Identifying the text structure helps students comprehend and find the authors' focus for the expository piece.

Text structure is the way a piece of writing is organized. When talking about text structure to middle school students, expository text is typically the focus. Fictional pieces usually are organized around the elements of a story -- plot, character, theme, setting and conflict. Nonfiction writings are organized, or structured, in different ways. Authors choose the text structure based on the purpose for their writing.

Cause and Effect

Expository pieces can be written with a cause and effect text structure. The cause is why something happens, and the effect is what happens. The sun shines longer and more directly on the mountainside in the spring -- cause. Therefore the snow on the mountain melts and flows to the river -- effect. Key words to look for in cause and effect writing are therefore, so, as a result, because and since. Finding these key words helps the middle school student identify the cause and effect in a text.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast is used as the text structure when the author is comparing or contrasting two or more ideas. Compare means to explain the similarities, and contrast is used to show the differences in items. The key words to identify compare and contrast text are similarly, on the other hand, both, as well as and equally.

Sequential Text

Text written in sequential order tells how something is done or happens chronologically. An example of a sequential text is one that explains how to tie a knot, the steps to take to run for class president or how to bake a cheesecake. Key words to look for in this type of writing are first, second, next, finally and lastly.

Problem and Solution

In problem and solution text there is a problem or conflict presented with at least one solution to solve the problem. Key words for problem and solution text are centered around the problem or solution -- the question is, the solution is, to solve the problem, dilemma, conflict or answer. Cause and effect and problem and solution are easily confused. The difference is that a problem and solution text always has at least one solution. Cause and effect writing does not have a solution, just an effect.


Descriptive writing explains the characteristics of a person, place or thing. This type of writing helps the reader visualize the item being described. Descriptive writing about a beach in Belize would tell the reader all the sights, sounds and smells of the beach scene. Words to cue the reader to this type of writing are show, for example, for instance and to illustrate.