Shmoop Writing Guide

Analysis Essay: Five Key Strategies
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Analysis Essay: Five Key Strategies

Curious about how to actually do well on an analysis essay? Read on, McDuff.

1 Process Analysis: Sometime in your distant history, somebody helped you master the Macarena by showing you each individual move that added up to one majestically humiliating dance at your cousin's wedding. The process analysis essay strategy works the same way—to use it, break one continuous action down into stages for analysis. It’s almost like a sophisticated version of a how-to essay, where a complicated event is made simple by explaining each of its stages. Egg, larva, pupa, adult, etc.

2 Rhetorical Analysis: With better rhetorical analysis skills, you wouldn’t have been swindled into trading your car for that small elephant with the rhinestone-studded saddle. Rhetorical analysis examines how a persuasive text gets its power, considering how specific elements like audience; context; and ethical, emotional, and logical appeals work to sway their audience.

3 Critical Analysis: Critical analysis is like the work of an archaeologist, a way to discover buried meanings, purposes, tactics, and assumptions. For example, you might watch James Cameron’s Avatar and examine several characters, scenes, symbols, or plot points. (Wait – there was a plot? We were too dazzled by the stunning visuals.) Using critical analysis, you could uncover another layer of meaning beneath the film's surface—a metaphorical warning about the exploitation of natural resources. Or an exploitation of the movie Ferngully

4 Visual Analysis: Ever heard someone say they’re a "visual person?” Usually they’re not just talking about their capability of sight. In our visually dominated societies, images can be complex and powerful arguments. Use visual analysis to examine components like color, positioning, space, composition, and the emotional associations of the images.

5 Language Analysis: “The tree-hugging hippies” and “ecological protesters” may describe the same group of people, but the two phrases have wildly different connotations. Ideas have to be put into words, and what words you use and the order you put them in can make a world of difference. In a language analysis, you will consider the connotations and denotations of a text's diction as well as how the words are arranged. This type of analysis helps you determine how a text achieves its meaning and power. You know, other it than being handed the magical scepter of Okbar.

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