Reading comprehension

Finding information in non-fiction texts

Explainer Video

Tutor: Kat


Finding information in non-fiction texts

In a nutshell

Non-fiction writing is full of facts and information about the real world, teaching you new things as you read. This means that it is important to pay special attention to particular details that the text gives you as you follow along. Instead of giving you a simple list of facts, non-fiction writing passes on this information through full sentences. In this lesson, you will learn how to scan for information in non-fiction texts as you read. 


It is your job as the reader to scan through the writing for any key information that is mentioned. Scanning just means looking quickly and carefully for particular words or phrases in the text that contain information that is useful or worth remembering. Think of it as a kind of treasure hunt for facts. 

What to look for

It can be difficult to pick out little details from a large piece of writing, especially when you are not certain what you are looking for. In this case, it is useful to think of some key questions that anybody might have about the topic that is being discussed. 

Questions like 'Who?', 'What?', 'Where?', 'When?' and 'Why?' are good examples. By thinking of these questions as you read, you will naturally start to scan for answers, which are often those key pieces of information contained in the writing. 

Once you have spotted some or all of these answers, you might use some of the tools a non-fiction text has to help you understand the information it contains. The contents page, index page, and glossary might be useful. 


Read through this extract from a newspaper article. Go over it a few times and practice scanning the text until you are comfortable picking out the information that answers your key questions, such as 'Who?' or 'Where?'. 

"The appearance of sharks last month has had a negative impact on the river ecosystem. Fish that normally swim in this water, such as sturgeon and eel, are now being eaten by the sharks. This means that local fishermen are catching a lot less fish and are making less money from their work."


Looking over the text as you think this will help you notice the people that might be involved in the story: in other words, who is involved. Information such as 'local fishermen' should now stand out to you, as it answers this simple question. Doing the same thing with the question 'Where?' should help you think about any names of places that the text mentions. In this case, you might spot the word 'river', which tells you where this story takes place.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

How can you understand the information a non-fiction text contains?

What does scanning mean?

What is non-fiction?


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