Determining Author Purpose

Reading Tutorial

Determining Author Purpose


As a student, you will often be asked to determine the author’s purpose in writing the text that you are reading. This is an important first step in: identifying the type of text you are reading; identifying the author’s perspective on the content or subject; identifying and interpreting the types of literary devices and figurative language used in the text; and in making a mental pathway to critically analyze the writing.

Sample Problem

Basically, there are four main purpose types for written text. These are:
Describe a person, place or a thing using details.
Entertain through telling a story or to teach a lesson through story (may include a moral or theme).
Explain a subject or tell how to do something by providing facts and information.
Persuade the readers to believe something or to change his or her opinion on a concept.

As you read, you can determine which type or types of purpose the author is employing in his or her writing. From there, you can then begin to develop a more critical analysis of the author’s purpose, as well as many aspects utilized in writing the text.


An example of text written to describe: A daily newspaper article about an event or a person.
An example of text written to entertain: short stories such as “The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant, and other stories that may or may not have a moral and/or a theme.
An example of text written to explain: A journal about scientific phenomena and data.
An example of text written to persuade: A poster or an article about a political candidate encouraging people to vote for him or her.

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