WHAT IS ANALYSIS?
Analysis seeks to move beyond describing or narrating events
and evaluating or measuring their significance. A book review
not only summarizes a new book but comments on its contents,
style, and accuracy. A stock broker analyzing a company not
only reports on obvious facts, but examines whether it would
make a sound investment.
A doctor's diagnosis often consists of analysis of observations
and test results.
Analysis often seeks to answer questions. Has recycling lowered
the amount of waste going into landfills? Has the university's
new financial aid program helped disadvantaged students?
Does Affirmative Action help poor minorities obtain educational
and job opportunities?
SUBJECTIVE AND OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS
Subjective analysis is based on personal impressions, values,
and tastes. A movie critic will review a new film and base
his/her opinion on personal likes and dislikes. A studio accountant,
however, would use objective analysis to determine at what
point the film will make a profit.
Subjective analysis, even when based on personal opinion,
requires proof. Simply stating a point of view is not analysis
-- it must be based on evidence readers can examine for themselves:
Tim Rollins' new film Breaking Point is a boring
disappointment. Unlike his first two films, this movie seems
directionless. The film opens with a gripping car chase. But
once the ex-con hero eludes his former gang, the plot breaks
down. For an hour and a half we are treated to rambling speeches
about redemption, a few scenes in a homeless shelter, and
a theatrical courtroom confrontation which no judge would
Objective analysis rests on factual research rather than personal
Elco Software is no longer the hot investment that exploded
onto the scene two years ago. Elco distinguished itself from
other newcomers by winning contracts with NBC, CNN, and ABC.
But none of these lucrative contracts were renewed after the
first year. Elco overexpanded and leased expensive midtown
Manhattan office space it does not need. Monthly revenues
have dropped from $11.5 million to just over two million in
less than a year. The CEO and chief designer have both resigned.
SELECTING TOPICS FOR ANALYSIS ESSAYS
If your instructor does not assign a topic, you might consider
one of the following items.
Select a topic, then explore its possibilities using one or more
Remember that your goal is not to simply describe a subject,
but analyze and evaluate its significance or quality:
|a recent film
||talk show guests
||a political candidate's chances
|a new diet
||a fashion trend
||the way women are depicted in the media
|a college team
||campus drug use
|a new car
||sexism on campus
||a local radio/TV personality
||current campus controversy
|a new band
||career opportunities in your field
||UN peace missions
||hate speech codes
||the cyberspace economy
||your best or worst job
Developing an effective analysis depends on critical thinking.
EXPLORE A TOPIC BY POSING QUESTIONS
||What do malls represent?
Are they artificial environments?
Are malls the new town squares?
Can malls really serve a social purpose?
||How many units are available?
What are the rents?
How far are rental units from campus?
How secure are these units?
Are apartments located on bus lines?
What deposits are available?
What problems have students had?
Asking questions can identify needed information. Questions
may provoke you to move beyond superficial observations and
prompt you to look deeper into your subject. It can identify
issues that require research.
NARROW THE SCOPE OF YOUR ANALYSIS
Because an analysis paper will likely describe, then
evaluate and comment on the subject, the more narrow the topic,
the more effective your paper will be.
LIST NEEDED INFORMATION
||what shopping malls represent to young teens
||Shopping malls, like traditional town squares, serve
as gathering and meeting places for young teens.
||location of off-campus housing
||Although off-campus student housing is both safe
and affordable, its distance from the university
makes commuting troublesome and time-consuming.
Examining your subject may lead you to list information
needed to make evaluations. You may have to observe your subject
more closely, consider different viewpoints, or
* If you realize that a full analysis requires extensive research,
you may wish
to narrow your topic or select a new subject.
STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING DESCRIPTION
ESTABLISH A STRONG THESIS THAT EXPRESSES A JUDGMENT
Analysis moves beyond narration and description to evaluate
a subject. Make sure that your analytical essay does not simply
provide details about a subject, but states an opinion based
on facts and observation.
EXPLAIN METHODS OF EVALUATION
Readers are more likely to accept your position if you explain
how you conducted your analysis. List any outside sources you
have used. Justify your method of observation.
Even informal references to your research method can give your
paper greater authority:
Off-campus housing is affordable. A study of apartment
listings in two local papers reveals an abundance of large
three bedroom flats that cost only a hundred dollars a month
more than current dorm fees.
ADDRESS ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINTS
Readers may expect you to comment on other opinions, especially
in controversial topics.
It may be essential to recognize that other points of view exist.
You may have to defend your evaluation.
CLEARLY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE
In some assignments, you may blend both objective
and subjective evaluations. In many professional situations
you will be expected to follow standard methods to analyze a
subject but may be free to add your own opinion:
A review of Courtland's financial records reveals
a ten percent loss in monthly revenues and a ten percent increase
in expenses. This trend is expected to continue until street
repairs are completed in June.
In my opinion, however, Courtland's credit should
be extended. Discussions with management and key employees
reveals a strong desire to work with us and accept advice
about lowering costs.
QUALIFY YOUR ANALYSIS
If you are writing about a complex subject or an issue subject
to change, it can useful to explain the limitations of your
Although currently affordable, off-campus housing
may become scarce if local industrial expansion continues
to draw new workers to the city.
I strongly recommend investing in McCarg Productions. However,
no financial analysis can assure future performance. Technological
developments, market changes, and price cutting by well-funded
competitors could radically affect McCarg's profitability.
BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR PAPER, REVIEW
1. Is your topic clearly limited?
2. Is your method of analysis appropriate for the assignment,
your readers, your professional role?
3. Is your analysis based on careful observations and evidence
-- or first impressions?
4. Have you examined your paper for bias or inaccuracy?
5. Do you avoid lapses in critical thinking?
6. Do you explain your method of analysis?
7. Do you distinguish between objective and subjective
8. Do you qualify your evaluations?
9. Have you used peer review?
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Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark