Unit 23: Author’s Objective

The SAT will occasionally ask you why an author included something in a passage, or why they wrote the passage the way they did. You can easily recognize them by their common verbiage:

  • “Which choice best describes the function of the second sentence in the overall structure of the text?”
  • “Which choice best describes the function of the underlined sentence in the text as a whole?”

Let’s look at an example:

In a study on the impact of social media on communication, Dr. Ellis notes that while social media platforms have significantly increased the volume of communication, they have also led to a reduction in the depth and quality of interactions. He argues that the convenience of quick, digital messages often replaces more meaningful, face-to-face conversations. However, he acknowledges that social media can foster connections that would otherwise be impossible due to geographical distances.

Which choice best describes the function of the final sentence in the overall structure of the text?

A) It refutes the earlier points made by Dr. Ellis regarding social media.
B) It introduces a new argument about the negative impacts of social media.
C) It provides a concession that adds nuance to Dr. Ellis’s overall viewpoint.
D) It summarizes the primary findings of Dr. Ellis’s study.

Strategy:

  1. Understand the Context: Read the entire passage to understand the broader context. For sentence-specific questions, consider the sentences before and after the targeted one.
  2. Identify the Role of the Sentence: Determine if the sentence introduces a new idea, provides evidence, contrasts a point, or concludes an argument. How does it fit into the passage’s overall structure?
  3. Evaluate Answer Choices: Relate each choice to the role of the sentence in the passage. Does it introduce a hypothesis, present a generalization, offer an alternative explanation, or provide necessary context? Eliminate choices that don’t logically fit.

Let’s apply this strategy to the example above.

  1. Understand the Context: The passage discusses Dr. Ellis’s study on social media’s impact on communication, highlighting both increased communication volume and decreased depth and quality.
  2. Identify the Role of the Sentence: The final sentence acknowledges social media’s ability to foster connections over geographical distances. Recognize that the final sentence offers a perspective different from the preceding critique, suggesting a positive aspect of social media.
  3. Evaluate Answer Choices: Dr. Ellis is providing arguments for both the positives and negatives of social media.
    • Option A claims that the sentence refutes earlier points, but the sentence does not negate what is said earlier, it just adds depth by adding another positive viewpoint to the argument.
    • Option B also misrepresents the sentence’s role as a new argument is not presented about the negative impacts of social media, in fact the sentence addresses a positive to social media
    • Option D is also incorrect as the sentence does not summarize the study’s findings.

Option C is the only one that accurately reflects the sentence’s role in presenting a balanced view of social media’s impact.

This type of question can also be applied more broadly to ask about the main purpose of a whole passage, not just a single sentence. Let’s look more specifically at these version of “Author’s Objective” questions in the following topic.