Knowing what an analysis is and being able to write one can mean a difference between passing or failing a course. And here’s why:
- Your professor may ask you to write an analysis without even mentioning that it is, in fact, an analysis
- Any time you discuss a work of fiction or even a film or a work of art, you’re doing an analysis
- Being able to do it may count for as much as 80% of your grade, especially in a Humanities course such as Literature, Art, or Sociology
What You Need to Know How to Do
In order to write an effective analysis that will get you the grade you desire, you need to get the all-important skill of Perceiving Structure.
But don’t worry if it sounds too complex or unfamiliar. All this really means is that you should be able to look at something and see what parts it consists of. In fact, the word “Analysis” literally means “The act of breaking up a whole into parts.”
So, in short, you need to be able to see individual parts in a work of art or any kind of a complex object.
How Do You Do That?
Let’s do an example right away. Look at this picture:
Set a Goal for Your Analysis
Let’s say that we need 300 words written about this picture. Very good, then. This is our goal.
What would be our steps?
Step 1: Identify Categories of Elements
Category 1: Human Elements
Category 2: Non-Human Elements – Plants and Soil
Step 2: Get Basic Facts about the Elements:
- How many hands? –Nine Pairs
- What colors? –Varied: from lighter to darker
- What can we say about the people? –They are kids
- Anything else?
- All hands are together, forming an inner circle
- Some are younger, some are a bit older
It looks like we got pretty much everything.
- What kind of plants: -Young herbs that look fragile
- Where are the herbs? –In the children’s hands
- What else is in the picture? –Earth
Looks like we got everything here, as well.
Step 3: Find Relationships Between Elements
- Children’s hands hold the earth, and the earth holds the young plants.
- The hands form a circle, creating a unifying effect.
- The union of all the hands conveys power.
- What do children usually signify? –Hope; Future.
- What do young plants signify? –Environment; Ecology; Future of Our Planet
- What can the earth signify? –The Earth (planet)
So, this whole picture may mean something like: “The hope for the green and ecological future is in the hands of the children all over the world.”
We arrived at this by considering all the elements separately, and then studying their relationship.
Step 4: Write the Thesis Statement
“The meaning of this picture can be interpreted the following way: “The hope for the green and ecological future is in the hands of the children all over the world.” Two kinds of elements, the human and the non-human, as well as their relationship with each other, help the author of the picture to convey the idea.”
Step 5: Write the Body of Your Essay
Well, after having taken the picture apart element by element, we have enough material to write up the body. Into which three sections are we going to divide it? Into the familiar three:
- Human Elements
- Non-Human Elements
- The Relationship between the Human and the Non-Human Elements
Let’s Do It (We’ll write a paragraph per section, starting with the thesis statement)
The meaning of this picture can be interpreted the following way: “The hope for the green and ecological future is in the hands of the children all over the world.” Two kinds of elements, the human and the non-human, as well as their relationship with each other, help the author of the picture to convey the idea.
The author of this picture chose children and, more specifically, children’s hands in order to convey his point. The observer can tell that these are children’s hands. And, in many, if not all human cultures children evoke the feelings of hope, new beginnings, and the future. People very often say, “Children are our future.” Furthermore, the children are of different ethnic backgrounds. This is evident from their skin colors, which vary from lighter to darker. This detail shows that the author probably meant children all over the world.
The non-human elements of the picture are the plants and the soil. The plants are very young – they are just sprouts, and that signifies the fragility of life. The soil in which they grow, and the picture shows some nice chunks of it, evokes the image of our planet Earth.
Finally, and most importantly, the relationship between these elements helps the author convey his message, which is something along the lines of the following: “The future of our planet and its ecology is in the hands of children all over the world.” This idea can be arrived at by careful examination. First, the arrangement of the children’s hands is in circle, which signifies the power of unity. This is the power that the children have when observed as a whole. The future depends on their cooperation. Second, it is reasonable to assume that these children are in the process of planting. And this is their joint effort. Third, the placement of the sprouts, which rest inside the children’s hands, is a strong way to suggest that the future of the ecology is literally “in their hands.”
In sum, the author chose the images of children and young plants to say that the future of our planet depends on the joint efforts of children all over the world.
Your Takeaway Points
- An analysis is the process of taking the whole apart element by element
- When your professor asks you to write about a painting, a poem, or a piece of music, he really asks you to write an analysis
- In order to do it, identify the separate parts and study their relationship
- The goal is to arrive at the meaning the author is trying to convey
Hope this helps,