, so ‘bio’ must mean life. And then what does ‘ology’ mean? Well, I’ve heard of ‘archaeology’, and so that must mean the study of something, because you’re studying something. So ‘ology’ means the study of.” So by knowing the prefix and the suffix and what they mean of this word, you can conclude that this word most likely means the study of life. So it’s important to understand common prefixes and suffixes so that you can determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
Every piece of writing should have a logical conclusion, and it’s your job as the reader to identify that conclusion, mainly for the purpose of helping you to understand whether you agree with the writer or not, because you don’t want to just read a piece of literature; you want to analyze it. So one step in that process to better understanding it is identifying the conclusion to know whether you agree with the writer or not.
So now I want to talk about how to identify that conclusion. So you’re going to need to infer a lot or make an inference. To infer something just means to take what you already know and combine it with something else to draw a conclusion, so it’s pretty self-explanatory. And so what you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have combine two things: what you already know with the info or the information found in the text. So I’m going to draw a double arrow there, because to make an inference you’re pulling these two things together, everything you find in the text, any pre-knowledge you have, and you’re pulling that together to draw the conclusion.
And generally, a conclusion should be obvious. If a writer does a good job in their writing, then the conclusion should be easily identifiable. Otherwise, you may draw a conclusion that is not the conclusion the writer had in mind. But nevertheless, it’s important that you, as the reader, analyze the writing and identify the logical conclusion.
A prediction is a guess about what will happen next. So when a reader actively engages in whatever they are reading, they naturally make predictions about what will happen next, and they base these predictions off of what they have read and what they already know. So by taking what they have read and what they already know, a reader can formulate what they think will happen next in the story. So consider this sentence, “Staring at the computer screen in shock, Kim blindly reached over for the brimming glass of water on the shelf to her side.”
So the reader is naturally going to read this and have an idea of what is going to happen next, and the reader will probably notice the word ‘blindly’. So Kim is so caught up in what’s happening on the computer. She goes for a drink of water, but since she’s caught up in what’s going on in the computer, she reaches over without really looking at the glass of water to grab it. So the reader is going to assume that she’s going to knock over the glass of water. Now, that may not be what happens, but still it’s a prediction either way. The prediction may come true, and the prediction may not come true. But a reader is naturally going to make predictions about a passage, and making predictions is part of being actively engaged in what the reader is reading.
The purpose of an author is basically why the writer wrote the paper. It’s what motivated them to write something. So there’s three basic types of motivations or purposes of an author. They either wrote something to inform, entertain, or persuade. So it’s important as a reader to understand the purpose of the author, because it helps you better understand the text. So generally, it’s pretty easy to determine what type of paper something is. So an informative paper is basically when the reader or the writer is just giving the reader facts about something that are telling them more about something.
A paper that is meant to entertain is generally fiction. Pretty much any kind of fiction work is meant to entertain. Now, occasionally fiction will serve a double purpose of also trying to inform, trying to persuade, but generally when something’s meant to entertain, generally means that it’s some kind of fiction piece. Then finally, the third type, or the third purpose is to persuade. This is actually the hardest type to determine, because generally an author is going to try to hide that they’re trying to persuade you, because when someone knows they’re trying to persuaded, they’re going to be wary or skeptical of the arguments that the writer is throwing at them. So a lot of times a writer will try to disguise their persuasive paper as a paper that’s meant to inform or a paper that’s meant to entertain, but actually it’s meant to persuade the reader. So those are the three main types of purposes of an author: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade.
Supporting details are very important parts of a paper. It can be said that the topic and main idea of a paper is the most important part, but without supporting details, main ideas and topics are irrelevant. So basically, supporting details reinforce a larger point. So a writer will make a point, which may take the form of a topic or a main idea of a paper. So the writer makes that point, and then the writer backs up their point with supporting details. These details are most often found in informative and persuasive texts, and this makes sense, because if the writer is telling you about something, each main point they make they’re also going to need to back up with more points so that you, the reader, can be sure that they’re being told accurate information. Also, with a persuasive text, if the writer is trying to get the reader to do something or to think a certain way, the writer can’t just make a bunch of points. They’re going to have to back up those points so that the reader will indeed think that way or take that action that the writer wants them to take.
And supporting details are often easy to spot, because the writer will let you know that those details are coming. A lot of times they’ll make a main point and then they’ll say something like “first”, and they’ll give supporting detail, and “second,” and give another supporting detail, then say, “finally,” and then give the third supporting detail. Or they might say something like “for example” or “for instance,” and that would tip you off that the next supporting detail is coming along. Supporting details need to be two things. They need to be both factual and relevant, because if something is totally accurate and factual but is not relevant to the main idea, then it’s no good. The supporting detail needs to be accurate and needs to relate back to the main idea.
And if a supporting detail is very relevant, if it pertains to the main idea, but it’s not accurate, then again, it’s no good, because what good is information that is not true? So the important thing to remember with supporting details is that basically their job is to reinforce a larger point, and they can be most often found in informative and persuasive text. They’re often easy to spot, because they’re preceded by words like “first,” “second,” “finally,” or “for instance,” or “for example.” And the most important thing for details to be is both factual and relevant.
Text evidence is basically information in a text that backs up the main point or points in general throughout the story. So I want to write up some main points up here about text evidence. Like I said, it supports. The things that it supports are the main point or the points throughout the story. So anytime an author makes a claim about something, it’s important that they have text evidence, because when they just make a claim, it’s not very credible. And so they add text evidence to it to back up that claim, maybe give a statistic or tell something else to back up the main point or points throughout the story.
And text evidence also helps the reader draw a conclusion, or it leads to the conclusion throughout the story. So it’s important that text evidence is three things: precise, descriptive, and factual. Remember I said that text evidence supports the main point or points in a story. Well, generally a main point and points throughout a piece of writing are going to be very general. They’re not going to be very specific. So since these things are very general, it’s important that there are some specifics in the paper. So that’s why the text evidence needs to be precise. That way, your paper isn’t vague, or the writer’s paper isn’t vague.
It’s also important that this text evidence is descriptive, because again, main points and points are vague, so it’s important to have something very descriptive. It’s also important that they’re factual, because since the text evidence is backing up or supporting the main points and points, it’s important that these facts or this text evidence is factual so that it’s actually credibly backing up the main points and points throughout the story.
Topics and main ideas are vital parts of a paper, so it’s important that you know how to find the topic and main ideas, but first we need to understand what those are. So a topic, as a subject of a text, basically, it’s what the text is about, and the main idea is the most important point being made. So every paper includes a main idea and a topic, and every paragraph also includes a main idea and a topic.
A topic is very general. A topic is not specific at all. It just tells an overview of what the paper or the paragraph is about. So the topic of a paper could just be tennis. That’s the subject of a text, or the text is about tennis, but the main idea is more specific. The main idea is like a thesis statement. It’s the most important point being made in the paper. So while the topic might be tennis, the main idea would be tennis is a good form of exercise. Generally you can find the topic and main idea in the first sentence of the paper. It might say something like, “Tennis is a great form of exercise.” You know there the topic is tennis and the main idea is exercise.
Or this might also be found at the beginning of a paragraph that the paper is about something different. The paragraph may have its own topic and main ideas. The first sentence of the paragraph might be “Tennis is a great form of exercise,” and there, boom, you found the topic and the main idea. Some papers are more difficult.
Some paragraphs are more difficult, and you may have to read each sentence in that paper or paragraph and find the general theme of all those sentences, what those sentences have in common, but in general it’s very easy to find the topic. You can just scan the paper and figure out what the paper is about, and then more specifically, you can find out what the main idea of the paper is. And since the main idea is the main idea, it’s the most important part of paper, the main idea will be repeated oftentimes throughout the entire paper, generally in the introduction and in the conclusion, and sometimes in between.
So what do you do if you come across a question that does not contain a keyword? As a test-taker, you’ve been trained to look for the keyword and the question to help you determine the answer, but if there’s no keyword in the question, then where do you go from there to determine the answer? Let’s take a look at this example, and then I’ll show you how to find the keyword. This example is going to say, “Which of the following would the author of the paragraph likely agree with?”
This is going to be our sample question, and as you notice, there’s no main point in it. So you just look over this question. Do you see a keyword? Because I don’t. So if a question like this occurred on a test and you can’t find a keyword in it and you need to find a keyword to determine the answer, what do you do? You go to the only other place you can. You look for a keyword in the answer.
So it’s going to be multiple choice. So look at answer choice A and read that answer and try to find a keyword in that answer. Then once you have determined a keyword in the answer, quickly scan the paragraph to find that keyword. Then go down to answer choice B. Find the keyword in answer choice B, and quickly scan the paragraph to find answer choice B. Then continue down through the other letter choices.
A lot of times the keywords of the answers will be closely grouped together within one paragraph. So once you have identified the keywords, you will notice that they’re very close to each other. So they’re very easy to find, and you can quickly figure out where the keywords are, and then you’ll be on your way to correctly answering the question. So remember, if you ever come across a question where there’s no keyword like this example, go to the only other place you can. Find a keyword in the answers, and you will be on your way to picking the correct answer.