Tips for Writing a Textual Analysis Paper


>>A Textual Analysis. A textual analysis asks you to do three things. It’ll ask you to look carefully at what the writing is doing, what the effect of that writing is on a reader, and ultimate why that matters. Now, you can think of this as describing the structure of your whole paper, okay? First, you’ll describe what the writing does, then you’ll describe its effect on the reader, and then you’ll explain why that matters. You can also — and probably this is more — an easier way to do this, is this is what every paragraph should explain. So give us an example of the writing and what it’s doing, give us an explanation of what that specific example, what its effect is on a reader, and then at the end of that paragraph explain why that particular point is interesting why it matters, how it supports your thesis, okay? In more concrete terms, these things look like this. When you identify what writing is doing, you’re saying things like here, the writing paints a picture, or overall someone like Steven Johnson uses random uses random facts and stories, okay, as evidence for all the things he’s trying to prove, okay? When you’re explaining the effect of, let’s say, a description that paints a picture, you say things like this: When the writing paints a picture, it puts the audience in that particular environment, okay? Or when a writer uses random facts, that writer tends to interest some readers but also perhaps confuse other readers, okay? So this is you taking something that you didn’t write, so evidence from the story, but here you’re saying something — you’re contributing your own ideas to it, okay? So identify that the writer uses random facts, but to me, what I’m observing is that it’s interesting some readers, but it’s also confusing other readers. When you get to this part, and this part really is the hardest bit, here you’re trying to push that explanation even farther, okay? So when you say, let’s say, this about a description, it puts the audience in that environment. You might say that matters because it adds drama and immediacy to a reading experience. If I’m put in the hallway where the psychopath is down the hall with the character in the book and the character walks down the hallway and I feel I’m part of that experience in that place, I’m freaked out, right? It’s just as scary, it’s just as urgent what’s happening to that character as what’s happening to me as a reader. I hope that makes sense, okay? So you need all of these pieces together to form a strong analysis of writing or of text, okay, what the writing does, how that affects a reader, and why that matters.

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