Sometimes an author doesn’t tell you exactly what’s happening, but gives you just enough clues so you can figure it out yourself. Inferring involves making a logical guess based on facts in the text plus what you already know from life. Making inferences helps good readers better understand the text. Inferring also builds your interest as you continue reading to find out if your inferences were or were not correct.
If you have trouble keeping up with the details needed to answer inference questions, consider using a lined sheet of paper with three columns titled: “What the text says,” “What I know,” and “What I can infer.” As you read a complex novel or textbook, list the details from the text, what you already know, and what you can guess when considering both.
Consider these simple inferences from the story The Three Little Pigs:
- Which little pig was the smartest?
- How do you think the first two little pigs felt when the wolf came knocking on their doors?
- How do you think the third little pig felt when the wolf came to his house?
- The wolf couldn’t blow down the brick house, but the third little pig still had a problem. What was it?
- Why do you think the third pig was able to trick the wolf so many times?
- How would the story be different if the wolf was not a ‘hungry’ wolf?
- How would the story be different if all the little pigs had taken the time to build a brick house?
With a little practice, you can use this same type of system to successfully answer these questions from book 1 of the Odyssey:
- What kind of person is Telemachus?
- How old is he?
- What does he need?
- Why does Athena mention Orestes to him?
- Is her story about him complete?
From the Three Little Pigs to the Odyssey and beyond, try these tips to read between the lines.
(c) 2009- 2012, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.