- Identify the author's thesis and purpose
- Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
- Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
- Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
- Write a summary of the work
- Determine the purpose which could be
- To inform with factual material
- To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
- To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY
After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.
- I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
- A. Information about the work
- 1. Title
- 2. Author
- 3. Publication information
- 4. Statement of topic and purpose
- B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
- II. Summary or description of the work
- III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
- A. Discussion of the work's organization
- B. Discussion of the work's style
- C. Effectiveness
- D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
- E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.
Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.
Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What is the overall value of the passage?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.
Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.
Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.
Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.
E238 Text Analysis Essay Example
Text Analysis Papers
For five of the six texts you read this semester, you will be expected to hand in a corresponding text analysis paper. A text analysis paper will focus upon an area of the work that you find interesting, significant, or feel merits discussion. A text analysis paper should be fairly formal, and should genuinely attempt to shed light on one or more aspects of the work. You may discuss the significance of character, plot, setting, symbol...whatever catches your fancy. Overall, I am looking for interesting and original insights concerning the reading assignment.
An ideal text analysis will be 2 pages in length, double-spaced, and typed. Your paper will explore a problem or point of interest created by a work of literature (this includes, but is not limited to, character motivation, thematic elements, contextual significance, culture, symbol, irony, etc.). Your ideas and insights will be based on information from the pages in the text we have read so far (outside research is encouraged, but not at all necessary), calling upon specific examples to illustrate the idea or issue you are exploring. Your grade will be based on the quality and depth of your insights, and on the use of specific textual evidence as support. Avoid the obvious. Take risks--Make it interesting! This is an issue that the class may be asked to discuss at a later date.
Possible starting places for your text analysis include an author's life, politics, the social context of the work, philosophical musings, how and why the work evokes a particular feeling in you, cultural relevance, or the components of the text such as the significance of setting, narrative voice, imagery, or symbolism. Or, perhaps you will read a critical approach to the text and use it as a springboard for your own ideas (the library database Contemporary Literary Criticism Select is often a nice starting place). Or, you may wish to explore the relationship between various elements of the text (How does setting influence character?). Or, perhaps you would like to build on an idea touched on in class discussion. As we move on into the later weeks of the course, you may even wish to direct your questions toward identifying patterns between texts, and asking what the significance of these patterns might be.
The Dos and Don'ts of Text Analysis Papers:
|DO NOT: Only summarize plot||DO: Analyze the thematic and symbolic significance of events in the story|
|DO NOT: Say you didn't like a character||DO: Explain how a character was unlikable, how that effects the reading experience, and why that may or may not have been the author's intent|
|DO NOT: Generalize and provide vague reasons behind your Text Analysis||DO: Use specific examples from the text(including quotes, if significant).|
|DO NOT: Make superficial, obvious insights (poor thesis: The Bluest Eye is about the struggles of growing up.)||DO: Think deeply, and look closely into the work. Notice things that a casual reader would not.|
|DO NOT: Simply repeat ideas mentioned in class by the instructor or by other students.||DO: Build off ideas mentioned in class, adding your own thoughts and insights to the discussion.|
**Remember: Text analysis papers must be typed and submitted on time. They will be evaluated on the basis of focus, development, use of evidence, creativity, and level of insight. They will count as 30% of your final grade.