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Analysing non fiction

Analysing structure in non-fiction

Analysing structure in non-fiction

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Analysing structure in non-fiction

​​In a nutshell 

When analysing a non-fiction text, it is not only the language used that you should examine. The overall structure of the text is just as useful for assessing the author's intention. Remember to always think about the effect the type of structure and its features has on the reader. In this summary, you will learn more about how to structure a text.

Types of structures

The way a text is structured depends largely on what the author intends to achieve through the text. The structure used will be guided by the type of text, so keep this in mind.



Example text types

Chronological order
This structure discusses events in time-order. The progression of paragraphs reflects the progression of time.
Diary entries, biographies, encyclopaedia articles
Cause and effect
This structure first discusses the cause of some event, and then discusses the effect the event has had.
Broadsheet newspaper articles
Compare and contrast
This structure helps to demonstrate how two (or more) things are similar, and how they are different. Paragraph structure might reflect these distinct comparisons.
Fiction or non-fiction analyses, reviews
Problem and solution
This structure introduces a problem, and then elaborates on how to solve it. 
Information leaflets, "agony aunt" columns, advertisements
Prioritised list
This structure starts with the most important points first, and continues in order from most important to least important.
News articles, open letters, reviews, advertisements
Letter structure
This structure, as the name suggests, is primarily used for letters. It is distinctive due to its salutation and closing.
Formal and (to a lesser extent) informal letters
In medias res
This structure starts right in the middle of the action with no introduction, and is often used to help describe gripping events or experiences.
Travel writing, biographies, diary entries, reviews

Features of structures

Here are some of the structural features to look out for in a non-fiction text. Use them in conjunction with the language features to aid your analysis.

Headings and subheadings

Pay careful attention to the title of the text. For example, there is a good chance a text entitled "Causes of the First World War" will use a chronological, cause and effect structure. Subheadings also serve as an outline for the text's structure.


This is the first piece of writing after the title, and often the writer will try to "hook" you in and maintain your interest. How does the writer present their ideas initially?

Topic sentence / focus

At the beginning of each paragraph, normally the writer will succinctly introduce their main point and "tell you what they're going to tell you". The point or subject matter that the particular paragraph contains is its focus.


Any type of speech or conversation is dialogue. Look out for quotations or interviews, and think about how the dialogue interacts with the main body of text.


Adverbials are adverbs or phrases that act as adverbs. They can be used for contrasting ("however", "on the other hand"), giving evidence ("for example", "such as"), or for concluding ("in summary", "to conclude"). Temporal adverbials refer to time ("firstly", "last Winter"), and spatial adverbials refer to place/location ("anywhere", "over there").

Sentence and paragraph complexity

Take a look at the lengths of each paragraph. Is the way they vary significant in any way? How are complex and compound sentences used in tandem with simple sentences, and does this create some kind of contrast or emphasis?


How is the word printed on the page? Is a word or phrase in bold, in italics or underlined, and how does this create a certain effect? Even font size and colour is worth commenting on – for example, graphic designers play with these properties of text all the time in order to make an advertisement stand out.

Graphics and figures

It isn't just the text itself that aids the structure. What role do graphics, figures and photographs play in the structure of a non-fiction text?


Pace or pacing is the "speed" of the writing. An event relayed very quickly and suddenly has a different effect on the reader from one that has a slower and more suspenseful pace.


Not all texts end with a simple "in conclusion". This the author's last word on a subject – quite literally. As well as just summing things up and winding it down, non-fiction authors might end with a bit of flair to make a final strong impression. For example, ending on a rhetorical question has the impact of keeping the reader thinking about the subject even after they've finished reading. How has the writer chosen to end the text, and what effect does this have on the reader?


Of a letter, the very beginning, where "Dear..." or "To..." appear.
Of a letter, the very end, where "Yours sincerely" or "Kind regards" might appear.
A hook is a phrase designed to catch people's attention.
The adverb form of succinct, meaning brief and to the point.
Simple sentence
A sentence involving only one independent clause.
Compound sentence
A sentence involving two or more independent clauses, joined by a comma or conjunction.
Complex sentence
A sentence involving an independent clause (e.g. a main clause) plus one or more dependent clauses (e.g. a subordinate clause).

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What are the structural features of non-fiction?

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