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Thinking & Textual Analysis


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 A writer who is seeking the most reasonable and meaningful analysis of a text will exhibit an ability to focus on an important point raised by textual meaning so that the analytic writer may (a) identify or formulate criteria for judging contextual evidence related to how the parts of a text (from anywhere within it) offer possible reasons to question or make meaning from the textual evidence and (b) identify or formulate criteria for evaluating contextual evidence related to how the parts of the text (from anywhere within it) offer possible reasons to question or make meaning from the textual evidence.

Different teachers suggest different methods or foci for the analysis of texts. When taking a first year writing class, commonly required in the majority of schools, pay attention to the way the teacher categorizes analytical writing to discover how your school wants you to write analysis or other compositions. Of course, within a writing program at any one university, there will be differences between the pedagogy of the writing teachers. If this creates confusion, address your questions to the professor or the writing program director. You are the student and you are entitled to an answer that resolves your difficulties.

While you may have learned this before, consider all of these points when reading a text, with consideration of what the text represents (thus some questions will be applicable and some will not):

ü What does the author want me to learn? What is the author teaching?

ü Where is the learning revealed best within the text?

ü What is the author's purpose as revealed by the text?

ü What are the claims being made by the author?

ü What does an image (with or without text) depict?

ü What complexities are revealed in an advertisement?

ü For an image or advertisement, what is the goal or purpose?

ü How can the image or advertisement be interpreted?

ü Does the author make assumptions about the subject? Are the assumptions questionable or arguable to be false?

ü What evidence does the author cite to support a claim? Is the evidence data, expert opinion, or unsupported lay opinion?

ü Does the evidence offered include interviews? If so, assess credibility of interviewees and value of their offered evidence

ü What are the author's underlying values concerning how one might feel ethically, morally, emotionally, or logically?

ü Are these values important to the reader or intended audience?

ü Are there values implied in the underlying evidence of interviews?

ü Do you agree with the author's claims? Are you convinced? Does the text provide contrary or contradictory evidence?

ü Assessing the credibility of interviewee statements or claims, are you convinced?

ü What quotable lines stand out and why - how are the related to other lines?

ü Are there general themes or ideas in common in the text?

ü Which quotes would you use to (1) analyze the author's claims and (2) to support your argued thesis?

ü What events or scenes are more memorable than others?

ü Is there an event, scene, or sentence with unusual impact?

ü Is there something that illustrates an important issue or theme?

Study how writers articulate and defend claims, how they state theses and cite evidence. Writers make rhetorical choices that have implications for how readers view them and the topic. Artists make similar choices and apply them to sculpture, the brush, the pencil, the pastel or the pen. Learning how to make these choices is an important element to becoming a good writer. Writers of some fiction create their characters, plot, dialogue, and use certain writing devices for the purpose of teaching.

Keep the text author’s purpose and apparent or ostensible lessons in mind while studying the relationships between textual parts:

Analyze arguments or claims that appear in the text by averment, inference or implication
Divide the text into its essential parts
Examine the parts and study the relationship between the parts
Consider claims and arguments of the author and the supporting evidence
Is the supporting evidence credible or mere conjecture
Identify conclusions that seem to be supported by the arguments and if they are not supported, study why
Identify reasoning or examples reflecting the author’s argument and the meaning stated, inferred and implied by the text
Identify inferred or implied reasoning and whether or not the implications or inferences are rational and reasonable
Identify and handle irrelevant textual content – why and how is it irrelevant? Why was it included by the author?
Is it a red herring or some other Aristotelian appeal ?
Study the structure of the author’s argument/claim to determine if it is disorganized – in personal issues, beware of reflective moments, flashbacks, and other devices that do not indicate disorganization
Briefly summarize the facts necessary for analysis for purposes of introducing the text in the first paragraph and summary or paraphrasing for use in analysis

Attribute inferred or implied assumptions so that the analytic writer may address questionable, arguable or false assumptions with reasoned argument and/or analysis based upon textual evidence. Consider and reflect in the writing one’s reasoning from premises, evidence and argument, assumptions, positions, with which the analytic writer disagrees or about which the writer may doubt -- without letting the disagreement or doubt interfere with the organized analysis and reasoning. Proceed in an organized manner appropriate to the text purpose, e.g.,

Follow problem solving and organization steps that result in a cogent, thoughtful and well supported writing

Monitor one's own thinking to avoid excessive summary, generalizing, tangents, and topical commentary unrelated to specific analysis

Employ a reasonable critical thinking process that focuses the analytic writer’s thinking process into an organized and well structured, concise, specific and thoughtful structure.