Distinguishing facts and opinions is a great first step towards reading texts more critically, but there is more. Another important critical reading skills is making inferences. When you make inferences, or infer, you draw conclusions based on evidence from the text or knowledge that you have. Texts contain many explicit details such as dates, names or descriptions, but also implicit information like how the author feels about a topic or whether they agree with someone else. This information is not explicitly stated; you need to ‘read between the lines’ or use certain information to form your own conclusions as a reader. In life, we infer meaning all the time. For example, when someone slams the door, you infer that that person is in a bad mood. Or if you see someone pull a face when trying a food, you infer that they don’t like it.
Being able to infer meaning from a text means that you can develop an understanding of the text that goes beyond the surface level. You will be able to pick up on subtle meanings, the author’s opinions and attitudes and maybe even their biasesor prejudices. To be able to make inferences, you need to combine new information with existing knowledge, interpret the language the author uses, compare what you read against expectations you had before you started reading, and evaluate what the goals and attitudes of the author are. In other words, to infer you need to ask yourself what conclusions you can draw from the text and what evidence from the text and from your own knowledge and expectations you have for those conclusions.
Infer what is happening in these situations:
(these conclusions are written as facts, even though they are cannot be proved: other inferences may be possible)
The following passages are from the article ‘Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance’ by K. Myers (2010). Read the passage and answer the questions using your inferencing skills.