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Understanding text types

Most text types have characteristic language features, structure, organisation and writing style. Understanding these aspects can help you read more effectively because you can anticipate how an idea may be developed or organised in the text, i.e., whether it is developed by argument, cause and effect, comparison and contrast, explanation. Explanation texts may define and clarify terms or processes. Depending on the text type, different types of logical organisers may be used to signal the organisational pattern and purpose of the text.


Identifying text type

Read each short text and drag an apropriate text type from above to the line beneath the text. If the answer is correct, it will stay on the line.

Argument Explanation Cause and Effect Comparison and contrast

1 Genetic engineering is the name given to the techniques by which scientists alter or combine genes in an organism. Genes, which share a part of all living cells, carry chemical information that determines an organism's characteristics. Genes have often been called the ‘blue prints’ of life. By changing an organism’s genes, scientists can manipulate the organism's traits and the traits of its descendants  something that farmers have been doing with seed selection and grafting techniques for centuries, but a process that can be dramatically speeded up with the direct manipulation of genetic materials. The process of manipulation is fascinating. Scientists ‘invade’ the plant they want to improve with specially loaded bacteria, which carry the desired genetic traits such as frost or pest resistance. Text source: Rosen, L.J. (1995). Discovery and commitment: A guide for college writers. Mass.:Allyn and Bacon, p.176.                              


2 Disasters, of course, are not entirely due to the injustice of nature: the injustice of man also plays its part. Poverty contributes both to the causation and impact of disaster. It is a major cause of deforestation and desertification which aggravate floods and droughts, resulting in greater suffering and death. Poverty and the pressure of population drive the poor to live in increasingly dangerous places, like slums perched on steep slopes, or the flood-and-cyclone-ridden islands of the Ganges delta in Bangladesh. Text source: Glendinning, E.H. & Holmstrom, B. (2004). Study reading: A course in reading skills for academic purposes. U.K.: Cambridge University Press, p 63.


3 Marriage has a beneficial effect on men. Compared to single men of the same age group, married men are reported to enjoy better physical and mental health. Their lives are likely to be longer and happier (Smith, 2008). In addition, they enjoy more successful careers, fill higher status occupations and consequently earn more money. Critics may argue that it is simply that more successful men tend to get married, but the evidence shows that it is marriage which brings about these beneficial effects. Hence, the best guarantee of a long, happy, healthy, and successful life for a man is to have a wife devoted to homemaking and the care of her husband. Text source: Glendinning, E.H. & Holmstrom, B. (2004). Study reading: A course in reading skills for academic purposes. U.K.: Cambridge University Press, p107.


4 In spite of these differences, these two apparently opposite cultures share several important experiences. Both, for example, have transplanted cultures. Each nation has a ‘mother’ society  China for Japan and Great Britian for the United States  that has influenced the ‘daughter’ in countless ways: in language, religion, art, literature, social customs, and ways of thinking. Japan, of course, has had more time than the United Statres to work out its unique interpretation of the older Chinese culture, but both countries reflect their cultural diversity. Text source: Oshima, A. & Hogue, A. (2006). Writing academic English. (4th ed.) N.Y.: Pearson Education, Inc.


[Show comments on each of the texts above]

Argument text structure usually has three parts: claim, support, and reasoning or thinking used to connect statements of support to a claim. Note also the argumentative tone and expressions of arguments like ‘Some critics may argue that...’

Cause and effect writing explores the reasons (causes) why something occurs and the consequences (effects) of that occurrence. Note the language of cause and effect,such as “cause, resulting in”.

Comparison and contrast writing identifies and analyses similarities (comparison) and differences (contrast) between two people, places, things or ideas. Note the use of the language of comparison, such as “more..., unlike”.

Explanation may be defined as a type of writing that shows the what, how and why of a topic. It is often characterised by the use of definition, examples, and the use of relative (-which) clauses to embed descriptive details in the explanation.

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