Research Paper Analysis: How to Analyze a Research Article + Example

Why might you need to analyze research? First of all, when you analyze a research article, you begin to understand your assigned reading better. It is also the first step toward learning how to write your own research articles and literature reviews. However, if you have never written a research paper before, it may be difficult for you to analyze one. After all, you may not know what criteria to use to evaluate it. But don’t panic! We will help you figure it out!

In this article, our team has explained how to analyze research papers quickly and effectively. At the end, you will also find a research analysis paper example to see how everything works in practice.

  • 🔤 Research Analysis Definition

📊 How to Analyze a Research Article

✍️ how to write a research analysis.

  • 📝 Analysis Example
  • 🔎 More Examples

🔗 References

🔤 research paper analysis: what is it.

A research paper analysis is an academic writing assignment in which you analyze a scholarly article’s methodology, data, and findings. In essence, “to analyze” means to break something down into components and assess each of them individually and in relation to each other. The goal of an analysis is to gain a deeper understanding of a subject. So, when you analyze a research article, you dissect it into elements like data sources , research methods, and results and evaluate how they contribute to the study’s strengths and weaknesses.

📋 Research Analysis Format

A research analysis paper has a pretty straightforward structure. Check it out below!

Research articles usually include the following sections: introduction, methods, results, and discussion. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss how to analyze a scientific article with a focus on each of its parts.

This image shows the main sections of a research article.

How to Analyze a Research Paper: Purpose

The purpose of the study is usually outlined in the introductory section of the article. Analyzing the research paper’s objectives is critical to establish the context for the rest of your analysis.

When analyzing the research aim, you should evaluate whether it was justified for the researchers to conduct the study. In other words, you should assess whether their research question was significant and whether it arose from existing literature on the topic.

Here are some questions that may help you analyze a research paper’s purpose:

  • Why was the research carried out?
  • What gaps does it try to fill, or what controversies to settle?
  • How does the study contribute to its field?
  • Do you agree with the author’s justification for approaching this particular question in this way?

How to Analyze a Paper: Methods

When analyzing the methodology section , you should indicate the study’s research design (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed) and methods used (for example, experiment, case study, correlational research, survey, etc.). After that, you should assess whether these methods suit the research purpose. In other words, do the chosen methods allow scholars to answer their research questions within the scope of their study?

For example, if scholars wanted to study US students’ average satisfaction with their higher education experience, they could conduct a quantitative survey . However, if they wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing US students’ satisfaction with higher education, qualitative interviews would be more appropriate.

When analyzing methods, you should also look at the research sample . Did the scholars use randomization to select study participants? Was the sample big enough for the results to be generalizable to a larger population?

You can also answer the following questions in your methodology analysis:

  • Is the methodology valid? In other words, did the researchers use methods that accurately measure the variables of interest?
  • Is the research methodology reliable? A research method is reliable if it can produce stable and consistent results under the same circumstances.
  • Is the study biased in any way?
  • What are the limitations of the chosen methodology?

How to Analyze Research Articles’ Results

You should start the analysis of the article results by carefully reading the tables, figures, and text. Check whether the findings correspond to the initial research purpose. See whether the results answered the author’s research questions or supported the hypotheses stated in the introduction.

To analyze the results section effectively, answer the following questions:

  • What are the major findings of the study?
  • Did the author present the results clearly and unambiguously?
  • Are the findings statistically significant ?
  • Does the author provide sufficient information on the validity and reliability of the results?
  • Have you noticed any trends or patterns in the data that the author did not mention?

How to Analyze Research: Discussion

Finally, you should analyze the authors’ interpretation of results and its connection with research objectives. Examine what conclusions the authors drew from their study and whether these conclusions answer the original question.

You should also pay attention to how the authors used findings to support their conclusions. For example, you can reflect on why their findings support that particular inference and not another one. Moreover, more than one conclusion can sometimes be made based on the same set of results. If that’s the case with your article, you should analyze whether the authors addressed other interpretations of their findings .

Here are some useful questions you can use to analyze the discussion section:

  • What findings did the authors use to support their conclusions?
  • How do the researchers’ conclusions compare to other studies’ findings?
  • How does this study contribute to its field?
  • What future research directions do the authors suggest?
  • What additional insights can you share regarding this article? For example, do you agree with the results? What other questions could the researchers have answered?

This image shows how to analyze a research article.

Now, you know how to analyze an article that presents research findings. However, it’s just a part of the work you have to do to complete your paper. So, it’s time to learn how to write research analysis! Check out the steps below!

1. Introduce the Article

As with most academic assignments, you should start your research article analysis with an introduction. Here’s what it should include:

  • The article’s publication details . Specify the title of the scholarly work you are analyzing, its authors, and publication date. Remember to enclose the article’s title in quotation marks and write it in title case .
  • The article’s main point . State what the paper is about. What did the authors study, and what was their major finding?
  • Your thesis statement . End your introduction with a strong claim summarizing your evaluation of the article. Consider briefly outlining the research paper’s strengths, weaknesses, and significance in your thesis.

Keep your introduction brief. Save the word count for the “meat” of your paper — that is, for the analysis.

2. Summarize the Article

Now, you should write a brief and focused summary of the scientific article. It should be shorter than your analysis section and contain all the relevant details about the research paper.

Here’s what you should include in your summary:

  • The research purpose . Briefly explain why the research was done. Identify the authors’ purpose and research questions or hypotheses .
  • Methods and results . Summarize what happened in the study. State only facts, without the authors’ interpretations of them. Avoid using too many numbers and details; instead, include only the information that will help readers understand what happened.
  • The authors’ conclusions . Outline what conclusions the researchers made from their study. In other words, describe how the authors explained the meaning of their findings.

If you need help summarizing an article, you can use our free summary generator .

3. Write Your Research Analysis

The analysis of the study is the most crucial part of this assignment type. Its key goal is to evaluate the article critically and demonstrate your understanding of it.

We’ve already covered how to analyze a research article in the section above. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Analyze whether the study’s purpose is significant and relevant.
  • Examine whether the chosen methodology allows for answering the research questions.
  • Evaluate how the authors presented the results.
  • Assess whether the authors’ conclusions are grounded in findings and answer the original research questions.

Although you should analyze the article critically, it doesn’t mean you only should criticize it. If the authors did a good job designing and conducting their study, be sure to explain why you think their work is well done. Also, it is a great idea to provide examples from the article to support your analysis.

4. Conclude Your Analysis of Research Paper

A conclusion is your chance to reflect on the study’s relevance and importance. Explain how the analyzed paper can contribute to the existing knowledge or lead to future research. Also, you need to summarize your thoughts on the article as a whole. Avoid making value judgments — saying that the paper is “good” or “bad.” Instead, use more descriptive words and phrases such as “This paper effectively showed…”

Need help writing a compelling conclusion? Try our free essay conclusion generator !

5. Revise and Proofread

Last but not least, you should carefully proofread your paper to find any punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes. Start by reading your work out loud to ensure that your sentences fit together and sound cohesive. Also, it can be helpful to ask your professor or peer to read your work and highlight possible weaknesses or typos.

This image shows how to write a research analysis.

📝 Research Paper Analysis Example

We have prepared an analysis of a research paper example to show how everything works in practice.

No Homework Policy: Research Article Analysis Example

This paper aims to analyze the research article entitled “No Assignment: A Boon or a Bane?” by Cordova, Pagtulon-an, and Tan (2019). This study examined the effects of having and not having assignments on weekends on high school students’ performance and transmuted mean scores. This article effectively shows the value of homework for students, but larger studies are needed to support its findings.

Cordova et al. (2019) conducted a descriptive quantitative study using a sample of 115 Grade 11 students of the Central Mindanao University Laboratory High School in the Philippines. The sample was divided into two groups: the first received homework on weekends, while the second didn’t. The researchers compared students’ performance records made by teachers and found that students who received assignments performed better than their counterparts without homework.

The purpose of this study is highly relevant and justified as this research was conducted in response to the debates about the “No Homework Policy” in the Philippines. Although the descriptive research design used by the authors allows to answer the research question, the study could benefit from an experimental design. This way, the authors would have firm control over variables. Additionally, the study’s sample size was not large enough for the findings to be generalized to a larger population.

The study results are presented clearly, logically, and comprehensively and correspond to the research objectives. The researchers found that students’ mean grades decreased in the group without homework and increased in the group with homework. Based on these findings, the authors concluded that homework positively affected students’ performance. This conclusion is logical and grounded in data.

This research effectively showed the importance of homework for students’ performance. Yet, since the sample size was relatively small, larger studies are needed to ensure the authors’ conclusions can be generalized to a larger population.

🔎 More Research Analysis Paper Examples

Do you want another research analysis example? Check out the best analysis research paper samples below:

  • Gracious Leadership Principles for Nurses: Article Analysis
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  • Quantitative Article Critique in Nursing
  • LIVE Program: Quantitative Article Critique
  • Evidence-Based Practice Beliefs and Implementation: Article Critique
  • “Differential Effectiveness of Placebo Treatments”: Research Paper Analysis
  • “Family-Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Interventions”: Analysis Research Paper Example
  • “Childhood Obesity Risk in Overweight Mothers”: Article Analysis
  • “Fostering Early Breast Cancer Detection” Article Analysis
  • Lesson Planning for Diversity: Analysis of an Article
  • Journal Article Review: Correlates of Physical Violence at School
  • Space and the Atom: Article Analysis
  • “Democracy and Collective Identity in the EU and the USA”: Article Analysis
  • China’s Hegemonic Prospects: Article Review
  • Article Analysis: Fear of Missing Out
  • Article Analysis: “Perceptions of ADHD Among Diagnosed Children and Their Parents”
  • Codependence, Narcissism, and Childhood Trauma: Analysis of the Article
  • Relationship Between Work Intensity, Workaholism, Burnout, and MSC: Article Review

We hope that our article on research paper analysis has been helpful. If you liked it, please share this article with your friends!

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Using evidence: analysis.

Beyond introducing and integrating your paraphrases and quotations, you also need to analyze the evidence in your paragraphs. Analysis is your opportunity to contextualize and explain the evidence for your reader. Your analysis might tell the reader why the evidence is important, what it means, or how it connects to other ideas in your writing.

Note that analysis often leads to synthesis , an extension and more complicated form of analysis. See our synthesis page for more information.

Example 1 of Analysis

Without analysis.

Embryonic stem cell research uses the stem cells from an embryo, causing much ethical debate in the scientific and political communities (Robinson, 2011). "Politicians don't know science" (James, 2010, p. 24). Academic discussion of both should continue (Robinson, 2011).

With Analysis (Added in Bold)

Embryonic stem cell research uses the stem cells from an embryo, causing much ethical debate in the scientific and political communities (Robinson, 2011). However, many politicians use the issue to stir up unnecessary emotion on both sides of the issues. James (2010) explained that "politicians don't know science," (p. 24) so scientists should not be listening to politics. Instead, Robinson (2011) suggested that academic discussion of both embryonic and adult stem cell research should continue in order for scientists to best utilize their resources while being mindful of ethical challenges.

Note that in the first example, the reader cannot know how the quotation fits into the paragraph. Also, note that the word both was unclear. In the revision, however, that the writer clearly (a) explained the quotations as well as the source material, (b) introduced the information sufficiently, and (c) integrated the ideas into the paragraph.

Example 2 of Analysis

Trow (1939) measured the effects of emotional responses on learning and found that student memorization dropped greatly with the introduction of a clock. Errors increased even more when intellectual inferiority regarding grades became a factor (Trow, 1939). The group that was allowed to learn free of restrictions from grades and time limits performed better on all tasks (Trow, 1939).

In this example, the author has successfully paraphrased the key findings from a study. However, there is no conclusion being drawn about those findings. Readers have a difficult time processing the evidence without some sort of ending explanation, an answer to the question so what? So what about this study? Why does it even matter?

Trow (1939) measured the effects of emotional responses on learning and found that student memorization dropped greatly with the introduction of a clock. Errors increased even more when intellectual inferiority regarding grades became a factor (Trow, 1939). The group that was allowed to learn free of restrictions from grades and time limits performed better on all tasks (Trow, 1939). Therefore, negative learning environments and students' emotional reactions can indeed hinder achievement.

Here the meaning becomes clear. The study’s findings support the claim the reader is making: that school environment affects achievement.

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Note that these videos were created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

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Analysis in Research Papers

To analyze means to break a topic or concept down into its parts in order to inspect and understand it, and to restructure those parts in a way that makes sense to you. In an analytical research paper, you do research to become an expert on a topic so that you can restructure and present the parts of the topic from your own perspective.

For example, you could analyze the role of the mother in the ancient Egyptian family. You could break down that topic into its parts--the mother's duties in the family, social status, and expected role in the larger society--and research those parts in order to present your general perspective and conclusion about the mother's role.

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Primary research involves collecting data about a given subject directly from the real world. This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis.

Analysis is a type of primary research that involves finding and interpreting patterns in data, classifying those patterns, and generalizing the results. It is useful when looking at actions, events, or occurrences in different texts, media, or publications. Analysis can usually be done without considering most of the ethical issues discussed in the overview, as you are not working with people but rather publicly accessible documents. Analysis can be done on new documents or performed on raw data that you yourself have collected.

Here are several examples of analysis:

  • Recording commercials on three major television networks and analyzing race and gender within the commercials to discover some conclusion.
  • Analyzing the historical trends in public laws by looking at the records at a local courthouse.
  • Analyzing topics of discussion in chat rooms for patterns based on gender and age.

Analysis research involves several steps:

  • Finding and collecting documents.
  • Specifying criteria or patterns that you are looking for.
  • Analyzing documents for patterns, noting number of occurrences or other factors.

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Paper Structure

Your paper should be typed, double spaced, with a title and reference section . Cite your sources every time you use them in the paper.

Research papers should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion :

1. Introduction : summarizes what you will write and puts it into context. Should consist of 3 parts:

  • "What You're Studying": start with a thesis statement about your social problem which includes background contextualizing it
  • "So What?": demonstrate why your social problem is important and why your reader should care about it
  • "Game Plan": outline the main points of your paper and the order in which you will address them

2. Body : presents the main points of the paper, with each paragraph representing one aspect of the paper's main focus. Prioritize and organize your main points and paragraphs to logically build your arguments to a compelling conclusion. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence, evidence, analysis, and a transition sentence:

  • The topic sentence summarizes the paragraph's main idea
  • Use evidence from your research sources to support or make the argument for your assertions about your main idea
  • Analyze your evidence to show how it links to your broader thesis
  • Include a transition sentence at the end of each paragraph to connect what you discussed in that paragraph with the main idea of the next paragraph

3. Conclusion : summarizes what you wrote and what you learned

  • Restate your thesis from the introduction in different words
  • Briefly summarize your main points or arguments and pull them together into the paper's main thesis
  • End with a strong, final statement that ties the whole paper together and makes it clear the paper has come to an end
  • No new ideas should be introduced in the conclusion, it should only review and analyze the main points from the body of the paper (with the exception of suggestions for further research)

4.  References list : a list of the sources you cited 

  • Cite your sources in APA or ASA Style
  • Format your References list in APA or ASA Style

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 5 steps to write a great analytical essay.

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Do you need to write an analytical essay for school? What sets this kind of essay apart from other types, and what must you include when you write your own analytical essay? In this guide, we break down the process of writing an analytical essay by explaining the key factors your essay needs to have, providing you with an outline to help you structure your essay, and analyzing a complete analytical essay example so you can see what a finished essay looks like.

What Is an Analytical Essay?

Before you begin writing an analytical essay, you must know what this type of essay is and what it includes. Analytical essays analyze something, often (but not always) a piece of writing or a film.

An analytical essay is more than just a synopsis of the issue though; in this type of essay you need to go beyond surface-level analysis and look at what the key arguments/points of this issue are and why. If you’re writing an analytical essay about a piece of writing, you’ll look into how the text was written and why the author chose to write it that way. Instead of summarizing, an analytical essay typically takes a narrower focus and looks at areas such as major themes in the work, how the author constructed and supported their argument, how the essay used  literary devices to enhance its messages, etc.

While you certainly want people to agree with what you’ve written, unlike with persuasive and argumentative essays, your main purpose when writing an analytical essay isn’t to try to convert readers to your side of the issue. Therefore, you won’t be using strong persuasive language like you would in those essay types. Rather, your goal is to have enough analysis and examples that the strength of your argument is clear to readers.

Besides typical essay components like an introduction and conclusion, a good analytical essay will include:

  • A thesis that states your main argument
  • Analysis that relates back to your thesis and supports it
  • Examples to support your analysis and allow a more in-depth look at the issue

In the rest of this article, we’ll explain how to include each of these in your analytical essay.

How to Structure Your Analytical Essay

Analytical essays are structured similarly to many other essays you’ve written, with an introduction (including a thesis), several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Below is an outline you can follow when structuring your essay, and in the next section we go into more detail on how to write an analytical essay.

Introduction

Your introduction will begin with some sort of attention-grabbing sentence to get your audience interested, then you’ll give a few sentences setting up the topic so that readers have some context, and you’ll end with your thesis statement. Your introduction will include:

  • Brief background information explaining the issue/text
  • Your thesis

Body Paragraphs

Your analytical essay will typically have three or four body paragraphs, each covering a different point of analysis. Begin each body paragraph with a sentence that sets up the main point you’ll be discussing. Then you’ll give some analysis on that point, backing it up with evidence to support your claim. Continue analyzing and giving evidence for your analysis until you’re out of strong points for the topic. At the end of each body paragraph, you may choose to have a transition sentence that sets up what the next paragraph will be about, but this isn’t required. Body paragraphs will include:

  • Introductory sentence explaining what you’ll cover in the paragraph (sort of like a mini-thesis)
  • Analysis point
  • Evidence (either passages from the text or data/facts) that supports the analysis
  • (Repeat analysis and evidence until you run out of examples)

You won’t be making any new points in your conclusion; at this point you’re just reiterating key points you’ve already made and wrapping things up. Begin by rephrasing your thesis and summarizing the main points you made in the essay. Someone who reads just your conclusion should be able to come away with a basic idea of what your essay was about and how it was structured. After this, you may choose to make some final concluding thoughts, potentially by connecting your essay topic to larger issues to show why it’s important. A conclusion will include:

  • Paraphrase of thesis
  • Summary of key points of analysis
  • Final concluding thought(s)

body_satessay-1

5 Steps for Writing an Analytical Essay

Follow these five tips to break down writing an analytical essay into manageable steps. By the end, you’ll have a fully-crafted analytical essay with both in-depth analysis and enough evidence to support your argument. All of these steps use the completed analytical essay in the next section as an example.

#1: Pick a Topic

You may have already had a topic assigned to you, and if that’s the case, you can skip this step. However, if you haven’t, or if the topic you’ve been assigned is broad enough that you still need to narrow it down, then you’ll need to decide on a topic for yourself. Choosing the right topic can mean the difference between an analytical essay that’s easy to research (and gets you a good grade) and one that takes hours just to find a few decent points to analyze

Before you decide on an analytical essay topic, do a bit of research to make sure you have enough examples to support your analysis. If you choose a topic that’s too narrow, you’ll struggle to find enough to write about.

For example, say your teacher assigns you to write an analytical essay about the theme in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath of exposing injustices against migrants. For it to be an analytical essay, you can’t just recount the injustices characters in the book faced; that’s only a summary and doesn’t include analysis. You need to choose a topic that allows you to analyze the theme. One of the best ways to explore a theme is to analyze how the author made his/her argument. One example here is that Steinbeck used literary devices in the intercalary chapters (short chapters that didn’t relate to the plot or contain the main characters of the book) to show what life was like for migrants as a whole during the Dust Bowl.

You could write about how Steinbeck used literary devices throughout the whole book, but, in the essay below, I chose to just focus on the intercalary chapters since they gave me enough examples. Having a narrower focus will nearly always result in a tighter and more convincing essay (and can make compiling examples less overwhelming).

#2: Write a Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is the most important sentence of your essay; a reader should be able to read just your thesis and understand what the entire essay is about and what you’ll be analyzing. When you begin writing, remember that each sentence in your analytical essay should relate back to your thesis

In the analytical essay example below, the thesis is the final sentence of the first paragraph (the traditional spot for it). The thesis is: “In The Grapes of Wrath’s intercalary chapters, John Steinbeck employs a variety of literary devices and stylistic choices to better expose the injustices committed against migrants in the 1930s.” So what will this essay analyze? How Steinbeck used literary devices in the intercalary chapters to show how rough migrants could have it. Crystal clear.

#3: Do Research to Find Your Main Points

This is where you determine the bulk of your analysis--the information that makes your essay an analytical essay. My preferred method is to list every idea that I can think of, then research each of those and use the three or four strongest ones for your essay. Weaker points may be those that don’t relate back to the thesis, that you don’t have much analysis to discuss, or that you can’t find good examples for. A good rule of thumb is to have one body paragraph per main point

This essay has four main points, each of which analyzes a different literary device Steinbeck uses to better illustrate how difficult life was for migrants during the Dust Bowl. The four literary devices and their impact on the book are:

  • Lack of individual names in intercalary chapters to illustrate the scope of the problem
  • Parallels to the Bible to induce sympathy for the migrants
  • Non-showy, often grammatically-incorrect language so the migrants are more realistic and relatable to readers
  • Nature-related metaphors to affect the mood of the writing and reflect the plight of the migrants

#4: Find Excerpts or Evidence to Support Your Analysis

Now that you have your main points, you need to back them up. If you’re writing a paper about a text or film, use passages/clips from it as your main source of evidence. If you’re writing about something else, your evidence can come from a variety of sources, such as surveys, experiments, quotes from knowledgeable sources etc. Any evidence that would work for a regular research paper works here.

In this example, I quoted multiple passages from The Grapes of Wrath  in each paragraph to support my argument. You should be able to back up every claim you make with evidence in order to have a strong essay.

#5: Put It All Together

Now it's time to begin writing your essay, if you haven’t already. Create an introductory paragraph that ends with the thesis, make a body paragraph for each of your main points, including both analysis and evidence to back up your claims, and wrap it all up with a conclusion that recaps your thesis and main points and potentially explains the big picture importance of the topic.

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Analytical Essay Example + Analysis

So that you can see for yourself what a completed analytical essay looks like, here’s an essay I wrote back in my high school days. It’s followed by analysis of how I structured my essay, what its strengths are, and how it could be improved.

One way Steinbeck illustrates the connections all migrant people possessed and the struggles they faced is by refraining from using specific titles and names in his intercalary chapters. While The Grapes of Wrath focuses on the Joad family, the intercalary chapters show that all migrants share the same struggles and triumphs as the Joads. No individual names are used in these chapters; instead the people are referred to as part of a group. Steinbeck writes, “Frantic men pounded on the doors of the doctors; and the doctors were busy.  And sad men left word at country stores for the coroner to send a car,” (555). By using generic terms, Steinbeck shows how the migrants are all linked because they have gone through the same experiences. The grievances committed against one family were committed against thousands of other families; the abuse extends far beyond what the Joads experienced. The Grapes of Wrath frequently refers to the importance of coming together; how, when people connect with others their power and influence multiplies immensely. Throughout the novel, the goal of the migrants, the key to their triumph, has been to unite. While their plans are repeatedly frustrated by the government and police, Steinbeck’s intercalary chapters provide a way for the migrants to relate to one another because they have encountered the same experiences. Hundreds of thousands of migrants fled to the promised land of California, but Steinbeck was aware that numbers alone were impersonal and lacked the passion he desired to spread. Steinbeck created the intercalary chapters to show the massive numbers of people suffering, and he created the Joad family to evoke compassion from readers.  Because readers come to sympathize with the Joads, they become more sensitive to the struggles of migrants in general. However, John Steinbeck frequently made clear that the Joads were not an isolated incident; they were not unique. Their struggles and triumphs were part of something greater. Refraining from specific names in his intercalary chapters allows Steinbeck to show the vastness of the atrocities committed against migrants.

Steinbeck also creates significant parallels to the Bible in his intercalary chapters in order to enhance his writing and characters. By using simple sentences and stylized writing, Steinbeck evokes Biblical passages. The migrants despair, “No work till spring. No work,” (556).  Short, direct sentences help to better convey the desperateness of the migrants’ situation. Throughout his novel, John Steinbeck makes connections to the Bible through his characters and storyline. Jim Casy’s allusions to Christ and the cycle of drought and flooding are clear biblical references.  By choosing to relate The Grapes of Wrath to the Bible, Steinbeck’s characters become greater than themselves. Starving migrants become more than destitute vagrants; they are now the chosen people escaping to the promised land. When a forgotten man dies alone and unnoticed, it becomes a tragedy. Steinbeck writes, “If [the migrants] were shot at, they did not run, but splashed sullenly away; and if they were hit, they sank tiredly in the mud,” (556). Injustices committed against the migrants become greater because they are seen as children of God through Steinbeck’s choice of language. Referencing the Bible strengthens Steinbeck’s novel and purpose: to create understanding for the dispossessed.  It is easy for people to feel disdain for shabby vagabonds, but connecting them to such a fundamental aspect of Christianity induces sympathy from readers who might have otherwise disregarded the migrants as so many other people did.

The simple, uneducated dialogue Steinbeck employs also helps to create a more honest and meaningful representation of the migrants, and it makes the migrants more relatable to readers. Steinbeck chooses to accurately represent the language of the migrants in order to more clearly illustrate their lives and make them seem more like real paper than just characters in a book. The migrants lament, “They ain’t gonna be no kinda work for three months,” (555). There are multiple grammatical errors in that single sentence, but it vividly conveys the despair the migrants felt better than a technically perfect sentence would. The Grapes of Wrath is intended to show the severe difficulties facing the migrants so Steinbeck employs a clear, pragmatic style of writing.  Steinbeck shows the harsh, truthful realities of the migrants’ lives and he would be hypocritical if he chose to give the migrants a more refined voice and not portray them with all their shortcomings. The depiction of the migrants as imperfect through their language also makes them easier to relate to. Steinbeck’s primary audience was the middle class, the less affluent of society. Repeatedly in The Grapes of Wrath , the wealthy make it obvious that they scorn the plight of the migrants. The wealthy, not bad luck or natural disasters, were the prominent cause of the suffering of migrant families such as the Joads. Thus, Steinbeck turns to the less prosperous for support in his novel. When referring to the superior living conditions barnyard animals have, the migrants remark, “Them’s horses-we’re men,” (556).  The perfect simplicity of this quote expresses the absurdness of the migrants’ situation better than any flowery expression could.

In The Grapes of Wrath , John Steinbeck uses metaphors, particularly about nature, in order to illustrate the mood and the overall plight of migrants. Throughout most of the book, the land is described as dusty, barren, and dead. Towards the end, however; floods come and the landscape begins to change. At the end of chapter twenty-nine, Steinbeck describes a hill after the floods saying, “Tiny points of grass came through the earth, and in a few days the hills were pale green with the beginning year,” (556). This description offers a stark contrast from the earlier passages which were filled with despair and destruction. Steinbeck’s tone from the beginning of the chapter changes drastically. Early in the chapter, Steinbeck had used heavy imagery in order to convey the destruction caused by the rain, “The streams and the little rivers edged up to the bank sides and worked at willows and tree roots, bent the willows deep in the current, cut out the roots of cottonwoods and brought down the trees,” (553). However, at the end of the chapter the rain has caused new life to grow in California. The new grass becomes a metaphor representing hope. When the migrants are at a loss over how they will survive the winter, the grass offers reassurance. The story of the migrants in the intercalary chapters parallels that of the Joads. At the end of the novel, the family is breaking apart and has been forced to flee their home. However, both the book and final intercalary chapter end on a hopeful note after so much suffering has occurred. The grass metaphor strengthens Steinbeck’s message because it offers a tangible example of hope. Through his language Steinbeck’s themes become apparent at the end of the novel. Steinbeck affirms that persistence, even when problems appear insurmountable, leads to success. These metaphors help to strengthen Steinbeck’s themes in The Grapes of Wrath because they provide a more memorable way to recall important messages.

John Steinbeck’s language choices help to intensify his writing in his intercalary chapters and allow him to more clearly show how difficult life for migrants could be. Refraining from using specific names and terms allows Steinbeck to show that many thousands of migrants suffered through the same wrongs. Imitating the style of the Bible strengthens Steinbeck’s characters and connects them to the Bible, perhaps the most famous book in history. When Steinbeck writes in the imperfect dialogue of the migrants, he creates a more accurate portrayal and makes the migrants easier to relate to for a less affluent audience. Metaphors, particularly relating to nature, strengthen the themes in The Grapes of Wrath by enhancing the mood Steinbeck wants readers to feel at different points in the book. Overall, the intercalary chapters that Steinbeck includes improve his novel by making it more memorable and reinforcing the themes Steinbeck embraces throughout the novel. Exemplary stylistic devices further persuade readers of John Steinbeck’s personal beliefs. Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath to bring to light cruelties against migrants, and by using literary devices effectively, he continuously reminds readers of his purpose. Steinbeck’s impressive language choices in his intercalary chapters advance the entire novel and help to create a classic work of literature that people still are able to relate to today. 

This essay sticks pretty closely to the standard analytical essay outline. It starts with an introduction, where I chose to use a quote to start off the essay. (This became my favorite way to start essays in high school because, if I wasn’t sure what to say, I could outsource the work and find a quote that related to what I’d be writing about.) The quote in this essay doesn’t relate to the themes I’m discussing quite as much as it could, but it’s still a slightly different way to start an essay and can intrigue readers. I then give a bit of background on The Grapes of Wrath and its themes before ending the intro paragraph with my thesis: that Steinbeck used literary devices in intercalary chapters to show how rough migrants had it.

Each of my four body paragraphs is formatted in roughly the same way: an intro sentence that explains what I’ll be discussing, analysis of that main point, and at least two quotes from the book as evidence.

My conclusion restates my thesis, summarizes each of four points I discussed in my body paragraphs, and ends the essay by briefly discussing how Steinbeck’s writing helped introduce a world of readers to the injustices migrants experienced during the dust bowl.

What does this analytical essay example do well? For starters, it contains everything that a strong analytical essay should, and it makes that easy to find. The thesis clearly lays out what the essay will be about, the first sentence of each of the body paragraph introduces the topic it’ll cover, and the conclusion neatly recaps all the main points. Within each of the body paragraphs, there’s analysis along with multiple excerpts from the book in order to add legitimacy to my points.

Additionally, the essay does a good job of taking an in-depth look at the issue introduced in the thesis. Four ways Steinbeck used literary devices are discussed, and for each of the examples are given and analysis is provided so readers can understand why Steinbeck included those devices and how they helped shaped how readers viewed migrants and their plight.

Where could this essay be improved? I believe the weakest body paragraph is the third one, the one that discusses how Steinbeck used plain, grammatically incorrect language to both accurately depict the migrants and make them more relatable to readers. The paragraph tries to touch on both of those reasons and ends up being somewhat unfocused as a result. It would have been better for it to focus on just one of those reasons (likely how it made the migrants more relatable) in order to be clearer and more effective. It’s a good example of how adding more ideas to an essay often doesn’t make it better if they don’t work with the rest of what you’re writing. This essay also could explain the excerpts that are included more and how they relate to the points being made. Sometimes they’re just dropped in the essay with the expectation that the readers will make the connection between the example and the analysis. This is perhaps especially true in the second body paragraph, the one that discusses similarities to Biblical passages. Additional analysis of the quotes would have strengthened it.

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Summary: How to Write an Analytical Essay

What is an analytical essay? A critical analytical essay analyzes a topic, often a text or film. The analysis paper uses evidence to support the argument, such as excerpts from the piece of writing. All analytical papers include a thesis, analysis of the topic, and evidence to support that analysis.

When developing an analytical essay outline and writing your essay, follow these five steps:

Reading analytical essay examples can also give you a better sense of how to structure your essay and what to include in it.

What's Next?

Learning about different writing styles in school?  There are four main writing styles, and it's important to understand each of them. Learn about them in our guide to writing styles , complete with examples.

Writing a research paper for school but not sure what to write about?   Our guide to research paper topics has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you. 

Literary devices can both be used to enhance your writing and communication. Check out this list of 31 literary devices to learn more !

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Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Research Paper Writing: 6. Results / Analysis

  • 1. Getting Started
  • 2. Abstract
  • 3. Introduction
  • 4. Literature Review
  • 5. Methods / Materials
  • 6. Results / Analysis
  • 7. Discussion
  • 8. Conclusion
  • 9. Reference

Writing about the information

There are two sections of a research paper depending on what style is being written. The sections are usually straightforward commentary of exactly what the writer observed and found during the actual research. It is important to include only the important findings, and avoid too much information that can bury the exact meaning of the context.

The results section should aim to narrate the findings without trying to interpret or evaluate, and also provide a direction to the discussion section of the research paper. The results are reported and reveals the analysis. The analysis section is where the writer describes what was done with the data found.  In order to write the analysis section it is important to know what the analysis consisted of, but does not mean data is needed. The analysis should already be performed to write the results section.

Written explanations

How should the analysis section be written?

  • Should be a paragraph within the research paper
  • Consider all the requirements (spacing, margins, and font)
  • Should be the writer’s own explanation of the chosen problem
  • Thorough evaluation of work
  • Description of the weak and strong points
  • Discussion of the effect and impact
  • Includes criticism

How should the results section be written?

  • Show the most relevant information in graphs, figures, and tables
  • Include data that may be in the form of pictures, artifacts, notes, and interviews
  • Clarify unclear points
  • Present results with a short discussion explaining them at the end
  • Include the negative results
  • Provide stability, accuracy, and value

How the style is presented

Analysis section

  • Includes a justification of the methods used
  • Technical explanation

Results section

  • Purely descriptive
  • Easily explained for the targeted audience
  • Data driven

Example of a Results Section

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association Sixth Ed. 2010

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Journal article analysis assignments require you to summarize and critically assess the quality of an empirical research study published in a scholarly [a.k.a., academic, peer-reviewed] journal. The article may be assigned by the professor, chosen from course readings listed in the syllabus, or you must locate an article on your own, usually with the requirement that you search using a reputable library database, such as, JSTOR or ProQuest . The article chosen is expected to relate to the overall discipline of the course, specific course content, or key concepts discussed in class. In some cases, the purpose of the assignment is to analyze an article that is part of the literature review for a future research project.

Analysis of an article can be assigned to students individually or as part of a small group project. The final product is usually in the form of a short paper [typically 1- 6 double-spaced pages] that addresses key questions the professor uses to guide your analysis or that assesses specific parts of a scholarly research study [e.g., the research problem, methodology, discussion, conclusions or findings]. The analysis paper may be shared on a digital course management platform and/or presented to the class for the purpose of promoting a wider discussion about the topic of the study. Although assigned in any level of undergraduate and graduate coursework in the social and behavioral sciences, professors frequently include this assignment in upper division courses to help students learn how to effectively identify, read, and analyze empirical research within their major.

Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Benefits of Journal Article Analysis Assignments

Analyzing and synthesizing a scholarly journal article is intended to help students obtain the reading and critical thinking skills needed to develop and write their own research papers. This assignment also supports workplace skills where you could be asked to summarize a report or other type of document and report it, for example, during a staff meeting or for a presentation.

There are two broadly defined ways that analyzing a scholarly journal article supports student learning:

Improve Reading Skills

Conducting research requires an ability to review, evaluate, and synthesize prior research studies. Reading prior research requires an understanding of the academic writing style , the type of epistemological beliefs or practices underpinning the research design, and the specific vocabulary and technical terminology [i.e., jargon] used within a discipline. Reading scholarly articles is important because academic writing is unfamiliar to most students; they have had limited exposure to using peer-reviewed journal articles prior to entering college or students have yet to gain exposure to the specific academic writing style of their disciplinary major. Learning how to read scholarly articles also requires careful and deliberate concentration on how authors use specific language and phrasing to convey their research, the problem it addresses, its relationship to prior research, its significance, its limitations, and how authors connect methods of data gathering to the results so as to develop recommended solutions derived from the overall research process.

Improve Comprehension Skills

In addition to knowing how to read scholarly journals articles, students must learn how to effectively interpret what the scholar(s) are trying to convey. Academic writing can be dense, multi-layered, and non-linear in how information is presented. In addition, scholarly articles contain footnotes or endnotes, references to sources, multiple appendices, and, in some cases, non-textual elements [e.g., graphs, charts] that can break-up the reader’s experience with the narrative flow of the study. Analyzing articles helps students practice comprehending these elements of writing, critiquing the arguments being made, reflecting upon the significance of the research, and how it relates to building new knowledge and understanding or applying new approaches to practice. Comprehending scholarly writing also involves thinking critically about where you fit within the overall dialogue among scholars concerning the research problem, finding possible gaps in the research that require further analysis, or identifying where the author(s) has failed to examine fully any specific elements of the study.

In addition, journal article analysis assignments are used by professors to strengthen discipline-specific information literacy skills, either alone or in relation to other tasks, such as, giving a class presentation or participating in a group project. These benefits can include the ability to:

  • Effectively paraphrase text, which leads to a more thorough understanding of the overall study;
  • Identify and describe strengths and weaknesses of the study and their implications;
  • Relate the article to other course readings and in relation to particular research concepts or ideas discussed during class;
  • Think critically about the research and summarize complex ideas contained within;
  • Plan, organize, and write an effective inquiry-based paper that investigates a research study, evaluates evidence, expounds on the author’s main ideas, and presents an argument concerning the significance and impact of the research in a clear and concise manner;
  • Model the type of source summary and critique you should do for any college-level research paper; and,
  • Increase interest and engagement with the research problem of the study as well as with the discipline.

Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946.

Structure and Organization

A journal article analysis paper should be written in paragraph format and include an instruction to the study, your analysis of the research, and a conclusion that provides an overall assessment of the author's work, along with an explanation of what you believe is the study's overall impact and significance. Unless the purpose of the assignment is to examine foundational studies published many years ago, you should select articles that have been published relatively recently [e.g., within the past few years].

Since the research has been completed, reference to the study in your paper should be written in the past tense, with your analysis stated in the present tense [e.g., “The author portrayed access to health care services in rural areas as primarily a problem of having reliable transportation. However, I believe the author is overgeneralizing this issue because...”].

Introduction Section

The first section of a journal analysis paper should describe the topic of the article and highlight the author’s main points. This includes describing the research problem and theoretical framework, the rationale for the research, the methods of data gathering and analysis, the key findings, and the author’s final conclusions and recommendations. The narrative should focus on the act of describing rather than analyzing. Think of the introduction as a more comprehensive and detailed descriptive abstract of the study.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the introduction section may include:

  • Who are the authors and what credentials do they hold that contributes to the validity of the study?
  • What was the research problem being investigated?
  • What type of research design was used to investigate the research problem?
  • What theoretical idea(s) and/or research questions were used to address the problem?
  • What was the source of the data or information used as evidence for analysis?
  • What methods were applied to investigate this evidence?
  • What were the author's overall conclusions and key findings?

Critical Analysis Section

The second section of a journal analysis paper should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the study and analyze its significance and impact. This section is where you shift the narrative from describing to analyzing. Think critically about the research in relation to other course readings, what has been discussed in class, or based on your own life experiences. If you are struggling to identify any weaknesses, explain why you believe this to be true. However, no study is perfect, regardless of how laudable its design may be. Given this, think about the repercussions of the choices made by the author(s) and how you might have conducted the study differently. Examples can include contemplating the choice of what sources were included or excluded in support of examining the research problem, the choice of the method used to analyze the data, or the choice to highlight specific recommended courses of action and/or implications for practice over others. Another strategy is to place yourself within the research study itself by thinking reflectively about what may be missing if you had been a participant in the study or if the recommended courses of action specifically targeted you or your community.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the analysis section may include:

Introduction

  • Did the author clearly state the problem being investigated?
  • What was your reaction to and perspective on the research problem?
  • Was the study’s objective clearly stated? Did the author clearly explain why the study was necessary?
  • How well did the introduction frame the scope of the study?
  • Did the introduction conclude with a clear purpose statement?

Literature Review

  • Did the literature review lay a foundation for understanding the significance of the research problem?
  • Did the literature review provide enough background information to understand the problem in relation to relevant contexts [e.g., historical, economic, social, cultural, etc.].
  • Did literature review effectively place the study within the domain of prior research? Is anything missing?
  • Was the literature review organized by conceptual categories or did the author simply list and describe sources?
  • Did the author accurately explain how the data or information were collected?
  • Was the data used sufficient in supporting the study of the research problem?
  • Was there another methodological approach that could have been more illuminating?
  • Give your overall evaluation of the methods used in this article. How much trust would you put in generating relevant findings?

Results and Discussion

  • Were the results clearly presented?
  • Did you feel that the results support the theoretical and interpretive claims of the author? Why?
  • What did the author(s) do especially well in describing or analyzing their results?
  • Was the author's evaluation of the findings clearly stated?
  • How well did the discussion of the results relate to what is already known about the research problem?
  • Was the discussion of the results free of repetition and redundancies?
  • What interpretations did the authors make that you think are in incomplete, unwarranted, or overstated?
  • Did the conclusion effectively capture the main points of study?
  • Did the conclusion address the research questions posed? Do they seem reasonable?
  • Were the author’s conclusions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented?
  • Has the author explained how the research added new knowledge or understanding?

Overall Writing Style

  • If the article included tables, figures, or other non-textual elements, did they contribute to understanding the study?
  • Were ideas developed and related in a logical sequence?
  • Were transitions between sections of the article smooth and easy to follow?

Overall Evaluation Section

The final section of a journal analysis paper should bring your thoughts together into a coherent assessment of the value of the research study . This section is where the narrative flow transitions from analyzing specific elements of the article to critically evaluating the overall study. Explain what you view as the significance of the research in relation to the overall course content and any relevant discussions that occurred during class. Think about how the article contributes to understanding the overall research problem, how it fits within existing literature on the topic, how it relates to the course, and what it means to you as a student researcher. In some cases, your professor will also ask you to describe your experiences writing the journal article analysis paper as part of a reflective learning exercise.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the conclusion and evaluation section may include:

  • Was the structure of the article clear and well organized?
  • Was the topic of current or enduring interest to you?
  • What were the main weaknesses of the article? [this does not refer to limitations stated by the author, but what you believe are potential flaws]
  • Was any of the information in the article unclear or ambiguous?
  • What did you learn from the research? If nothing stood out to you, explain why.
  • Assess the originality of the research. Did you believe it contributed new understanding of the research problem?
  • Were you persuaded by the author’s arguments?
  • If the author made any final recommendations, will they be impactful if applied to practice?
  • In what ways could future research build off of this study?
  • What implications does the study have for daily life?
  • Was the use of non-textual elements, footnotes or endnotes, and/or appendices helpful in understanding the research?
  • What lingering questions do you have after analyzing the article?

NOTE: Avoid using quotes. One of the main purposes of writing an article analysis paper is to learn how to effectively paraphrase and use your own words to summarize a scholarly research study and to explain what the research means to you. Using and citing a direct quote from the article should only be done to help emphasize a key point or to underscore an important concept or idea.

Business: The Article Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing, Grand Valley State University; Bachiochi, Peter et al. "Using Empirical Article Analysis to Assess Research Methods Courses." Teaching of Psychology 38 (2011): 5-9; Brosowsky, Nicholaus P. et al. “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Read Empirical Articles: An Evaluation and Revision of the QALMRI Method.” PsyArXi Preprints , 2020; Holster, Kristin. “Article Evaluation Assignment”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology . Washington DC: American Sociological Association, 2016; Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Reviewer's Guide . SAGE Reviewer Gateway, SAGE Journals; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Gyuris, Emma, and Laura Castell. "To Tell Them or Show Them? How to Improve Science Students’ Skills of Critical Reading." International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education 21 (2013): 70-80; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students Make the Most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Writing Tip

Not All Scholarly Journal Articles Can Be Critically Analyzed

There are a variety of articles published in scholarly journals that do not fit within the guidelines of an article analysis assignment. This is because the work cannot be empirically examined or it does not generate new knowledge in a way which can be critically analyzed.

If you are required to locate a research study on your own, avoid selecting these types of journal articles:

  • Theoretical essays which discuss concepts, assumptions, and propositions, but report no empirical research;
  • Statistical or methodological papers that may analyze data, but the bulk of the work is devoted to refining a new measurement, statistical technique, or modeling procedure;
  • Articles that review, analyze, critique, and synthesize prior research, but do not report any original research;
  • Brief essays devoted to research methods and findings;
  • Articles written by scholars in popular magazines or industry trade journals;
  • Pre-print articles that have been posted online, but may undergo further editing and revision by the journal's editorial staff before final publication; and
  • Academic commentary that discusses research trends or emerging concepts and ideas, but does not contain citations to sources.

Journal Analysis Assignment - Myers . Writing@CSU, Colorado State University; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36.

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How to Write an Analysis

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 283,225 times.

An analysis is a piece of writing that looks at some aspect of a document in detail. To write a good analysis, you’ll need to ask yourself questions that focus on how and why the document works the way it does. You can start the process by gathering information about the subject of your analysis and defining the questions your analysis will answer. Once you’ve outlined your main arguments, look for specific evidence to support them. You can then work on putting your analysis together into a coherent piece of writing.

Gathering Information and Building Your Argument

Step 1 Review your assignment carefully.

  • If your analysis is supposed to answer a specific question or focus on a particular aspect of the document you are analyzing.
  • If there are any length or formatting requirements for the analysis.
  • The citation style your instructor wants you to use.
  • On what criteria your instructor will evaluate your analysis (e.g., organization, originality, good use of references and quotations, or correct spelling and grammar).

Step 2 Gather basic information about the subject of your analysis.

  • The title of the document (if it has one).
  • The name of the creator of the document. For example, depending on the type of document you’re working with, this could be the author, artist, director, performer, or photographer.
  • The form and medium of the document (e.g., “Painting, oil on canvas”).
  • When and where the document was created.
  • The historical and cultural context of the work.

Step 3 Do a close reading of the document and take notes.

  • Who you believe the intended audience is for the advertisement.
  • What rhetorical choices the author made to persuade the audience of their main point.
  • What product is being advertised.
  • How the poster uses images to make the product look appealing.
  • Whether there is any text in the poster, and, if so, how it works together with the images to reinforce the message of the ad.
  • What the purpose of the ad is or what its main point is.

Step 4 Determine which question(s) you would like to answer with your analysis.

  • For example, if you’re analyzing an advertisement poster, you might focus on the question: “How does this poster use colors to symbolize the problem that the product is intended to fix? Does it also use color to represent the beneficial results of using the product?”

Step 5 Make a list of your main arguments.

  • For example, you might write, “This poster uses the color red to symbolize the pain of a headache. The blue elements in the design represent the relief brought by the product.”
  • You could develop the argument further by saying, “The colors used in the text reinforce the use of colors in the graphic elements of the poster, helping the viewer make a direct connection between the words and images.”

Step 6 Gather evidence and examples to support your arguments.

  • For example, if you’re arguing that the advertisement poster uses red to represent pain, you might point out that the figure of the headache sufferer is red, while everyone around them is blue. Another piece of evidence might be the use of red lettering for the words “HEADACHE” and “PAIN” in the text of the poster.
  • You could also draw on outside evidence to support your claims. For example, you might point out that in the country where the advertisement was produced, the color red is often symbolically associated with warnings or danger.

Tip: If you’re analyzing a text, make sure to properly cite any quotations that you use to support your arguments. Put any direct quotations in quotation marks (“”) and be sure to give location information, such as the page number where the quote appears. Additionally, follow the citation requirements for the style guide assigned by your instructor or one that's commonly used for the subject matter you're writing about.

Organizing and Drafting Your Analysis

Step 1 Write a brief...

  • For example, “The poster ‘Say! What a relief,’ created in 1932 by designer Dorothy Plotzky, uses contrasting colors to symbolize the pain of a headache and the relief brought by Miss Burnham’s Pep-Em-Up Pills. The red elements denote pain, while blue ones indicate soothing relief.”

Tip: Your instructor might have specific directions about which information to include in your thesis statement (e.g., the title, author, and date of the document you are analyzing). If you’re not sure how to format your thesis statement or topic sentence, don’t hesitate to ask.

Step 2 Create an outline...

  • a. Background
  • ii. Analysis/Explanation
  • iii. Example
  • iv. Analysis/Explanation
  • III. Conclusion

Step 3 Draft an introductory paragraph.

  • For example, “In the late 1920s, Kansas City schoolteacher Ethel Burnham developed a patent headache medication that quickly achieved commercial success throughout the American Midwest. The popularity of the medicine was largely due to a series of simple but eye-catching advertising posters that were created over the next decade. The poster ‘Say! What a relief,’ created in 1932 by designer Dorothy Plotzky, uses contrasting colors to symbolize the pain of a headache and the relief brought by Miss Burnham’s Pep-Em-Up Pills.”

Step 4 Use the body of the essay to present your main arguments.

  • Make sure to include clear transitions between each argument and each paragraph. Use transitional words and phrases, such as “Furthermore,” “Additionally,” “For example,” “Likewise,” or “In contrast . . .”
  • The best way to organize your arguments will vary based on the individual topic and the specific points you are trying to make. For example, in your analysis of the poster, you might start with arguments about the red visual elements and then move on to a discussion about how the red text fits in.

Step 5 Compose a conclusion...

  • For example, you might end your essay with a few sentences about how other advertisements at the time might have been influenced by Dorothy Plotzky’s use of colors.

Step 6 Avoid presenting your personal opinions on the document.

  • For example, in your discussion of the advertisement, avoid stating that you think the art is “beautiful” or that the advertisement is “boring.” Instead, focus on what the poster was supposed to accomplish and how the designer attempted to achieve those goals.

Polishing Your Analysis

Step 1 Check that the organization of your analysis makes sense.

  • For example, if your essay currently skips around between discussions of the red and blue elements of the poster, consider reorganizing it so that you discuss all the red elements first, then focus on the blue ones.

Step 2 Look for areas where you might clarify your writing or add details.

  • For example, you might look for places where you could provide additional examples to support one of your major arguments.

Step 3 Cut out any irrelevant passages.

  • For example, if you included a paragraph about Dorothy Plotzky’s previous work as a children’s book illustrator, you may want to cut it if it doesn’t somehow relate to her use of color in advertising.
  • Cutting material out of your analysis may be difficult, especially if you put a lot of thought into each sentence or found the additional material really interesting. Your analysis will be stronger if you keep it concise and to the point, however.

Step 4 Proofread your writing and fix any errors.

  • You may find it helpful to have someone else go over your essay and look for any mistakes you might have missed.

Tip: When you’re reading silently, it’s easy to miss typos and other small errors because your brain corrects them automatically. Reading your work out loud can make problems easier to spot.

Sample Analysis Outline and Conclusion

how to analyze a research paper example

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

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  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-make-sure-i-understand-an-assignment-.html
  • ↑ https://www.bucks.edu/media/bcccmedialibrary/pdf/HOWTOWRITEALITERARYANALYSISESSAY_10.15.07_001.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/visual_rhetoric/analyzing_visual_documents/elements_of_analysis.html
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-can-i-create-stronger-analysis-.html
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-decide-what-i-should-argue-.html
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-effectively-integrate-textual-evidence-.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/writing-a-thesis
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/visual_rhetoric/analyzing_visual_documents/organizing_your_analysis.html
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-write-an-intro--conclusion----body-paragraph.html
  • ↑ http://utminers.utep.edu/omwilliamson/engl0310/Textanalysis.htm
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/graduate_writing/graduate_writing_topics/graduate_writing_organization_structure_new.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/mechanics/sentence_clarity.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conciseness-handout/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

If you need to write an analysis, first look closely at your assignment to make sure you understand the requirements. Then, gather background information about the document you’ll be analyzing and do a close read so that you’re thoroughly familiar with the subject matter. If it’s not already specified in your assignment, come up with one or more specific question’s you’d like your analysis to answer, then outline your main arguments. Finally, gather evidence and examples to support your arguments. Read on to learn how to organize, draft, and polish your analysis! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 1 Unit Introduction

Introduction

  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the elements of the rhetorical situation for your report.
  • Find and focus a topic to write about.
  • Gather and analyze information from appropriate sources.
  • Distinguish among different kinds of evidence.
  • Draft a thesis and create an organizational plan.
  • Compose a report that develops ideas and integrates evidence from sources.
  • Give and act on productive feedback to works in progress.

You might think that writing comes easily to experienced writers—that they draft stories and college papers all at once, sitting down at the computer and having sentences flow from their fingers like water from a faucet. In reality, most writers engage in a recursive process, pushing forward, stepping back, and repeating steps multiple times as their ideas develop and change. In broad strokes, the steps most writers go through are these:

  • Planning and Organization . You will have an easier time drafting if you devote time at the beginning to consider the rhetorical situation for your report, understand your assignment, gather ideas and information, draft a thesis statement, and create an organizational plan.
  • Drafting . When you have an idea of what you want to say and the order in which you want to say it, you’re ready to draft. As much as possible, keep going until you have a complete first draft of your report, resisting the urge to go back and rewrite. Save that for after you have completed a first draft.
  • Review . Now is the time to get feedback from others, whether from your instructor, your classmates, a tutor in the writing center, your roommate, someone in your family, or someone else you trust to read your writing critically and give you honest feedback.
  • Revising . With feedback on your draft, you are ready to revise. You may need to return to an earlier step and make large-scale revisions that involve planning, organizing, and rewriting, or you may need to work mostly on ensuring that your sentences are clear and correct.

Considering the Rhetorical Situation

Like other kinds of writing projects, a report starts with assessing the rhetorical situation —the circumstance in which a writer communicates with an audience of readers about a subject. As the writer of a report, you make choices based on the purpose of your writing, the audience who will read it, the genre of the report, and the expectations of the community and culture in which you are working. A graphic organizer like Table 8.1 can help you begin.

Summary of Assignment

Write an analytical report on a topic that interests you and that you want to know more about. The topic can be contemporary or historical, but it must be one that you can analyze and support with evidence from sources.

The following questions can help you think about a topic suitable for analysis:

  • Why or how did ________ happen?
  • What are the results or effects of ________?
  • Is ________ a problem? If so, why?
  • What are examples of ________ or reasons for ________?
  • How does ________ compare to or contrast with other issues, concerns, or things?

Consult and cite three to five reliable sources. The sources do not have to be scholarly for this assignment, but they must be credible, trustworthy, and unbiased. Possible sources include academic journals, newspapers, magazines, reputable websites, government publications or agency websites, and visual sources such as TED Talks. You may also use the results of an experiment or survey, and you may want to conduct interviews.

Consider whether visuals and media will enhance your report. Can you present data you collect visually? Would a map, photograph, chart, or other graphic provide interesting and relevant support? Would video or audio allow you to present evidence that you would otherwise need to describe in words?

Another Lens. To gain another analytic view on the topic of your report, consider different people affected by it. Say, for example, that you have decided to report on recent high school graduates and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the final months of their senior year. If you are a recent high school graduate, you might naturally gravitate toward writing about yourself and your peers. But you might also consider the adults in the lives of recent high school graduates—for example, teachers, parents, or grandparents—and how they view the same period. Or you might consider the same topic from the perspective of a college admissions department looking at their incoming freshman class.

Quick Launch: Finding and Focusing a Topic

Coming up with a topic for a report can be daunting because you can report on nearly anything. The topic can easily get too broad, trapping you in the realm of generalizations. The trick is to find a topic that interests you and focus on an angle you can analyze in order to say something significant about it. You can use a graphic organizer to generate ideas, or you can use a concept map similar to the one featured in Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text.”

Asking the Journalist’s Questions

One way to generate ideas about a topic is to ask the five W (and one H) questions, also called the journalist’s questions : Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Try answering the following questions to explore a topic:

Who was or is involved in ________?

What happened/is happening with ________? What were/are the results of ________?

When did ________ happen? Is ________ happening now?

Where did ________ happen, or where is ________ happening?

Why did ________ happen, or why is ________ happening now?

How did ________ happen?

For example, imagine that you have decided to write your analytical report on the effect of the COVID-19 shutdown on high-school students by interviewing students on your college campus. Your questions and answers might look something like those in Table 8.2 :

Asking Focused Questions

Another way to find a topic is to ask focused questions about it. For example, you might ask the following questions about the effect of the 2020 pandemic shutdown on recent high school graduates:

  • How did the shutdown change students’ feelings about their senior year?
  • How did the shutdown affect their decisions about post-graduation plans, such as work or going to college?
  • How did the shutdown affect their academic performance in high school or in college?
  • How did/do they feel about continuing their education?
  • How did the shutdown affect their social relationships?

Any of these questions might be developed into a thesis for an analytical report. Table 8.3 shows more examples of broad topics and focusing questions.

Gathering Information

Because they are based on information and evidence, most analytical reports require you to do at least some research. Depending on your assignment, you may be able to find reliable information online, or you may need to do primary research by conducting an experiment, a survey, or interviews. For example, if you live among students in their late teens and early twenties, consider what they can tell you about their lives that you might be able to analyze. Returning to or graduating from high school, starting college, or returning to college in the midst of a global pandemic has provided them, for better or worse, with educational and social experiences that are shared widely by people their age and very different from the experiences older adults had at the same age.

Some report assignments will require you to do formal research, an activity that involves finding sources and evaluating them for reliability, reading them carefully, taking notes, and citing all words you quote and ideas you borrow. See Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information and Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources for detailed instruction on conducting research.

Whether you conduct in-depth research or not, keep track of the ideas that come to you and the information you learn. You can write or dictate notes using an app on your phone or computer, or you can jot notes in a journal if you prefer pen and paper. Then, when you are ready to begin organizing your report, you will have a record of your thoughts and information. Always track the sources of information you gather, whether from printed or digital material or from a person you interviewed, so that you can return to the sources if you need more information. And always credit the sources in your report.

Kinds of Evidence

Depending on your assignment and the topic of your report, certain kinds of evidence may be more effective than others. Other kinds of evidence may even be required. As a general rule, choose evidence that is rooted in verifiable facts and experience. In addition, select the evidence that best supports the topic and your approach to the topic, be sure the evidence meets your instructor’s requirements, and cite any evidence you use that comes from a source. The following list contains different kinds of frequently used evidence and an example of each.

Definition : An explanation of a key word, idea, or concept.

The U.S. Census Bureau refers to a “young adult” as a person between 18 and 34 years old.

Example : An illustration of an idea or concept.

The college experience in the fall of 2020 was starkly different from that of previous years. Students who lived in residence halls were assigned to small pods. On-campus dining services were limited. Classes were small and physically distanced or conducted online. Parties were banned.

Expert opinion : A statement by a professional in the field whose opinion is respected.

According to Louise Aronson, MD, geriatrician and author of Elderhood , people over the age of 65 are the happiest of any age group, reporting “less stress, depression, worry, and anger, and more enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction” (255).

Fact : Information that can be proven correct or accurate.

According to data collected by the NCAA, the academic success of Division I college athletes between 2015 and 2019 was consistently high (Hosick).

Interview : An in-person, phone, or remote conversation that involves an interviewer posing questions to another person or people.

During our interview, I asked Betty about living without a cell phone during the pandemic. She said that before the pandemic, she hadn’t needed a cell phone in her daily activities, but she soon realized that she, and people like her, were increasingly at a disadvantage.

Quotation : The exact words of an author or a speaker.

In response to whether she thought she needed a cell phone, Betty said, “I got along just fine without a cell phone when I could go everywhere in person. The shift to needing a phone came suddenly, and I don’t have extra money in my budget to get one.”

Statistics : A numerical fact or item of data.

The Pew Research Center reported that approximately 25 percent of Hispanic Americans and 17 percent of Black Americans relied on smartphones for online access, compared with 12 percent of White people.

Survey : A structured interview in which respondents (the people who answer the survey questions) are all asked the same questions, either in person or through print or electronic means, and their answers tabulated and interpreted. Surveys discover attitudes, beliefs, or habits of the general public or segments of the population.

A survey of 3,000 mobile phone users in October 2020 showed that 54 percent of respondents used their phones for messaging, while 40 percent used their phones for calls (Steele).

  • Visuals : Graphs, figures, tables, photographs and other images, diagrams, charts, maps, videos, and audio recordings, among others.

Thesis and Organization

Drafting a thesis.

When you have a grasp of your topic, move on to the next phase: drafting a thesis. The thesis is the central idea that you will explore and support in your report; all paragraphs in your report should relate to it. In an essay-style analytical report, you will likely express this main idea in a thesis statement of one or two sentences toward the end of the introduction.

For example, if you found that the academic performance of student athletes was higher than that of non-athletes, you might write the following thesis statement:

student sample text Although a common stereotype is that college athletes barely pass their classes, an analysis of athletes’ academic performance indicates that athletes drop fewer classes, earn higher grades, and are more likely to be on track to graduate in four years when compared with their non-athlete peers. end student sample text

The thesis statement often previews the organization of your writing. For example, in his report on the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Trevor Garcia wrote the following thesis statement, which detailed the central idea of his report:

student sample text An examination of the U.S. response shows that a reduction of experts in key positions and programs, inaction that led to equipment shortages, and inconsistent policies were three major causes of the spread of the virus and the resulting deaths. end student sample text

After you draft a thesis statement, ask these questions, and examine your thesis as you answer them. Revise your draft as needed.

  • Is it interesting? A thesis for a report should answer a question that is worth asking and piques curiosity.
  • Is it precise and specific? If you are interested in reducing pollution in a nearby lake, explain how to stop the zebra mussel infestation or reduce the frequent algae blooms.
  • Is it manageable? Try to split the difference between having too much information and not having enough.

Organizing Your Ideas

As a next step, organize the points you want to make in your report and the evidence to support them. Use an outline, a diagram, or another organizational tool, such as Table 8.4 .

Drafting an Analytical Report

With a tentative thesis, an organization plan, and evidence, you are ready to begin drafting. For this assignment, you will report information, analyze it, and draw conclusions about the cause of something, the effect of something, or the similarities and differences between two different things.

Some students write the introduction first; others save it for last. Whenever you choose to write the introduction, use it to draw readers into your report. Make the topic of your report clear, and be concise and sincere. End the introduction with your thesis statement. Depending on your topic and the type of report, you can write an effective introduction in several ways. Opening a report with an overview is a tried-and-true strategy, as shown in the following example on the U.S. response to COVID-19 by Trevor Garcia. Notice how he opens the introduction with statistics and a comparison and follows it with a question that leads to the thesis statement (underlined).

student sample text With more than 83 million cases and 1.8 million deaths at the end of 2020, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. By the end of 2020, the United States led the world in the number of cases, at more than 20 million infections and nearly 350,000 deaths. In comparison, the second-highest number of cases was in India, which at the end of 2020 had less than half the number of COVID-19 cases despite having a population four times greater than the U.S. (“COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic,” 2021). How did the United States come to have the world’s worst record in this pandemic? underline An examination of the U.S. response shows that a reduction of experts in key positions and programs, inaction that led to equipment shortages, and inconsistent policies were three major causes of the spread of the virus and the resulting deaths end underline . end student sample text

For a less formal report, you might want to open with a question, quotation, or brief story. The following example opens with an anecdote that leads to the thesis statement (underlined).

student sample text Betty stood outside the salon, wondering how to get in. It was June of 2020, and the door was locked. A sign posted on the door provided a phone number for her to call to be let in, but at 81, Betty had lived her life without a cell phone. Betty’s day-to-day life had been hard during the pandemic, but she had planned for this haircut and was looking forward to it; she had a mask on and hand sanitizer in her car. Now she couldn’t get in the door, and she was discouraged. In that moment, Betty realized how much Americans’ dependence on cell phones had grown in the months since the pandemic began. underline Betty and thousands of other senior citizens who could not afford cell phones or did not have the technological skills and support they needed were being left behind in a society that was increasingly reliant on technology end underline . end student sample text

Body Paragraphs: Point, Evidence, Analysis

Use the body paragraphs of your report to present evidence that supports your thesis. A reliable pattern to keep in mind for developing the body paragraphs of a report is point , evidence , and analysis :

  • The point is the central idea of the paragraph, usually given in a topic sentence stated in your own words at or toward the beginning of the paragraph. Each topic sentence should relate to the thesis.
  • The evidence you provide develops the paragraph and supports the point made in the topic sentence. Include details, examples, quotations, paraphrases, and summaries from sources if you conducted formal research. Synthesize the evidence you include by showing in your sentences the connections between sources.
  • The analysis comes at the end of the paragraph. In your own words, draw a conclusion about the evidence you have provided and how it relates to the topic sentence.

The paragraph below illustrates the point, evidence, and analysis pattern. Drawn from a report about concussions among football players, the paragraph opens with a topic sentence about the NCAA and NFL and their responses to studies about concussions. The paragraph is developed with evidence from three sources. It concludes with a statement about helmets and players’ safety.

student sample text The NCAA and NFL have taken steps forward and backward to respond to studies about the danger of concussions among players. Responding to the deaths of athletes, documented brain damage, lawsuits, and public outcry (Buckley et al., 2017), the NCAA instituted protocols to reduce potentially dangerous hits during football games and to diagnose traumatic head injuries more quickly and effectively. Still, it has allowed players to wear more than one style of helmet during a season, raising the risk of injury because of imperfect fit. At the professional level, the NFL developed a helmet-rating system in 2011 in an effort to reduce concussions, but it continued to allow players to wear helmets with a wide range of safety ratings. The NFL’s decision created an opportunity for researchers to look at the relationship between helmet safety ratings and concussions. Cocello et al. (2016) reported that players who wore helmets with a lower safety rating had more concussions than players who wore helmets with a higher safety rating, and they concluded that safer helmets are a key factor in reducing concussions. end student sample text

Developing Paragraph Content

In the body paragraphs of your report, you will likely use examples, draw comparisons, show contrasts, or analyze causes and effects to develop your topic.

Paragraphs developed with Example are common in reports. The paragraph below, adapted from a report by student John Zwick on the mental health of soldiers deployed during wartime, draws examples from three sources.

student sample text Throughout the Vietnam War, military leaders claimed that the mental health of soldiers was stable and that men who suffered from combat fatigue, now known as PTSD, were getting the help they needed. For example, the New York Times (1966) quoted military leaders who claimed that mental fatigue among enlisted men had “virtually ceased to be a problem,” occurring at a rate far below that of World War II. Ayres (1969) reported that Brigadier General Spurgeon Neel, chief American medical officer in Vietnam, explained that soldiers experiencing combat fatigue were admitted to the psychiatric ward, sedated for up to 36 hours, and given a counseling session with a doctor who reassured them that the rest was well deserved and that they were ready to return to their units. Although experts outside the military saw profound damage to soldiers’ psyches when they returned home (Halloran, 1970), the military stayed the course, treating acute cases expediently and showing little concern for the cumulative effect of combat stress on individual soldiers. end student sample text

When you analyze causes and effects , you explain the reasons that certain things happened and/or their results. The report by Trevor Garcia on the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is an example: his report examines the reasons the United States failed to control the coronavirus. The paragraph below, adapted from another student’s report written for an environmental policy course, explains the effect of white settlers’ views of forest management on New England.

student sample text The early colonists’ European ideas about forest management dramatically changed the New England landscape. White settlers saw the New World as virgin, unused land, even though indigenous people had been drawing on its resources for generations by using fire subtly to improve hunting, employing construction techniques that left ancient trees intact, and farming small, efficient fields that left the surrounding landscape largely unaltered. White settlers’ desire to develop wood-built and wood-burning homesteads surrounded by large farm fields led to forestry practices and techniques that resulted in the removal of old-growth trees. These practices defined the way the forests look today. end student sample text

Compare and contrast paragraphs are useful when you wish to examine similarities and differences. You can use both comparison and contrast in a single paragraph, or you can use one or the other. The paragraph below, adapted from a student report on the rise of populist politicians, compares the rhetorical styles of populist politicians Huey Long and Donald Trump.

student sample text A key similarity among populist politicians is their rejection of carefully crafted sound bites and erudite vocabulary typically associated with candidates for high office. Huey Long and Donald Trump are two examples. When he ran for president, Long captured attention through his wild gesticulations on almost every word, dramatically varying volume, and heavily accented, folksy expressions, such as “The only way to be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!” In addition, Long’s down-home persona made him a credible voice to represent the common people against the country’s rich, and his buffoonish style allowed him to express his radical ideas without sounding anti-communist alarm bells. Similarly, Donald Trump chose to speak informally in his campaign appearances, but the persona he projected was that of a fast-talking, domineering salesman. His frequent use of personal anecdotes, rhetorical questions, brief asides, jokes, personal attacks, and false claims made his speeches disjointed, but they gave the feeling of a running conversation between him and his audience. For example, in a 2015 speech, Trump said, “They just built a hotel in Syria. Can you believe this? They built a hotel. When I have to build a hotel, I pay interest. They don’t have to pay interest, because they took the oil that, when we left Iraq, I said we should’ve taken” (“Our Country Needs” 2020). While very different in substance, Long and Trump adopted similar styles that positioned them as the antithesis of typical politicians and their worldviews. end student sample text

The conclusion should draw the threads of your report together and make its significance clear to readers. You may wish to review the introduction, restate the thesis, recommend a course of action, point to the future, or use some combination of these. Whichever way you approach it, the conclusion should not head in a new direction. The following example is the conclusion from a student’s report on the effect of a book about environmental movements in the United States.

student sample text Since its publication in 1949, environmental activists of various movements have found wisdom and inspiration in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac . These audiences included Leopold’s conservationist contemporaries, environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s, and the environmental justice activists who rose in the 1980s and continue to make their voices heard today. These audiences have read the work differently: conservationists looked to the author as a leader, environmentalists applied his wisdom to their movement, and environmental justice advocates have pointed out the flaws in Leopold’s thinking. Even so, like those before them, environmental justice activists recognize the book’s value as a testament to taking the long view and eliminating biases that may cloud an objective assessment of humanity’s interdependent relationship with the environment. end student sample text

Citing Sources

You must cite the sources of information and data included in your report. Citations must appear in both the text and a bibliography at the end of the report.

The sample paragraphs in the previous section include examples of in-text citation using APA documentation style. Trevor Garcia’s report on the U.S. response to COVID-19 in 2020 also uses APA documentation style for citations in the text of the report and the list of references at the end. Your instructor may require another documentation style, such as MLA or Chicago.

Peer Review: Getting Feedback from Readers

You will likely engage in peer review with other students in your class by sharing drafts and providing feedback to help spot strengths and weaknesses in your reports. For peer review within a class, your instructor may provide assignment-specific questions or a form for you to complete as you work together.

If you have a writing center on your campus, it is well worth your time to make an online or in-person appointment with a tutor. You’ll receive valuable feedback and improve your ability to review not only your report but your overall writing.

Another way to receive feedback on your report is to ask a friend or family member to read your draft. Provide a list of questions or a form such as the one in Table 8.5 for them to complete as they read.

Revising: Using Reviewers’ Responses to Revise your Work

When you receive comments from readers, including your instructor, read each comment carefully to understand what is being asked. Try not to get defensive, even though this response is completely natural. Remember that readers are like coaches who want you to succeed. They are looking at your writing from outside your own head, and they can identify strengths and weaknesses that you may not have noticed. Keep track of the strengths and weaknesses your readers point out. Pay special attention to those that more than one reader identifies, and use this information to improve your report and later assignments.

As you analyze each response, be open to suggestions for improvement, and be willing to make significant revisions to improve your writing. Perhaps you need to revise your thesis statement to better reflect the content of your draft. Maybe you need to return to your sources to better understand a point you’re trying to make in order to develop a paragraph more fully. Perhaps you need to rethink the organization, move paragraphs around, and add transition sentences.

Below is an early draft of part of Trevor Garcia’s report with comments from a peer reviewer:

student sample text To truly understand what happened, it’s important first to look back to the years leading up to the pandemic. Epidemiologists and public health officials had long known that a global pandemic was possible. In 2016, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) published a 69-page document with the intimidating title Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents . The document’s two sections address responses to “emerging disease threats that start or are circulating in another country but not yet confirmed within U.S. territorial borders” and to “emerging disease threats within our nation’s borders.” On 13 January 2017, the joint Obama-Trump transition teams performed a pandemic preparedness exercise; however, the playbook was never adopted by the incoming administration. end student sample text

annotated text Peer Review Comment: Do the words in quotation marks need to be a direct quotation? It seems like a paraphrase would work here. end annotated text

annotated text Peer Review Comment: I’m getting lost in the details about the playbook. What’s the Obama-Trump transition team? end annotated text

student sample text In February 2018, the administration began to cut funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; cuts to other health agencies continued throughout 2018, with funds diverted to unrelated projects such as housing for detained immigrant children. end student sample text

annotated text Peer Review Comment: This paragraph has only one sentence, and it’s more like an example. It needs a topic sentence and more development. end annotated text

student sample text Three months later, Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the NSC, spoke at a symposium marking the centennial of the 1918 influenza pandemic. “The threat of pandemic flu is the number one health security concern,” she said. “Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no.” end student sample text

annotated text Peer Review Comment: This paragraph is very short and a lot like the previous paragraph in that it’s a single example. It needs a topic sentence. Maybe you can combine them? end annotated text

annotated text Peer Review Comment: Be sure to cite the quotation. end annotated text

Reading these comments and those of others, Trevor decided to combine the three short paragraphs into one paragraph focusing on the fact that the United States knew a pandemic was possible but was unprepared for it. He developed the paragraph, using the short paragraphs as evidence and connecting the sentences and evidence with transitional words and phrases. Finally, he added in-text citations in APA documentation style to credit his sources. The revised paragraph is below:

student sample text Epidemiologists and public health officials in the United States had long known that a global pandemic was possible. In 2016, the National Security Council (NSC) published Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents , a 69-page document on responding to diseases spreading within and outside of the United States. On January 13, 2017, the joint transition teams of outgoing president Barack Obama and then president-elect Donald Trump performed a pandemic preparedness exercise based on the playbook; however, it was never adopted by the incoming administration (Goodman & Schulkin, 2020). A year later, in February 2018, the Trump administration began to cut funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving key positions unfilled. Other individuals who were fired or resigned in 2018 were the homeland security adviser, whose portfolio included global pandemics; the director for medical and biodefense preparedness; and the top official in charge of a pandemic response. None of them were replaced, leaving the White House with no senior person who had experience in public health (Goodman & Schulkin, 2020). Experts voiced concerns, among them Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the NSC, who spoke at a symposium marking the centennial of the 1918 influenza pandemic in May 2018: “The threat of pandemic flu is the number one health security concern,” she said. “Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no” (Sun, 2018, final para.). end student sample text

A final word on working with reviewers’ comments: as you consider your readers’ suggestions, remember, too, that you remain the author. You are free to disregard suggestions that you think will not improve your writing. If you choose to disregard comments from your instructor, consider submitting a note explaining your reasons with the final draft of your report.

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How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

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Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

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OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today’s announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024 ).

“We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems,” says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.

But there’s a disclaimer. OpenAI gave us a preview of Sora (which means sky in Japanese) under conditions of strict secrecy. In an unusual move, the firm would only share information about Sora if we agreed to wait until after news of the model was made public to seek the opinions of outside experts. [Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with outside comment below.] OpenAI has not yet released a technical report or demonstrated the model actually working. And it says it won’t be releasing Sora anytime soon. [ Update: OpenAI has now shared more technical details on its website.]

The first generative models that could produce video from snippets of text appeared in late 2022. But early examples from Meta , Google, and a startup called Runway were glitchy and grainy. Since then, the tech has been getting better fast. Runway’s gen-2 model, released last year, can produce short clips that come close to matching big-studio animation in their quality. But most of these examples are still only a few seconds long.  

The sample videos from OpenAI’s Sora are high-definition and full of detail. OpenAI also says it can generate videos up to a minute long. One video of a Tokyo street scene shows that Sora has learned how objects fit together in 3D: the camera swoops into the scene to follow a couple as they walk past a row of shops.

OpenAI also claims that Sora handles occlusion well. One problem with existing models is that they can fail to keep track of objects when they drop out of view. For example, if a truck passes in front of a street sign, the sign might not reappear afterward.  

In a video of a papercraft underwater scene, Sora has added what look like cuts between different pieces of footage, and the model has maintained a consistent style between them.

It’s not perfect. In the Tokyo video, cars to the left look smaller than the people walking beside them. They also pop in and out between the tree branches. “There’s definitely some work to be done in terms of long-term coherence,” says Brooks. “For example, if someone goes out of view for a long time, they won’t come back. The model kind of forgets that they were supposed to be there.”

Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model’s typical output.   

It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI’s announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.

In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses of fake but photorealistic video . “We’re being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public,” says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm’s text-to-image model DALL-E .

But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. “The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of,” says Ramesh.

To build Sora, the team adapted the tech behind DALL-E 3, the latest version of OpenAI’s flagship text-to-image model. Like most text-to-image models, DALL-E 3 uses what’s known as a diffusion model. These are trained to turn a fuzz of random pixels into a picture.

Sora takes this approach and applies it to videos rather than still images. But the researchers also added another technique to the mix. Unlike DALL-E or most other generative video models, Sora combines its diffusion model with a type of neural network called a transformer.

Transformers are great at processing long sequences of data, like words. That has made them the special sauce inside large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google DeepMind’s Gemini . But videos are not made of words. Instead, the researchers had to find a way to cut videos into chunks that could be treated as if they were. The approach they came up with was to dice videos up across both space and time. “It’s like if you were to have a stack of all the video frames and you cut little cubes from it,” says Brooks.

The transformer inside Sora can then process these chunks of video data in much the same way that the transformer inside a large language model processes words in a block of text. The researchers say that this let them train Sora on many more types of video than other text-to-video models, varied in terms of resolution, duration, aspect ratio, and orientation. “It really helps the model,” says Brooks. “That is something that we’re not aware of any existing work on.”

“From a technical perspective it seems like a very significant leap forward,” says Sam Gregory, executive director at Witness, a human rights organization that specializes in the use and misuse of video technology. “But there are two sides to the coin,” he says. “The expressive capabilities offer the potential for many more people to be storytellers using video. And there are also real potential avenues for misuse.” 

OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images . Photorealistic video takes this to another level.

Gregory notes that you could use technology like this to misinform people about conflict zones or protests. The range of styles is also interesting, he says. If you could generate shaky footage that looked like something shot with a phone, it would come across as more authentic.

The tech is not there yet, but generative video has gone from zero to Sora in just 18 months. “We’re going to be entering a universe where there will be fully synthetic content, human-generated content and a mix of the two,” says Gregory.

The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI’s safety policies.

OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags , metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora’s output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.  

“We’ll definitely need to get more feedback and learn more about the types of risks that need to be addressed with video before it would make sense for us to release this,” says Ramesh.

Brooks agrees. “Part of the reason that we’re talking about this research now is so that we can start getting the input that we need to do the work necessary to figure out how it could be safely deployed,” he says.

Update 2/15: Comments from Sam Gregory were added .

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EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

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As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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