These advanced ideas and/or applications can help
you understand and use this paper's type of thinking better. For
additional information, check the chapter's
in the right column.
are additional methods of writing an analysis. This list is a continuation
of "Types of Analyses" in the
"Basics" part of this chapter.
ADVANCED TYPES OF ANALYSES
Using a Theory Analysis
of a Text's Arguments
Using Rhetorical Elements Analysis
Analysis of an Issue
1. ANALYSIS USING AN
This kind of analysis is a bit more difficult. You must
start with a theory, a philosophical stance, or some other specific point of view or
position that is meant to explain an entire worldview. Some examples are some type of
psychological system, a religious belief system, a developed ethical or moral belief
system, or any academic theory of how life or a large portion of it operates. You might
want to start brainstorming by applying your theory immediately to your text; however,
you might instead wish to brainstorm about your theory by itself before beginning to apply
it to the text.
What kind of theory might you choose? You could, for
example, choose a system of psychology such as behaviorism, Freudian or Jungian
psychology, or any other among dozens of older and more recent systems. You could choose a
system or way of viewing art (given that many humanities and art classes require
analyses): art as rebellion, art as symbol, art as gendered, etc. You might apply a
political or economic system such as capitalism, Marxism, or socialism; a method of
behavior or goal development in the workplace such as ISO 9000; or a philosophical,
religious, or ethical belief system.
You might, for
example, take four elements of Freudian psychology one at a time--such as the concept of
the superego, the ego, the id, and the unconscious--and examine one or more parts of your
essay using each of these Freudian elements in turn. You might show how various parts of
the essay conform to these Freudian elements (i.e., agree with Freud's system), or how
various parts of the essay cannot fit with these elements--or how some parts conform and
others do not.
2. ANALYZING THE
OF A TEXT OR SUBJECT
You may analyze a text or subject's arguments, too.
However, if you choose to do this, remember that your goal is not to disagree
with or debate the person or author whose arguments you are using. Rather, you
must take an unbiased, fair, and balanced point of view in which you are willing
to fully explore opposing viewpoints on a subject without arriving at your own
conclusion. To successfully analyze in this way, you’ll need to start with a
person or author who is actually making a debatable, one-sided argument—not
merely describing or reporting on something, and not offering his or her own
unbiased description of several points of view. In other words, choose a text, speech, or the like that has a one-sided point of view with which some
people would disagree. You probably also will need to have some experience with
or knowledge of the argumentative issue. It also will help you if you do not
feel strongly for or against the issue. Your attitude as you write should be one
of fairness, balance, and lack of anger or other negative emotions. Here’s one
way to write this kind of analysis:
Choose several main arguments the subject makes. With each
in turn, complete the following steps.
First take the subject’s point of
view. Briefly summarize his/her argument. Then explain—from the subject’s
likely point of view—the argument’s meaning, importance, or value.
Second, take a supportive point of view. Find one or two
additional reasons and/or examples of why the argument may be true.
Third, take an opposing position.
Provide one or more positions/arguments opposing the subject’s argument,
and explain (using reasons and examples) why these opposing positions also
(Optional) Fourth, take a higher
analytical point of view. Describe briefly which of these positions on this
argument appear the most logical or complete—based on what is given in the
texts themselves, and not on any information you have from other sources
or within yourself—without bias on your own part.
It also is possible to examine the
actual writing itself in your chosen text. This is called a
"rhetorical" analysis—an analysis of the rhetoric in the text.
You can develop a rhetorical analysis by examining and describing the ways in
which the author uses various rhetorical devices to make her point, devices such
as cause and effect, comparison/contrast, argument, definition, exemplification,
etc. To try this, see the description of these rhetorical devices in an earlier
chapter. To use this method, you might examine a text and decide, for
example, that there are two important instances of comparison-contrast, three
exemplifications, an overall argument with two sub-arguments, and one instance
of cause-and-effect reasoning. You would describe each in some detail, explain
how it is developed, and show how it fits into the whole text.
Another way of using rhetorical
analysis is to do what Ann E. Berthoff calls "close reading" as a form
of "practical criticism": show patterns of use of prefixes, suffixes,
singulars vs. plurals, and other parts of speech (see her essay "Reclaiming
the Active Mind" in the scholarly journal College English, Vol. 61, No. 6, July
1999, 671-80), or even the patterns of "metaphor, syntax, word, line" or the
differences in the text between "saying" and "meaning"
(Berthoff 677). It even is possible to examine the rhetorical value—the
persuasion value or purpose—of the organizational structures of a text: the
frequency, order, and nature of paragraphs, subtitles, topic sentences,
You could, for example,
rhetorical analysis describing the patterns of use of four parts of speech in a text: you could, for example, describe the use of singular vs. plural
nouns and pronouns, the frequency of
adjectives, the use of active versus passive verbs, and the use of nouns versus pronouns--all with the
purpose of describing the readability (or lack of it), style, voice, and tone of the essay you have
chosen. If I were to write some kind of rhetorical analysis of our
textbook, for example, I might say something about how it makes frequent use of
words such as "you," probably to give readers the feeling of being
more involved; that it often makes use of short sentences and paragraphs,
perhaps to make text it easier; that it offers a large number of subtitles
and sub-subtitles, again, probably, to make reading easier; etc., etc.
4. ANALYSIS USING
This is one of the most difficult methods of analysis.
Deconstruction is the opposite of construction. To deconstruct a text is to take it
apart, especially by comparing each of its main elements to their opposites, in order to
show underlying truths or meanings in how the text fits into the larger reality around
For example, if you were to deconstruct
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you might discuss points (among
several others as well) about Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Christmas turkey.
First, you might point out that in reality, there are many rich people who care
nothing about Christmas or other people, and they live happy, productive lives
without suffering guilt, grouchiness, or meanness of spirit. Concerning Tiny
Tim, you might add that this figure is more myth than reality in our present
society, as most disabled people have accommodations, or conversely that it
actually is rare to find a disabled person like Tim who has such a sweet
disposition and a wonderful family—the more normal situation in a desperately
poor family is to find serious dysfunctions, either as causes or results of the
Further, you might point out, concerning the Christmas turkey given to
Tim’s family by Scrooge, that such a gift is little more than a symbol—almost
a cruel one at that—because one turkey dinner will not solve poverty; in
addition, a huge amount of meat given to a family little used to eating meat
because of its poverty may prove harmful to the family’s physical health and
may only leave them wanting more of what they cannot normally afford. You might
conclude form such a contrarian analysis that the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim
is little more than a play on our emotions or at best an emotion-laden myth that
has little to do with real needs and real actions in the world.
Deconstruction often appears (and, in a
sense, is) negative, for it is a taking apart—a tearing down, piece
by piece. It is not, in and of itself in general usage, a building process.
However, in its purest form (as used by one of its most powerful proponents, a
French thinker, Jacques Derrida), it often delivers a "rebuilt" view
of the text that shows how the text demonstrates difficult, unpleasant, or
unsettling opposites in our political and social systems of poor versus rich and
of authority versus powerlessness.
A deconstruction also may seem
quite argumentative in nature. However, it is a logical process with a logical,
analytical purpose, for it simply means to show opposites of important elements
in a text and then to develop some sense of what the text really might
mean if some or all of the opposites possibly are true. It is a way of more
deeply examining society, art, and ourselves.
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Analysis as the Central Method of Most Responses to Texts
It is possible to consider analysis as the primary way of responding to texts, and to consider most other types of responses as just specialized
forms of analysis. This way of envisioning responses to texts may
especially be useful to those of you who have instructors who like to have
students work primarily with different kinds of analysis. In other words,
if analysis is the ability to see a text from several different points of
view, then one might argue that the following types of response papers are just
different forms of analyis:
WITH A READING: A disagreement
with a text simply points out ways in which the text is wrong (and,
sometimes, why or how it is right). It is possible to consider it a
type of analysis of a text using your own point of view. You have
your own belief system, and you apply this belief system to a text,
showing how/why you disagree (and sometimes agree) with an author on several
OF A READING: An evaluation does
not agree or disagree with the contents but only judges how well or poorly
they have been presented. It discusses such elements as the quality of
arguments, style, organization, proofs, sources, etc. It is possible
to consider it a type of analysis in that it uses an evaluative
system to determine, step by step, the quality of a text. This
evaluative system is, in itself, a set of viewpoints by which you analyze
the text, step by step.
REVIEW OF A READING: A critical
review is a review of a text to help others determine whether they
also should look at the text. A critical review uses three or four
ways of responding to a text: summary, argument and/or analysis, and
evaluation. As explained above, both argument and evaluation can be
seen, in themselves, as specialized forms of analysis.
For more discussion of how analysis is such an essential function that it can be
described as the central methodology for most forms of higher communication, see
the "Theory" section below.
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and Rhetorical Analysis Using the Modes
If you are working with the rhetorical modes, an
analysis can use any or all of them. In a good analysis, you may need to
define viewpoints, types of people, or theories; you need to argue succinctly
and logically from the standpoint of each; and you must provide good descriptive
detail or exemplification of your applications of viewpoint or theory to your
However, there are two rhetorical modes in particular that are very strongly
related to analysis. One is classification. A classification
paper really is a specialized version of an analysis. It uses a clear
system specific to a particular discipline or method to classify someone or
something. To read more about this type of analysis, see "Classification"
in the "Rhetorical Modes" chapter.
Another is comparison-contrast. This already has been explained in
"Analysis by Comparison-Contrast"
in the "Basic" part of this chapter as one type of analysis. You
may find it helpful to also see how it is described in more detail in "Comparison/Contrast"
in the "Rhetorical Modes" chapter.
important element of using the modes exists as the development of a rhetorical
analysis using the modes. A general rhetorical analysis is discussed
briefly above. It is possible to use the
rhetorical modes in particular as a method to analyze a text: one simply
identifies the modes that are used in the text and, perhaps, their quality,
frequency, patterns of use, which could be used more and which less, and/or how
they may assist or hinder the content and the text's ultimate purposes.
A discussion of this method of analysis, "Analyzing
Readings Using the Modes," is at the end of the "Rhetorical
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for Students: Writing an Analysis
This part briefly discusses the theories that instructors use to teach and
kind of paper.
Bloom's Taxonomy of
Education and the Transferability of Analytic Skills
After I had been using this
textbook for several years, I began to feel I needed a chapter in it on
analysis. It took me several more years to write it, and I'm very glad I
did. Over the ten years or so that I've had it in this textbook, a
number of students have used it as an alternative assignment. However, I
have to say that writing this chapter and then gradually revising it as
students used it was difficult: this was one of the hardest chapter to write
in this textbook.
I asked myself "Why?" On the face of it, you would think
analysis is such a basic skill that it would be simple to teach.
However, I have realized during the past ten years that analysis is different
from many other types of paper. First, it is one of the most common
types of papers assigned in college--possibly even more common than an
argument paper if you consider all the different types of analyses there
are. Because of this wide use of it as an assignment, there are many
different versions of analysis, different meanings, and differing
definitions. There also are so many different disciplines that use this
word, analysis, as an assignment. The word can refer to something
as simple as a breakdown of the basic points of an essay, as diverse as a lab
report or nursing case study, or as complex as a professional recommendation
report or a study of a book using several major theories. Indeed, the
word has almost too many meanings to teach--or at least to teach easily.
The second reason that analysis is so different
from many other types of papers is that in its most common form, it usually
requires advanced or additional knowledge of a theory or theories or of some
kind of system. In other words, you usually are not given an assignment
to analyze something unless you also are given a system or theory at the same
time: for example, the elements of painting or a sculpture in an art class,
the elements of literature in a literature course, or theories of psychology,
history, sociology, etc. in classes of those types. This makes an
introductory chapter on analysis in a composition class even more difficult to
I solved my writing problem in two ways.
First, I offered a wide number of options from which readers can pick.
Second, I discovered that I could encourage readers to analyze from a type of
theory everyone knows by the time he or she reaches college: the viewpoints of
different types of people readers know. I don't expect readers to know
the viewpoints of the types of people they choose with complete accuracy, but
everyone entering college has some sense of how different people--like
religious leaders, politicians of differing beliefs, teachers, police, bakers,
butchers, etc.--perceive an issue from their own particular point of view.
This makes the ability to write an analysis available to everyone, even if
they know no particular academic or intellectual theory to apply. Thus
was I able to find a simple solution to a complex problem.
There also is a simple but profound educational
point that you should try to take with you as you move from this discussion of
analysis to other courses and to your profession. Analysis is one of the
most central methods of thinking in any kind of advanced work, writing, or
speaking, and it is transferable to almost all general activities in life and
To emphasize this point, it may be helpful to take a look at one of the most
quoted "taxonomies" developed in recent decades. A taxonomy
is a classification system in which there are steps, with each step requiring
the one before it. In 1964, B. S. Bloom classified educational
objectives. His classification reads from the bottom up, with the lowest
level being the simplest educationally and intellectually:
(from Taxonomy of Educational Objectives published by David McKay, New York)
This taxonomy or classification system shows six skills that students need to
learn. What is more, these skills occur in steps, each requiring the one
This means, for example, that a student cannot learn "Application"
until he or she has a reasonable mastery of both "Recall" and
"Comprehension." The very top skill, "Evaluation,"
requires mastery and use of all five skills below it.
"Analysis," which I have highlighted, is fourth from the bottom,
which means that three simpler thinking skills must be mastered before good
analysis can occur. Everyone who reaches college is capable of and
experienced in the first three skills ("Application,"
"Comprehension," and "Recall"). Most are capable of
analysis, but if they do not learn to master it quickly, they are unlikely to
succeed in college. Almost all courses--and certainly all degrees and
certificate programs--require the ability to analyze, at the least, a
situation and develop sound, logical, clear results. This is true
whether you are a paramedic trying to assess how to handle a victim, a medical
assistant trying to develop an intake diagnosis of a new patient, or a student
in a liberal arts class learning to interpret meanings. And if you are
attempting a four-year degree or more (and sometimes even a two-year degree),
you will have to master not only analysis but also the two educational
objectives that follow it and are highest in Bloom's taxonomy,
"Synthesis" and "Evaluation."
analysis is so important, how can you transfer what you have learned in this
chapter to future classes and work? Simply remember that whenever you
are confronted with a task involving thinking, analyze the task. Break
it down into its parts. And ask yourself, "How am I supposed to
perceive or explain the parts?" Every task of this kind--every
one--can be broken into parts and analyzed accordingly. Of course, other
kinds of thinking skills such as intuition, creativity, and freewriting (and
free speaking!) are very useful, too. However, whether you use an
outline, a visual diagram, a discussion with others, or some rough drafting of
ideas on your own, eventually you will need to break down a subject and then
think about its parts, step by step, using a theory, viewpoint(s), or
method. Whenever you have a problem at work (or in your personal life),
this is how you will eventually solve it if you solve it efficiently and
Look everywhere around you in the academic world
in which you now live, at courses, at lectures and discussions, and at
textbooks (including this one). Analyses are everywhere: someone has
taken the time to look at a problem, situation, or subject, break it into its
parts, and then decide how to talk about these parts, step by step, so that
others can understand them, too. That is, in fact, exactly what this
chapter--and this discussion of analysis--is doing now. It divides the
task of analyzing into different parts and then discusses them from several
viewpoints--of a college student just learning analysis, of a college student
taking advanced college courses, and of a college student going into the
is what you need to remember from this chapter. Break down the problem
or subject. Decide what your theory, theories, viewpoint(s), or attitude
is supposed to be. Then use it to explain the parts.
For a discussion of the value of writing about readings in composition courses, please go to
this major section's "Theory
and Pedagogy for Instructors" page.
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