Passage Analysis

Passage Analysis

Analyzing a Passage

In writing about literature or any specific text, you will strengthen your discussion if you offer specific passages from the text as evidence. Rather than simply dropping in quotations and expecting their significance and relevance to your argument to be self-evident, you need to provide sufficient analysis of the passage. Remember that your over-riding goal of analysis writing is to demonstrate some new understanding of the text.

How to analyze a text?

1. Read or reread the text with specific questions in mind.
2. Marshal basic ideas, events and names. Depending on the complexity of book, this requires additional review of the text.
3. Think through your personal reaction to the book: identification, enjoyment, significance, application.
4. Identify and consider most important ideas (importance will depend on context of class, assignment, study guide).
5. Return to the text to locate specific evidence and passages related to the major ideas.
6. Use your knowledge following the principles of analyzing a passage described below: test, essay, research, presentation, discussion, enjoyment.

Principles of analyzing a passage

1. Offer a thesis or topic sentence indicating a basic observation or assertion about the text or passage.
2. Offer a context for the passage without offering too much summary.
3. Cite the passage (using correct format).
4. Then follow the passage with some combination of the following elements:
  • Discuss what happens in the passage and why it is significant to the work as a whole.
  • Consider what is said, particularly subtleties of the imagery and the ideas expressed.
  • Assess how it is said, considering how the word choice, the ordering of ideas, sentence structure, etc., contribute to the meaning of the passage.
  • Explain what it means, tying your analysis of the passage back to the significance of the text as a whole.
5. Repeat the process of context, quotation and analysis with additional support for your thesis or topic sentence.

Source: Beth Martin Birky, English Department, Goshen College

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