Tips for Reading Nonfiction

Need help reading the websites, speeches, and articles featured on this site?
Use these core strategies to tackle even the most complex informational texts.

Compare Nonfiction Texts

When you compare two informational texts, you look for ways they are similar and different. Making comparisons can broaden your understanding of a topic or issue and deepen your appreciation for both texts.

You might want to think about comparing multiple texts after you’ve finished reading each of them. Then, you can go back and re-examine points of comparison and contrast. Keep these strategies in mind when you compare any informational texts:

  • Take notes. When jumping between multiple texts, it can be easy to lose your place and difficult to track your ideas. As you compare and contrast the texts, capture your thoughts with notes, by creating an outline, or by using some other kind of graphic organizer, such as a two-column chart, a web, or a Venn diagram.
  • Identify similarities. If you are comparing two texts, it is probably because they share something in common. Maybe they are about the same topic or central idea, or are written by the same author. Starting with what the texts have in common is a natural place to begin. Capture the similarities in your notes by including specific details from each text.
  • Identify differences. Now you can step back and consider what makes each piece unique. Do the writers approach the topic from different angles, or do they assert opposing viewpoints? What makes each writer’s style distinctive? Do the writers rely on different kinds of evidence, or interpret the evidence differently? Capture these ideas in your notes, and include specific evidence from each text to support your ideas.
  • Synthesize your observations. Review your notes, and try to see the big picture. Are there many similarities but one key difference — or few similarities except for one common thread? Try to capture the answer to this question in a statement that synthesizes what you’ve learned. To synthesize information, you use details gleaned from both texts to draw a conclusion or offer a fresh insight into the topic. Consider sharing your synthesis in writing or a group discussion.