The LSAT Test is required for admission to Law School. A key part of the LSAT Exam is the Analytical Reasoning portion. This video introduces how to do well on the Analytical Reasoning Practice Section of the LSAT.
LSAT Analytical Reasoning [Video Transcript]
Woman: 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 the word “macaw,” but by saying “green-feathered,” you can infer that it is some kind of a bird with green feathers. Another clue you could 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 this one 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 just give you the definition of the world. For instance, “The echidna, an egg-laying mammal native to Australia,” and then they 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 a word. You can always take that into consideration whenever you are taking your educated guess.
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 could 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?” If we were to insert “bird” here, “The green-feathered bird.” Well, if 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.” If we know it means something all soft, maybe moldable, we can say “the soft and moldable leather.” “The soft and flexible leather.” Any kind of word like 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, and it’s a little harder to check, you would just say, “An egg-laying mammal native to Australia,” and then maybe tell the sentence after that point, because the definition is 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.
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. 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’s 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. One example is the Civil War. During the Civil War, slavery was the normal thing in the South. And whenever the Civil War was 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 slaveholders. 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 writing, slave narratives, anything from that time period are the themes. A lot of times you’ll see themes of power, race, and equality. 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 were 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.
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. 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 look at 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. 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. John could just be really good at making goals. That doesn’t mean that he is going to be a tall person. It’s probable, it’s a stronger conclusion, but we don’t know for sure. We just use 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 examples, then we build on those facts, details, examples to come to a conclusion. 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. You start with one basic conclusion, one basic statement, and then get facts and details that can support it or that are examples of that statement.
This one links premises with conclusions, 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. You start with this one, “All dogs are mammals.” Okay. “All mammals have hearts.” Okay. Based on the fact that all dogs are mammals and all mammals have hearts, all dogs must have hearts. 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. If all premises are true and clear, then the conclusion must also be true. On this one, we have true, all dogs are mammals. True, all mammals have hearts. 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.” 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. 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 birds.
So since the first sentence was false, our conclusion ended up being false. And that may not always be the case. 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.
Over here, we had false conclusion, possibly false conclusion, true conclusion, and false conclusion. Using inductive and deductive reasoning is not going to be 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 kinds 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. You start at the top, known conclusion, work your way down to the bottom to specific examples.
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 a 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’ve come up with is accurate or not.
Inference. Inferences are conclusions that a reader makes using clues in the text. 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. You read, you pick up on those clues or hints that the author links behind, and you put them all together to form your inference.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. “Charlotte’s toddler is in bed asleep upstairs. She hears a loud thump and then loud crying.” 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, “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.
Let’s look at another example. “Nolan sees cookie crumbs on the floor and chocolate around his son’s mouth.” “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. You can infer he got into a cookie jar or a pack of cookies without the authors 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. 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 the 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. 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.
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 be both…sorry, an interpretation should both describe the text and elaborate upon it.
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. 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 are giving your interpretation, what you think the author meant. 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, 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 the 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 is going to pick the same aspect to focus on, and not everyone is going to elaborate upon it the same way. Since the author knew he was writing for lots of different readers whenever he or she created this work, try to make your interpretation unique.
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 is 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. And 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. 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 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. And 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. When a hint or a 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. 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. 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, setting. 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 with out of your head, it’s things that you came up with because of something specific in the story that made you think.
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 the details from the story. It could be how someone looks, so, physical characteristics. It could be specific things that happened 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.
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. It is 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. Now, this could be…if you’re writing about cellphones, you might say, “A lot of people use cellphones.” Well, instead of using that general phrase, you could give an actual number of people who use cellphones. Or if it’s people using cellphones 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.
Whenever you’re giving an interpretive essay, you want to find textual support for that interpretation. Identifying authors’ 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.
Man: A bias is basically when an author is unfair or inaccurate in his or her presentation of something. In their attempt to persuade, writers often make mistakes in their thinking patterns and writing choices. This is because every author has a point of view, and that’s important to remember. Every author has a point of view, which is basically just the way they look at something, the way they see a certain situation.
So because they have this point of view, naturally, in their writing, they oftentimes will show their point of view through their writing. And so, that’s when a bias comes into play. It’s not necessarily bad for an author to have a point of view, they’re just naturally going to have one. But it is a problem when they start to include it in their writing. So that’s when a bias comes into play.
And so, a bias is when someone ignores reasonable counter-arguments, or it distorts opposing viewpoints. You as a reader need to be aware when an author is being biased. So look for any clues like when they only talk about their own arguments for something and don’t talk about any opposing ideas. Or when you’re aware of another viewpoint and they share the viewpoint, but they don’t share it exactly correct. Be aware of those types of things, and then once you are tipped off once that a writer is being biased, you will know that other times when they present opinions, that those opinions may also be biased.
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 will have to infer it from the information you already know and the information you were 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 are 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 a conclusion is stated directly. 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 the dictionary definition. 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. Basically, if you were 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 a word may invoke. It depends on the reader’s associations they may make with that word. 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. 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.
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. One step in that process to better understanding it is identifying the conclusion to know whether you agree with the writer or not. Now, I want to talk about how to identify that conclusion.
You’re going to need to infer a lot, or make an inference. And 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. What you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to combine two things: what you already know with the info, or the information found in the text. 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. 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. By taking what they have read and what they already know, a reader can formulate what they think will happen next in the story.
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.” 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.” 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 on what’s going on on the computer, she reaches over without really looking at the glass of water to grab it. 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. A prediction may come true, and a 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.
A stereotype is basically a bias against a specific group of people, or a specific place. You as a reader need to be attentive to when someone is using a stereotype. Like I said, a stereotype is a bias against a specific group or place. And stereotypes are a generalization. And a generalization is basically where you look at a specific group of people and you take what is true for some of the people, and apply it to everyone. Take for example if I said, “Everyone in Nebraska is a corn farmer.” Now, there are many corn farmers in Nebraska, but not everyone there is a corn farmer. I took what was true for a few people and applied it to everyone in Nebraska. So that’s a mild case of a stereotype, because most stereotypes are negative. You may have heard some negative stereotypes towards specific cultures, ethnicities, and religions.
Anytime you as a reader notice a stereotype, recognize that that means the author is ignorant and not curious. In other words, they may not be willing to look into the details. They see something that they think is true and so then they state it as fact. That’s why I say they’re not very curious, and they’re also ignorant because they may be aware that they are using a stereotype, but they may not care. And so, they’re ignorant about that, which means they’re also going to be ignorant about other things. As a reader, be attentive to when a writer is using stereotypes.
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. Basically, supporting details reinforce a larger point. A writer will make a point, which may take the form of a topic or a main idea of a paper. The writer makes that point, and then the writer backs up their point with supporting details. And 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 the reader can be sure that they are being told accurate information.
Then also in 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 give a supporting detail in “Second,” and give another supporting detail and 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 it’s 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 is not accurate, then again, it’s no good, because what good is information that is not true?
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 texts. 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. I want to write up some main points up here about text evidence. Like I said, it supports. And the things it supports are the main point, or the points throughout the story. Any time 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. 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. 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. Since these things are very general, it’s important that there are some specifics in the paper. 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, the main points and points are vague. It’s important to have something very descriptive. And 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. A topic is a subject of a text. Basically, it’s what the text is about. And the main idea is the most important point being made. 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. The topic of a paper could just be tennis. That’s the subject of the 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.
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 that the topic is tennis and the main idea is exercise. Or this might also be found at the beginning of a paragraph. If the paper is about something different, the paragraph may have its own topic and main idea. The first sentence of the paragraph might be “Tennis is a great form of exercise.” And then, boom. You’ve found the topic and the main idea.
Some papers are more difficult and 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 the paper, the main idea will be repeated oftentimes throughout the entire paper, generally in the introduction and in the conclusion, and sometimes, in-between.