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Making inferences in informational texts | Reading

Inferences are conclusions we make based on clues in a piece of writing. They're more than guesses but not just observations. Become a reading detective by developing your ability to search for clues in the text and combine them with your own knowledge!

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user JamesBlagg Read Bio
    I still dont get it, what exactly is a inference, where, when, and how do you make one?
    (37 votes)
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      An inference is a prediction that we can make based off of existing data and our reasoning. You would make one to understand implicit ideas in texts. For example, if Usnavi screams in terror every time he sees tabby cats, you might make an inference that Usnavi had a traumatic experience with tabby cats in the past, or that he was misinformed about some "dangers" of tabby cats. Even if the author of the text doesn't outright go and say "When he was little, a feral tabby cat bit Usnavi on the arm, leaving a horrible scar", you still get the idea and are able to connect the data of Usnavi screaming and your prior knowledge of why people scream in terror, as well as your knowledge that the average tabby cat doesn't appear to be dangerous to the average human.
      (124 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Josephine posse
    Do we always needed to make an inference from the text?
    (66 votes)
    • leaf orange style avatar for user hyunjinsong5
      Hello,

      An inference is an idea the reader can draw while you're reading the text using existing data. So, yes, readers are always inferring, even if you don't realize it.

      Since inference is all about understanding what is happening in the text, yes, it's good to infer. To answer your question: yes. It helps your understanding and development as a reader.

      Hope this helps!
      (105 votes)
  • stelly blue style avatar for user Aubrey Parton🥰
    Can an inference be made about someone unimportant in a text or passage? I was wondering because if the characters is unimportant then the inference would be unimportant to the meaning of the passage and we would not make an inference on unimportant characters?
    (7 votes)
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      You can make an inference about anything. Usually, most authors wouldn't throw in completely random, tangential stuff into their story that you can't conclude some deeper meaning from. Perhaps one of the characters is unimportant to the plot, such as Feste, the fool in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, but by drawing inferences from what he says, you can see that his funny clowning around contains insightful comments about the plot of the play as a whole.
      You can make an inference from any part of a text. You can make useless inferences from the lines of central characters, and insightful inferences from side characters.
      (10 votes)
  • winston baby style avatar for user Mason Smith
    So is an inference basically just an educated guess?
    (4 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user SusannaH
    Is making an inference the same thing as when a reader draws a conclusion about a character through indirect characterization? Are inferences only situational, or can they be relational?
    (4 votes)
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Wolfy
      Inferences can be made about character's, yes. We often make inferences about people in our daily lives, ex "my mother had pursed lips and grunted while she sewed, muttering about her finger" so, you may make an inference she got herself with her sewing needle! I believe inferences can be both situational and relational.
      (0 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Cecily  Kaz
    What's the difference between an inference and a hypothesis?
    (2 votes)
    • blobby blue style avatar for user Cringe :)
      an inference is when you draw evidence from a text or have an certain experience that can lead to a sort of conclusion that is not absolutely just out there, because you have text or evidence that help you draw the conclusion. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is a guess of what you think is going to happen without really actually having solid evidence that concludes that it is true. A hypothesis is actually mostly based on what you think.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user keithjaet
    What are inferences used for?
    (2 votes)
  • male robot donald style avatar for user Austin Walkine
    If we make an inference about the story does it gives us clues or anything?
    (0 votes)
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      Yes, exactly. Inferences about the story give us clues to better understand the story. Let's say you had a story about a boy, Usnavi, who is invited to dinner at someone else's house. At the dinner, he asks for seconds, and then a third portion. From this, you can infer that either Usnavi really liked the food, wanted to make the hosts think he liked the food, or hadn't gotten enough to eat that day. Making inferences such as these allow you to understand what's happening in the story behind what's just mentioned in the text. If you have a couple more clues such as Usnavi getting a free school lunch, you might be able to make the inference that he's poor and better understand what the author wants to convey.
      (4 votes)
  • sneak peak green style avatar for user G. Tarun
    If interpretations of a text are many, what makes for a "valid" interpretation?
    (1 vote)
    • leafers tree style avatar for user L. E.
      That's a very difficult question...

      I believe that unless you're able to access a clear account of what the original author or speaker of a specific text meant, no later interpretation will ever be able to be considered completely valid-- even if it does align with an author's original intent, there'd be no way to verify that fact.

      Any later interpretation will simply have to fall to varying degrees on a scale believed validity, based on a wide variety of qualifications such as firsthand accounts, depth of knowledge, or inclusion of facts agreed upon by a majority of experts or eyewitnesses.

      So, the most valid interpretation out of a conglomeration of different interpretations by different people would be one evaluated by the larger group of "facts" upheld by the majority of those people, as well as by experts on the topic (historians, psychologists, philosophers, etc.).

      Apologies for the rather convoluted reply, and of course, this is all my interpretation, not necessarily fact... but I hope this helps!
      (2 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user JamesBlagg Read Bio
    Can you make multiple inferences at once?
    (1 vote)

Video transcript

- [David] From the moment she strolled into my office, I could tell she was gonna be a difficult sentence to read. You could tell from the way she walked she was carrying a lot of information, but getting it out of her wouldn't be easy. I was gonna need to make an inference. Hey, what's up readers? David here. I'm taking advantage of the cold that I have by doing my serious detective voice in order to teach you about inferences. (phone ringing) Hold on, let me get that. Hi, this is David. I'm in the middle of doing a video. Now isn't a great time. - [Man On Phone] Hello, I have information about what an inference is. - [David] Oh, oh that's great. Cool, follow me over to the next screen. What is an inference, please? - [Man On Phone] An inference is a conclusion that you make based on clues given in a piece of writing. It's more than a guess, but it's not just an observation either. - [David] Great, thank you. Was that all you needed? - [Man On Phone] Yeah, that was my only thing. - [David] All right, thanks, bye. - [Man On Phone] Goodbye. - [David] So an inference is a conclusion that you draw from writing. It's an idea that you pull from a sentence or a passage that isn't literally printed there. It's the detective work of reading, finding clues that help you make sense of what's being said. I feel like we're kind of getting bogged down in theory land so let's take a look at an example. I went outside and made an enormous snow fort. There's my snow fort. It's a D on the flag to represent me. There's me little hot cocoa, couple marshmallows floating in there, my Khan Academy mug. They don't make Khan Academy mugs. I want a Khan Academy mug. Okay, so what conclusions can we draw from these two sentences? I went outside and made an enormous snow fort. Beautiful, brilliant, enormous. Then I came inside and had a big mug of hot chocolate. Same deal, brilliant, beautiful, enormous. What conclusions can I draw about this situation? Well if you're making things out of snow and then you're coming inside and having hot chocolate, it's probably not the height of summer. One inference that I can draw from these two sentences together is that it is winter time when this sentence takes place. Where I live, these are not activities that one pursues in the height of summer outside. I'm looking for clues within the text. Snow fort, I'm outside, I came inside and then I had hot chocolate which is not traditionally a beverage that is consumed when it's warm out. Let's take a look at another example. This paragraph is part of a longer passage that is about a young ballet dancer named Michaela. Michaela danced so wonderfully that she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theater. That was only the beginning of her dancing success. When she was 17, Michaela danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem professional company. Later, she joined the Dutch National Junior Company. Today, Michaela is a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet. So very quickly without getting bogged down in this passage, what are some conclusions, what are some inferences that we can draw about Michaela? Who is Michaela? What do we know about her? We know that she's a dancer. We know that she's very good at it, right? She danced so wonderfully that she got a scholarship. So I'm gonna say Michaela is very talented and we know that her talent led to success because her getting the scholarship was only the beginning of her dancing success. We can see from the passage that she was part of at least three different dance companies, the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Dutch National Junior Company, and as a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet today. So I'm gonna say that Michaela is a very hard worker. Now notice no where in the passage does it say Michaela is a very talented, hard working dancer. Just like in the previous example, it didn't say, it was winter outside so I made a snow fort. What the skill of inference is requires you to be a detective and take your magnifying glass to the passage to discover clues. Imagine you're a detective like this dog. He's wearing a little deer stalker cap. Let's call him, let's call him Sherlock Bones, the famous dog detective that I just made up. I feel like Sherlock Holmes is always smoking a pipe so I'm gonna give this dog like a, I don't know a bone or a piece of rawhide or something. Imagine that you are a detective or a dog detective if you like and every time you read a text, let's say a book, that you are searching for clues within it. What you're doing when you make an inference is you are taking the information that you already know about the world and the places and people in it and how they behave and what they look like and what they do and you're applying that knowledge to the text. When do people build snowmen? When do people build snow forts? When do they drink hot cocoa? In the winter time. An important thing to remember though is that inferring is not guessing. Any time you make an inference, you have to be pulling it directly from the text. That's your jumping off point. It can't just be a wild guess out of no where. It comes from information that you've got there on the page. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat my weight in cough drops. You can learn anything, David out.