Making Inferences

Making Inferences

Making inferences is the process of taking information explicitly stated in the text and making a logical conclusion based on it.

Inferences are not explicitly in the text, they are based on the text and supported by it.  They are implied.

Inferences are usually “baby steps” from what is stated in the text.  Try to avoid making over generalizations or making statements that are too extreme.  Generally try to avoid definite statements and words like, “always,” “most,” “all, and ” everyone.”

People often say that inferences are “predictions” or “educated guesses.”  Neither of these definitions is necessarily incorrect but I think that you should think about them simply as logical conclusions, about the present, past, or future.

Example

The text explicitly says, “Between 1630 and 1640, 20,000 Puritans set sail for New England” (Hakim 59).

An inference you could make would be, “as the Puritans settle in New England that they would take up more land and resources and spread out beyond Plymouth.”

It would be incorrect to say, “Most of the Puritans are heading to America.”  You don’t know enough about how many Puritans there are in England.

You could word your inference carefully and say, “More and more Puritans settling in New England might cause conflict with the Indians.” Including the word might shows that you are not saying something will definitely happen since you don’t know that.

Example

“At Puritan church services women sat at the back or upstairs.  At a Quaker meeting everyone sat together” (Hakim p 61).

Which of the following choices is the most reasonable inference based on the information above.

  1. The Quakers believed that men and women were equal
  2. Quakers thought about the roles of men and women in the Church differently than the Puritans did
  3. Women were unimportant in the Puritan culture
  4. Women were important in the Quaker culture
  5. The Quakers were very religious people

Number 2 is the most reasonable inference.  Remember that inferences are the most reasonable conclusion based on the information given.  While other choices may be true, it does not mean that they are proper inferences based on the information given.  Based on the passage, the only thing we can conclude is that the Quakers thought differently about how men and women relate to each other in a Church.  That’s it.

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