Throughout your academic studies, you will naturally be required to analyze many texts. Analyzing text yourself can be daunting at times, but it becomes easier once you know how to do it. Before analyzing any text, you should study it thoroughly. After that, adjust the analysis to match the fiction or nonfiction script. Finally, you can write the analysis if necessary.
Method 1 of 4: Studying the Text
Step 1. Write down the essential questions or learning objectives for the text
In most cases, this will be provided by your teacher/lecturer. If not, consider why you are reading the text, what do you want to take away from it, and how will you use it? As you read, try to answer important questions or goals.
Include answers to these questions or objectives in notes about the text
Step 2. Read the text
It can be difficult to analyze text that you haven't read. Read the text slowly and in detail. As you read, look for content that answers your important question or goal. You may need to read the text several times to really understand it.
While you should read the text at least twice, this may be more difficult for longer texts. If this is the case, you can reread only the difficult sections of the text
Step 3. Annotate the text using Highlighter and write notes in the margins
Annotating means marking up text to help you understand it. Use Highlighters of different colors to highlight important parts of the text. Alternatively, you can underline the section. Write notes, ideas, and brief summaries in the margins of the text.
- For example, use a yellow highlighter to show the main idea and an orange highlighter to highlight supporting details.
- For fictional scripts, use different colored Highlighters for the sections that relate to each of the main characters.
Step 4. Take notes as you read
Include answers to your essential questions or goals, the ideas the text sparks in your mind, and important information from within the text. Make sure you write down the main idea and supporting details in the text.
- For fiction, write down the names and basic information about the characters. In addition, pay attention to the symbolism and use of literary devices.
- For nonfiction texts, list important facts, figures, methods, and dates.
Step 5. Summarize each section of the text
Once you understand the structure of the text, writing a brief summary will help you better understand what the author meant. If the text consists of several sections, make a summary of the sections. Otherwise, you can create a summary of each paragraph or of every multiple-paragraph.
For example, make a summary of each chapter of a novel. Or in short articles, summarize each paragraph
Step 6. Write your response to the text
How you feel about the text can help to analyze it. However, don't make the entire analysis based solely on your own thoughts. Consider the response as well as the entire analysis. Ask yourself the following questions to help shape your response:
- What do I take from the script?
- How do I feel about this topic?
- Is this text entertaining or informative?
- What do I do with this information now?
- How is this text applied in real life?
Step 7. Create an “inverted” outline of the text
The reverse outline is created after the text is there and aims to develop the outline of the text. This outline will help you examine the structure of the text.
- For fiction scripts, outline the plot of the story and the important details and literary devices.
- For nonfiction, focus on the main points, evidence, and supporting details.
Step 8. Read another text analysis
Looking for another analysis of the text will help provide context for your initial thoughts and feelings. You don't have to agree with everything you read, nor do you have to rely on someone else's analysis for your work. However, reports, essays, and reviews from other experts can help you have a better initial understanding of the text.
This analysis is easy to find through a quick search on the internet. Just type in the name of the text followed by the word “analysis”
Method 2 of 4: Researching Fiction Scripts
Step 1. Review the context of the manuscript, such as when it was written
By knowing the background of the manuscript and its author, you will understand the influence on the manuscript. To understand the context of the text, answer the following questions:
- When was the script written?
- What is the historical background of the work?
- What is the author's background?
- What genre does the author work in?
- Who were the author's contemporaries?
- How does this text take its place in the author's work as a whole?
- Did the author share the inspiration for the manuscript?
- What kind of society does the author come from?
- How did the times when the text was written shape the meaning of the text?
Step 2. Identify the theme of the manuscript
Theme includes the subject and the author's thoughts on the subject. You can think of themes as “messages from the script”. What is the author trying to convey?
- A short story can have one to two themes, while a novel can have several themes. If the manuscript has several themes, they are usually related.
- For example, the themes of a science fiction novel are “technology is dangerous” and “cooperation can defeat tyranny”.
Step 3. Determine the main idea of the manuscript
The main idea usually relates to the theme of the script. To identify the main idea, examine the characters, the relationships between the characters, their actions, and the problems that arise in the text.
- Pay attention to the characters' words, actions, and thoughts. Consider what they say about the character, as well as possible themes.
- Pay attention to symbolism, metaphor, and the use of other literary devices.
Step 4. Identify the parts of the text that support the main idea
Separate direct quotations made by the author to illustrate the point. For longer manuscripts, you may find some. It's a good idea to write as much as you can, especially if you are assigned an essay or are going to be tested on the material.
You can use this quote to support a personal claim about the manuscript, if you are writing an analytical essay
Step 5. Check the author's style
The author's style can include choice of words, phrases, and syntax, which is the arrangement of words in a sentence. Although style of language is sometimes just a matter of purely aesthetic quality, style can also contribute to the meaning of the text.
- For example, Edgar Allan Poe's style will enhance the effect of poetry and stories in a deliberate way. If you are analyzing one of his manuscripts, consider his individual style of language.
- As another example, Mark Twain uses dialect in his novel Pudd'nhead Wilson to show the difference between slave owners and slaves in the interior of South America. Twain uses word choice and syntax to show how language can be used to create divisions in society and control subsections of the population.
Step 6. Consider the author's “talking” tone
The tone of the author is his attitude or feeling towards the subject. Through language choice, sentence structure, and use of language tools, authors can create different tones that lead you as the reader to feel a certain way about the subject.
- Common tones include: sad, serious, tense, funny, and sarcastic.
- Tone can indicate what is going on in the story as well as a larger theme than that. For example, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz changes its tone when Dorothy leaves Kansas for Oz. This change can be seen in the film through the difference in color, but in the novel, this change is reflected in the change in tone.
Method 3 of 4: Evaluating Nonfiction Scripts
Step 1. Determine the author's goal
Why did the author make this work? By knowing this purpose, you can better understand the meaning of the text. To set goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the topics and fields?
- What did the script achieve?
- What does the author make you think, believe, or feel?
- Are the ideas in the manuscript new or borrowed from others?
Step 2. Research the author's use of language, including jargon
The author's choice of words, especially when it comes to jargon, can give you a clearer perspective on the text. You can define the intended audience as well as the tone of the text.
- The use of jargon and technical language suggests the author is creating a script for people in the field. Manuscripts may contain instructions or present research ideas. If you're unsure of the author's target audience, technical terms and jargon can be good indicators.
- Tone indicates the “ambience” of a text. For example, researchers typically use a formal and professional tone to present their research findings, while writers may use an informal and casual tone when writing magazine articles.
Step 3. Identify the author's argument
Consider the author's statements as well as any claims made in the manuscript. In short works, the entire argument may be presented in clear statements, but in longer texts, there may be multiple claims.
- If you have trouble finding the author's argument, review the evidence presented in the manuscript. What ideas are supported by the evidence? This will help you find the arguments.
- For example, the statement could go something like this: “Based on data and case studies, voters are more likely to vote for candidates they know. This supports the idea of rational-choice theory." The argument here supports rational-choice theory.
Step 4. Examine the evidence used by the author to support the argument
Evaluate the type of evidence used, such as data, facts, or anecdotes. Then, determine whether the evidence fully and accurately supports the argument, or whether the evidence is weak.
- For example, evidence that includes research and statistical data will provide a lot of support for an argument, but anecdotal evidence will produce a weak argument.
- You can write the proof in your own words, but this is not mandatory.
Step 5. Separate facts from opinions in nonfiction texts
Even if the script is nonfiction, the author will likely include his or her own point of view. Both factual information and author ideas are important to analyze, but you should know the difference between the two. Read with attention to the author's use of rhetorical or persuasive techniques.
- For example, you can highlight facts and opinions using different Highlighter colors. Alternatively, create a chart with facts on one side and opinions on the other.
- For example, an author might state, “According to a survey, 79% of people read ballots to find a name they know. Of course, ballots are not designed to attract voters." The first sentence is a fact, while the second sentence is an opinion.
Step 6. Determine if the script can achieve its goals
Did the writer achieve what he planned? Based on your analysis, decide whether the script is effective, and why it is considered effective or why it is not.
For example, you may find that a paper on rational choice theory contains little statistics, but a lot of anecdotal evidence. This may lead you to doubt the author's argument, which means the author didn't achieve the goal
Method 4 of 4: Writing and Analyzing Paragraphs
Step 1. Create a topic sentence that explains your view of the text
What have you concluded about the text? What ideas will your chosen text support? Use this information to create a topic sentence.
- Here's an example: "In the short story Quicksand, the author uses the phrase 'sands' as a metaphor for 'living with a chronic illness'."
- Here's another example: "In Frankenstein's novel, Shelley points to the Romantic Age by mentioning that nature has restorative powers."
Step 2. Provide supporting sentences by explaining the context
You should include direct quotes from within the text to support your perspective. It's a good idea to propose a citation explaining how the quote is presented in the text and what it means.
You might write, “At the beginning of the story, the main character is awake, afraid of the day ahead. He knew he had to get out of bed, but his illness prevented him from getting up."
Step 3. Prepare supporting text with indented paragraphs
These indented paragraphs will contain direct quotes from the text that illustrate your perspective on the text. This is evidence to show that your opinion about the meaning of the text is correct.
- For example, "To show the main character's struggles, the author says, 'I sank back into bed, feeling as though the mattress was sucking me further and further down.'"
- As another example, "In Frankenstein, Victor escapes from his troubles by frequently going out into the open. After spending two days in nature, Victor says, 'Gradually, the serene and heavenly scenery restored me…" (Shelley 47).
Step 4. Explain how the supporting text reinforces your idea
Describe what happens in the text and what it means in the context of the entire text. You can also discuss what literary devices are used, such as symbolism or metaphor. Similarly, you can explain how the author's style, diction, and syntax affect the meaning of the text.
You might write, “In this section, the author constructs an illness metaphor that acts like quicksand by showing the main character struggling to get out of bed. Even though he was trying to get up, the main character felt as if he was sinking further into the bed. Furthermore, the author uses a first-person point of view to help the reader understand the main character's thoughts and feelings about his illness."
- Study guides, such as Cliff's Notes, can help you analyze long texts that are more difficult to reread.
- Working with friends or in groups can help you understand a text better because you can see it from a different perspective. However, make sure any written analysis made is self-made, not group.