Text Structure

Why Learn Text Structures?

Authors organize their information intentionally. They present their ideas in an organized pattern. This is called text structure.

Understanding text structure helps readers. When you can identify a specific structure, you know how to categorize all the details coming at you. And seeing relationships between all these ideas can improve your reading comprehension.

Recognizing the structures of all texts

Literature (narrative text) always reveals its plot in a chronological sequence. Because it has such a predictable pattern or organization, it’s easy to follow.

However, informational text (expository writing) can be organized at least five different ways: problem-solution; cause-effect; compare-contrast; sequence; description.


 Text Structure at a Glance

Description-The author describes a topic.

Sequence-The author uses numerical or chronological order to list items or events.

Compare/contrast-The author compares and contrasts two or more similar events, topics, or objects.

Cause/effect-The author delineates one or more causes and then describes the ensuing effects.

Problem/solution-The author poses a problem or question and then gives the answer.



If narrative and expository structures are the framework, cohesive elements such as transition words are the glue that holds these structural elements together. Transition words show the relationship between different sentences and ideas. Poor writers tend to loosely connect their sentences with and and then. Good writers use transition words that show causal and logical relationships between words, sentences and paragraphs, such as because and after.

Click HERE for a list of more than 400 transition words that could be used in all of the text structures.

Transition words:


Spatial order. Words used in descriptive writing to signal spatial relationships, such as abovebelowbeside,                         nearbybeyondinside, and outside.

Time order. Words used in writing narratives, and instructions to signal chronological sequence, such as     before, after, first, next, then, when, finally, while, as, during, earlier, later, and meanwhile.

Numerical order. Words used in expository writing to signal order of importance, such as firstsecondalsofinallyin additionequally important, and more or less importantly.

General/specific order. Words used in descriptive reports and arguments to signal more specific elaboration on an idea, such as for examplesuch aslikenamelyfor instancethat isin factin other words, and indeed.


Cause/effect order. Words used in expository writing to signal causal relationships, such as becausesinceforsoas a resultconsequently,thusand hence.


Comparison/contrast order. Words used in expository writing to signal similarities and differences, such as (for similarities) also,additionallyjust asas ifas thoughlike, and similarly; and (for differences) butyetonlyalthoughwhereasin contrastconversely,howeveron the other handratherinsteadin spite of, andnevertheless.

Information adapted from The five features of effective writing by KATHLEEN CALI and KIM BOWEN

Click HERE for a tutorial on how you compare/contrast text can be organized and written.

Compare-Contrast chart from Read.Write.Think.org


 Text Structure at a Glance

YouTube Channel

Identifying Text Structure Practice

Click HERE for several passages and graphic organizers to try identifying text structures on your own.