by Alison Siggard
“This needs more analysis,” you’ve probably heard a teacher say at some point in your time as a writer. But what does that mean? Often, analysis can seem like an arbitrary thing that magically comes to some people, but not to others. And everyone seems to mean different things by analysis! However confusing the meaning behind how people use “analysis,” the thing itself is not that difficult at all.
First, we should discuss what analysis is NOT. The biggest thing that analysis is not is summary. If you simply repeating what your evidence (say, a quote) is saying in other words, you are not offering analysis. The same is true if you are simply briefly telling your reader what happens in a story, or the points the author was trying to make. While these things can be useful in certain contexts, they are not analysis. Analysis is also not necessarily your opinion. If you are saying “I believe” or “I think” (or if you are implying those things), you are not giving analysis.
What analysis is, is showing your reader your thought process and how you arrive at the claims you make and why your reader should agree with you. This means that you have to break down your evidence and explain how it supports the claims you are making in your essay.
But how do you do this? A fun way to practice comes from a good friend and former Writing Center tutor, Jenna. This exercise is a bit of geeky fun: sorting characters into Hogwarts Houses! First, start out with your claim (which becomes your topic sentence). For example, the claim that Steve Rogers (Captain America) would be Sorted into Hufflepuff House. Next, you would provide evidence. Perhaps you would site his line where he claims that he “doesn’t like bullies, whatever side they’re on.” Now, the analysis. How does this line prove that Steve belongs in Hufflepuff? Well, one of the House values is fairness and trustworthiness. Obviously, bullies are not following these values. Therefore, according to this quote, Steve is a Hufflepuff!
This is a very basic example, but it gives you the idea. If you struggle with understanding how to think about analysis, this could be a fun and helpful way to start strengthening your analytical skills.