Analyzing a Written Text - Thomas

The following set of questions is one tool you will use to analyze texts. We will use it together to analyze "In the Garden of Tabloid Delight." You may wish to employ it in the future as we analyze other texts together and as you work on your portfolio. In order to do an effective and complete analysis, consider all questions under each heading, and then write a paragraph describing the particular area of the text under consideration, giving specific examples from the text to support your answer. Rather than answer each specific question, use the questions to guide your analysis. Group your answers under the respective headings.


What, specifically, is the text about? In other words, what content does it attempt to cover and/or explain? What "type" of text is it? That is, under what discipline or field would you categorize it? What overall purpose does the text serve? For example, is it meant to answer a question, pose a problem, add to research on a given topic, introduce a new idea, summarize someone else's ideas, or some other purpose? How can you tell?


Who are the authors of the text? Is any biographical information given about them? What qualifies them to write on this subject? Are the authors "present" in the text through the use of personal pronouns ("I" or "we") or self-reference, or are they never referred to?


Where does this text appear? What, from the journal or magazine or from the article itself, can you tell about its anticipated readers? For example, are they well versed in the topic, novices...? What specific details lead you to these conclusions about the audience? What would the reader have to be interested in to read this text? What do the authors seem to expect their readers to do or think based on the argument/information presented in this text? Do you feel you are part of the intended audience of this text? Why or why not?

Topic and Position

Is the authors' opinion clear or is the information presented as "objective"? Do the authors include and/or critique other viewpoints? Are other viewpoints presented as critique of the authors' viewpoint, so that the authors can refute them, or simply presented? How do the authors position this piece? In other words, does the piece refer to current events, personal experience, and/or a review of research or discussions on the topic to show how this piece "fits into the conversation" about this topic?


How great a role do previous research and sources play? When references are used, which ones receive the most discussion? Which ones the least? Why might some references warrant more discussion than others? Are authors or studies ever referred to without formal introductions or explanations? Where? Why do you think the authors refrain from explaining or introducing these sources?


What type of proof, if any, is used to defend conclusions or main ideas in the text (e.g., references to other work, interpretations of other work, original research, personal experience, author's opinions, critical analysis, etc.)? Try to name every type of proof that is offered.

Is one type of proof used more often than another or to the exclusion of all others? If so, which one? Why might this type of proof be used more? What type of analysis is the proof subject to, if any? In other words, do the authors simply present something as a fact? Do they argue for a conclusion's validity? Do they analyze a piece of information in a certain way? Do they ever qualify their argument? What kind of proof seems to carry the most weight? What proof is the most authoritative in terms of the audience accepting it without question? The least?


Is the text broken up by sub-headings? If so, what are they? If not, construct a "backwards outline" in which you list the different parts of the text and what purpose they serve. For example:

First two paragraphs: The authors critique other people's readings of the novel.

Paragraph 3: They explains that their own reading is more accurate because it accounts for the details others leave out.


Why might information be presented in this order? Does it begin with background information or context, definition of terms, etc.? What needs of the reader are the authors attempting to meet by presenting the information in this order? Where (if anywhere) is the authors' position on the topic made clear? at the beginning? the end? only by implication? What can you conclude about why the text is organized as it is? Is the organization driven more by the content (the information that needs to be presented), by the authors' argument, by the needs of the audience, or by some combination of the three? For example, an author may use chronological organization because the order of events is important or so the reader can follow the steps of a process when trying to use the process.


Look at the pronouns in the text. If the authors refers to themselves as "we," why would they choose to do that? Do the authors ever refer to other readers or include them by using "we"? Why would they choose (or not choose) to do this? Look at a "chunk" of approximately ten sentences. What percentage (roughly) of your "chunk" could be considered technical terminology or jargon? (Technical terminology or jargon are words or uses of words that are understood in a particular way by a certain community. For instance, the word "crash" has a particular meaning for emergency room personnel that is different from common usage.) If technical terminology is at least fairly common in the text, make a list that includes up to 10 examples of technical terms or jargon. Are these technical terms ever explained? Which ones receive an explanation and which do not? Why would the authors choose to explain the ones they did? What percentage (roughly) of your "chunk" could be considered informal or conversational language? What purpose does this informal tone seem to serve in the text? In considering the authors' word choice (diction), are there any phrases or words that are particularly telling of the authors' values or underlying assumptions? (For example, if the authors use the term "relationship" without qualifying it as "monogamous" or "heterosexual," then that shows they assume relationships are monogamous and heterosexual rather than including the possibility of other types of relationships.) List and explain them. Finally, look at other aspects of style such as sentence structure/complexity, figurative language, rhetorical questions, etc.

Drawing Conclusions

Review your answers to the above questions. Use the results of your analysis to answer the following questions. As always, use plenty of specific details to support your answers.

  1. Review not only the content revealed by your analysis but also the way the piece was written. What seem to be the key values and assumptions that the authors share with their readers? Are there areas of conflicts in values and assumptions among the participants in this conversation (including the authors and readers)? Explain.
  2. How does this text compare and contrast to others on the same or similar subjects? Identify the text(s) you are comparing/contrasting. Refer specifically the areas above in explaining the key similarities and differences in purpose, topic, audience, etc.
  3. If you were trying to write for this publication, what are the most important or notable conventions that you would have to follow? In other words, what strategies would you use in order to prove yourself to be a successful writer in this field?