Identifying Common Academic Purposes
The purpose for a piece of writing identifies the reason you write it by, basically, answering the question “Why?” For example, why write a play? To entertain a packed theater. Why write instructions to the babysitter? To inform him or her of your schedule and rules. Why write a letter to your congressman? To persuade him to address your community’s needs. Regardless of the purpose, a critical reader will be able to identify it by identifying the way in which the author writes about the topic, the words the author uses, and the examples the author provides. Clues to an author’s purpose may also be found in titles, prefaces, and the author’s background.
There are various reasons for writing:
- to narrate or recount events
- to describe how something looks, feels, sounds, or tastes
- to persuade or convince
- to inform or teach
- to entertain or amuse (the author will use jokes or anecdotes)
- to satirize, or mock (the author will use words that have sarcastic connotations)
- to critique or evaluate (the author will use words to discuss reliability, accuracy, reasons or evidence, or facts and opinions)
- to criticize (the author will use use harsh or negatively-charged words)
Read the following paragraphs about four films and then identify the purpose of each paragraph: to summarize, to analyze, to synthesize, or to evaluate.
- This film could easily have been cut down to less than two hours. By the final scene, I noticed that most of my fellow moviegoers were snoozing in their seats and were barely paying attention to what was happening on screen. Although the director sticks diligently to the book, he tries too hard to cram in all the action, which is just too ambitious for such a detail-oriented story. If you want my advice, read the book and give the movie a miss.
- During the opening scene, we learn that the character Laura is adopted and that she has spent the past three years desperately trying to track down her real parents. Having exhausted all the usual options—adoption agencies, online searches, family trees, and so on—she is on the verge of giving up when she meets a stranger on a bus. The chance encounter leads to a complicated chain of events that ultimately result in Laura getting her lifelong wish. But is it really what she wants? Throughout the rest of the film, Laura discovers that sometimes the past is best left where it belongs.
- To create the feeling of being gripped in a vice, the director, May Lee, uses a variety of elements to gradually increase the tension. The creepy, haunting melody that subtly enhances the earlier scenes becomes ever more insistent, rising to a disturbing crescendo toward the end of the movie. The desperation of the actors, combined with the claustrophobic atmosphere and tight camera angles create a realistic firestorm, from which there is little hope of escape. Walking out of the theater at the end feels like staggering out of a Roman dungeon.
- The scene in which Campbell and his fellow prisoners assist the guards in shutting down the riot immediately strikes the viewer as unrealistic. Based on the recent reports on prison riots in both Detroit and California, it seems highly unlikely that a posse of hardened criminals will intentionally help their captors at the risk of inciting future revenge from other inmates. Instead, both news reports and psychological studies indicate that prisoners who do not actively participate in a riot will go back to their cells and avoid conflict altogether. Examples of this lack of attention to detail occur throughout the film, making it almost unbearable to watch.
License and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Previously shared:
Successful College Composition. Authored by: Weaver, Rebecca; Bost, Lynne; Kassorla, Michelle; McKinney-Holley, Karen; Crowther, Kathryn; Curtright, Lauren; Gilbert, Nancy;Hall, Barbara; Ravita, Tracienne; and Swenson, Kirk. Located at: https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshe...2C_and_Content
License: CC BY: Attribution.
Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.