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  Home > InfoWrite > Modes of Exposition > Analysis
 

InfoTrac College Edition

Analysis

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 allow.
Objective analysis rests on factual research rather than personal impressions:
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 prewriting strategies.
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   television commercials
a new car   sexism on campus   a local radio/TV personality
cults   President's popularity   current campus controversy
a new band   campus jobs   career opportunities in your field
gender differences   UN peace missions   hate speech codes
gun laws   foreign policy   the cyberspace economy
shopping malls   chat rooms   your best or worst job

GETTING STARTED

Developing an effective analysis depends on critical thinking.

EXPLORE A TOPIC BY POSING QUESTIONS

TOPIC:   Shopping Malls
QUESTIONS:   What do malls represent?
Are they artificial environments?
Are malls the new town squares?
Can malls really serve a social purpose?
TOPIC:   Off-campus Housing
QUESTIONS:   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.

TOPIC:   Shopping Malls
NARROWED TOPIC:   what shopping malls represent to young teens
WORKING THESIS:   Shopping malls, like traditional town squares, serve
as gathering and meeting places for young teens.
TOPIC:   Off-campus Housing
NARROWED TOPIC:   location of off-campus housing
WORKING THESIS:   Although off-campus student housing is both safe
and affordable, its distance from the university
makes commuting troublesome and time-consuming.
LIST NEEDED INFORMATION
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 conduct research.
* 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 ANALYSIS
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 study:

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.
ANALYSIS CHECKLIST

BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR PAPER, REVIEW THESE POINTS.

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 comments?

8. Do you qualify your evaluations?

9. Have you used peer review?


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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.