Why You Need to Know Author's Purpose
Most standardized tests have a reading comprehension section, and in most of those, you'll be called upon to answer questions about the author's purpose, along with other concepts like main idea, vocabulary in context, inferences and more. If you have no idea what author's purpose means you're going to have a hard time finding it, huh?
Author's Purpose Basics
The author's purpose is basically the reason he or she chose to act in a particular way, whether that's writing the passage, selecting a phrase, using a word, etc. It differs from the main idea in that author's purpose not the point you're supposed to get; it's the why behind the author picked up a pen or selected those words in the first place. If you're trying to determine the author's purpose on a standardized test, your question may look something like this:
1. The author most likely mentions the Depression in lines 33 - 34 to:
A. identify the primary purpose for Social Security.
B. criticize FDR's adoption of a program that would run out of money.
C. contrast the effectiveness of the Social Security Program with that of family care.
D. list another factor that contributed to the need for the Social Security Program.
Author's Purpose Key Words
There are a few key words associated with the author's purpose. If you can master these bad boys, then you'll have a much easier time answering those reading comprehension questions on your next standardized test, mostly because these key words are often used in those questions! Bonus!
- Compare: Author wanted to show similarities between ideas
- Contrast: Author wanted to show differences between ideas
- Criticize: Author wanted to give a negative opinion of an idea
- Describe/Illustrate: Author wanted to paint a picture of an idea
- Explain: Author wanted to break down an idea into simpler terms
- Identify/List: Author wanted to tell the reader about an idea or series of ideas
- Intensify: Author wanted to make an idea greater
- Suggest: Author wanted to propose an idea
Sometimes, reading for the author's purpose is as simple as just that; you read, and you figure out that the writer really hated the Red Sox and wanted to criticize the whole franchise. Other times, it isn't so simple, so it's good to have a technique to guide you when you're looking!