Skill: Inference
Inference means that the reader draws together clues from in the text and what their prior, or general, knowledge of the world to understand the text. It is essentially reading between the lines as writers don’t like to tell the reader everything; writers, instead, leave clues for the reader to use to draw conclusion. Infer really just means to make an educated guess – like a scientist’s hypothesis.
‘Good Reader’ Characteristics
  • Access their prior knowledge before they read the text and whilst they read the text
  • reflect on the content of the text and link it to their prior knowledge
  • surmise; they remember the main clues and make a summary of them
  • synthesise – take the little bits (clues) and add them all together to get the big picture
  • evaluate content – they decide what clues are important and which aren’t
  • analyse the clues for their meaning and link them to what they already know
  • make connections between clues in the text
  • make hypotheses, confirm and re hypothesise based on the clues in the text
  • make critical judgements
  • understand underlying themes
  • keep their purpose in mind and look for evidence
Possible Strategies

There are many different types of inference to be aware of including: interpreting, predicting and concluding (Palincsar & Brown 1983).

Inference in HISTORY: one of the key strategies good historians do is called SOURCING. This means that the historian reads the source information, i.e. where it has come from, who made it, when they made etc. From this they make INFERENCES, or guesses, about what will be in the text. For example, what would you infer from source information that said that Adolf Hitler wrote a specific text versus what Anne Frank wrote?

Inference in FOOD TECHNOLOGY: food techies definitely don't cut into the cake to check that it is cooked; instead, they look at the clues such as a wobbly mixture, mixture on the knife they stuck into the cake or if the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan.

Inference in SCIENCE: scientists infer all the time, except they call it HYPOTHESISING. They look at the facts around them and, based on those facts and their prior knowledge, make a guess about what happens when you combine sugar, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda.