I. The purpose of a written analysis is to take a viewpoint toward a topic and attempt to prove the validity of that viewpoint. An analysis should do the following for the reader:
A. Help the reader make better sense of something that is already familiar. You should explain and evaluate your topic. Analyses often detail the component parts of a work, topic, or concept.
B. Demonstrate your ability to formulate and support a point of view (thesis) about your topic. You will base your viewpoint on your interpretation of a book or article you have read, data you have assembled, a situation you have observed, and so on.
II. Before you begin writing your analysis, you should do the following:
A. Read the required book or article, gather the necessary data, and record your observations.
B. Ask how and why questions so that you interpret rather than describe your topic. (For example, how have historians presented Amazon cultures in the past? How have feminist historians recently interpreted Amazon cultures? Why do their interpretations differ? Why is it important to ask such comparative questions in the first place?)
III. Your analysis should be presented in essay form, and may be expected to contain some or all of the following elements:
A. A statement of the position you are taking on your topic at the beginning of the paper.
B. Use of secondary materials from other books, journals, and so on to support your position if your instructor wants you to go beyond your primary source. Use Metropolitan State's library to find secondary sources. If you are analyzing a single book or article, you should use properly documented material from that source to illustrate your ideas. See Online Writing Resources for tips on documenting your sources.
IV. Your paper may be evaluated on some or all of the following points. Writing Center consultants can help you work on any of these areas.
A. Your simple and direct statement of your central idea, or thesis. You might show your idea to your instructor before you do a lot of work on the paper.
B. Your supporting ideas.
C. Your proper use of a text or texts to illustrate all the ideas you have expressed.
D. Your ability to ask and answer how and why questions about your topic.
E. Your ability to read a text closely or to research your topic sufficiently.
A. Treating your reader as if he/she were not familiar with your topic and, therefore, including boring or unnecessary information. (For example, retelling the plot of a Greek play about Amazons which the class has already studied.)
B. Failing to ask enough how and why questions before the paper is written, making the central idea unclear or insignificant.
Describing rather than interpreting your topic. (For example, describing what scholars have written about Amazons rather than asking what these writings say about the course of human history.)