Analysis: the heart of your essay

By now, you’ll be well-practised in putting together a structured paragraph. You know how it goes: topic sentence, explanation of the point, evidence and examples, analysis. Link on to next para. And so on.

All the parts of a paragraph are important: without a good topic sentence, your marker might not ‘get’ the main point of your paragraph; without a clear explanation, it’ll be hard for him or her to follow along; without evidence, he or she isn’t going to be convinced. Getting these bits right are crucial if you want to pass your essay.

If you want to ace it, though, you need to also master the ‘analysis’ section. This is the part of the paragraph after your evidence, in which you decode, unpick, evaluate, compare and contrast it, and explain what it means in relation to your argument. It’s where you show that you’ve researched and carefully considered all the information before reaching your own conclusion; it’s where you acknowledge that there are two sides to every argument.

While a killer analysis gets you the top grades, it’s the hardest part of your essay to write: it’s hard to know what to say, how to sound, and what to consider. Here are a few questions that might help you analyse the two main types of evidence that you’ll use in your BA essays: quotations (direct or paraphrased) and examples from texts or real life.

QUOTATIONS

  1. In plain English, what is he/she actually saying? What’s his/her main point?
  2. What does he/she not say in this quote? What parts of the issue does he/she ignore/overlook?
  3. What might have influenced him/her to say this (think of how the things we say reflect the things we feel, which reflect the things we’ve been told or experience)?
  4. What does his/her quote therefore suggest about his/her beliefs/bias/agenda?
  5. How might this statement affect those who hear/read it? What might be the wider implications of him/her having said it?
  6. What deeper message might he/she be trying to convey in this quote?
  7. Who else has said something similar about this issue? What might this suggest?
  8. Who has said something totally different about this? Where might the truth really lie?

EXAMPLES 

  1. Whose perspective does this example support? How and why does it do this?
  2. What other examples are there that support this perspective? How are they similar/different to this one?
  3. Whose perspective does this example challenge? How and why does it do this?
  4. What deeper issue or idea does this example represent?
  5. What issues or ideas are not represented by this example?
  6. What effect might this example, and ones like it, have on those who read/see it? How might this, in turn, affect the wider world?
  7. Why is this the most convincing example for the point that you’re making?
  8. If you could imagine a better example, what would it be? Why have you not found this example?
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