Advanced Power Tools for Opening Up a Text

Analysis is basically "taking something apart," in order to understanding it better by considering its component parts separately as well as together. Response is writing an answer or offering your own feedback on the text.

Directions: Use these fully-portable power tools for personal responses, reaction papers, for some analysis papers, and for college book reports.  

Of course, begin your report or response by referring in the text to the title and author of the text, as well as the main thesis or point of the text. Then it is up to you to pick out  the analysis tools that best serve your own purposes (and more importantly,  the purposes or assignments of  your audience). Some of the most common are:

1. Analyze the text as a material object. This can mean any or all of the following:

    a. Analyze the text as argument.  Who is the intended audience? What is the author trying to persuade the audience to believe or do? (What is the standpoint of the text?)  What arguments are used in the text to convince the reader?  What was the author's purpose in writing this text?  What evidence is used to support the argument of the text?  How does the author use reasoned argument, emotion, or personal character to persuade?

    b. Analyze the structure of the text. What comes first? What comes after?  How is it built? Is it a travelogue, or fantasy or a historical novel or a nonfiction work or poetry or what? Does it follow a time-line, a logical sequence, a problem-solution-resolution process, a simple list of items, a comparison and contrast analysis, a balance of forces analysis, or does it simply jump back and forth chaotically? How are the chapters and sections divided?  What sort of language and imagery does the text contain?  What style (tone) of language is used (high, medium, or low)?  How good is the spelling, grammar, vocabulary and punctuation? 

     c. Analyze the text as a product on the market. How long or short is the text (and is it too long or too short?  Why?). What is the context (social, economic, political, historical, commercial, intellectual) in which the text was produced and sold?  How attractive is the physical form and appearance of the text (cover, printing, type-faces, website, etc.)? Who is the intended consumer? Why was this text written or published, and how well does it fulfill that purpose for the majority of readers?  Is it commercial (popular), scholarly, journalistic, or some other form of writing, and does it meet expectations for this form of writing?  Did you find any errors, typos or problems within the text itself? 

     d. Analyze the text as the product of the author's mind.  Who was the author?  When and where did she/he live?  What is the author's personality, attitude and outlook on life and how does it show up in the text? What were the author's upbringing, physical circumstances, health, ethnic background and social class? What other works has this author published, and how do they relate to this text? 

     e. Analyze the text as communication.  How effective is the text in communicating the main idea? Who is the intended audience or actual audience of this text? How does the voice of the author shine through in the text?  How true are the facts in the text, or is it purely made-up fiction or fantasy?  How powerful is the writing, whether in persuading the audience or simply in entertaining (which is another form of persuasion)?  How effective is the text in accomplishing the purpose for which it was created?

     f. Analyze the text in a social context.  Whom does this text serve best?  Who in society does it put down, ignore, pretend not to notice or shove aside? Does the author speak for the dominant part of society, or was she/he writing with the voice of the majority who are not dominant?  Does the text glorify the wealthy, the famous and the proud?  Does it lift up the powerless and those who have been pressed down? Is everyone assumed in the text  to be  prosperous,  white and healthy, or straight, or young, or English-speaking?  Does this text make you feel contented and satisfied about the way things are right now in the world, or does it make you want to help make the world better?  Does it even engage the real world at all, or not?  Does it make you feel hopeless, that life is meaningless and nothing anyone can do matters, or does it suggest that people can make a difference?   

     g. Analyze the text from a psychological viewpoint. What are the possible psychological motivations of the author in writing this book, and what does it suggest about the author's mind?  What about the psychological motivations of the characters in the text?  

     h. Analyze the text from some certain specific point of view or belief. How does this text treat women--does it honor and raise them up, or disrespect and put them down? In what way?  How might this text read differently through the eyes of a gay or lesbian reader than in the view of a straight reader?  What analysis of the text would a third-world reader or a person of color give, or a senior citizen, or a blind or deaf audience?  How would you analyze this text from a faith-based perspective?    

2. Analyze the text as a work of art.    This might include the following:

    a. Clarity (How clear is the writing?  Is it easy to understand or is it confusing and mysterious, and did the author intend it that way or not?)

    b. Grandeur (How strong, educated, mature and vigorous is the language? Why?)

    c. Beauty (Is this text a pleasure to read? Or, does the author use any annoying or ugly words and expressions where they are not appropriate? Is the imagery lively or boring?) 

    d. Speed (How fat-free is it? Does the writing in the text flow along easily, making it easy to read, or does it drag along with extra words, phrases and sentences? Does the author repeat him/herself anywhere in the text? Does it keep you at the edge of your seat, or put you to sleep?  Why? )

    e. Character (If applicable, how realistic or believable are the characters in the text? How is the character of the author reflected in the text?) 

    f. Truth (How true are the facts used in the text?  How well does the author use facts? How well does he/she present sources and proofs for facts, quotes or data cited in the text?) 

    g. Gravity (Does this text pass the "who cares?" test? How much does this text MATTER? Does it change your mind or your feelings, inform you, or make you agree more with the author? Why or why not?)

(based on the Seven Ideas of Hermogenes.)

3. Analyze and respond to the text from your own personal viewpoint as an individual reader.

     a. How much does it agree or clash with your view of the world, and what you consider right and wrong? Why or why not?  How much were your views challenged? How well does it address things that you, personally, care about and consider important in the world? How much new did you learn from it?

     b.  How did you like or enjoy the text overall, and (most importantly) why or why not?  Keep in mind that some texts (news reports, textbooks, obituaries) are not written to be enjoying or entertaining. 

O.W. Engl 0310 Fall, 2005, rev. 5/09.


For educational purposes only.


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