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Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Chapter 27. ANALYSIS


Introduction   Basics   Advanced   Samples   Activities


Introduction to Analysis

Note: This chapter has FIVE web pages--be sure to also read "Basics," Advanced," and "Samples" in this chapter.  You may go to them by clicking on the links directly above, or in the right column.




This introductory page of the "Analysis" chapter offers a simple, brief summary.  For more, go to "Basics" and to "Sample Papers" by students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it more, you might prefer to read "Advanced Methods."  All five web pages of this chapter are listed at the top of this page--and also in the right-hand column.  Simply click on one of the five pages.


Definition of an Analysis

The word analysis usually implies at least two elements: (a) a breakdown of something into parts or ideas, and (b) a discussion or description of those parts using a point of view or a method. If, for example, you were asked to analyze the text of a reading, you would choose several main or important ideas from it, then discuss each in turn using some kind of special point of view, theory, or method. An analysis in its purest form differs from other types of writing in that its primary concern simply is to explain something in greater or newer detail using a unique point of view, whereas the main purposes of many kinds of papers may be to argue or to evaluate. In fact, some assignments may require you to use analysis to argue a point or to evaluate something. However, if you are required to do nothing but a simple analysis, then your primary goal is to explain something from a unique point of view.

It may be useful to think of an analysis as helping someone younger or less experienced than you order from a menu at your favorite restaurant. If you are being thoughtful, first you will choose the viewpoint of the other person: e.g., an eight-year-old’s view of the food, a vegetarian’s view of it, or perhaps the viewpoint of someone who has never eaten in this kind of restaurant. Then you might explain the basic organization of the menu or simply dive in and explain in more detail the kinds of foods you think the person might find most interesting.

One famous example of an analysis is Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: it is his analysis of a current situation, using a particular view—idealistic and hopeful—of history. Another example is an analysis of someone who has been interviewed for a job at your place of work: a written or oral description—from the viewpoint of what your place of work wants—of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. A third example is Dr. Seuss’s ABC Book, a playful analysis from a child’s point of view (and from Seuss’s own unique artistic viewpoint) of the sounds and uses of the ABCs.


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Writer's Goal or Assignment

The goal of writing an analysis is to read an argumentative essay that you can understand easily and then to analyze its parts step by step, using one or more differing viewpoints or theories.  At a beginning level, you can accomplish this by analyzing the text's ideas by using the three differing viewpoints of three very different people.   For example, if the essay argues that war is good, you might analyze the essay's contents from the viewpoints of an older conservative politician, an eighteen-year-old draft dodger, and a liberal religious leader.  At a more advanced level, usually an analysis examines a text using one to three particular theories that you have studied.  For example, you might be asked in a philosophy class to examine a text or concept using the belief systems of Plato, Aristotle, and/or St. Augustine.

If you need an online text, go to the chapter in "Section D" called "Resources & Readings."  If your instructor requests it, you may have a brief first section, after the introduction, that summarizes the text.  Then you should write the body of your analysis by analyzing several of your text's points or ideas. Depending on what your instructor expects, you may organize your paper in three or four topic sections or as several point-by-point discussions.  In the beginning of each topic section or point, first offer a sentence summarizing the overall subject of the entire section, and explain it briefly, if necessary.  Then support your analytical statements with quotations from your text/source and other details.  Your other details may include one or more of the following: personal-experience examples and stories; the experiences of others you know; and facts, details, and/or experiences from documented sources.  In your introduction and conclusion, clearly indicate the type of paper you are writing (an analysis), your overall analytical method, and interesting quotations, stories, and/or facts from the text of your reading itself.   

            If you are writing a research paper, each body section must include quotations and/or paraphrases from additional sources.  These quotations and/or paraphrases should support your own points of analysis, should be  substantial in quality and quantity, and should come from authoritative sources.  Also attach a bibliography appropriate to your field, discipline, or profession.


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Summary/Outline of the Visual Structure

Here is a typical structure or organization for an analysis.  More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics" section.

Organization of an Analysis Paper

Unique Title 


Intro Paragraph:

THE READING, MAIN THEORY OR THEORIES, and introductory details


Body Section 1:

First analysis and supporting details

Body Section 2:

Second analysis and supporting details

Body Section 3:

Third analysis and supporting details

(Optional Body Section 4:

Fourth analysis and supporting details)


Concluding Paragraph:

THE READING, MAIN THEORY OR THEORIES, and concluding details



Jones, A.J. Book One, et al.

Smith, B.K. Book Two, et al.


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Focusing Methods

A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment to concentrate on writing.  Here are several helpful, important focuses people use to develop a disagreement. 

SUBJECT: If helpful, brainstorm a list of texts you would like to use or, once you have one, a list of possible points you could analyze.  You may also want to brainstorm a list of analytical points (theories, points from theories, or people's viewpoints) that you could use.  Then choose from your list(s) carefully; if you have two lists, compare them to match points in the text with analytical viewpoints.  Have you chosen points that interest you?  Do you have enough details or examples to support what you are saying, or can you find them easily?  Can you write about them objectively?  What is the main problem and solution your paper or its sections will represent?  Will your audience find your analyses clear and interesting?   

FIRST & SECOND DRAFTS: Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the others in later drafts.

  1. Read critically: take your text apart so that you understand its contents and structure thoroughly (see "How to Read Critically"). 

  2. Free-write: write as much as you can quickly on what you know about your text or your analytical viewpoint(s).

  3. Gather details: mark or type the quotations in your text that best summarize the points which you can analyze.  Write descriptions or a list of the details you have to support your points--facts, quotations, and/or experiences.

  4. Write for your audience: visualize it.  What details does it need to take seriously your analyses?

  5. Organize: make an outline using the structure above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.

  6. Research: if required, mix research of your analyses with the above methods to develop a first draft during your research.

STYLE, TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: Develop (in early or late drafts) an academic style and tone of calm, reasoned, fair, balanced logic.  In your role as a writer, you should remain a neutral observer, simply applying the analyses in a balanced, logical, consistent manner. 

AUTHENTICITY: Be as real and meaningful as you can to your audience, your content, and yourself.  First, respect your audience: try as fully as you can to consider its own beliefs about your text.  Second, find the heart of the meaning in both your text and your analysis of it, and write about them clearly using high-quality supporting details.  Third, make your analyses your own:  develop them in a way as meaningful to you as possible.   

Also see Analyzing Readings Using the [Rhetorical] Modes.


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Section E.
Responding to Reading


Chapter 27. Analysis:







Related Chapters/Pages:

Analyzing with Rhetorical Modes

Research Writing

 Related Links in

   3. Thinking & Reading

12. Types of Papers

14. Online Readings

16. Research Writing


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.