Understanding Structure in Non-Fiction Texts

Recognising Organisation and Layout

Non-fiction texts come in various forms, each with its own typical structure. For example, essays often follow a clear introduction-body-conclusion structure, while reports may be divided into sections with headings and subheadings. Articles might start with a lead paragraph that summarises the main points, followed by supporting paragraphs.

As you read, note the layout of the text. How is it organised? What sections can you identify?

Understanding Text Features

Non-fiction texts often include features like headings, subheadings, bullet points, captions and diagrams. These features serve specific purposes, such as organising information, emphasising key points or providing additional information.

  • Headings and Subheadings – These are used to organise information into manageable sections. They give a snapshot of what the following section is about, helping you to navigate the text. 
  • Bullet Points – These are used to list information in a clear, concise manner. They’re often used to summarise points, list steps in a process or highlight key pieces of information.
  • Captions – These are short descriptions that accompany pictures, diagrams or graphs. They help explain what the visual element is showing and how it relates to the text. 
  • Diagrams – These are visual representations of information. They can help explain complex ideas or processes in a simple, visual way.

Identifying the Argument or Main Point

In non-fiction, the author’s main argument or point is the central idea they want to communicate to their readers. This could be an opinion, a fact, a discovery or a perspective. It’s the ‘why’ behind the text – why the author felt it necessary to write this piece. The main argument or point is usually stated clearly in the introduction and then developed throughout the text.

For example, in A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, the main point is to explain complex concepts in cosmology to a general audience. This point is developed through detailed explanations and examples.

Try to summarise the main argument or point in one sentence. Then, identify how this point is developed throughout the text.

Analysing the Structure’s Contribution

The structure of a non-fiction text can contribute to its clarity, persuasiveness or impact. A well-structured text will present information in a logical and coherent way, making it easier for readers to understand and engage with the content.

Consider how the structure of the text affects your understanding. Does it make the argument clearer? Does it make the text more persuasive or impactful?

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