A Guide to the GRE/Content Purposes

On the GRE, some questions will ask “in which sentence does the author ...” and state a vague summary of the function of the sentence.

Practice identifying the roles of particular sentences.

Folklore in ancient civilizations often served to explain facts of the world as well as merely to entertain. The creation of these stories has persisted into modern

5 times - Americans once told stories of a great lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, who felled the trees of the great plains, and created the “Badlands” of South Dakota by tapping his axe during a nap. In Origins of the

10 Cyclops Myth, Matthew Williams argues that the ancient Greeks in fact did believe in or at least prepond the existence of one- eyed giants - cyclopses - in the Mediterranean. According to Williams,

15 Greeks likely encountered elephant skulls and skeletons in their voyages, and the idea of a single-eyed creature came from the presence of the larger aperture in the face of the skull.


  1. In which sentence does the author given an example of modern folklore? What is this example?
  2. In which sentence does the author present a reason why the Greeks may have believed in the actual existence of the cyclops? What is this reason?

Answers to Practice QuestionsEdit

  1. This example occurs in the second sentence. The example is Paul Bunyan, who the author discusses to give an instance of contemporary folklore as well as its use to explain something - the great plains and the badlands.
  2. This occurs in the last sentence. After the author articulates a theory found in what is apparently a scholarly work, the author explains that Greeks believed that there were one-eyed giants because they found elephant skulls on their voyages which had large single holes (“apertures”) in them. They believed, according to this theory, that these were the skulls of one-eyed giants.