Evaluating an Author’s Intent

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Learn how to evaluate an author's intent by reading critically to discern point of view, purpose, intended audience, and tone.

0:00 Owl: Welcome to Evaluating an Author’s Intent, an instructional video on reading comprehension brought to you by the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab.
0:12 Analyzing a text requires you to think critically about why, how, and to whom the author is speaking.
0:20 In this video, we’ll cover how to evaluate an author’s intent by paying attention to four aspects of authorial intent: point of view, purpose, intended audience, and tone.
0:36 After watching this video, be sure to visit the Online Reading Comprehension Lab of the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab for additional videos and resources on how to analyze a text, such as How to Identify Writing Patterns and Evaluating an Argument.
0:54 Point of view is the author’s position on an issue.
0:59 You can discern an author’s point of view by looking for key words, such as support, benefit, oppose, harm, and against.
1:11 With these key words in mind, let’s try to identify the point of view of the following statement:
1:17 Stricter gun control laws would benefit the public by keeping guns off the streets and out of the hands of dangerous or unstable individuals.
1:26 The key word “benefit” provides a clue to the author’s point of view on the topic of gun control.
1:32 In this case, the author is in favor of stricter gun control laws.
1:37 Purpose is the author’s reason for writing.
1:41 There are many reasons for writing.
1:44 For instance, an author may write to inform, to explain or instruct, to entertain, or to persuade.
1:55 You can identify the author’s purpose by asking yourself the following discovery questions:
2:00 Why did the author write this?
2:03 What is he or she trying to achieve?
2:07 Let’s look at some statements to identify the purpose.
2:11 “In the event of a crash landing, each passenger should ensure that their seat belt is securely fastened and tuck their arms, legs, and head into their body.”
2:21 This statement is instructive because it’s intended to explain what to do in the event of a crash landing.
2:29 “Columbus Day is a controversial holiday because of its tacit endorsement of colonization, slavery, and the genocide of indigenous peoples.”
2:39 This statement is persuasive because it’s trying to convince the reader to agree with the author’s point of view about Columbus Day.
2:46 Advertisements and commercials are also persuasive since their goal is to persuade you to buy something.
2:54 “The Dow Jones Industrial dropped five hundred points today after the President announced the latest unemployment statistics.”
3:01 This statement is informative because it is trying to update the reader on what happened with the stock market today.
3:09 “The zombie horde shambled up the hill in pursuit of its prey, an injured pony whose frightened whinnies incited a virtual zombie stampede!”
3:19 This statement is trying entertain the reader by describing a fictitious zombie encounter.
3:27 The intended audience is the group of people that the author has in mind as his or her primary readers.
3:34 You can identify the author’s intended audience by asking yourself the following discovery questions:
3:41 For whom is the author writing?
3:44 Where was it published and who is most likely to find it there?
3:49 What is the topic and who is generally interested in it?
3:53 What level of language does the author use? Is it simple, sophisticated, or specialized?
3:59 What assumptions does the author make about the audience’s values and beliefs?
4:05 and What is the author’s purpose for writing?
4:09 For instance, if the author writes:
4:11 “The presidential candidate is a rabid proponent of the big government, tax-the-rich, entitlement policies that have bankrupted the European Union.”
4:20 You can surmise that the author is writing for a conservative audience because he or she assumes the intended audience is familiar with and comfortable using phrases such as “big government,” “tax-the-rich,” and “entitlements” as derogatory terms.
4:35 The description of the politician as “rabid” is also a clue that the intended audience will not agree with the politician’s policies.
4:43 Tone refers to the author’s attitude towards the subject or audience.
4:48 For example, let’s say you come across a newspaper headline that reads: President Grinch to Steal Halloween, Too.
4:56 The author’s tone is sarcastic.
4:58 You can probably guess from the tone that the author is definitely not in favor of the President.
5:04 The author’s sarcastic tone is also a good sign that he or she may be biased about the topic.
5:10 Being aware of any biases will help you to keep a critical distance as you read so that you can evaluate the truth value of what’s being said.
5:19 Tone comes in lots of different flavors.
5:21 Some words commonly used to describe tone are:
5:25 Angry, apologetic, approving, cheerful, contemptuous, critical, cynical, disapproving, doubtful, emotional, enthusiastic, friendly, formal, humorous, informal, ironic, mocking, negative, neutral, nostalgic, objective, optimistic, passionate, patriotic, pessimistic, playful, positive, righteous, sarcastic, sentimental, sensational, serious, shocked, skeptical, sympathetic, and worried.
6:19 By evaluating an author’s intent, you’ll be more aware of what an author is trying to communicate and better able to formulate a critical response.
6:28 Remember to visit the Online Reading Comprehension Lab of the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab for additional videos and resources on how to analyze a text.
6:39 Thanks for listening to this instructional video on Evaluating an Author’s Intent!
6:44 Visit the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab for more support with reading and writing skills

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