A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Use the guidelines below to learn about the practice of close reading.

When your teachers or professors ask you to analyze a literary text, they often look for something frequently called close reading. Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form.

Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices. Literary analysis involves examining these components, which allows us to find in small parts of the text clues to help us understand the whole. For example, if an author writes a novel in the form of a personal journal about a character’s daily life, but that journal reads like a series of lab reports, what do we learn about that character? What is the effect of picking a word like “tome” instead of “book”? In effect, you are putting the author’s choices under a microscope.

The process of close reading should produce a lot of questions. It is when you begin to answer these questions that you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper that makes the most of your close reading work.

Close reading sometimes feels like over-analyzing, but don’t worry. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order to form as many questions as you can. When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. This guide imagines you are sitting down to read a text for the first time on your way to developing an argument about a text and writing a paper. To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem “Design” by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme.

If you want even more information about approaching poems specifically, take a look at our guide: How to Read a Poem .

As our guide to reading poetry suggests, have a pencil out when you read a text. Make notes in the margins, underline important words, place question marks where you are confused by something. Of course, if you are reading in a library book, you should keep all your notes on a separate piece of paper. If you are not making marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line numbers or even quote portions of the text so you have enough context to remember what you found interesting.

reading analysis example

Design I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth— Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth— A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite. What had that flower to do with being white, The wayside blue and innocent heal-all? What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?— If design govern in a thing so small.

The subject of a literary text is simply what the text is about. What is its plot? What is its most important topic? What image does it describe? It’s easy to think of novels and stories as having plots, but sometimes it helps to think of poetry as having a kind of plot as well. When you examine the subject of a text, you want to develop some preliminary ideas about the text and make sure you understand its major concerns before you dig deeper.


In “Design,” the speaker describes a scene: a white spider holding a moth on a white flower. The flower is a heal-all, the blooms of which are usually violet-blue. This heal-all is unusual. The speaker then poses a series of questions, asking why this heal-all is white instead of blue and how the spider and moth found this particular flower. How did this situation arise?

The speaker’s questions seem simple, but they are actually fairly nuanced. We can use them as a guide for our own as we go forward with our close reading.

  • Furthering the speaker’s simple “how did this happen,” we might ask, is the scene in this poem a manufactured situation?
  • The white moth and white spider each use the atypical white flower as camouflage in search of sanctuary and supper respectively. Did these flora and fauna come together for a purpose?
  • Does the speaker have a stance about whether there is a purpose behind the scene? If so, what is it?
  • How will other elements of the text relate to the unpleasantness and uncertainty in our first look at the poem’s subject?

After thinking about local questions, we have to zoom out. Ultimately, what is this text about?

Form is how a text is put together. When you look at a text, observe how the author has arranged it. If it is a novel, is it written in the first person? How is the novel divided? If it is a short story, why did the author choose to write short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella? Examining the form of a text can help you develop a starting set of questions in your reading, which then may guide further questions stemming from even closer attention to the specific words the author chooses. A little background research on form and what different forms can mean makes it easier to figure out why and how the author’s choices are important.

Most poems follow rules or principles of form; even free verse poems are marked by the author’s choices in line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme—even if none of these exists, which is a notable choice in itself. Here’s an example of thinking through these elements in “Design.”

In “Design,” Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen lines in iambic pentameter consisting of an octave (a stanza of eight lines) and a sestet (a stanza of six lines). We will focus on rhyme scheme and stanza structure rather than meter for the purposes of this guide. A typical Italian sonnet has a specific rhyme scheme for the octave:

a b b a a b b a

There’s more variation in the sestet rhymes, but one of the more common schemes is

c d e c d e

Conventionally, the octave introduces a problem or question which the sestet then resolves. The point at which the sonnet goes from the problem/question to the resolution is called the volta, or turn. (Note that we are speaking only in generalities here; there is a great deal of variation.)

Frost uses the usual octave scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” (a) and “oth” (b) sounds: “white,” “moth,” “cloth,” “blight,” “right,” “broth,” “froth,” “kite.” However, his sestet follows an unusual scheme with “-ite”/”-ight” and “all” sounds:

a c a a c c

Now, we have a few questions with which we can start:

  • Why use an Italian sonnet?
  • Why use an unusual scheme in the sestet?
  • What problem/question and resolution (if any) does Frost offer?
  • What is the volta in this poem?
  • In other words, what is the point?

Italian sonnets have a long tradition; many careful readers recognize the form and know what to expect from his octave, volta, and sestet. Frost seems to do something fairly standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the turn Frost makes is not to resolution, but to questions and uncertainty. A white spider sitting on a white flower has killed a white moth.

  • How did these elements come together?
  • Was the moth’s death random or by design?
  • Is one worse than the other?

We can guess right away that Frost’s disruption of the usual purpose of the sestet has something to do with his disruption of its rhyme scheme. Looking even more closely at the text will help us refine our observations and guesses.

Word Choice, or Diction

Looking at the word choice of a text helps us “dig in” ever more deeply. If you are reading something longer, are there certain words that come up again and again? Are there words that stand out? While you are going through this process, it is best for you to assume that every word is important—again, you can decide whether something is really important later.

Even when you read prose, our guide for reading poetry offers good advice: read with a pencil and make notes. Mark the words that stand out, and perhaps write the questions you have in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. If you have ideas that may possibly answer your questions, write those down, too.

Let’s take a look at the first line of “Design”:

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white

The poem starts with something unpleasant: a spider. Then, as we look more closely at the adjectives describing the spider, we may see connotations of something that sounds unhealthy or unnatural. When we imagine spiders, we do not generally picture them dimpled and white; it is an uncommon and decidedly creepy image. There is dissonance between the spider and its descriptors, i.e., what is wrong with this picture? Already we have a question: what is going on with this spider?

We should look for additional clues further on in the text. The next two lines develop the image of the unusual, unpleasant-sounding spider:

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—

Now we have a white flower (a heal-all, which usually has a violet-blue flower) and a white moth in addition to our white spider. Heal-alls have medicinal properties, as their name suggests, but this one seems to have a genetic mutation—perhaps like the spider? Does the mutation that changes the heal-all’s color also change its beneficial properties—could it be poisonous rather than curative? A white moth doesn’t seem remarkable, but it is “Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth,” or like manmade fabric that is artificially “rigid” rather than smooth and flowing like we imagine satin to be. We might think for a moment of a shroud or the lining of a coffin, but even that is awry, for neither should be stiff with death.

The first three lines of the poem’s octave introduce unpleasant natural images “of death and blight” (as the speaker puts it in line four). The flower and moth disrupt expectations: the heal-all is white instead of “blue and innocent,” and the moth is reduced to “rigid satin cloth” or “dead wings carried like a paper kite.” We might expect a spider to be unpleasant and deadly; the poem’s spider also has an unusual and unhealthy appearance.

  • The focus on whiteness in these lines has more to do with death than purity—can we understand that whiteness as being corpse-like rather than virtuous?

Well before the volta, Frost makes a “turn” away from nature as a retreat and haven; instead, he unearths its inherent dangers, making nature menacing. From three lines alone, we have a number of questions:

  • Will whiteness play a role in the rest of the poem?
  • How does “design”—an arrangement of these circumstances—fit with a scene of death?
  • What other juxtapositions might we encounter?

These disruptions and dissonances recollect Frost’s alteration to the standard Italian sonnet form: finding the ways and places in which form and word choice go together will help us begin to unravel some larger concepts the poem itself addresses.

Put simply, themes are major ideas in a text. Many texts, especially longer forms like novels and plays, have multiple themes. That’s good news when you are close reading because it means there are many different ways you can think through the questions you develop.

So far in our reading of “Design,” our questions revolve around disruption: disruption of form, disruption of expectations in the description of certain images. Discovering a concept or idea that links multiple questions or observations you have made is the beginning of a discovery of theme.

What is happening with disruption in “Design”? What point is Frost making? Observations about other elements in the text help you address the idea of disruption in more depth. Here is where we look back at the work we have already done: What is the text about? What is notable about the form, and how does it support or undermine what the words say? Does the specific language of the text highlight, or redirect, certain ideas?

In this example, we are looking to determine what kind(s) of disruption the poem contains or describes. Rather than “disruption,” we want to see what kind of disruption, or whether indeed Frost uses disruptions in form and language to communicate something opposite: design.

Sample Analysis

After you make notes, formulate questions, and set tentative hypotheses, you must analyze the subject of your close reading. Literary analysis is another process of reading (and writing!) that allows you to make a claim about the text. It is also the point at which you turn a critical eye to your earlier questions and observations to find the most compelling points, discarding the ones that are a “stretch.” By “stretch,” we mean that we must discard points that are fascinating but have no clear connection to the text as a whole. (We recommend a separate document for recording the brilliant ideas that don’t quite fit this time around.)

Here follows an excerpt from a brief analysis of “Design” based on the close reading above. This example focuses on some lines in great detail in order to unpack the meaning and significance of the poem’s language. By commenting on the different elements of close reading we have discussed, it takes the results of our close reading to offer one particular way into the text. (In case you were thinking about using this sample as your own, be warned: it has no thesis and it is easily discoverable on the web. Plus it doesn’t have a title.)

Frost’s speaker brews unlikely associations in the first stanza of the poem. The “Assorted characters of death and blight / Mixed ready to begin the morning right” make of the grotesque scene an equally grotesque mockery of a breakfast cereal (4–5). These lines are almost singsong in meter and it is easy to imagine them set to a radio jingle. A pun on “right”/”rite” slides the “characters of death and blight” into their expected concoction: a “witches’ broth” (6). These juxtapositions—a healthy breakfast that is also a potion for dark magic—are borne out when our “fat and white” spider becomes “a snow-drop”—an early spring flower associated with renewal—and the moth as “dead wings carried like a paper kite” (1, 7, 8). Like the mutant heal-all that hosts the moth’s death, the spider becomes a deadly flower; the harmless moth becomes a child’s toy, but as “dead wings,” more like a puppet made of a skull. The volta offers no resolution for our unsettled expectations. Having observed the scene and detailed its elements in all their unpleasantness, the speaker turns to questions rather than answers. How did “The wayside blue and innocent heal-all” end up white and bleached like a bone (10)? How did its “kindred spider” find the white flower, which was its perfect hiding place (11)? Was the moth, then, also searching for camouflage, only to meet its end? Using another question as a disguise, the speaker offers a hypothesis: “What but design of darkness to appall?” (13). This question sounds rhetorical, as though the only reason for such an unlikely combination of flora and fauna is some “design of darkness.” Some force, the speaker suggests, assembled the white spider, flower, and moth to snuff out the moth’s life. Such a design appalls, or horrifies. We might also consider the speaker asking what other force but dark design could use something as simple as appalling in its other sense (making pale or white) to effect death. However, the poem does not close with a question, but with a statement. The speaker’s “If design govern in a thing so small” establishes a condition for the octave’s questions after the fact (14). There is no point in considering the dark design that brought together “assorted characters of death and blight” if such an event is too minor, too physically small to be the work of some force unknown. Ending on an “if” clause has the effect of rendering the poem still more uncertain in its conclusions: not only are we faced with unanswered questions, we are now not even sure those questions are valid in the first place. Behind the speaker and the disturbing scene, we have Frost and his defiance of our expectations for a Petrarchan sonnet. Like whatever designer may have altered the flower and attracted the spider to kill the moth, the poet built his poem “wrong” with a purpose in mind. Design surely governs in a poem, however small; does Frost also have a dark design? Can we compare a scene in nature to a carefully constructed sonnet?

A Note on Organization

Your goal in a paper about literature is to communicate your best and most interesting ideas to your reader. Depending on the type of paper you have been assigned, your ideas may need to be organized in service of a thesis to which everything should link back. It is best to ask your instructor about the expectations for your paper.

Knowing how to organize these papers can be tricky, in part because there is no single right answer—only more and less effective answers. You may decide to organize your paper thematically, or by tackling each idea sequentially; you may choose to order your ideas by their importance to your argument or to the poem. If you are comparing and contrasting two texts, you might work thematically or by addressing first one text and then the other. One way to approach a text may be to start with the beginning of the novel, story, play, or poem, and work your way toward its end. For example, here is the rough structure of the example above: The author of the sample decided to use the poem itself as an organizational guide, at least for this part of the analysis.

  • A paragraph about the octave.
  • A paragraph about the volta.
  • A paragraph about the penultimate line (13).
  • A paragraph about the final line (14).
  • A paragraph addressing form that suggests a transition to the next section of the paper.

You will have to decide for yourself the best way to communicate your ideas to your reader. Is it easier to follow your points when you write about each part of the text in detail before moving on? Or is your work clearer when you work through each big idea—the significance of whiteness, the effect of an altered sonnet form, and so on—sequentially?

We suggest you write your paper however is easiest for you then move things around during revision if you need to.

Further Reading

If you really want to master the practice of reading and writing about literature, we recommend Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain’s wonderful book, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature . Barnet and Cain offer not only definitions and descriptions of processes, but examples of explications and analyses, as well as checklists for you, the author of the paper. The Short Guide is certainly not the only available reference for writing about literature, but it is an excellent guide and reminder for new writers and veterans alike.

reading analysis example

Academic and Professional Writing

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Analysis Papers

Reading Poetry

Using Literary Quotations

Play Reviews

Writing a Rhetorical Précis to Analyze Nonfiction Texts

Incorporating Interview Data

Grant Proposals

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing

Job Materials and Application Essays

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

  • Before you begin: useful tips for writing your essay
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CV Writing Tips

Cover Letters

Business Letters

Proposals and Dissertations

Resources for Proposal Writers

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Research Papers

Planning and Writing Research Papers

Quoting and Paraphrasing

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Creating Poster Presentations

Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Thank-You Notes

Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors

Reading for a Review

Critical Reviews

Writing a Review of Literature

Scientific Reports

Scientific Report Format

Sample Lab Assignment

Writing for the Web

Writing an Effective Blog Post

Writing for Social Media: A Guide for Academics

reading analysis example

How to Do a Close Reading

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

Close Reading Fundamentals

How to choose a passage to close-read, how to approach a close reading, how to annotate a passage, how to improve your close reading, how to practice close reading, how to incorporate close readings into an essay, how to teach close reading, additional resources for advanced students.

Close reading engages with the formal properties of a text—its literary devices, language, structure, and style. Popularized in the mid-twentieth century, this way of reading allows you to interpret a text without outside information such as historical context, author biography, philosophy, or political ideology. It also requires you to put aside your affective (that is, personal and emotional) response to the text, focusing instead on objective study. Why close-read a text? Doing so will increase your understanding of how a piece of writing works, as well as what it means. Perhaps most importantly, close reading can help you develop and support an essay argument. In this guide, you'll learn more about what close reading entails and find strategies for producing precise, creative close readings. We've included a section with resources for teachers, along with a final section with further reading for advanced students.

You might compare close reading to wringing out a wet towel, in which you twist the material repeatedly until you have extracted as much liquid as possible. When you close-read, you'll return to a short passage several times in order to note as many details about its form and content as possible. Use the links below to learn more about close reading's place in literary history and in the classroom.

"Close Reading" (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia's relatively short introduction to close reading contains sections on background, examples, and how to teach close reading. You can also click the links on this page to learn more about the literary critics who pioneered the method.

"Close Reading: A Brief Note" (Literariness.org)

This article provides a condensed discussion of what close reading is, how it works, and how it is different from other ways of reading a literary text.

"What Close Reading Actually Means" ( TeachThought )

In this article by an Ed.D., you'll learn what close reading "really means" in the classroom today—a meaning that has shifted significantly from its original place in 20th century literary criticism.

"Close Reading" (Univ. of Washington)

This hand-out from a college writing course defines close reading, suggests  why  we close-read, and offers tips for close reading successfully, including focusing on language, audience, and scope.

"Glossary Entry on New Criticism" (Poetry Foundation)

If you'd like to read a short introduction to the school of thought that gave rise to close reading, this is the place to go. Poetry Foundation's entry on New Criticism is concise and accessible.

"New Criticism" (Washington State Univ.)

This webpage from a college writing course offers another brief explanation of close reading in relation to New Criticism. It provides some key questions to help you think like a New Critic.

When choosing a passage to close-read, you'll want to look for relatively short bits of text that are rich in detail. The resources below offer more tips and tricks for selecting passages, along with links to pre-selected passages you can print for use at home or in the classroom.

"How to Choose the Perfect Passage for Close Reading" ( We Are Teachers )

This post from a former special education teacher describes six characteristics you might look for when selecting a close reading passage from a novel: beginnings, pivotal plot points, character changes, high-density passages, "Q&A" passages, and "aesthetic" passages. 

"Close Reading Passages" (Reading Sage)

Reading Sage provides links to close reading passages you can use as is; alternatively, you could also use them as models for selecting your own passages. The page is divided into sections geared toward elementary, middle school, and early high school students.

"Close Reading" (Univ. of Guelph)

The University of Guelph's guide to close reading contains a short section on how to "Select a Passage." The author suggests that you choose a brief passage. 

"Close Reading Advice" (Prezi)

This Prezi was created by an AP English teacher. The opening section on passage selection suggests choosing "thick paragraphs" filled with "figurative language and rich details or description."

Now that you know how to select a passage to analyze, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the textual qualities you should look for when reading. Whether you're approaching a poem, a novel, or a magazine article, details on the level of language (literary devices) and form (formal features) convey meaning. Understanding  how  a text communicates will help you understand  what  it is communicating. The links in this section will familiarize you with the tools you need to start a close reading.

Literary Devices

"Literary Devices and Terms" (LitCharts)

LitCharts' dedicated page covers 130+ literary devices. Also known as "rhetorical devices," "figures of speech," or "elements of style," these linguistic constructions are the building blocks of literature. Some of the most common include  simile , metaphor , alliteration , and onomatopoeia ; browse the links on LitCharts to learn about many more. 

"Rhetorical Device" (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia's page on rhetorical devices defines the term in relation to the ancient art of "rhetoric" or persuasive speaking. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to several online handbooks and lists of rhetorical devices.

"15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms for AP English Literature" ( Albert )

The  Albert blog   offers this list of 15 rhetorical devices that high school English students should know how to define and spot in a literary text; though geared toward the Advanced Placement exam, its tips are widely applicable.

"The 55 AP Language and Composition Terms You Must Know" (PrepScholar)

This blog post lists 55 terms high school students should learn how to recognize and define for the Advanced Placement exam in English Literature.

Formal Features

In LitCharts' bank of literary devices and terms, you'll also find resources to describe a text's structure and overall character. Some of the most important of these are  rhyme , meter , and  tone ; browse the page to find more. 

"Rhythm" ( Encyclopedia Britannica )

This encyclopedia entry on rhythm and meter offers an in-depth definition of the two most fundamental aspects of poetry.

"How to Analyze Syntax for AP English Literature" ( Albert)

The Albert blog will help you understand what "syntax" is, making a case for why you should pay attention to sentence structure when analyzing a literary text.

"Grammar Basics: Sentence Parts and Sentence Structures" ( ThoughtCo )

This article provides a meticulous overview of the components of a sentence. It's useful if you need to review your parts of speech or if you need to be able to identify things like prepositional phrases.

"Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice" (Wheaton College)

Wheaton College's Writing Center offers this clear, concise discussion of several important formal features. Although it's designed to help essay writers, it will also help you understand and spot these stylistic features in others' work. 

Now that you know what rhetorical devices, formal features, and other details to look for, you're ready to find them in a text. For this purpose, it is crucial to annotate (write notes) as you read and re-read. Each time you return to the text, you'll likely notice something new; these observations will form the basis of your close reading. The resources in this section offer some concrete strategies for annotating literary texts.

"How to Annotate a Text" (LitCharts)

Begin by consulting our  How to Annotate a Text  guide. This collection of links and resources is helpful for short passages (that is, those for close reading) as well as longer works, like whole novels or poems.

"Annotation Guide" (Covington Catholic High School)

This hand-out from a high school teacher will help you understand why we annotate, and how to annotate a text successfully. You might choose to incorporate some of the interpretive notes and symbols suggested here.

"Annotating Literature" (New Canaan Public Schools)

This one-page, introductory resource provides a list of 10 items you should look for when reading a text, including attitude and theme.

"Purposeful Annotation" (Dave Stuart Jr.)

This article from a high school teacher's blog describes the author's top close reading strategy: purposeful annotation. In fact, this teacher more or less equates close reading with annotation.

Looking for ways to improve your close reading? The articles, guides, and videos in this section will expose you to various methods of close reading, as well as practice exercises. No two people read exactly the same way. Whatever your level of expertise, it can be useful to broaden your skill set by testing the techniques suggested by the resources below.

"How to Do a Close Reading" (Harvard College Writing Center)

This article, part of Harvard's comprehensive "Strategies for Essay Writing Guide," describes three steps to a successful close reading. You will want to return to this resource when incorporating your close reading into an essay.

"A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis" (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center)

Working through this guide from another college writing center will help you move through the process of close reading a text. You'll find a sample analysis of Robert Frost's "Design" at the end.

"How to Do a Close Reading of a Text" (YouTube)

This four-minute video from the "Literacy and Math Ideas" channel offers a number of helpful tips for reading a text closely in accordance with Common Core standards.

"Poetry: Close Reading" (Purdue OWL)

Short, dense poems are a natural fit for the close reading approach. This page from the Purdue Online Writing Lab takes you step-by-step through an analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

"Steps for Close Reading or Explication de Texte" ( The Literary Link )

This page, which mentions close reading's close relationship to the French formalist method of  "explication de texte," shares "12 Steps to Literary Awareness."

You can practice your close reading skills by reading, re-reading and annotating any brief passage of text. The resources below will get you started by offering pre-selected passages and questions to guide your reading. You'll find links to resources that are designed for students of all levels, from elementary school through college.

"Notes on Close Reading" (MIT Open Courseware)

This resource describes steps you can work through when close reading, providing a passage from Mary Shelley's  Frankenstein  for you to test your skills.

"Close Reading Practice Worksheets" (Gillian Duff's English Resources)

Here, you'll find 10 close reading-centered worksheets you can download and print. The "higher-close-reading-formula" link at the bottom of the page provides a chart with even more steps and strategies for close reading.

"Close Reading Activities" (Education World)

The four activities described on this page are best suited to elementary and middle school students. Under each heading is a link to handouts or detailed descriptions of the activity.

"Close Reading Practice Passages: High School" (Varsity Tutors)

This webpage from Varsity Tutors contains over a dozen links to close reading passages and exercises, including several resources that focus on close-reading satire.

"Benjamin Franklin's Satire of Witch Hunting" (America in Class)

This page contains both a "teacher's guide" and "student version" to interpreting Benjamin Franklin's satire of a witch trial. The thirteen close reading questions on the right side of the page will help you analyze the text thoroughly.

Whether you're writing a research paper or an essay, close reading can help you build an argument. Careful analysis of your primary texts allows you to draw out meanings you want to emphasize, thereby supporting your central claim. The resources in this section introduce you to strategies suited to various common writing assignments.

"How to Write a Research Paper" (LitCharts)

The resources in this guide will help you learn to formulate a thesis, organize evidence, write an outline, and draft a research paper, one of the two most common assignments in which you might incorporate close reading.

"How to Write an Essay" (LitCharts)

In this guide, you'll learn how to plan, draft, and revise an essay, whether for the classroom or as a take-home assignment. Close reading goes hand in hand with the brainstorming and drafting processes for essay writing.

"Guide to the Close Reading Essay" (Univ. of Warwick)

This guide was designed for undergraduates, and assumes prior knowledge of formal features and rhetorical devices one might find in a poem. High schoolers will find it useful after addressing the "elements of a close reading" section above.

"Beginning the Academic Essay" (Harvard College Writing Center)

Harvard's guide discusses the broader category of the "academic essay." Here, the author assumes that your essay's close readings will be accompanied by context and evidence from secondary sources. 

A Short Guide to Writing About Literature (Amazon)

Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain emphasize that writing is a process. In their book, you'll find definitions of important literary terms, examples of successful explications of literary texts, and checklists for essay writers.

Due in part to the Common Core's emphasis on close reading skills, resources for teaching students how to close-read abound. Here, you'll find a wealth of information on how and why we teach students to close-read texts. The first section includes links to activities, exercises, and complete lesson plans. The second section offers background material on the method, along with strategies for implementing close reading in the classroom.

Lesson Plans and Activities

"Four Lessons for Introducing the Fundamental Steps of Close Reading" (Corwin)

Here, Corwin has made the second chapter of Nancy Akhavan's  The Nonfiction Now Lesson Bank, Grades 4 – 8 available online. You'll find four sample lessons to use in the elementary or middle school classroom

"Sonic Patterns: Exploring Poetic Techniques Through Close Reading" ( ReadWriteThink )

This lesson plan for high school students includes material for five 50-minute sessions on sonic patterns (including consonance, assonance, and alliteration). The literary text at hand is Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."

"Close Reading of a Short Text: Complete Lesson" (McGraw Hill via YouTube)

This eight-minute video describes a complete lesson in which a teacher models close reading of a short text and offers guiding questions.

"Close Reading Model Lessons" (Achieve the Core)

These three model lessons on close reading will help you determine what makes a text "appropriately complex" for the grade level you teach.

Close Reading Bundle (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This top-rated bundle of close reading resources was designed for the middle school classroom. It contains over 150 pages of worksheets, complete lesson plans, and literacy center ideas.

"10 Intriguing Photos to Teach Close Reading and Visual Thinking Skills" ( The New York Times )

The New York Times' s Learning Network has gathered 10 photos from the "What's Going on in This Picture" series that teachers can use to help students develop analytical and visual thinking skills.

"The Close Reading Essay" (Brandeis Univ.)

Brandeis University's writing program offers this detailed set of guidelines and goals you might use when assigning a close reading essay.

Close Reading Resources (Varsity Tutors)

Varsity Tutors has compiled a list of over twenty links to lesson plans, strategies, and activities for teaching elementary, middle school, and high school students to close read.

Background Material and Teaching Strategies

Falling in Love with Close Reading (Amazon)

Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts aim to show how close reading can be "rigorous, meaningful, and joyous." It offers a three-step "close reading ritual" and engaging lesson plans.

Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading (Amazon)

Kylene Beers (a former Senior Reading Researcher at Yale) and Robert E. Probst (a Professor Emeritus of English Education) introduce six "signposts" readers can use to detect significant moments in a work of literature.

"How to Do a Close Reading" (YouTube)

TeachLikeThis offers this four-minute video on teaching students to close-read by looking at a text's language, narrative, syntax, and context.

"Strategy Guide: Close Reading of a Literary Text" ( ReadWriteThink )

This guide for middle school and high school teachers will help you choose texts that are appropriately complex for the grade level you teach, and offers strategies for planning engaging lessons.

"Close Reading Steps for Success" (Appletastic Learning)

Shelly Rees, a teacher with over 20 years of experience, introduces six helpful steps you can use to help your students engage with challenging reading passages. The article is geared toward elementary and middle school teachers.

"4 Steps to Boost Students' Close Reading Skills" ( Amplify )

Doug Fisher, a professor of educational leadership, suggests using these four steps to help students at any grade level learn how to close read. 

Like most tools of literary analysis, close reading has a complex history. It's not necessary to understand the theoretical underpinnings of close reading in order to use this tool. For advanced high school students and college students who ask "why close-read," though, the resources below will serve as useful starting points for discussion.

"Discipline and Parse: The Politics of Close Reading" ( Los Angeles Review of Books )

This book review by a well-known English professor at Columbia provides an engaging, anecdotal introduction to close reading's place in literary history. Robbins points to some of the method's shortcomings, but also elegantly defends it.

"Intentional Fallacy" ( Encyclopedia Britannica )

The literary critics who developed close reading cautioned against judging a text based on the author's intention. This encyclopedia entry offers an expanded definition of this way of reading, called the "intentional fallacy."

"Seven Types of Ambiguity" (Wikipedia)

This Wikipedia article will introduce you to William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity  (1930), one of the foundational texts of New Criticism, the school of thought that theorized close reading.

"What is Distant Reading" ( The New York Times)

This article makes it clear that "close reading" isn't the only way to analyze literary texts. It offers a brief introduction to the "distant reading" method of computational criticism pioneered by Franco Moretti in recent years.

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Reading & Writing Purposes

Reading & writing to analyze.

reading analysis example

Analysis is a critical thinking skill you use quite often, in academic as well as professional and everyday reading and writing.  You may analyze the argument in a text or article, the benefits of a business proposal, and/or the ideas offered in a news editorial or television news commentary. Analysis helps determine the quality of the information you read by extracting and examining different aspects of that information.

Reading to Analyze

Analytical reading starts with finding and understanding a main idea, and then considers the validity of that main idea by studying its parts, to see how logically those parts fit together. As the American Heritage Dictionary states, analysis is “the separation of an intellectual…whole into constituents for individual study.” Analysis essentially takes apart the whole text and examines how the parts relate to one another to make up the text’s ideas and content, in order to determine the quality of the ideas and content.

There are four main parts to a text that you may analyze, and multiple sections within each part.

Breaking a Text into its Parts for Analysis [1]

reading analysis example

Analytical Reading Process

Reading a text for the purpose of analysis usually requires you to read that text more than once.  Upon a first reading, take note of characteristics to investigate further.  Do you agree or disagree with certain ideas?  Did you react to certain phrases?  How do the ideas in the text relate to your own experience?  Application of reading skills such as previewing, annotating, note-taking, and summarizing all help you note characteristics that you may want to investigate further as they promote your ability to understand the text.  Understanding is the basis for analysis.

Fuller analysis happens after a first reading, when you delve into the text more completely, asking and answering specific questions about its parts.

Ask and answer three basic questions as a starting point for analyzing a text:

  • What is the main idea?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • What additional pieces of the text should I question more fully (content, language, structure), based on the author’s purpose?

reading analysis example

Always start by identifying the main idea of the text that you have read. What is the one thing that the author wants you to understand after reading the text? The main idea may be stated directly in the text, or it may be implied, in which case you need consider the text carefully in order to identify its main idea.

Once you identify the main idea, identify the purpose in order to determine how/whether to analyze the text.

  • If the purpose is to persuade or logically argue, you always need to analyze the text to see if the main idea is justified, and to see how the supporting ideas, language, and structure relate to the main idea. Persuasion and argument need to present logically valid information to make the reader agree intellectually (not emotionally) with the main idea.
  • If the purpose is to inform or explain, you usually need to analyze the text, since the text needs to present valid information in objective language to meet its purpose of informing (as opposed to persuading) the reader. You may analyze the text in terms of its structure as well, since information placement can influence its importance and how that information is perceived.
  • If the purpose is to entertain, then you may or may not need to analyze the text for its content. Writing that entertains does not necessarily have to be either logical or complete in order to accomplish its purpose. You may want to analyze the text for language, though, to see how an author uses language to accomplish her purpose.

Additional Questions for Analysis

When you decide to analyze a text, and when you determine the pieces (content, language, structure) on which to focus the analysis, ask and answer additional analytical questions.

Questions to analyze content:

reading analysis example

  • Is the information mostly fact, opinion, or a combination of both?  Is the type of information appropriate to the purpose and main idea?
  • Is the support relevant to the main idea – does it relate to and enhance the main idea?
  • Is the support logical?
  • Does supporting evidence come from trusted, valid sources?
  • Is there enough support to verify the main idea and supporting ideas?
  • Does the support consider and deal with an opposing viewpoint if there is a significant opposing viewpoint?

For example :

If the text’s main idea is that new work-at-home policies need to become standardized within specific professions, the support needs to include many different reasons why, and each reason why should have its own supporting evidence. Just offering one reason with its accompanying evidence, that standardization would increase employee retention, is not sufficient support in itself.

In the argument about work-at-home policies, does the support acknowledge what’s good about previous and current practices? Note that strong support acknowledges and then logically explains away any opposition simply by offering stronger logical evidence on one side than the other.

reading analysis example

  • What do the words imply/connote and how do the words influence the reader’s understanding of the main idea?
  • Are the author’s tone and general point of view intended to sway the reader to a certain way of thinking about the main idea?

Questions to analyze structure:

  • Why is certain information placed as it is within the text?  How does that placement emphasize or de-emphasize the information?
  • How does the order of information align with the text’s main idea and purpose?

These questions are a starting place for text analysis. Note that more questions may occur to you based on the specifics of the text.

reading analysis example

Read the article, “ Why Aren’t Governments as Transparent as They Could Be? ” Then ask and answer the following analytical questions based on this article.

Basic Analytical Questions

  • What additional pieces of the text should I question more fully (content, language, structure) based on the author’s purpose?
  • What is the main idea?…. the main idea is that governments should be as transparent with data as those governments, businesses, and digital services are with our own personal data, and that we should be demanding such transparency from government
  • What is the author’s purpose?… to persuade/argue
  • What additional pieces of the text should I question more fully (content, language, structure), based on the author’s purpose?… all three, content, language, and structure, since the purpose is to persuade

Questions to Analyze Content

  • Is the support relevant to the main idea–does it relate to and enhance the main idea?
  • Is the information mostly fact, opinion, or a combination of both?  Is the type of information appropriate to the purpose and main idea?… Information is a combination of fact and opinion.  Facts exist in the verifiable information (growth in government spending, number of information requests that government denied). Opinions exist in many statements (“we willingly open more of our lives to the public,” “it’s not just new technologies that are eroding open government principles”). There seems to be more opinion than fact, but the fact about denied information requests is powerful.
  • Is the support relevant to the main idea–does it relate to and enhance the main idea?… yes.  The support relates to and enhances the idea that we should demand more transparency of information from government.
  • Is the support logical?… for the most part, I think so, although some of the language is intended to persuade emotionally.  The evidence seems to be the right type, but there could be more factual evidence.
  • Does supporting evidence come from trusted, valid sources?… Some of the sources are acknowledged as valid sources: Pew Research Studies, Associated Press.  Other sources lead to links that are newspaper articles, and I need to review each article to determine validity. Some sources might be questionable.  For example, Carnegie Mellon is a respected research institution, but the author quotes from a professor at Carnegie Mellon.  However, if you follow the links, this information is based on an academic paper that was published in a respected professional journal, which gives the information greater credibility (as journals usually are peer-reviewed).  It would have made a stronger argument, though, to have included more factual information. Other references come from sources that have a definite bias, e.g., Public Engines.
  • Is there enough support to verify the main idea and supporting ideas?… yes, although more factual information about both local and federal government denial of information would have established this issue more solidly. Or, on the other hand, confining the argument to just local or federal government might have focused the argument more solidly.
  • Does the support consider and deal with an opposing viewpoint if there is a significant opposing viewpoint?… There is one, but it’s not dealt with very fully–the info about using public information to shame others.

Questions to Analyze Language

  • What do the words imply/connote and how do the words influence the reader’s understanding of the main idea?… There is some language that’s intended to persuade emotionally as opposed to logically:  “ flying off the shelves ,” and the whole paragraph “As our governments’ powers of surveillance and their ability to be transparent are both increasing dramatically , we’re giving them the former without demanding the latter. I can’t think of anything more un-American and infantilizing than this kind of deference to government.”
  • Are the author’s tone and general point of view intended to sway the reader to a certain way of thinking about the main idea?… yes.  The point of view is definitely toward openness of information. The tone attempts to be objective, but emotional language pops in.

Questions to Analyze Structure

  • Why is certain information placed as it is within the text?  How does that placement emphasize or de-emphasize the information?… The author starts and ends on personal notes, which relate more directly to every reader.  He puts his evidence in the middle, which readers can understand, but which may not be as personally relatable.  So, his placement of information seems intentional as his purpose is to persuade readers.
  • How does the order of information align with the text’s main idea and purpose?… yes, as he wants readers to act by going to certain sites intended to support transparency of information.

The video below, although created for a younger audience, discusses the importance of finding evidence in the text to back up your analysis – your answers to analytical questions.

The following video, written for instructors teaching students about analysis, frames text analysis in terms of differences in reading fiction and non-fiction, and offers a good set of analysis questions toward the end.

Writing to Analyze

If you were writing an analysis based on the article “Why Aren’t Governments as Transparent as They Could Be?,” your next steps might be to review the answers to the analytical questions above and develop a unique insight or argument based on those answers.  You would not have to deal with all of the items noted; based on your answers, you might create your own insight or assertion about the language used, the quality of information, the idea about having a stronger argument if it were focused on either local or federal government, or one of many other possibilities.  Or you might want to analyze the article as a whole piece and touch on content, language, and structure in his analysis.

The video below discusses both reading and writing to analyze.

In more general terms, analytical writing uses the same whole-parts concept as analytical reading. You offer your overall judgment of/argument about the whole, or a portion of, the article’s quality as your main idea or thesis.  You then group and organize the parts that you are analyzing. You may want to focus on mapping or outlining as you prewrite for an analytical essay, since both mapping and outlining help you picture and understand the relationship between your own main idea and its supporting parts. Note that you usually create groups dealing with content (type of information, amount of information, logical problems with information), language (inference, tone, point of view), and/or structure (placement of information, emphasis of information via placement) when you analyze the quality of a text.

Like analytical reading, analytical writing focuses on the relationship between the thesis, supporting ideas, and the language and order in which they are expressed. A reader should be able to analyze any piece of college writing that you do, apply the analytical reading questions and process, and (hopefully!) determine that your ideas and information are logically valid and of good quality.

You will be asked to analyze in many different ways in college. For example, you may be asked to analyze a company’s marketing strategy. You may be asked to analyze the results of a sociological survey. You may be asked to analyze the causes of fire-related behavior. You may be asked to analyze the validity of a policy decision. You may be asked to analyze an author’s use of symbol in a literary work. No matter what type of analysis is assigned, you will be expected to judge the whole text or a portion of the text based on your understanding and questioning of its parts and their relationship to the whole.

  • Reading & Writing to Analyze. Authored by : Susan Oaks. Project : Introduction to College Reading & Writing. License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • image of hand holding a paper with the word Concept on it, with the letters cut out to see a tree in the background. Authored by : Gerd Altmann. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/concept-nature-tree-environment-2791440/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • image of a woman contemplating, with question marks around her head. Authored by : Sophie Janotta . Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-question-mark-person-decision-687560/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • video Text Analysis. Authored by : Andie Worsley. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJjSmTwfaXY . License : Other . License Terms : YouTube video
  • video How to Analyze Non-Fiction Texts. Provided by : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzMzHrroZGM . License : Other . License Terms : YouTube video
  • video Critical Writing. Provided by : SkillsTeamHullUni. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btUY6jTt2Ys . License : Public Domain: No Known Copyright
  • image of handholding magnifying glass over the word analysis. Authored by : Gerd Altmann. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/problem-analysis-solution-hand-67054/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • image of hand holding open book. Authored by : Mohamed Hassan. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/book-hand-reading-read-sunset-3801210/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • image of man with thinking, with question mark. Authored by : Gerd Altmann. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/man-think-thinking-question-mark-4334177/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved

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beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

reading analysis example

Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

reading analysis example

Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

reading analysis example

  • Reading to Engage and Evaluate
  • Effective Critical Reading

Audience and Purpose

Analysis Checklist

  • Reading for Evaluation

As an effective critical reader you must be able to identify the important elements of a text and their function.

To analyze means to break a text down into its parts to better understand it. When analyzing you notice both what the author is saying and how they are saying it. Looking deeply into a text beyond the explicit information can tell you the intended audience, the author's agenda or purpose, and the argument. Clues about these areas are often found in the language the author uses such as the word choice, phrasing, and tone. 

Look at this excerpt. Click each number button to learn more about evaluating this text:

How Is Asthma Treated? 

Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.

Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine. 

You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types-quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don't help you while you are having an asthma attack. 

Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away.  Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines. 

Remember -you can control your asthma. With your doctor's help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don't have symptoms. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC), 2018).

Use of Second Person

The author uses the second person point of view, the "you" pronoun to address the reader. The use of second person point of view is informal and not often seen as scholarly writing.

Scholarly Voice

The author uses contractions like don't and avoids medical terminology and difficult vocabulary.

Talking Directly to Readers

The author seems to be talking directly to readers who are not in the medical profession, giving them advice on how to treat asthma and prevent attacks.

From this analysis we can interpret that the intended audience is individuals with asthma.

The tone, while informal, it is also authoritative and direct. Note and gentle, emotional, or anecdotal information that is included. The author does not highlight statistics about the high rate of asthma or the implications of leaving it untreated. In order to persuade, the writing is presented in an objective manner that supports awareness. From this analysis, we understand that the author's purpose is to inform in a very practical way.

Why does analyzing for audience and purpose matter?

The audience and purpose can tell you whether a source might be appropriate to use in your own research and writing.

For example, because this excerpt was written to inform the general public about asthma, it does not have the level of detail and evidence necessary for scholarly research. 

It is also helpful to know from what point of view the author is writing so you can consider that when evaluating for potential bias. Another benefit of analyzing in this way is that you can apply what you learn to your own writing. For example, when reading an academic essay you may identify that word choice and tone are really effective in communicating with the academic community. You can then try a similar voice and tone in your own writing.

If you find it helpful to follow checklists, consider using this one to practice your analysis skills as you are reading. 

Who is the intended audience?

What is the author's purpose?

How do the audience and purpose influence your reading?

Argument and Evidence

What is the thesis?

What are the main points that support that thesis, and how do those main points connect?

What evidence is used?

Language and Tone

What is the tone the author uses?

How does the author's use of language and tone support the audience, purpose, and argument?

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2b. Reading Analysis: Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting

Summarizing sources, writing with other voices.

In most of your college writing, which is evidence-based writing, you’ll need to incorporate sources. In some writing assignments, you’ll be asked to interpret and analyze a text or texts. The text is the subject of your writing, and your interpretation of the text will need to be supported with evidence from the text. In other writing assignments, you’ll need to support a thesis with evidence from texts and sources. When you incorporate a text or source should generally be performing one of four functions:

  • Helping to provide context for your inquiry or argument
  • Supporting a claim you are making
  • Illustrating a claim you are making
  • Providing a different perspective or counterargument to a claim you are making

When you incorporate other voices–texts and sources–into your writing, you will either summarize, paraphrase, or quote them in order to distinguish them for your voice and ideas.

Overview of Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting Texts and Sources

Quotations  must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing  involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing  involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.

Writers frequently intertwine summaries, paraphrases, and quotations. As part of a summary of an article, a chapter, or a book, a writer might include paraphrases of various key points blended with quotations of striking or suggestive phrases as in the following example:

In his article “What’s The Matter With College?,” Rick Perlstein argues that college, in American society and individual lives, is not as significant as it was in the 1960s, because colleges are no longer sites of radical protest, heated intellectual debate, or freedom from parental authority for students. Perlstein waxes nostalgic over the 1966 California gubernatorial race between Ronald Reagan and Pat Brown when the University of California’s Berkeley campus—a locus for “building takeovers, antiwar demonstrations and sexual orgies”—became a key campaign issue. These days, “[c]ollege campuses seem to have lost their centrality,” according to Perlstein, and do not offer a “democratic and diverse culture” that stood apart from the rest of society and constituted “the most liberating moment” in a student’s life (par. 1).

Use the following pro tips as you read texts and sources so when it comes time to write you have quotations, paraphrases, and summaries ready!

  • Read the entire text, noting the key points and main ideas.
  • Summarize in your own words what the single main idea of the text is.
  • Paraphrase important supporting points that come up in the text.
  • Consider any words, phrases, or brief passages that you believe should be quoted directly.

Summarizing Texts and Sources in Your Writing

Generally speaking, a summary must at once be true to what the original author says while also emphasizing those aspects of what the author says that interest you, the writer. You need to summarize the work of other authors in light of your own topic and argument. Writers who summarize without regard to their own interests often create “list summaries” that simply inventory the original author’s main points (signaled by words like “first,” “second,” “and then,” “also,” and “in addition”), but fail to focus those points around any larger overall claim. Writing a good summary means not just representing an author’s view accurately but doing so in a way that fits the larger agenda of your own piece of writing.

The following is a two-sentence template* for a summary adapted from the work of writing scholar Katherine Woodworth that captures 1) info on the author/text and the text’s main point; and 2) the point or example that relates to the point you’re making:

[ Author’s credentials ] [ author’s first and last name ]  in his/her  [ type of text ] [ title of text ],  published in  [ publishing info ]  addresses the topic of  [ topic of text ]   and argues/reports that  [ argument/general point ]. [Author’s surname]  claims/asserts/makes the point/suggests/describes/explains  that _____.

See the two-sentence summary template in action:

Example . English professor and textbook author Sheridan Baker, in his essay “Attitudes” (1966), asserts that   writers’ attitudes toward their subjects, audiences, and themselves determine to a large extent the quality of their prose. Baker gives examples of how negative attitudes can make writing unclear, pompous, or boring, concluding that a good writer “will be respectful toward his audience, considerate toward his readers, and somehow amiable toward human failings” (58).

NOTE that the  first  sentence identifies the author (Baker), the genre (essay), the title and date, and uses an active verb (asserts) and the relative pronoun  that  to explain what exactly Baker asserts. The  second  sentence gives more specific detail on a relevant point Baker makes.

More examples!

Example . In his essay “On Nature” (1850), British philosopher John Stuart Mill argues that using nature as a standard for ethical behavior is illogical. He defines nature as “all that exists or all that exists without the intervention of man.”

Example . In his essay “Panopticism,” French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that the “panopticon” is how institutions enforce discipline and conformity by making every subject feel like they are being watched by a central authority with the capability of punishing wrongdoing. He concludes that it should not be “surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons” (249).

Example . Independent scholar Indur M. Goklancy, in a policy analysis for the Cato Institute, argues that globalization has created benefits in overall “human well-being.” He provides statistics that show how factors such as mortality rates, child labor, lack of education, and hunger have all decreased under globalization.

NOTE that the above examples prompt the writer to develop a more detailed interpretation and explanation of the point/example made in the second sentence. That’s the work of developing a paragraph with a text or source! You can see what that looks like more fully in  Integrating Quotes and Paraphrases into Your Writing .


The summary template is adapted from Woodworth, Margaret K. “The Rhetorical Précis.”  Rhetoric Review  7 (1988): 156-164.

Integrating Quotes and Paraphrases into Writing

Image of two hands sculpting wet clay at a potter's wheel.

Image: Sculpting from raw material; Piqsels

“Integrating” means to combine two or more separate elements or things into a cohesive whole. Obviously, as you bring other perspectives (readings and texts) into your writing, you’re combining the work and words of others with your own original ideas. However, you should be strategic in the choices that you make–not every author needs to be quoted directly, not every passage of text needs to have every word or phrase quoted directly, and not every source will contribute multiple quotes or paraphrases to your essay. That’s why we like the analogy of a sculptor at this point in the writing process. Now that you’ve collected the raw material you need to support your argument through thorough research, it’s time to shape it carefully and deliberately so that it combines with your own writing to create an appealing experience for your reader. On to the sculpting!

When to Paraphrase:

  • When you need to communicate the main idea of a source, but the details are not relevant/important
  • When the source isn’t important enough to take up significant space
  • Any time you feel like you can state what the source claims more concisely or clearly
  • Any time you think you can state what the source claims in a way that’s more appealing to the reader

When to quote directly:

  • When incorporating an influential or significant voice into your essay
  • The words themselves clearly back up your claims, and come from a good authority
  • The words are unique/original, and already clearly express your key concepts in a compelling or interesting way
  • There’s no better way to present those main ideas to the reader than how the original author has stated them
  • When engaging with a source that disagrees with you, so you can state the argument fairly

A note on “cherry-picking” :   Cherry-picking is a pejorative term that refers to writers using quotes or paraphrases to support their own argument, even though the source would likely disagree with how their words or ideas are being used. Responsible academic writing means presenting evidence in a context that’s consistent and appropriate with the source’s original use of the quote or paraphrase.

Placing Direct Quotes in Your Essay

Here’s a helpful acronym that will remind you of the steps to take to most effectively incorporate direct quotations into your argument: I.C.E  (Introduce, Cite, Explain). I’ll use it as a verb to remind myself when constructing a paragraph: “Did I make sure to ICE my quotes?” 

image of frosty cubes of ice.

Image: Ice, Ice, baby; Pexels , CC0

I ntroduce:

Introduce the quote before providing it. Sometimes this is as simple as “Author X states” or some variation of that phrase. If it’s the first time you’re quoting an author, it’s a good idea to give the author’s full name, but you can rely on the surname in subsequent quotations. If there is context you’d like the reader to know about source, it’s generally wise to provide that before the quote, as part of its introduction. Avoid using “says” when introducing quotations unless you are citing a speech, interview, or other spoken text; “writes,” “states,” “explains,” “argues,” etc. are better options.

C ite: 

Every style (MLA, APA, Chicago) has different formats for citations, but anything that isn’t common knowledge–whether you’re directly quoting or paraphrasing, must come with a citation. We’re using MLA format in this class, so make sure you understand the rules of MLA Citations and Formatting.

Example: In the “Higher Laws” chapter of Walden , Henry David Thoreau seems to become despondent over his inability to overcome what he calls “this slimy beastly life” (148).

(For reference, the introduction of the quote is underlined, while the citation is bolded; you won’t do this when you actually cite. If you introduce a quote by using the author’s name, you only need to provide the page number where the quote can be found. Otherwise, their last name will also need to appear in the citation.)

You should always take time to explain quotations, paraphrases, and other types of evidence that you include. Readers look for your analysis of evidence in academic writing, and without it, a reader may draw different conclusions about the relationship between evidence and claim than you do. This is why the basic format for making an argument in academic writing is claim –> evidence to support claim –> reasons why you think the evidence supports the claim.

The Explanation of a quote or paraphrase is where you’re showing the reader your critical thinking, analytical skills, and ability to present your original ideas clearly and concisely. It is the part of the essay where you’re really presenting your original ideas and perspectives on a topic–that makes it very important!

Template for a Paragraph with Direct Quotes

As you read the following example, note where we are introducing, citing, and explaining the quote. .

Example : As I argue above, Thoreau is burdened by the implications of his animal appetites, of the intrinsic sensuality of living in the material world. However, Thoreau’s own language may be creating a heavier burden than he realizes. In Philosophy of Literary Form , Kenneth Burke writes: “. . .if you look for a man’s burden , you will find the principle that reveals the structure of his unburdening; or, in attenuated form, if you look for his problem, you find the lead that explains the structure of his solution” (92, emphasis in original). As this quote suggests, Burke believes that the answer to the problem often lies in the way that the problem is presented by the author or poet. His description of life as “beastly” and “slimy” is an ironic reframing of similar natural elements as those that brought him to Walden Pond in the first place. Thoreau’s choice of terminology to describe something results in the shifting of his attention and priorities.

To think about how I’m structuring this body paragraph, let’s break it down into its constituent parts:

  • Topic sentence : As I argued above, Thoreau is burdened by the implications of his animal appetites, of the intrinsic sensuality of living in the material world. This is what the paragraph will be about–Thoreau’s burdens–and I’m telling the reader in one quick phrase how this connects to another part of the essay.
  • Paragraph’s Main Claim: However, Thoreau’s own language may be creating a heavier burden than he realizes.  This is the main claim I’m making to my reader and is what the rest of the paragraph needs to focus on supporting with evidence and my own analysis. Each paragraph should generally only have one main claim so the reader can stay focused on the argument at hand.
  • The Evidence: In  Philosophy of Literary Form , Kenneth Burke writes: “. . .if you look for a man’s burden , you will find the principle that reveals the structure of his unburdening; or, in attenuated form, if you look for his problem, you find the lead that explains the structure of his solution” (92, emphasis his). Whether a direct quote or a paraphrase or both, there should be evidence of some sort in all of your body paragraphs (and sometimes in your intro and conclusion, too). It should clearly support the main claim and be cited, whether a quote or a paraphrase. Note that this evidence has the “I” and the “C” of ICE. The next step has the “E.”
  • The Explanation: As this quote suggests, Burke believes that the answer to the problem often lies in the way that the problem is presented by the author or poet. His description of life as “beastly” and “slimy” is an ironic reframing of similar natural elements as those that brought him to Walden Pond in the first place.  As mentioned above, this is arguably the most critical part of the paragraph. Depending on the evidence and your audience, your explanation might need to summarize the quote in your own words (if it’s complex), but it absolutely needs to analyze the evidence (quote or paraphrase) and explain its relevance or connection to the main claim of the paragraph. It may take one sentence, it may take several. 
  • The Concluding Sentence: Thoreau’s choice of terminology to describe something results in the shifting of his attention and priorities. Like a conclusion paragraph, this final sentence summarizes the main take-away for the reader of that paragraph its located within.

These parts of the paragraph should be present in any standard body paragraph, but besides the topic and concluding sentences, the other elements can actually be re-ordered (evidence can come before the main claim, if it’s clear which is which!). Use signal phrases and transitions to help guide the reader so they know the purpose of each of your sentences.

A Note on Direct Quotes and Syntax

Quotes (and this can be tricky!) have to be integrated into the correct syntax of your sentences , which may occasionally mean adding a word or clarifying a pronoun. Syntax refers to the ordering of words and expressions within a sentence.  Brackets [ ] are useful for maintaining a smooth flow in the syntax of a sentence while integrating a quotation. Brackets are a signal to the reader that you are inserting a word or phrase into into a quotation for the purposes of clarity and correct syntax.

Example : Buell claims that “[Thoreau’s] point was not that we should turn our backs on nature but that we must imagine the ulterior benefits of the original turn to nature in the spirit of economy, both fiscal and ethical” (392).

Pro Tip : Here is what happens to your reader’s attention and understanding of your argument when you don’t match a direct quote’s syntax with the rest of the sentence that you’re placing it into:

Image of an orange train going off the tracks.

Writing as Inquiry Copyright © 2021 by Kara Clevinger and Stephen Rust is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Write a Close Reading

Choose a passage, step 1: read the passage, step 2: analyze the passage, step 3: develop a descriptive thesis, step 4: construct an argument about the passage., step 5: develop an outline based on your thesis.

  • Tips for Close Readings
  • Close Reading in English Literature
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If you have not been assigned a passage or poem, then you must select a text and a specific passage.

Limit your selection to a paragraph or two at the most. In some cases, a sentence or two (or a few lines, if you are dealing with a poem) will be sufficient. Keep in mind that literature (and especially poetry) can be very dense. You will be surprised at how much you can glean from a short section – and how easily you can be overwhelmed by selecting a section that is too long.

Look for unusual or repetitive images or themes and passages with rich imagery or language.

Also pay particular attention to passages that relate to central characters or definitions of keywords; you may decide to focus on one section and how it helps you understand a character, relationship, issue, or idea.

Take notes as you read. Mark anything that seems relevant or interesting to you – even if you are unsure why a particular section of the text stands out.

Ask yourself: How is language and/or argument being used? Take notes about your observations of the passage, even if these observations seem simplistic or self-evident. Also pay attention to how language use changes over the course of your passage. For example, if the same word appears at the beginning and end, does it mean different things in both places? Does the author's tone or attitude change?

After you have read the entire text, you can return to these sections to look for repeated patterns, themes, or words. Often, a close reading will focus on one example of a theme or pattern to study the significance of this theme or pattern more in depth.

Begin by writing answers to some of the following questions, focusing on the kinds of rhetorical and literary devices you see in the passage.

  • What words are being used here? 
  • Are any words repeated in this passage? 
  • What adjectives are used? What nouns do they describe?  How do they alter your understanding of these nouns? 
  • Are any two (or more) words used in this passage connected in some way?

If any words are unfamiliar, look them up. If you are analyzing an older text, keep in mind that words may mean different things at different points in history—so be sure to look up any words that may be familiar but used in an unfamiliar way. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) will provide you with definitions as well as histories of word use.

Whether you are looking at an historical or contemporary text, remember that words can be used in different ways. Ask yourself: Are any words being used in unusual ways? Are any words referring to something more than what is simply stated? Are any two (or more) words in the passage connected in some way?

Narrative Voice

  • Who is speaking in this passage?
  • What narrative perspective is being used in this passage?
  • What does the narrative voice tell you?
  • What characters does it give you access to?
  • Is the speaker being straightforward, factual, open?
  • Is the speaker being direct or ambiguous with their message?
  • Does the voice carry any emotion? Or is it detached from its subject?
  • Do you hear irony (what is said is different from what is meant)? If so, where?

Rhetorical and Literary devices:

  • Do you notice any figurative language, such as metaphors and similes?
  • Do you observe any imagery?
  • Is the sound of the language and sentences important (e.g., rhyme, repetition, choppy or long sentences)?
  • What is the effect of these devices and techniques? (e.g., do they add emphasis or connect key ideas?)

Once you have finished looking at the language in detail, you can use your observations to construct a descriptive thesis. For example, you could argue that a passage is using short, simple sentences, or that it is using irony or a combination of these things. Your descriptive thesis should attempt to summarize the observations you have made about HOW language is being used in your passage.

Remember, this is not your final thesis statement. It's just your first step to arriving at an analytical thesis.

Now that you have some idea of HOW language is being used in your passage, you need to connect this to the larger themes of the text. In other words, you now need to address WHY language is being used in the way (or ways) you have observed.

This step is essential to a successful close reading.  It is not enough to simply make observations about language use – you must take these observations and use them to construct an argument about the passage.

Transform your descriptive thesis into an argument by asking yourself WHY language is used in this way:

  • What kinds of words are used (intellectual, elaborate, plain, or vulgar)?  Why are words being used in this way?
  • Why are sentences long or short?  Why might the author be using complicated or simple sentences?  What might this type of sentence structure suggest about what the passage is trying to convey?
  • Who is the narrator? What is the narrative voice providing these particular descriptions? Why are we given access to the consciousness of these particular characters?  Why not others?
  • What images do you see in the passage? What might they represent? Is there a common theme?
  • Why might the tone of the passage be emotional (or detached)?
  • To what purpose might the text employ irony?
  • What effect/impact is the author trying to create?

After you have established your thesis, you’ll need to write an essay that supports this argument with examples and analysis.

For example, you might argue that in the novel Jane Eyre , Jane’s friend Helen Burns uses language and imagery to describe God in a very different way from characters who represent religious authority. To prove your argument, you must organize your essay to show examples of how Helen Burns describes God and interpret her description. You must also analyze how her description differs from the status quo in the novel and tell readers why this difference matters to our understanding of the novel.

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reading analysis example

This worksheet treats Upper Sproul as a text for students to read and form arguments about. It is intended to provide a clear example of how one effectively uses observations to support analysis.

Part one: observations.

Please describe Upper Sproul on a busy day (e.g. a weekday at 12:00pm). These observations could include (but are not limited to) type of people, building, plants, and activities. In other words, who is there and what is happening?

_________________________________       _________________________________

Part Two: Analysis

The Prompt: Imagine that I am a potential Cal student. I just got my acceptance letter, but I am not sure whether or not I want to attend. Should I visit Upper Sproul on a busy day to get a feel for the school?

Please argue both sides of the question:

Yes, you should visit because… [list three observations from part one]

No, you should not visit because… [list three observations from part one]

Part Three: The Argument

If the some of the observations that you used in Part Two overlap, that’s fine (and even likely). For example, you might say that people should not visit because there are a lot of students handing out fliers, but you might also say that people should visit for this very reason.

The difference, of course, lies not in the observation but in your argument. Thus, if you say that a potential student should not visit Upper Sproul because of the fliers, then you need to answer the question why not? (Similarly, if you think that a potential student should visit Upper Sproul, then you need to answer the question why?)

So, the next step is to provide the why or why not to your answers in part two. Use a descriptive word or phrase that captures the effect of the three observations you chose. Why do these observations lead you to tell a potential student to visit (or not to visit) Upper Sproul when its busy?

Now, form your argument (you can just pick your favorite—yes or no):

Yes, a potential student should visit Upper Sproul because it _____________________

(descriptive word or phrase). The observations that support this are:

1. ________________________ 2. ________________________ and

3. ________________________.

No, a potential student should not visit Upper Sproul when it is busy because it

__________________________ (descriptive word or phrase). The observations that

support this are: 1. ________________________ 2. ________________________ and

Part Four: Using Evidence in a Paragraph

Your argument could easily be made into a paragraph about Upper Sproul (or even a whole essay). So far you’ve thought about the overall effect of your three observations and made an argument about them (e.g. they make Sproul seem fun; they make Sproul seem crowded). What is the specific effect of each observation? Using your argument as a topic sentence, try to write one or two sentences about each observation afterward.



2. ______________________________________________________________

3. ______________________________________________________________


Part Five: Reflection and Questions

Do you have a stronger understanding of close reading and analysis? Why or why not?

What are some of the differences between “reading” Sproul and reading a piece of literature?

How can these tools of close reading, analysis and argumentation be extended to a literary text? When reading a literary text, what sorts of observations can you make about the text? What sorts of details can you observe?

Hana Metzger
Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©2009 UC Regents

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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How to Write a Close Reading Essay: Full Guide with Examples

How to Write a Close Reading Essay: Full Guide with Examples

writing Close Reading Essay

writing Close Reading Essay

There is no doubt that close-reading essays are on the rise these days. And for a good reason — it is a powerful technique that can help you make your mark as a student and showcase your understanding of the text.

In this type of writing, readers will read the literary text carefully and interpret it from various points of view. Read on.

reading analysis example

What is a close Reading Essay?

essay writing

A close-reading essay is an in-depth analysis of a literary work. It can be used to support a thesis statement or as a research paper. A close-reading essay focuses on the tiny themes inherent in a literary passage, story, or poem.

The focus of this type of essay is on critical thinking and analysis. The author will look at the small details that make up the overall meaning of a text.

The author will also consider how these tiny themes relate to each other and how they are presented within the text.

The key areas where a close reading essay focuses include:

  • Motivation and setting – This includes why the author wrote the piece and their purpose when they chose to write it. You can explore this through character analysis as well as themes that are common across multiple works.
  • Characters:  While characters may or may not have any significance in an overall plot, they can make up many of the elements discussed in this essay. For example, if you were analyzing Hamlet, then you would want to look at how Hamlet’s character affects his motivation for suicide (which is directly related to his madness) and how it relates to his relationship with Ophelia.

How to Write a Close Reading Essay -Step-By-Step Guide

1. read the selected text at least three additional times.

Analyze the text using your critical thinking skills. What are the author’s main points and purposes? How does the author develop these points? What evidence does he or she use to support these points? How do other writers in the field of the study compare with this author’s views?

compare and contrast

Compare and contrast this author’s point of view with other writers in your field of study. What is their purpose in writing? What evidence do they use to support their positions?

How do they compare with this writer’s views?

2. Underline Portions of the Text that you Find Significant or Odd

The purpose of this section is to give the reader a sense of the author’s tone and approach to the subject.

A close-reading essay should be read at least twice, preferably three times. Underline or highlight any portions of the text that you find odd or significant.

Ask yourself: What does this mean? How does this affect my view of the work? What questions do I have now that I didn’t have before?

Take notes on what you think might be important. You may want to write down your questions and observations as they occur to you while reading your essay. Make sure they are hierarchical so they can easily guide your next step in writing about them.

3. State the Conclusions for the Paper

A close-reading essay analyzes a text and the author’s meaning. The key to this type of essay is the ability to conclude a text. It requires the student to think critically about what he/she has read and how it relates to other texts.

The most important aspect of writing a close-reading essay is being able to conclude after reading through a piece of work and analyzing it. The reader should always be able to answer questions like:

  • What does this author mean?
  • How can I apply this message to my life?
  • Is this message relevant in today’s society?

4. Write your Introduction

The purpose of your paper is usually stated in the introduction somewhere (it might be buried in an abstract).

introduction writing

In other words, it’s not enough just to tell readers what they need to know; they also need some motivation to read further if they don’t know why they should read.

5. Write your Body Paragraphs.

A body paragraph is the bulk of your essay. It’s the place where you flesh out your ideas and connect them to the overall topic.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details when writing a close-reading essay, so it’s important to stay focused on the big picture of what you’re trying to say. Here are some tips for developing your body paragraphs:

  • Start with a thesis statement: Make sure that each paragraph starts with an idea or question that relates to the main point of your thesis statement. For example, suppose you’re writing about how human beings have been impacted by technology in society; then, in your first paragraph. In that case, you might want to talk about how computers are changing our lives and what this means for us as individuals and as a culture.
  • Link ideas together:  Be sure that each paragraph is directly related to the previous one (or else your readers will lose track). Use transition words like “however,” “however,” “in contrast,” and “on the other hand,” or even simply add supporting details from different sources throughout each paragraph.

6. Write your Conclusion

When writing conclusion to your close reading essay, you’ll make a few points about why you think the book is worth reading. You should focus on whether or not the author has succeeded in his or her main objective and whether or not it’s an interesting book.

essay conclusion

You should also consider how the author has achieved these goals. Did they succeed because of their writing style? Or did they use an effective structure? Did they make some unique observations that you hadn’t thought of before?

Do you have any specific questions about what was done well in the book? If so, ask them now so that you don’t forget to ask them when it’s time for your argumentative essay!

3 Close Reading Essay Examples

Below are three close-reading essay examples on the topic of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The first example is from a student named Brandon:

The main character, Jay Gatsby, is one of the most interesting characters in literature that I have ever read about.

He was a millionaire who married into a family of lower-class people and became friends with their daughter Daisy Buchanan, who had recently graduated from college and moved to New York City, where she met his son Nick Carraway.

Jay Gatsby was so fascinating to me because he had a lot of passion for life; he never gave up on what he wanted, even though he had nothing to back it up.

The Great Gatsby

When I read this book, I learned that some people don’t care about what happens to them or what other people think about them; they just do their own thing and don’t let anything stand in their way of achieving their goals in life (Gatsby).

When I read this book, I also learned about love and hate because there were many different sides to each character’s personality throughout the book (Gatsby).

In conclusion, “The Great Gatsby” is an interesting book.

Example Two

The main character in the novel, Adam Bede, is a strong-willed country boy who looks down upon city folk. He has no interest in being educated and feels that he would rather work on a farm than attend school.

He does not seem to have any particular talent or skill that would make him stand out. However, it is not until he meets the wealthy Miss Lavendar that he can express his talents through writing poetry and music.

The first time Adam meets Miss Lavendar, she sits at a piano playing a piece by Mozart. Adam has never heard music like this before. It is so beautiful that he immediately falls in love with her. The two become friends and eventually marry each other.

However, when Adam becomes famous for his poems about Miss Lavendar, she begins to feel threatened by her new husband’s success. She leaves him for another man named Mr. Thornton. He has money and power but no talent for writing poetry or music like Adam.

 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

The play tells the story of a family during the Great Depression in Mississippi. Brick Pollitt has just returned home from World War I where he has been injured in battle and subsequently discharged with a disability pension.

His wife Maggie is expecting their first child, while his son Paul lives in New Orleans where he works as a pianist for a white man named Big Daddy Pollitt who owns a brothel in which Paul performs sexually explicit acts for the patrons at Big Daddy’s establishment called “The Brick House.”

reading analysis example

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Story Analysis: How to Analyze a Short Story Step-by-Step

Adela B.

Table of contents

Have there been times that you have read a short story in class and tried to analyze its meaning by deep-diving into the text to understand it better? If yes, this article is for you.

Short stories are relatively much shorter and less complex than most novels or plays. But that does not mean that they don’t require an in-depth analysis of what is written in the text and what messages the author of the book intends to convey to its readers.

In this article, you will learn how to analyze a short story step-by-step, along with the essential elements of a short story.

What are the Elements of a Short Story

In order to analyze a short story step-by-step, it is important to know the basics of story analysis. Let’s take a look at the five key elements of a short story.

Characters (both major and minor) are what bring life to a story. Writers use them to transcend important messages throughout the plotline.

Every character has a purpose, a particular personality, and a developmental arc. To analyze these characters for your short story, you must have the answer to the following questions:

  • Who is the plotline’s protagonist?
  • Do you have your antagonist? If yes, who is it? What antagonistic qualities do they have?
  • Are the characters dynamic (changing) or static (unchanging)?
  • How does the author describe the character's appearance, personality, mindset, and actions?
  • What are your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about the characters?
  • What is the relationship between all the characters?

People get invested in fictional characters, relate to them, and see them as real individuals with real personalities, going through real hardships in life.

That's the key motive of the author, and that's what needs to be analyzed.

Setting or Theme

The setting of a short story depicts the theme of the plot through key metaphors. It revolves around three important points:

  • Circumstances

This also aids the flow of the plotline, distinguishes the characters, influences viewpoints, and creates an aura for your story.

Even if a story is placed in a historic time and place, from when and where it was originally written, it can influence the entire context of the narrative.

Many stories would seem different and altered if their original setting was changed completely and is thus very crucial in interpreting the concept of the story.

Thus, try to assess how the setting affects the story and how it motivates its characters. Analyze why the author has chosen this particular setting, how the readers respond to it, as well as if there’s any symbolic meaning behind it.

The plotline makes a story by giving it a pattern and a structure to the events that are about to happen. Identifying and analyzing these plotlines will help in giving insights into the explanation of the story.

In short stories, the plot is majorly centered around one important character and their actions, or around one key experience that impacts the story greatly.

Usually, a short story plot has one major storyline, unlike novels, which have multiple trajectories of storylines. Thus, short stories are easier to analyze.

Authors use symbolism to convey messages poetically or indirectly, through their stories, making them more interesting and complex pieces.

Symbolism is depicted using a physical object or even a person to be an abstract idea. For example, a dove represents love and peace and a storm represents hostility and turmoil.

Symbolism can also be used as a metaphor in the narrative, such as life is a roller coaster which portrays life to have its ups and downs.

Similarly, in short story novels, authors symbolize certain conflicts and important issues by using a metaphor or a simile in their story. For example, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the officials dismantled the coronations of Caesar's statues, foreshadowing their plan to topple him.

Lastly, the reason you are reading the short story is to identify what you have learned from it and what the moral of the narrative is.

Even though short story novels are crisp, interesting, and entertaining, there is always a life lesson behind each of them. This moral is implied to help the readers understand the author’s perspective, what they want to convey, and what lesson you should learn from the text.

How to Analyze a Short Story Step-by-Step

Now that we know the major elements that are involved in crafting an exceptional story analysis, let's take a look at five tips for how to analyze a short story step-by-step.

Read and summarize

As you prepare to analyze the short story assigned to you, it is recommended to read and re-read it multiple times. Since it is a short story, you’ll have plenty of time to understand all the details included within the story and the context of the plot.

To analyze the book, divide the narrative into sections. Read each of these sections and write down key points and essential details that are related to these portions of the story. As you do that, summarize your interpretation of the plot into a more understandable and easy piece.

Brainstorm and take notes

While reading the text, if you come across an interesting subplot, a challenging character arc, or even a major theme that isn't showcased through the text, make it a point of writing them down.

These notes will be your crutch as you begin analyzing your short story for your class assignment. Taking notes brings organization to your thoughts and ideas, as well as gives you proper knowledge about every detail you find in the short story.

Brainstorm multiple ideas and write down the concepts that you find fascinating while reading the book. Always pay close attention to the details to understand the purpose of the text, as well as the author’s point of view on multiple important situations or events.

Here’s an interesting video by Jesse on how to take notes while reading

Identify crucial concepts

Identifying important concepts in the short story, such as the main conflict that helps with creating the primary argument for the thesis statement, the characters’ personalities, their defining traits, the choices they make, and also the point of view of the narrator.

The point of view is an essential aspect of the storyline as it creates a lens for the reader to understand and analyze themes, details, characters, and important events in the story.

While examining these concepts, you will realize the intention of the author, how the story was significant to them, and why they made certain choices while writing the short story.

Similarly, exploring the literary devices of the short story, such as the setting, mood, tone, and style of the text, will help further in analyzing the plotline in a more notable way.

Include examples and evidence

When you state an argument in your story analysis, it is always better to back it up with credible sources and accurate evidence. For example, you can paraphrase or directly quote a sentence from your assigned story to claim your point.

However, quotations cannot become evidence unless it is explained how it proves the claims that are being made.

Having good sources for your story analysis gives you a higher level of authority over the book that you are writing about and also makes it easier for the reader to understand the author’s perspective.

Craft the thesis statement

It is important to make sure that all the points that have been made for the analysis tie together and ultimately support your thesis.

Keep in mind that the thesis for your short story should not just summarize the plot, and neither should it be a review of the book. Your thesis statement should be an interpretation of the text or an argument that is based on the storyline.

Writing a quality analysis for short stories requires a solid thought process, an organized structure , and the ability to dive deep into the literary meaning of a text.

Here, you understand and think through the author's perspective of the book and why they have chosen to write their thoughts and ideas through this narrative.

Hence, to know how to analyze a short story step-by-step for your class assignments and also score high, you need proper guidance, key steps, and other tips and tricks that put your analysis at the front of the line. This article is here just for that!

If you still find yourself to be stuck, reach out to our analytical essay writing service . Our team of professional writers are experts in analyzing stories and will help you deliver a 100% original short story analysis written from scratch.

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Literature Reviews - Research Guide

  • Critical Reading and Analysis
  • Literature Reviews Home
  • Planning your Review & EBP
  • Searching for Literature
  • Managing your Results
  • Writing your Review
  • Systematic Literature Reviews
  • Systematic Reviews

Critical Reading & Analysis

  • Critical Reading
  • Analysing Sources

Author Analysis

  • Journal Analysis
  • Note Taking

A critical reader:​ ​

  • Does not believe everything they read​ ​
  • Questions what they read​ ​
  • Rereads if necessary​ ​
  • Understands the influence of style​ ​
  • Analyses arguments​ ​
  • Discounts arguments that are unsupported or based on faulty reasoning

When reading critically, focus on the purpose of your literature review:

  • Think about what you expect from the article or chapter, before reading it
  • Skim the abstract, headings, conclusion, and the first sentence of each paragraph
  • Focus on the arguments presented rather than facts
  • Take notes as you read and start to organise your review around themes and ideas
  • Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other
  • Note four to six points for each study that summarises the main points and conclusions
  • Be as objective as possible

Critical Appraisal

Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its credibility, its value and its relevance in a specific context.

The aim of critical appraisal is to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and potential for bias in the research. Validity, applicability, and clinical importance should be considered during critical appraisal to ensure that research evidence is used reliably and efficiently and false conclusions are not drawn.

Why do we need to critically appraise the literature?

Critical appraisal is necessary to:

  • Assess benefits and strengths for research against flaws and weaknesses
  • Decide whether studies have been undertaken in a way that makes their findings reliable
  • Make sense of the result
  • Know what these results mean in the context of the clinical decision being made
  • Assess the usefulness of  the evidence for clinical decisions

Analysing your sources

Abstract : this is what the author wants the reader to take away from their article - what is the starting point? ​ ​

Introduction : provides background and a starting point - how does it guide the reader?​ ​

Materials and methods : often overlooked but very important - is the methodology understandable, reproducible, direct and robust?

Results : summary and analysis of the data but the statistical reporting is just as important as the words ​ ​             - what do the tables, figures and legends actually report? ​ ​             - what do you think the data means?* ​ ​             * decide before reading the discussion​ ​

Discussion : author draws conclusions – how does this correlate with your conclusions?

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact  has more detailed information on analytics.


Consider the following criteria:

Were the objectives achieved? ​ ​

Hypotheses tested? ​ ​

How do these results relate to other studies you have found?​ ​

Do the authors openly discuss any limitations of their study?​ ​

What else needs be studied in the future?


Read critically​ ​

Note 2-4 bullet points for each study that summarises the main points and conclusions​ ​

Use matrix to analyse findings, relevance and importance of each text​ ​

Draw attention to studies that are important, influential or that bring a new understanding or method of studying your area of research

  • Literature Analysis Worksheet
  • Literature Review Matrix

Citation Analysis

Citation Analysis is the process whereby the impact or "quality" of an article is assessed by counting the number of times other authors mention it in their work.​ ​

Citation analysis involves counting the number of times an article is cited by other works to measure the impact of a publication or author. The caveat however, is that there is no single citation analysis tool that collects all publications and their cited references. For a thorough analysis of the impact of an author or a publication, look in multiple databases to find all possible cited references.​ ​

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact  has more detailed information on citation analytics.

Databases such as Scopus and Web of Science can be used to:

  • locate the papers of a specific author
  • compare the research output of more than one author

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact has more detailed information on author analytics.

The h -index


  • The h -index is not a static value – if discussing an author’s h-index, you need to specify the date on which the h -index was calculated.
  • The h -index is also calculated by other databases/resources and may vary from the h -index given by Scopus – if discussing an author’s h -index, you need to specify the source of the h-index.

To locate papers of an author in Scopus:

Scopus Training Videos

Discover prolific authors on a topic | How to search for authors by topic

Assess an author’s impact | How to assess an author's impact

Keep track of another author’s activity | How to keep track of an author

Investigate another author’s citations | How to create citation overviews in Scopus

Web of Science Core Collection

To locate papers of an author in Web of Science Core Collection (WoS CC):

Source / Journal Analysis

Databases such as Scopus and Web of Science  (including CAB Abstracts ) can be used to determine the quality of journals in a discipline or field of research.

The  Measuring Research Quality and Impact Research Guide - Research Impact has more detailed information on journal analytics.

To search for journals on a subject

To compare  journals or source publications

Scopus  Training Videos

How to compare sources

Overview of journal metrics in Scopus

CiteScore metrics in Scopus

The Scopus Search Guide  clearly describes how to search for papers on a subject or specific papers.

The Web of Science Core Collection Quick Guide clearly describes how to search for papers on a subject or specific papers.

Note taking 

Taking clear, legible notes will help to focus your critical reading and analysis of your literature review sources. When taking notes, avoid plagiarism by:

  •  keeping track of the difference between information from your sources and from your own ideas
  •  providing clear references, including page numbers

Note taking methods

Some effective methods of note-taking include:

  • Outlining method: Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points to organize topics
  • Cornell method: Use two columns - in one column write your summary of the authors' conclusions and evidence, and in the other column write down your own analysis and other comments
  • Charting method: Create a list of topics or points you want to write about - use a column for each one. As you read, add references and make notes in the appropriate column
  • Sentence method: Simply write down new ideas and bits of information as a numbered  sentence
  • Mapping method: Write down key concepts and terms, with related ideas radiating out from these

You may consider using the matrix below for your note taking and analysis:

Critical Reading & Analysis Checklist

  • Does your literature review highlight flaws, gaps, or shortcomings of specific texts or groups of texts?
  • Have you identified areas that have not yet been researched or have not yet been researched sufficiently?
  • Does the literature demonstrate a change over time or recent developments that make your research relevant now?
  • Are you able to discuss research methods used to study this topic and/or related topics?
  • Can you clearly state why your research is necessary?
  • << Previous: Managing your Results
  • Next: Writing your Review >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 14, 2024 9:40 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.murdoch.edu.au/LitReview

The Daring English Teacher on Teachers Pay Teachers

15 of the Best Questions for Teaching Literary Analysis

Teaching Literary Analysis: 15 Questions to Ask Your Students

Teaching literary analysis in the secondary English classroom is an essential cornerstone of high school English and middle school English curriculum. When students learn the process of literary analysis, they will embrace the new challenge each literary text brings. How do you teach literary analysis essay?

15 literary analysis questions

When I first teach literature to my students, I use direct instruction strategies. I provide my students with literary analysis terms and examples. Then we begin short stories and excerpts together. Usually, we will analyze a couple of short stories together as a class before moving on to more substantial pieces, like novels. One blog post that might be helpful is this one about how to  write a literary analysis response .

When I’m teaching a piece of fiction, I like to have set questions I can use throughout the year to ask my students. As students answer the same question about various texts throughout the year, they improve their analytical skills and begin to form a better understanding of how literature analysis works.

If you are teaching response to analysis and literary analysis, here are ten questions you should ask your students about the piece they are reading. These questions are some of the questions included in my Response to Literature Task Cards that work with any piece of fiction. Here are several questions to guide your students as they analyze literature.

Here are 15 questions you can use when teaching literary analysis to your students.

Literary analysis questions about theme.

  • How do the characters in the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How does the conflict of the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How do the symbols within the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How does the author’s tone of the story develop or enhance the theme?
  • How is the story’s theme reflect the context in which it was written?

Literary Analysis Questions About Setting

  • How does the setting affect the plot?
  • How does the setting affect the conflict?
  • How does the setting affect the tone of the story?

Literary Analysis Questions About Characters

  • What is one of the protagonist’s flaws or weaknesses?
  • What is one of the antagonist’s flaws or weaknesses?
  • What motivates the protagonist to act?
  • What motivates the antagonist to act?
  • What character is most believable and why?

Literary Analysis Questions About Conflict

  • How does the conflict reflect the context of the time in which the story was written?
  • How does the author create a believable conflict?

Here are some literary analysis teaching resources you may like: 

Literary analysis with sticky notes.

Teaching literary analysis can be fun, engaging, and accessible for all students! Increase student engagement and understanding in your next literary analysis unit (whether it be short stories or novels) with interactive and hands-on close reading organizers and scaffolded writing responses. Students will enjoy using sticky notes in class as they analyze the author’s use of various literary devices in complex short stories and novels.

Literary analysis with sticky notes!

What fellow teachers say about this resource:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Extremely satisfied

“ My students found this very helpful to organize their writing and the movement involved with using sticky notes was a hit. The kids loved getting to use sticky notes and to flip them up and down. It made the planning for their writing so much faster. Would highly recommend for all students but especially for any kids who have a hard time focusing.”

“ This is a great way to have kids write literary analysis in a different way instead of just asking for essays. It’s like a little trick to get them to do academic work while thinking they are just doodling on sticky notes. I even use this with AP Lit and just modify my expectations somewhat. I appreciate all the different handouts/options.”

More resources:

My  Literary Analysis Mini Flip Book  combines the fun and excitement of sticky notes with the format of a mini flipbook. It is the perfect culminating activity for students to analyze a final short story in your short story teaching unit.

These  Response to Literature Task Cards  are an ideal way to get students talking about complex literary themes and ideas within any piece of fiction. There are two sets of tasks cards in this set, and you can use them again and again with any short story or novel.

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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 282,779 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

reading analysis example

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

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

You Might Also Like


  • ↑ 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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10+ literary analysis practice worksheets + activities for your ELA class

by mindroar | Oct 10, 2022 | blog | 0 comments

Now, our previous post was about how to teach your students to do a literary analysis or critical analysis.  By now, you might be wondering if you can easily find a literary analysis practice worksheet to help your ELA students learn critical analysis skills. 

I figured that a follow-up post of worksheets and activities that you can quickly and easily use would be in order.

So if you are teaching your students literary analysis skills and you need a little help, check out these great literary analysis activities and worksheets to use in your ELA classroom.

1. Nouvelle ELA – quote analysis

The first resource we have for you today is this PowerPoint and analyzing quotes activity by Nouvelle ELA.  

The aim of the resources is to help your students learn to analyze and embed quotes in their writing.

In this fun literary analysis lesson, students analyze movie quotes and then have scaffolded help to practice embedding those quotes into their writing.  Students practice the skills of:

  • Identifying who said the quote
  • Summarizing the context of the quote, and
  • Analyzing why the quote matters

Included in the activity are

  • an editable PowerPoint that introduces how to analyze quotes
  • an Interactive notebook lesson
  • literary quote analysis homework worksheet that is print and go
  • and an editable literary quote analysis homework sheet

2. A moonlighting English teacher – prose analysis and close reading

The second literary analysis practice worksheet we have today is this prose analysis and close reading bundle by A moonlighting English teacher.

The bundle includes activities to help students understand over 55 high-level literary terms, as well as practice and improve their skills in close reading and critical analysis.

While most of the resources were designed with specific texts in mind, most are able to stand alone as individual lessons or resources and are easily adaptable to whatever texts you are using in your class.  

Included in the bundle are:

  • a list of every literary term and definition covered in each activity  in the bundle
  • AP Literature prose analysis essay materials, including prose analysis passages and activities from The Poisonwood Bible , The Things They Carried , The Good Earth , Nectar in a Sieve , and Remembering
  • an AP Literature prose analysis essay activity that helps students break down two official sample essays
  • AP Literature prose essay materials, including advice and model outlines, a self-assessment, an a general rubric
  • seven creative activities to analyze literary devices in any novel or story, which is also distance-learning compatible
  • an activity to scaffold improving prose analysis commentary using Nectar in a Sieve
  • an activity on diction and motifs using The Good Earth
  • two quote analysis activities using The Good Earth
  • a nonfiction analysis and a rhetorical analysis handout
  • an activity on humor using The Poisonwood Bible
  • an activity on specific syntax devices using The Poisonwood Bible and an activity on the usage of low diction using The Things They Carried
  • a general AP Literature prose analysis essay practice/outline worksheet
  • creative activities on tone using The Poisonwood Bible and irony using Cry, the Beloved Country
  • and a self-created prose essay assignment 

3. Reading the rapids – identifying literary elements

Other great literary analysis lessons include these ones by Reading the rapids.  This fun bundle will help your students identify literary elements.

Students learn and reinforce their learning by watching animated shorts, using graphic organizers, applying their learning in activities, and assessing their peers.  Literary elements students learn about include:

  • direct and indirect characterization 
  • types of conflict (man vs self/man/society/technology/nature/supernatural) 
  • what is and is not an inference
  • types of irony 
  • juxtaposition
  • mood and tone
  • personification

The bundle covers many different CCSS and each lesson plan states which skills are covered in that lesson.

The author also has this great free literary device inventory and reflection to help you work out your students’ level of knowledge about literary devices.  It also uses animated shorts so that the activity is fun and engaging for students to complete.

3. Tracee Orman – showing evidence from the text

The next literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this activity by Tracee Orman. In the activities, students will learn how to adequately show evidence from the text. 

In the activity, students use three non-fiction texts and questions to practice citing evidence from the text.  Suggested answers for each question are included, as well as the evidence students should use.

The passages include interesting scenarios including

  • a woman and her son are sprayed with poop from a plane flying overhead
  • a woman takes in two kittens only to find out they’re bobcats
  • a federal court rules on whether a monkey (or other animal/non-human) can sue for copyright infringement.

The files are provided as non-editable PDFs or a Google slides version of the worksheet for students to respond to digitally.

4. Reading and writing haven – analyzing different text types

The next literary analysis practice worksheet we have for you is this bundle by Reading and writing haven. The bundle enables students to practice analyzing a variety of texts, including non-fiction, fiction, paired texts, short films, movies, advertisements, and poetry.  

The materials and the scaffolding guiding questions and prompts enable students to better understand how to analyze texts.  Included in the bundle are  

  • a direct instruction presentation and guided notes that breaks down the concept of analyzing 
  • a whole-class analyzing activity that uses a poem, a short film, and two political cartoons (suggested use is included) 
  • an assignment that contains scaffolded questions to use with any text
  • a short film analysis assignment (of Night and Day ) with scaffolded questions and an extended response (film available on YouTube)
  • seven graphic organizers to use with a variety of texts (commercials, songs, fiction, nonfiction, poems, movies, and paired texts – text suggestions/recommendations with links are included)
  • a pre- and post-assessment 
  • a literary analysis essay example to help move students from analyzing verbally to analyzing in a literary analysis format
  • an editable single-point rubric and outline with guiding questions to accompany the literary analysis essay
  • a unit overview (recommendations for order and text ideas)
  • suggested texts and links to sources to use for whole-class modeling purposes

5. Secondary Sara – finding evidence from the text

Another way to get your students to practice literary analysis when studying any novel is by using this fun activity by Secondary Sara.

The Common Core-aligned activity is set up as a “conspiracy theory” that students have to “prove”.  To do so, students practice finding and using evidence to back up a claim. 

In the activity, student groups choose a question about the novel and come up with a “conspiracy theory” (thesis) to answer that question.

While reading, small groups gather text evidence from the novel and analyze it using a four-step method: What does it SAY?, What does it MEAN?, Why does it MATTER?, How does it prove your THESIS?

Once they have completed the novel and graphic organizer, students give presentations on their thesis and the evidence they collected to support it. 

The rest of the class actively listens by following along with their own listening guide to track who said what.

You can also use an optional follow-up essay assignment to individually assess literary analysis skills.

Included in the download are:

  • a rubric that clearly assesses speaking standards
  • teacher guide that provides essential questions, I Can statements, CCSS standards for grades 6-8, a sample calendar of lessons, and tips for successful implementation of the group project. 
  • directions sheet and rubric
  • thesis statement development/approval sheet
  • case file planning sheet (chart to collect and analyze text evidence while reading)
  • listening guide for presentations
  • sample PowerPoint template to give students so they know how to format and organize all of their evidence (and it helps them transition into an essay later)
  • literary analysis essay assignment (directions and rubric)
  • Google, Word, and PDF versions
  • bonus pages: a nonfiction activity to research what conspiracy theories are, evaluating evidence in a theory mini-lesson, and analyzing the quality of an essay’s claims mini-lesson 

7. Write on with Miss G – low-risk literary analysis practice

Another fun literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this speed-dating lesson by Write on with Miss G.  The discussion and literary analysis activities work with any novel.

In the activity, students are paired up to discuss questions aligned with the Common Core standards.  After each round, students rotate to a new partner and discuss a new question.

By the end of class, students will have interacted with 15+ peers and discussed 15+ questions! This means students get lots of low-risk, repeated practice in the peer-to-peer setting. 

This literary analysis practice activity enables your entire class to participate in literary analysis in a low-risk setting and set students up for success in whole-class discussions (that you can do following the speed-dating lesson).

This activity works best at the end of a novel, as it contains questions that ask about “the big picture” (theme, symbolism, etc.)

  • detailed teacher instructions
  • editable student worksheet with an exit ticket
  • 27 editable  Common Core-aligned question cards 
  • blank question cards (so you can add your own questions)

Literary elements covered in the questions include

  • author’s choices
  • author’s purpose
  • character development
  • word choice
  • point of view
  • objective summary
  • and structure

8. Tracee Orman – interactive flipbook

Another literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this interactive notebook flipbook for any novel by Tracee Orman.

You can choose to use the literary analysis activity as an interactive flipbook, or you can choose to use them as literary analysis practice worksheets.  

The activities cover six main areas.  These areas are

  • character development: students must analyze how the setting, events, and other characters have influenced each other
  • setting: students analyze how the setting affects the tone of the story and how different themes utilize the setting to convey their messages
  • point-of-view: students evaluate either first-person, third-person limited, or third-person omniscient narration–depending on the novel or story–and how different events, the setting, and other characters impact the way it is narrated; students also analyze why the author chose that perspective and how it influences different themes 
  • plot analysis: students choose different events from the novel and analyze how each contributes to the tension and conflict in the story; students also evaluate the author’s structure of the story and why/how the author uses various literary techniques for storytelling
  • literary and figurative devices: students examine the words used in various quotes and how they change or impact the tone and mood of the story; students also identify and explain various figurative language devices such as simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, idiom, and imagery
  • overall effects: students dissect a theme to see which characters, events, and elements of the setting helped deepen its meaning of it.

Using these literary analysis practice worksheets or interactive notebooks, students practice higher-level critical-thinking skills which include analysis, synthesis, inference, summarizing, and more.

The activities can be used at any point in the text and can be reused at any point, making them even more versatile. They are perfect for stations, group work, or individual independent reading.

9. Teen tech university – analyzing author’s tone

The next literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this activity by Teen tech university, which focuses on teaching students how to analyze the author’s tone in writing.  

Included in the product are

  • an analyzing tone Google Slides presentation (30+ slides)
  • DIDLS charts for strategic tone analysis – they show students how to analyze diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax
  • four poems to analyze – they are all on the same subject but have a different tone
  • teacher’s key for ALL poems and activities
  • tone tweets activity – students analyze 15 real-life tweets with a student handout and a teacher answer key
  • engaging reading passages for practice and application
  • an assessable application activity – a high school graduation where two teens with very different viewpoints
  • a writing application activity – My greatest fear
  • tone words reference sheet (positive, neutral, and negative connotation)
  • annotation activities for active reading and examples
  • teacher notes and pacing guide
  • Google Drive sharing links for all resources AND pdf handouts provided for printing options.

10. Celebrating Secondary – literary analysis of short films

Another fun way to get your students to practice literary analysis is to use short films to introduce, practice, or review the process.  This bundle by Celebrating secondary enables students to practice literary analysis in a low-risk setting by analyzing short films.

Included in the bundle are two products: Literary analysis using Pixar short films and Literary analysis using short films.  Literary topics and skills covered by the activities include:

  • characterization
  • connotation
  • social commentary
  • author’s purpose
  • and many more

The product includes links to Pixar shorts, including Bao, Lou, Lifted, Partly Cloudy, and La Luna .  It also includes links to short films, including Lambs, Nuggets, Snack Attack, Soar, and The Little Shoemaker .

A suggested answer key is included, but because the activities are analysis-based answers will vary.  

11. Miss Fits – “recipe” of a text analysis

The last literary analysis practice worksheet is included in this recipe book project by Miss Fits.

In the CCSS-aligned project, students show their understanding and interpretation of the main ideas and themes of a literary work in a fun and creative way. They will practice citing textual evidence to support their examination of a literary work, including themes and characterization. 

This activity works fantastically with books that have a large emphasis on food, such as 

Lara Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate , Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, or The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  

However, it can also be used with other texts, with the creator saying she’s used it with a class reading George Orwell’s 1984 and another student using it as an alternative project for  The Handmaid’s Tale.

Included in the product are:

  • an assignment sheet explaining the objective and instructions for the project
  • rubric (editable version also included)
  • an imagery tracker
  • a creative symbolism exercise
  • step-by-step recipe worksheet to help students create their projects, and
  • sample entries

Want more literary analysis content?

Check out these blog posts

  • Literary analysis: how to teach your ELA students to analyze
  • 5 research-backed reasons you should be teaching mind mapping

Want a literary analysis example to show your ELA students? Sign up to have an example literary analysis of Jane Austen’s Emma delivered to your inbox.

  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 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
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 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
  • 17.2 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:

  • Define the key concepts and elements of visual rhetoric.
  • Interpret visual information using the language of visual rhetoric.
  • Interpret images differently based on cultural considerations.
  • Choose digital and visual media according to the rhetorical situation and cultural context when writing for different audiences.
  • Make informed decisions about intellectual property issues regarding images.

To compose an effective essay or a strong visual, a creator works with a number of elements that are remarkably similar from one medium to the other. Both stories and pictures contain information presented by a creator who has a particular point of view and arranges the work in two-dimensional space. The information is likely to be open to multiple interpret , which may or may not be justified by the text. Although the sharing of personal opinions and beliefs has value, the focus here is on interpreting or analyzing texts in combination with your personal experiences.

Interpreting Visual Information

Both words and pictures convey information, but each does so in different ways that require interpretation. Interpretation is the sense a person makes of a piece of communication—textual, oral, or visual. It includes personal experience, the context in which the communication is made, and other rhetorical elements. (See Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric for a list of key terms related to visual elements and rhetoric.) By the time readers get to college, they have internalized strategies to help them critically understand a variety of written texts.

Images present a different set of challenges for critical readers. For example, in a photograph or drawing, information is presented simultaneously, so viewers can start or stop anywhere they like. Because visual information is presented in this way, its general meaning may be apparent at a glance, while more nuanced or complicated meanings may take longer to figure out and likely will vary from one viewer to another.

Some images, however, do not really lend themselves to interpretation. Before trying to engage in rhetorical discourse about an image, be sure it contributes something of value. For example, Figure 17.2 shows a punk rock concert featuring the band Naked Raygun with several concertgoers in the foreground. Such pictures are common forms of memorabilia that serve an archival function. The features common to visual rhetoric—point of view, arrangement, color, and symbol—do not inspire much in the way of discussion in this particular image. Parts are blurry, some of the figures are obscure, and the picture’s purpose is unclear. Therefore, any analysis of the image may be guided more by personal opinion than by critical thinking. Such images are not the focus of this chapter.

Figure 17.3 , in contrast, depicts not merely a moment in time for the sake of memory, although it certainly does that. It contains a central, dominant figure. The color red is bold and centers the figure, giving the image weight. It also conveys several political messages, both obvious and nuanced. The woman in the picture is wearing a mask, as people were either asked or mandated to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. The slogan on her mask reads “I can’t breathe,” words that were made infamous after Eric Garner (1970–2014) died as the result of an illegal chokehold inflicted by a New York City police officer during arrest. These words were repeated by George Floyd (1973–2020) in an 8-minute, 46-second video showing his murder by a Minnesota police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck. The phrase became one of several slogans of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, symbolizing the struggle that people of color endure when living in an implicitly and explicitly racist culture. Breathing—like blood—is fundamental, essential. Without breath, there is no life. Thus, this slogan draws attention to the fact that people of color may be brutalized for no reason other than their existence.

Placing the slogan on a mask is a design choice likely to provoke those who have argued against mandated mask wearing as an assault on personal liberty and who have proclaimed they could not breathe while wearing masks. Juxtaposition , or placing contrasting elements close together, is a technique that image creators often use for a variety of purposes: humor, irony, sarcasm, or—as in this case—disgust or outrage. The juxtaposition of the mask with a slogan referencing literal asphyxiation emphasizes the wearer’s view that state violence against people of color is a more serious threat to her existence than a mask. Thus, the image is open to multiple interpretations.

Thinking Critically

To think critically about visual information, first identify the objects, facts, processes, or symbols portrayed in the image. Taking all the information together, ask whether there is a main or unifying idea. Is the meaning open to multiple interpretations? Is it suggested but not stated? Is it clear and unambiguous? Are there multiple levels of meaning, both stated and unstated? When you view an image, pausing to answer such questions will sharpen your critical faculties, increase your understanding of the visual information you encounter, and help you use images more meaningfully in texts you create.

Visual Rhetoric

Written texts rely on strategies such as thesis statements, topic sentences, paragraphing, tone, and sentence structure to communicate their message to their audience. Images rely on different strategies, including point of view , arrangement , color , and symbol . When writing about images or including them in your writing, think critically about the visual strategies they use and the effect they will have on your audience.

Using these techniques may or may not make you a proficient artist or creator of images. However, familiarity with the technical language of the visual arts will certainly enable you to describe what you observe as you build the evidence that allows you to interpret an image, reflect on it, analyze it, and make persuasive arguments about it.

Point of View

In written texts, point of view refers to the “person” from whose vantage point the information is delivered, either a character in the story or a narrator outside the story. However, in photographs, drawings, and paintings, point of view refers to the place from which the image creator looks at the subject—where the photographer places their camera or the artist their easel.

Photographs that haven’t been manipulated in a darkroom or digitally by a computer only reproduce the subject in front of the camera, as it exists in the moment the shutter opens and closes. They do not show anything to the left or right, above or below, or what comes before or after. A camera aimed to the east omits information from the north, west, and south. In other words, any photograph is the result of placing a camera in a certain location, at a certain height and distance, at a specific time of day and using a particular lens, film, and perhaps a filter. All of these decisions about where, when, and how to place the camera create the visual point of view.

You can find good examples of these kinds of limited truths in real-estate advertisements featuring photographs of houses for sale. The photograph might not reveal a landfill next door or a factory across the street—though you might infer such limitations from a low selling price or confirm them by driving past the house.

The creator of Figure 17.4 chooses to highlight the digital waterfall with its seductive lighting and colors. Meanwhile, the people interacting with the computer are barely visible, standing off to the side, some nearly out of the frame. The silhouetted profiles and darkened faces lack identifying details. These features are emphasized by the blurred people in the background. These figures, too, are unidentifiable and are looking out of the frame, uninterested. The effect is to imply that the waterfall and its computer interface dominate human interaction and possibly even human existence.

To think critically about point of view, answer the following questions:

  • From what place or stance does the image creator view the subject?
  • What effect does this particular point of view have on the way viewers may think or feel about the subject?
  • What would happen if the vantage point were elsewhere—above or below, left or right?
  • What would change in the image if the point of view were changed?


In addition to point of view, artists use arrangement to signal an image’s significance to the reader. The term arrangement in visual texts might be compared to terms such as order , organization , and structure in verbal texts, though the differences are substantial. While writers arrange , or put together, a story, essay, or poem to take place over time—that is, the time readers need to follow the text, line by line, through a number of pages—image creators arrange pictures in the two-dimensional space of their viewfinder, paper, or canvas to invite viewers to read in space rather than time. This difference is also evident in sculpture and other three-dimensional works, which require viewers to move around them to read them spatially. In visual texts, then, arrangement refers to the ways in which the various parts of a picture come together to present a single coherent experience for the viewer.

In contrast to static images, which are read spatially, videos and some types of multimodal texts—those incorporating more than one genre, discipline, or literacy (for example, GIFs that incorporate pictures or videos with language)—combine elements of both time and space. That is, they invite viewers to examine an image in motion that changes over time. Video creators often mimic linear time by telling a story, or they repeat key images to be interpreted differently after being seen in various contexts within the video.

One element to examine is the use of pattern —predictable, repeated elements within the visual field that the eye notices and seems attracted to. Just as sonnets, sestinas, and haiku follow patterns of lines, so do visual compositions. But in these, patterns are created by light and color rather than words. Documentary and commercial photographers often use visual patterns to lead viewers to an intended meaning. Patterns are especially prominent in street art, where the elements of surrounding architecture and infrastructure interact with the work, as shown in Figure 17.5 .

Many patterns are suggested by mathematics. For example, the Möbius strip is both a mathematical construct and a visual enigma. It has one side and one boundary curve. It looks like a spiral, but it does not intersect itself. Thus, it gives the impression of being infinite. In Figure 17.5 , the artist capitalizes on these features of the Möbius strip, using it to depict the seemingly endless cycle of destruction (green tanks) and reconstruction (yellow steamrollers) in one of the world’s most contested pieces of real estate: the Gaza Strip.

Ownership and control of the Gaza Strip are disputed. Approximately two million people live there, many in refugee camps. Since the mid-20th century, the region has been fought over by Israel, Egypt, and Palestinian Arabs. As you contemplate the mural, think about the way its creator uses pattern and repetition to convey various ideas and emotions. The following questions may help:

  • Which elements within the mural are repeated?
  • Where is its center of gravity or weight?
  • Where do patterns of light/dark, large/small, and color lead the eye?
  • How do pattern and balance contribute to meaning in a two-dimensional image?
  • What does the arrangement suggest about the meaning of the image?

Color and Symbol

Pattern and arrangement are controlled by the image creator and intended to guide the viewer. Color and symbol allow the viewer greater latitude in interpreting the image, in part because particular colors suggest specific moods. Think about your personal reactions to different colors. What color might you select to paint your bedroom? What is your favorite color for, say, clothing or cars? While these may differ according to personal preference, traditional symbolic values are attached to different colors in literature and art. Why, for instance, does red often symbolize anger or war on the one hand and romance or passion on the other? Why does black often suggest danger or death? And why does white often stand for innocence or purity? Are the reasons for these associations arbitrary, cultural, or logical?

Particular colors also suggest or reinforce social and political ideas. What, for example, is suggested by adding a red, white, and blue American flag to a magazine advertisement for an American automobile, political poster, or bumper sticker? What is the meaning of a yellow ribbon tied to a tree in front of a house or an image of a yellow ribbon sticker attached to the tailgate of a pickup truck? By themselves, colors do not specify political positions, arguments, or ideas, but used in conjunction with specific words or forms—a flag or ribbon, for example—the emotional power of color can be influential.

Color associations globally are complicated and highly nuanced. The following overview is brief and simplified, to be considered merely as an introduction or starting point for your research and investigations into individual artistic expressions. When you interpret an artist’s use of color, one place to start is with the hues found in the natural world. Because blood is red, the color is often associated with life, heat, and passion. Yellow and green appear with the new growth of spring, so these colors often symbolize new beginnings, freshness, and hope. Both the sea and the sky are blue. Although these elements can be turbulent, many people find peace and tranquility as they reflect on them, and thus they are often associated with these emotions.

Regardless of colors’ natural associations, people from around the world understand colors differently. In China, for example, red is a celebratory color associated with holidays, feasts, and the giving of gifts, whereas in some parts of Africa the color may symbolize the sacrifice necessitated by the fight for independence. In the Western world, white can represent purity or innocence and is often worn by young women at their weddings. However, in parts of Asia, white is a color of mourning.

The colors mentioned so far are mostly primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. The secondary colors—orange, green, and purple—carry more complex meanings. Both orange and the bright shade of green called neon or chartreuse are easy to see in all light conditions. Therefore, they are often used for safety purposes, on caution signs or uniforms of emergency workers. The color orange is associated with the robes of Buddhist monks, thus representing in Buddhist cultures that which is holy, whereas in the Netherlands, orange is the color of the royal family and used for patriotic purposes.

In addition to connotations of spring, the color green is also associated with Islam. In the Christian tradition, yellow and gold are colors associated with riches and abundance. Holiness is also associated with the color blue in Egyptian, Hindu, and Christian cultures (in which blue has other associations as well). Because purple has traditionally been a difficult color to manufacture, its rarity meant that only the very wealthy, often nobility or royalty, could afford to wear it—hence its association with royals and even gods. However, some cultures, such as Thai, Brazilian, and Italian cultures, associate purple with bad luck or death. Again, this overview of colors’ different interpretations and associations is not intended as a guide for interpreting color in a visual image. Instead, consider all of the different ways in which color can be understood, some ways that the artist might intend for color to be interpreted, and the associations that colors have for you when you view a visual or digital image.

In this chapter, you have begun learning about how to interpret visual information through the lens of rhetoric. Color and its related symbolism help viewers interpret images.

Like colors, symbols are interpreted differently by individuals on the basis of their personal and cultural experiences. Here is an example of two state flags with very different symbolism: Figure 17.6 depicts the state flag of Mississippi that was adopted in 1894; Figure 17.7 depicts the one adopted in 2021. In 2021, under pressure from numerous organizations and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mississippi replaced its state flag. The 1894 flag included the battle flag of the Confederacy , referencing Mississippi’s history of secession and violence during the Civil War (1861–1865); the single blue, white, and red bands were a reference to the stripes on the American flag. This historical allusion, coupled with the state’s history of enslavement and segregation, meant that the 1894 flag served as a stark reminder of efforts to silence Black Mississippians. In fact, Mississippi did not formally ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—proposed in 1865 to abolish slavery—until 2013, and the state remained segregated long after the Supreme Court outlawed the practice.

Mississippi continued to use the 1894 flag throughout the Reconstruction (1865–1877) and the Jim Crow laws (ca. 1877–c. 1950) and civil rights (1950s and 1960s) eras despite multiple and sustained efforts to remove any reference to the Confederate flag. In 2020, the increasing prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement created the context in which state lawmakers were forced to consider these problems as mainstream and urgent. Further, the state came under pressure from numerous organizations, including the Southeastern Conference athletics organization (SEC), which threatened to boycott the state by no longer holding major events there if the flag were not changed.

Submitted to the legislature by Starkville-based graphic designer Rocky Vaughan (b. ca. 1977) and collaborators Sue Anna Joe , Kara Giles , and Dominique Pugh , the new flag took effect in January 2021 after voters approved it and the governor ratified it. The current flag ( Figure 17.7 ) features a central vertical band of blue, flanked by two thin gold bands and encompassed by two broader red ones. The flag’s center is dominated by a single magnolia flower, crowned by a single gold star and encircled by 20 white ones. Beneath the flower are emblazoned the words “In God We Trust.”

The gold coloring is intended to celebrate Mississippi’s contributions to the world of art, music, and literature. The white stars symbolize Mississippi’s status as the 20th state of the Union; thus, the new flag symbolizes the state’s reintegration into the Union without reference to its seditious acts in the 19th century or lingering loyalty to the beliefs that motivated them. In addition, the single gold star honors the state’s indigenous people; no reference is made to the state’s history of enslavement and racism.

Thinking critically about color and symbol, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the color enhance or distort the reality of the image?
  • Imagine the image in shades of black, white, and gray. What would be lost and what would be gained if color were subtracted?
  • Does the color work with or against the other compositional elements?
  • What symbols are incorporated into the image? How might those symbols be interpreted in various contexts?
  • What, if any, is the significance of referencing Indigenous but not Black Americans on the current flag?

Selecting and Incorporating Digital and Visual Media

In addition to analyzing visual and digital media, you may be asked to find, create, or manipulate such materials for a variety of situations and audiences. Following are some considerations to keep in mind, including copyright issues, appropriate selections, and technical manipulations .

Intellectual property laws are complicated, change frequently, and vary by country. Sharing an image is similar to quoting a text, with one exception: you must not only cite the author in a reference list or bibliography but also secure permission to use the image. To be safe, unless an image explicitly states that you are free to share it (public domain), assume it is protected by copyright.

The texts you write will have varying degrees of formality and require different levels of diction (word choice), syntax (sentence structure), content, and tone. Similarly, the images you select should reflect the tone , or attitude, that you wish to convey in your text. Ask yourself these questions to decide whether an image is appropriate for your text:

What is the image’s purpose? Include images only if they add to or supplement the text. Do not add images simply as “filler” or for audience entertainment. Such materials are more likely to confuse or distract readers than they are to enlighten or inform them.

Is the image humorous or sarcastic? Humor has value as entertainment by keeping the audience interested and engaged in your text and making it more memorable. However, determining what makes something funny is deeply personal. An image you find funny could be read with confusion or even offense by someone else. In formal communications, humor and sarcasm are better avoided because of the risk of misunderstanding. In creative contexts, you have greater latitude.

Does the image include text? Because you are already creating a text, you may wish to question the value of inserting an image with text. Consider what information the image provides in addition to the text. For example, in Figure 17.3 , the text “I can’t breathe” is enhanced by its placement on a mask and, further, by the mask’s presence on a Black woman. These details make the image with its text a valuable addition to a discussion or analysis.

Consider also the language of the text. You may be fluent in multiple languages, so an image with text in Spanish, French, or Japanese could have meaning for you. Will it have meaning for your audience? The same applies to images that include slang, jargon, or slogans with a limited shelf life. If you have to explain the image’s meaning before your readers understand it, the image is probably not worth including.

What is the image’s context? Where and when the image is placed can affect the viewer’s understanding and interpretation. A picture of poverty in one country is likely to look very different from poverty in another country. Some images can be considered universal, meaning they depict situations that have significance for all people, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or historical context. For example, an image of a mother and an infant is easily recognized by anyone anywhere and is likely to evoke similar thoughts and emotions.

What digital or technical requirements or manipulations are needed? Finally, when you think about including an image, you’ll need to consider the digital and technical requirements and manipulations necessary to do so. Aspects to consider include compatibility requirements, visibility on different devices and platforms, sizing, and placement. The technical details associated with these considerations are changing rapidly, so this chapter makes no recommendations regarding software programs or specifications. However, if an image is blurred or distorted—or invisible—the result will be confusion and frustration on the part of your reader.

Selecting an Appropriate Image

To practice selecting appropriate images, imagine you are writing an informational webpage about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its responsibilities in relation to the Clean Water Act . To illustrate those responsibilities, which of the following images would you use? Why? (Suggested answers follow.)

Suggested Answers

  • Sample image 1 seems like an obvious choice. It depicts the name and logo of the agency you are writing about, and nothing about it is likely to be considered controversial. However, by itself, it does not convey any useful information, so its purpose is unclear.
  • Sample image 2 depicts safe, clean drinking water from the tap. The glass emphasizes the clarity of the water, and its proximity to the tap shows the intimate role that water plays in daily life. It features no characters or setting, so it is not restricted by any obvious contextual clues. It is perfect for this piece.
  • Sample image 3 is emotionally powerful. It depicts a woman, older and likely with a low income, holding a jar of brownish liquid. The image appears to be old, based on the coloring of the photograph, the woman’s dress, and the home in the background. Its age could help make the rhetorical point that the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, has been effective. However, its context is unclear, raising questions about its composition. When and where was the photo taken? Is it set in the United States? And what is the liquid in the jar—water? Oil? Moonshine? The image raises too many questions to be useful in this context.

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What is Analytical Reading and Why You Need It

Analytical Reading

If you’re looking to achieve a little more than just a couple of hours of relaxation from your reading sessions, you probably already know a little about reading strategies and other techniques that are meant to enhance your comprehension and information retention levels. One of the most popular and efficient reading and learning techniques is analytical reading. 

What is analytical reading and how should you use it to properly enhance your reading experience and performance? Part of our mission here at Basmo is to help you become the ultimate reader. And while that can mean completely different things depending on what your goals are, it’s important for us to provide you with all the information you can possibly need. 

What is analytical reading?

Analytical reading is defined as a high-level cognitive skill and a reading strategy that serves the purpose of probing more deeply to comprehend both the message and the intent or ultimate goal of the text at hand.  

Basic comprehension is just one component of good reading skills. Going from simply reading as a form of entertainment to actually maximizing your potential and extracting maximum value from the time you spend with a book in your hand is no easy task. 

Whether you do your analytical reading as part of a school assignment where you need to dissect a text and recognize its true meaning and everything the author is trying to suggest, as part of your general reading routine because you are dedicated to analyzing your books and extracting all the necessary information from them, or simply as part of your job, this skill is, without a doubt, one of the most important ones for a reader.

Along with syntopical reading , analytical reading is one of the most important reading skills that one can possess.

Why is analysis important in reading?

The importance of analytical thinking in reading and writing has much deeper roots than you might expect. Reading analytically can help readers gain a deeper understanding of the text at hand, extract the true ideas, understand its structure and meaning, and analyze it critically, thus drawing the right conclusions about it. 

Needless to say, this entire process has several benefits for those who make the effort to apply it to their reading sessions. For starters, it is a good way to make sure that you get the most rewarding reading experience. 

Another benefit of reading analytically is the fact that you will have much better comprehension and retention levels at the end of your reading session. Granted, the process does take time and you will go through a lot fewer pages within the same timeframe than you would when reading passively , but the value you will be extracting from those few pages will be undeniably a lot higher.

The analytical reading definition does mention that it is a high-level cognitive skill, but what does that actually mean? Well, it means that it can only be achieved by readers with a high degree of proficiency in reading. And there is actually a causality relationship between reading proficiency and analytical reading skills: the only way to become a proficient reader is through text analysis and the higher the proficiency level of the reader, the more accurate the analysis will be. 

On top of this amazing skill you will develop, there are also benefits for your brain’s health that are worth mentioning. As you know, reading is a mentally challenging activity that results in good brain health, better memory, and delayed onset of cognitive disorders among other things. Well, as you would imagine, reading analytically is a lot more difficult and therefore a lot more effective in providing your brain with an intense and effective workout. If reading is the equivalent of cardio for your brain, analytical reading is a tough session of lifting weights.

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What are some analytical reading examples?

Some examples might shed some much needed light on analytical reading as a concept. To better understand what analytical reading is and how it is done, let’s assume you are given the task to read a book analytically. To actually prove that you have done, by the time the book is finished, you should be able to do the following:

  • Categorize the book according to genre, type, subject, and themes
  • Be able to present the essential information about the book with utmost brevity
  • Be able to create a clear outline of the essential parts of the book in the correct order and relation
  • Identify and define the author’s intentions, techniques, and the problems they are trying to solve

While things might differ from one task to another, this example is the most eloquent when it comes to understanding what the final purpose of analytical reading is. 

What are the analytical reading strategies?

Analytical reading as a strategy is the result of a series of techniques that need to be applied. There are several important steps that go into reading analytically and you will need to know and understand them well before you will be successful in analytical reading. 

Before reading a challenging text, you should read the introduction and conclusion, then scan the headings and structure to find the main points and justifications for those points. Why is this important? It should be done to make reading easier and to help bring the main ideas in context. Learning this skill as part of your inspectional reading strategy is going to give your reading habits and level of proficiency a considerable boost. 

There are a couple of steps in skimming that should not be missed:

  • Consider why you should read this. (What makes me read it? Which genre does it belong to?)
  •  While reading the introduction and summary, search for the thesis.
  •  Look for important ideas, bolded phrases, and section titles in the text.
  •  Go through each section’s opening sentences.
  •  Describe your working summary (thesis and primary arguments) for yourself.

Reading analytically involves a deep level of understanding of the entire piece of content you are going through. When reading challenging portions, take your time, reread the text, and pause until you can sum it up in one or two phrases for yourself. Doing this is essential to ensure comprehension of challenging concepts before moving on. 

The important steps of re-reading are:

  •  Go back and read the passage slowly, finding the last part of it you fully understood. 
  •  Read the paragraph once more slowly (perhaps out loud).
  •  List any terms you don’t understand and do some research on them.
  •  Look over any ideas that were supported previously in the text.
  •  Continue until you can sum up the whole passage in one or two sentences for yourself.


This part refers to associating the newly acquired information with the knowledge you already possess. You should recognize central concepts, assess what else you know or have read about those ideas, and weigh similarities and differences whenever you come across a central thought or when an idea reminds you of something else.

Doing this encourages greater comprehension and improves the quality of your reading experience. These are the important steps and questions you should keep in mind:

  •  Begin by listing the main ideas and assertions.
  •  In what other books have you come across similar ideas and concepts?
  •  How are the concepts or assertions used in comparable ways?
  •  How do the various applications of the ideas or assertions differ?

Take notes on the text with your favorite method ( annotating , taking separate notes, or highlighting ) when a passage excites you, fascinates you, or is simply important to remember. 

Taking notes keeps you interested in the content and aids with memory retention. Here are the main note-taking and annotating methodologies:  

  • The Cornell Method : Create two columns on a separate sheet of paper, allowing some room at the bottom. Make a list of the main points from the book or passage in the right hand column (your notes). Find the essential words for those thoughts in the left-hand column (your cues). Write a short summary of the paragraph at the end.
  • Jeff’s Method : This is just a modified Cornell Method, using the left-hand column for queries and rebuttals. The author’s thoughts are listed in the right-hand column, and your thoughts should be listed in the left.
  • The Marginalia Method : Create a set of symbols to represent various reactions to the text, such as one for a query, one for a major point, and one for an idea you didn’t comprehend. Make notes in your text, expanding lengthy ideas where there is room or on a different piece of paper.

Argument mapping

Based on the significance of the passage and the ideas or arguments, create anything from a complete map of the argument to a mental recounting of its structure. When faced with an argument, especially one that is significant, you should always try to create a mental structure for that argument. 

This will be a great process to assist you in recognizing the logical framework that supports the written structure.

The whole analytical process is generally quite a difficult one and represents a trade-off: you are generally going to need to compromise speed in order to achieve a good level of comprehension and the desired results from your analytical reading sessions. With Basmo, you can easily keep track of how analytical reading affects your speed and overall performance. 

Our reading app tracks each session independently and analyzes your reading speed, session duration, and the number of pages you manage to go through within that specific timeframe. Once all this info becomes available to you and compiled in comprehensive performance reports, you will have a great overview of your reading habits and you will be one step closer to improving them.

Why is Basmo the ultimate tool for analytical reading?

Basmo is a reading tracking app with serious benefits for those of you who want to start implementing the analytical approach to reading. It was designed with the clear purpose of helping readers of all levels improve the quality of each individual reading session and their reading habits in general. Here’s how:

Basmo promotes better-organized reading habits . Having a calculated and well-organized approach when it comes to reading is a good idea in general. When it comes to reading analytically though, it is essential, and the explanation is quite simple: in order to succeed as an analytical reader, you need to have a calculated approach to your reading habits. And not only that but since analytical reading can be quite exhausting, you will need to make sure you give yourself reasonable timeframes to complete certain tasks and enough breaks so you don’t burn yourself out.

With that in mind, Basmo offers a highly customizable scheduling feature . It allows you to manually select specific days of the week for your reading sessions and also different times of day depending on your other routines. That way, you will know exactly when and for how long you are supposed to read in order to achieve your goals and the app will even remind you of the upcoming reading sessions.

Basmo allows you to jot everything down . Analytical reading is quite difficult to do without putting pen to paper, at least virtually. Taking notes, making annotations, highlighting the important parts of the text, and even keeping a reading journal are quite essential techniques that are a part of what analytical reading actually means. 

With Basmo, you can easily do all of the above. Take notes while reading by simply starting a reading session, annotate and highlight books without damaging them by using the page scanner feature, and use the journaling feature to keep track of your reading and your progress toward your goals. It’s that easy.

With Basmo, your goals are clear and achievable . Whether you want to set goals for your analytical reading or all reading in general, Basmo offers you two different options. You can either choose to micro-manage your reading habits with a daily goal for the number of minutes you spend reading, or you can look at the big picture and select a goal for the number of books you want to go through within a year.

Final thoughts

What is analytical reading? It is, one of the highest of the four levels of reading and involves a tremendous degree of involvement. Dissecting a text and extracting even the last shred of useful information is hard work, but all the effort pays off in the end because the levels of comprehension and retention will be off the charts. Use Basmo to make sure you get the best experience and the best results.

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  • How to write a rhetorical analysis | Key concepts & examples

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples

Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay  that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.

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Table of contents

Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.

Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos

Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.

Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.

Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.

These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.

Text and context

In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.

In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.

The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?

Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.

Claims, supports, and warrants

A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.

A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.

The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.

The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.

For example, look at the following statement:

We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.

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Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
  • What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
  • Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
  • What kinds of evidence are presented?

By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.

The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.

Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.

The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.

Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

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The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.

Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.

It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.

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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The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

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1st look at asteroid Bennu samples suggests space rock may even be 'a fragment of an ancient ocean world'

'We're going to be busy for a long, long time. This is an enormous amount of sample for us.'

a silver metal cannister containing dark grey pebbles

Scientists are now inspecting snagged, bagged and tagged bits and pieces from asteroid Bennu, the cosmic mother lode delivered by NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security — Regolith Explorer mission.

Known in acronymic astro-speak as OSIRIS-REx , that seven-year-long voyage brought home the goods via a sample return canister that came to full stop on Sept. 24, 2023, parachuting into a remote stretch of the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range. Those specimens from afar are believed to contain the leftovers from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

Space.com caught up with two leading scientists now engaged in extracting what those darkish asteroid particles are illuminating, sorting out how these materials exported from Bennu came to be. But also what insights they hold for the origin of the worlds within our solar system, including Earth .

Related: NASA's 1st asteroid sample is rich in carbon and water, OSIRIS-REx team finds

Pristine reservoir

The scene is the University of Arizona's Kuiper-Arizona Laboratory for Astromaterials Analysis. Researchers there are using instruments to dig into what the OSIRIS-REx collectibles are telling them, right down to the atomic scale.

For a start, University of Arizona scientists received 200 milligrams — roughly seven-thousandths of an ounce — of the asteroid Bennu sample for analysis. 

"We have over a 1,000 particles that are greater than half-a-millimeter, 28 particles that are greater than a centimeter, and the biggest particle is 3.5 centimeters," said University of Arizona's Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx. "So a great collection full of really large stones."

Bennu samples contain plentiful amounts of water locked up in minerals like clays and are also rich in carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous. OSIRIS-REx samples represent the largest pristine reservoir of such material on Earth.

"We're going to be busy for a long, long time," Lauretta told Space.com. "This is an enormous amount of sample for us," he said, with specimens of Bennu now also under study all over the globe.

Distinct and different

What's being found is to be detailed at next month's 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in The Woodlands, Texas. Over 70 abstracts of science output have been submitted to that prestigious meeting, Lauretta said. "Starting in March that's all going to be released out to the world. So the team is working furiously," he said.

One early finding is that the asteroid material under inspection looks "distinct and different than anything else in our meteorite collection isotopically, which is exciting," said Lauretta. "There's a whole realm of material that we never get access to if we just rely on meteorites," Lauretta added.

Most meteorites that endure their fiery fall through Earth's atmosphere and are recovered are bits of asteroids. But pinpointing the space rock from which they originated is not easily done.

Phosphate crust

OSIRIS-REx samples have a phosphate crust never seen before in meteorites, Lauretta said. These high concentrations of phosphate have been detected in extraterrestrial ocean worlds, he said. 

For instance, Saturn's moon Enceladus contains phosphates, a key building block of life and at levels much higher than Earth's oceans.

"Asteroid Bennu may be a fragment of an ancient ocean world. That's still highly speculative. But it's the best lead I have right now to explain the origin of that material," Lauretta said.

Connect the dots

Unraveling the history of asteroid Bennu is a surreal undertaking, said Thomas Zega, a professor at the university's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and scientific director at the school's Kuiper-Arizona Laboratory for Astromaterials Analysis.

Zega points to the decades that bookended the OSIRIS-REx mission, from a fleshed-out proposal to having the asteroid samples under extreme study in the laboratory. 

"Honestly, seldom does a day go by where I don't consider myself incredibly fortunate to actually do this for a living," Zega told Space.com. "I pinch myself. It's a blessing."

By any definition the OSIRIS-REx mission has been a phenomenal success, Zega added, "and now being able to use some of the most sophisticated analytical tools on the planet to measure the samples, it's quite remarkable." 

Missions like OSIRIS-REx, aside from teaching scientists about the origins of Bennu, Zega noted, "they really do help us connect the dots between other meteorites we have in our terrestrial collections," he said, "and perhaps the asteroids they come from in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Zega was a member of the "quick-look" team that took part in the opening of the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule after delivery to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. 

What was found by curation team experts was a coating of fine-grained dust from the sampling maneuver at Bennu on the returned avionics deck and the outside of the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) — the air filter-like contraption on the end of the OSIRIS-REx robot arm that snared the bulk of Bennu fragments.

One aspect of Zega's surreal encounter with Bennu is departing Texas and flying back to Arizona with a pre-arranged, small fraction of sample from the asteroid. 

After all, Zega's express courier duties are due to the University of Arizona being home base for some 20 years of work to move OSIRIS-REx from bid to a ballistic entry of asteroid material. 

Cover of darkness

"There was no way it was going in checked luggage! It went into my backpack that I carried onto the plane. It was a tiny amount of material, sealed in a bag which itself was sealed in a vial that had been filled with nitrogen. So it was all protected," Zega recalled.

Landing in Tucson at night, the first thing Zega did was to hustle the sample into a dry nitrogen box at the university lab for protection and preservation.

"And then I went home, had dinner, and went to sleep," Zega recounted. 

Zega said he jokes that the whole thing was under the cover of darkness. "Nobody was the wiser that somebody had just brought the first sample from the first NASA asteroid sample return to Tucson," he said.

 —  At last! NASA finally frees lid of asteroid Bennu sample capsule after battling stuck fasteners

 — OSIRIS-APEX prepares for 1st close solar encounter on way to asteroid Apophis

— NASA's OSIRIS-REx lands samples of asteroid Bennu to Earth after historic 4-billion-mile journey

Last month, on Jan. 10, the OSIRIS-REx TAGSAM head stuffed with Bennu bits was fully opened by NASA curators. That final step was slow in coming due to a couple of troublesome fasteners that thwarted an eyes-on look-see at the total cargo of asteroid collectibles.

Now on tap is releasing a catalog of all the Bennu samples later this year, giving scientists and institutions around the world the ability to submit requests for scrutinizing the spacecraft's bites of Bennu.

In the meantime, Lauretta and Zega, along with colleagues are busily appraising Bennu specimens.

Teams of university students and faculty are making use of a wide range of capabilities, from optical and electron microscopes to a newly acquired tool. 

A powerful nanoSIMS instrument is up and running and is offering stunning looks at isotopes (different variations of atoms) to help interpret how each particular component in the Bennu sample originated.

"We've got lots of cool stuff happening over the next few months," Lauretta said. "So stay tuned."

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected].

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Leonard David

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.

A tiny asteroid just snuck between the Earth and moon

Geminid meteors may be 10 times older than thought, simulations of oddball asteroid Phaethon suggest

This astronaut took 5 spacewalks. Now, he's helping make spacesuits for future ISS crews (exclusive)

  • Unclear Engineer I have been wondering for some time about the repeated statements that asteroids are "pristine" examples of the primordial materials that coalesced into planets at the birth of the solar system. With 16 Psyche being suspected of having once been the core of a panet, and now Beneau samples looking like they might have come from a "water world", I am wondering what theories have been explored for one or more sizeable planets having existed and been catastrophically destroyed in the region of the asteroid belt in the period after the currently known planets had formed. Reply
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Americans’ social media use, youtube and facebook are by far the most used online platforms among u.s. adults; tiktok’s user base has grown since 2021.

To better understand Americans’ social media use, Pew Research Center surveyed 5,733 U.S. adults from May 19 to Sept. 5, 2023. Ipsos conducted this National Public Opinion Reference Survey (NPORS) for the Center using address-based sampling and a multimode protocol that included both web and mail. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race and ethnicity, education and other categories.

Polls from 2000 to 2021 were conducted via phone. For more on this mode shift, read our Q&A .

Here are the questions used for this analysis , along with responses, and  its methodology ­­­.

A note on terminology: Our May-September 2023 survey was already in the field when Twitter changed its name to “X.” The terms  Twitter  and  X  are both used in this report to refer to the same platform.

Social media platforms faced a range of controversies in recent years, including concerns over misinformation and data privacy . Even so, U.S. adults use a wide range of sites and apps, especially YouTube and Facebook. And TikTok – which some Congress members previously called to ban – saw growth in its user base.

These findings come from a Pew Research Center survey of 5,733 U.S. adults conducted May 19-Sept. 5, 2023.

Which social media sites do Americans use most?

A horizontal bar chart showing that most U.S. adults use YouTube and Facebook; about half use Instagram.

YouTube by and large is the most widely used online platform measured in our survey. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) report ever using the video-based platform.

While a somewhat lower share reports using it, Facebook is also a dominant player in the online landscape. Most Americans (68%) report using the social media platform.

Additionally, roughly half of U.S. adults (47%) say they use Instagram .

The other sites and apps asked about are not as widely used , but a fair portion of Americans still use them:

  • 27% to 35% of U.S. adults use Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
  • About one-in-five say they use Twitter (recently renamed “X”) and Reddit.  

This year is the first time we asked about BeReal, a photo-based platform launched in 2020. Just 3% of U.S. adults report using it.

Recent Center findings show that YouTube also dominates the social media landscape among U.S. teens .

TikTok sees growth since 2021

One platform – TikTok – stands out for growth of its user base. A third of U.S. adults (33%) say they use the video-based platform, up 12 percentage points from 2021 (21%).

A line chart showing that a third of U.S. adults say they use TikTok, up from 21% in 2021.

The other sites asked about had more modest or no growth over the past couple of years. For instance, while YouTube and Facebook dominate the social media landscape, the shares of adults who use these platforms has remained stable since 2021.

The Center has been tracking use of online platforms for many years. Recently, we shifted from gathering responses via telephone to the web and mail. Mode changes can affect study results in a number of ways, therefore we have to take a cautious approach when examining how things have – or have not – changed since our last study on these topics in 2021. For more details on this shift, please read our Q&A .

Stark age differences in who uses each app or site

Adults under 30 are far more likely than their older counterparts to use many of the online platforms. These findings are consistent with previous Center data .

A dot plot showing that the youngest U.S. adults are far more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok; age differences are less pronounced for Facebook.

Age gaps are especially large for Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – platforms that are used by majorities of adults under 30. For example:

  • 78% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram, far higher than the share among those 65 and older (15%).
  • 65% of U.S. adults under 30 report using Snapchat, compared with just 4% of the oldest age cohort.
  • 62% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use TikTok, much higher than the share among adults ages 65 years and older (10%).
  • Americans ages 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 fall somewhere in between for all three platforms.

YouTube and Facebook are the only two platforms that majorities of all age groups use. That said, there is still a large age gap between the youngest and oldest adults when it comes to use of YouTube. The age gap for Facebook, though, is much smaller.

Americans ages 30 to 49 stand out for using three of the platforms – LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Facebook – at higher rates. For instance, 40% of this age group uses LinkedIn, higher than the roughly three-in-ten among those ages 18 to 29 and 50 to 64. And just 12% of those 65 and older say the same. 

Overall, a large majority of the youngest adults use multiple sites and apps. About three-quarters of adults under 30 (74%) use at least five of the platforms asked about. This is far higher than the shares of those ages 30 to 49 (53%), 50 to 64 (30%), and ages 65 and older (8%) who say the same.  

Refer to our social media fact sheet for more detailed data by age for each site and app.

Other demographic differences in use of online platforms

A number of demographic differences emerge in who uses each platform. Some of these include the following:

  • Race and ethnicity: Roughly six-in-ten Hispanic (58%) and Asian (57%) adults report using Instagram, somewhat higher than the shares among Black (46%) and White (43%) adults. 1
  • Gender: Women are more likely than their male counterparts to say they use the platform.
  • Education: Those with some college education and those with a college degree report using it at somewhat higher rates than those who have a high school degree or less education.
  • Race and ethnicity: Hispanic adults are particularly likely to use TikTok, with 49% saying they use it, higher than Black adults (39%). Even smaller shares of Asian (29%) and White (28%) adults say the same.
  • Gender: Women use the platform at higher rates than men (40% vs. 25%).
  • Education: Americans with higher levels of formal education are especially likely to use LinkedIn. For instance, 53% of Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree report using the platform, far higher than among those who have some college education (28%) and those who have a high school degree or less education (10%). This is the largest educational difference measured across any of the platforms asked about.

Twitter (renamed “X”)

  • Household income: Adults with higher household incomes use Twitter at somewhat higher rates. For instance, 29% of U.S. adults who have an annual household income of at least $100,000 say they use the platform. This compares with one-in-five among those with annual household incomes of $70,000 to $99,999, and around one-in-five among those with annual incomes of less than $30,000 and those between $30,000 and $69,999.
  • Gender: Women are far more likely to use Pinterest than men (50% vs. 19%).
  • Race and ethnicity: 54% of Hispanic adults and 51% of Asian adults report using WhatsApp. This compares with 31% of Black adults and even smaller shares of those who are White (20%).

A heat map showing how use of online platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram or TikTok – differs among some U.S. demographic groups.

  • Estimates for Asian adults are representative of English speakers only. ↩

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Table of contents, q&a: how – and why – we’re changing the way we study tech adoption, americans’ use of mobile technology and home broadband, social media fact sheet, internet/broadband fact sheet, mobile fact sheet, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

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Across America, clean energy plants are being banned faster than they're being built

Across America’s power grid, there’s a growing gap between what we need and what we’ll allow.

As the planet warms and climate disasters grow more costly , the U.S. has set a target to reach 100% clean energy by 2035, a goal that depends on building large-scale solar and wind power . 

A nationwide analysis by USA TODAY shows local governments are banning green energy faster than they’re building it. 

At least 15% of counties in the U.S. have effectively halted new utility-scale wind, solar, or both, USA TODAY found. These limits come through outright bans, moratoriums, construction impediments and other conditions that make green energy difficult to build. 

The impediments come as a gigantic effort to build green energy also is underway. U.S. energy from commercial wind and solar is expected to hit 19% by 2025 , and those sources are expected to surpass the amount of electricity made from coal this year. 

But green energy must increase radically over the next 11 years to meet U.S. goals. And those projects are becoming harder to build. 

In the past decade, about 180 counties got their first commercial wind-power projects. But in the same period, more than twice as many blocked wind development. And while solar power has found more broad acceptance, 2023 was the first year to see almost as many individual counties block new solar projects as the ones adding their first projects. 

The result: Some of the areas with the nation's best sources of wind and solar power have now been boxed out.  

Because large-scale solar and wind projects typically are built outside city limits, USA TODAY’s analysis focuses on restrictions by the county-level governments that have jurisdiction. In a few cases, such as Connecticut, Tennessee and Vermont, entire states have implemented near-statewide restrictions. 

While 15% of America’s counties might sound like a small portion, the trend has significant consequences, says Jeff Danielson, a former four-term Iowa state senator now with the Clean Grid Alliance.

“It’s 15% of the most highly productive areas to develop wind and solar,” he said. “Our overall goals are going to be difficult to achieve if the answer is ‘No’ in county after county.”

The country’s green-energy deadline now sits just 11 years away. But even if politicians fail to meet that goal, another clock is ticking. 

Last year, 2023, was the warmest in recorded history , warmer than any other in 125,000 years. And with rising temperatures come rising risks : stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic, more severe cloudbursts in storms across North America, increasing drought in the Great Plains , larger wildfires in the West .  

Construction isn’t happening fast enough to meet the country’s green energy needs, said Grace Wu, a professor of energy resources at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“I’m worried about what’s ahead,” she said.

The shift to green energy, and the rise of bans

The transition to green energy involves a profound national shift: a move from power plants that mostly burned coal, then natural gas, to new wind and solar installations. That also means shifting much of the nation’s energy generation to new regions, specifically the large wind belt down the middle of the country and the sunny southeast and southwest. 

“Clean energy” includes other emissions-free sources such as nuclear ( 18% ) and hydropower ( 6% ). But both of those are controversial in their own right and unlikely to see major expansion in the U.S. 

And sources such as rooftop solar panels on houses or businesses, while helpful, provide just a tiny fraction of the total power supply.  

In the Northeast, several coastal states have instead made plans to rely on offshore wind turbines. But a wave of disinformation in 2023, falsely claiming offshore wind projects killed whales , resulted in a sharp decline in public support for offshore wind.

The only likely way to shift away from fossil fuels quickly is a sharp increase in solar and wind farms big enough to replace power plants, each one powering tens of thousands of homes. 

The total amount of energy a solar plant can make varies widely based on size and location. The average-size solar plant today can power about 20,000 homes. A field of wind turbines can be similar, as each turbine can power about 1,000 homes. 

The first large-scale wind farm in the U.S. started running nearly 50 years ago, in the aftermath of a global oil crisis. Built in Southern California , it powered more than 4,000 homes . 

Wind power gained momentum in the early 2000s thanks to better technology and tax incentives. 

But the number of new wind projects opening annually peaked in the early 2010s, according to inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and has slowed since then.

Wind power is expected to grow 11% by 2025 from last year’s levels. In the past 10 years, 183 counties saw their first wind projects come online . However, USA TODAY’s analysis found that in the same period, nearly 375 counties have essentially blocked new wind development. That’s almost as many as the 508 counties – out of 3,144 total in the U.S. – currently home to an operational wind turbine. 

Utility-scale solar plants, using solar panels that have grown dramatically more efficient, have proliferated in the past decade. The U.S. added a record 33 gigawatts of solar power in 2023, and solar is expected to grow 75% by 2025. More than 1,000 counties now host solar farms.

“A solar panel in my part of Michigan produces 70% of the solar power the same panel in Phoenix, Arizona, does. Most people would expect the difference to be much bigger,” said Sarah Mills, a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan who studies energy policy and land use.

However, opposition also has shot up, according to USA TODAY’s analysis. Of the 116 counties implementing bans or impediments to utility-scale solar plants, half did so in 2023 alone.

This surge in obstacles is unprecedented since green-energy technology gained broad acceptance.

“The local regulation landscape for renewables is changing quickly,” said Tamara Ogle, a member of the land use team at Purdue University Extension who inventoried Indiana’s renewable energy ordinances in 2022.

Despite growing hostility, green energy can be an economic windfall in places that welcome it. 

Much like places such as Texas and Alaska grew rich when drilling companies struck oil, solar and wind power can bring in both construction work and cash, in the form of leases and tax revenue from the power plants. 

“You're talking hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact in these counties, many of which are shrinking,” said Alan Anderson, who heads the energy practice at the law firm of Polsinelli in Kansas City, Missouri. Rural counties lower their property tax bills, Anderson said, when green energy tax money flows in.

In all, the nation will get about 12% of its electricity supply from wind and about 7% from utility-scale solar by 2025.

But that’s a long way from the 60% to 80% we’ll need in addition to nuclear and hydropower . 

And building any energy source is a compromise, said Thomas Daniels, a professor of land and environmental planning at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. Wind and solar do require land, just as coal, oil and natural gas did, but the acreage is larger – there’s no getting around it. 

“Not every project can be no-impact,” he said. So backlash against new power plants is “a normal human reaction. ”

Many forms of impediments

Local obstructions sometimes take the form of outright bans or moratoriums. But other rules also block green power: burdensome limits on size, height or locations. Some places put caps on total size or implement complex rules that prevent solar from replacing specially designated areas such as “prime farmland.”  

These limits can mean wind or solar farms are allowed in theory but may be impossible to build in reality. 

USA TODAY’s analysis considered a variety of limits to determine which ones were restrictive enough to effectively block new power projects. One example is a “setback” requirement for wind turbines. The larger the setback – a mandatory distance from a neighboring property line or structure – the larger the plot of land required for each turbine and the fewer that can be built.

“Every year we’re seeing restrictions that are more severe,” said Matt Eisenson, senior fellow at Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. “You now have counties in Nebraska that have 3-mile setbacks for wind turbines, so if you have a square plot of land, you would need 36 square miles to site a single wind turbine.”

Solar farms might be allowed but subject to size restrictions that make them impractical. For example, in Virginia, 14 counties have set maximums on either the percentage of land or the number of acres that can be covered in solar panels, significantly restricting the size and number of possible projects.

Other jurisdictions create shadow bans of sorts. Projects might not technically be banned, but officials simply reject all green energy plans on a case-by-case basis. 

USA TODAY’s analysis began with data from the National Rene w able Energy Laboratory and Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and then built on it with more than a year’s worth of tracking federal data, local government filings and media reports from across the country. The methodology and conclusions were vetted by an expert panel. 

Earlier research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found local ordinances through 2021 were responsible for about a 13% reduction in wind capacity and a 2% reduction in solar capacity across the nation. That research likely underestimates the current effects, because of the large number of new impediments USA TODAY found from 2022 and 2023.

USA TODAY’s findings were supported by research published in late January by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Energy developers reported one-third of the wind and solar siting applications they had submitted in the past five years were canceled, while about half were delayed for six months or more. Zoning issues and community opposition were two of the top reasons. 

Developers told the researchers that opposition to wind and solar projects is becoming more prevalent and more expensive, adding they project this will get worse.

“There are impacts,” said Anthony Lopez, a senior researcher in the Geospatial Data Science Group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center. He tracks ordinances governing wind and solar power for the U.S. government and has published extensively on the topic.

“Our models show that when we reduce our nation's wind and solar resources through measures like local ordinances, it could slow down the process of decarbonization and make it much more expensive,” he said.

At the University of Michigan, Mills said that if the windiest and sunniest places say no to large wind turbines and solar farms, developers move on to the next windiest or sunniest places, and then the next – each time to an area that is less efficient and more expensive. 

“Once you place these restrictions, what’s left is less optimal,” said Mills. “What is the cost that we’re willing to pay for social acceptance?” 

Why people want the bans  

The opposition to renewable energy isn't as simple as left vs. right, and it isn't always a matter of big business vs. small activists. There’s no one group fighting renewables – there are many, with a range of objections . 

Former President Donald Trump often denigrates wind and solar power in his speeches. In December in New Hampshire , he said, falsely, that wind farms only last 10 years, that they kill “all the birds,” that solar energy isn’t powerful enough to run factories and that wind is 42 times more expensive than natural gas.

There are several national think tanks and groups, many that receive fossil fuel funding, that have been putting out arguments, often false, opposing wind and solar power for years. 

But sometimes, big utility companies that make money with fossil fuels are actually the same utilities seeking to build solar farms or wind turbines.

And much of the opposition comes from local activists without obvious ties to national groups.

USA TODAY visited communities in three states and viewed public meetings in half a dozen others to understand public sentiments for and against green energy proposals .

The opposition sometimes leads to surprising arguments about property rights, in which some landowners invoke concepts like a claim to a " viewshed " – views they want free of wind turbines or solar panels. These opponents clash with others who champion a different view of private property rights, saying landowners should be free to build what they want.

And while opponents say solar and wind farms destroy the agricultural way of life, farmers themselves are often the ones who want to build green power, saying they’re simply swapping out one crop that requires the sun – corn or soy – for another, electricity. For wind, turbines can easily be placed in working fields or rangeland.

These arguments now create rifts in rural communities nationwide. From California to New York, proposals have drawn local opposition as virulent as any book-banning controversy, with county board meetings so tense local police and sheriffs deputies are sometimes called to keep things civil.

In Ohio in December, an anonymously funded group held a catered town hall meeting in Knox County featuring speakers linked to fossil fuel and climate change denial organizations who made many unsupported claims . Representatives of the project were not allowed in.

National renewable energy opposition points posted online are quickly taken up by people living near proposed projects who use them to fight what they see as a threat to their communities and way of life. 

Attend a county zoning or commission meeting and there will most likely be conspiracy theories and wild accusations about the dangers of renewable energy and even questions about whether global warming truly exists – often the exact same arguments put forth by fossil fuel funded think tanks. 

But as person after person comes to the podium, another theme develops. Often, the people say they don’t reject the need for renewable power. But whatever their arguments, one sentiment underlies them – sadness and sometimes anger as they contemplate what feels like a massive change in the place they live and love.

“I wouldn’t say we’re against renewable energy, I would say we’re against it being forced upon us,” said Coedy Snyder, who lives about three miles from the proposed Oak Run solar farm in Madison County, Ohio. The proposed 6,000-acre, 800 megawatt power plant would generate enough energy for as many as 170,000 homes , and developers say it could provide $250 million in tax revenue over 35 years . 

Snyder has lived on the same road his whole life, farming soybeans and corn with his father, grandfather and brother.

“You live in the country, and you want to be away from all the hustle and bustle. I kind of look at it as if they’re sticking a warehouse or a factory here,” he said. He believes if we wait, renewable technology will get better and not be as disruptive.

“I just think with the technology 10 years from now there’s going to be something new,” he said.

That’s a common anti-renewable talking point , that the world can wait for new technology that will mean current efforts to curb carbon-pollution are unnecessary.

Gary Teach and his wife, April, live next door to the proposed solar farm. They bought their home 20 years ago, specifically so they could live in the country, away from people and traffic.

“It’s going to change our lifestyle and the landscape and everything around here,” he said. “It’s like a train that can’t be stopped, it doesn’t matter what the people want.”

In the case of the Sun Run facility, that might still be true. But it won’t be for any other projects. 

On Sept. 12, 2023, Madison County commissioners voted on a new resolution: All new large-scale wind and solar projects would be banned. 

Those kinds of bans mean the U.S. is in danger of not making the shift away from greenhouse gas producing energy in time, said Cullen Howe, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

“If it’s getting harder to build these things in the places they need to go, or they take longer or they’re more expensive, then we’re not going to meet these goals,” he said. “We can’t wait 10 years for this to fix itself – the urgency is real. We need to be going much, much faster than we are currently going.”

This story was produced with support from the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

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Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.

Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.

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In the biggest mass-market AI launch yet, Google is rolling out Gemini , its family of large language models, across almost all its products, from Android to the iOS Google app to Gmail to Docs and more. You can also now get your hands on Gemini Ultra, the most powerful version of the model, for the first time.  

With this launch, Google is sunsetting Bard , the company's answer to ChatGPT. Bard, which has been powered by a version of Gemini since December, will now be known as Gemini too.  

ChatGPT , released by Microsoft-backed OpenAI just 14 months ago, changed people’s expectations of what computers could do. Google, which has been racing to catch up ever since, unveiled its Gemini family of models in December. They are multimodal large language models that can interact with you via voice, image, and text. Google claimed that its own benchmarking showed that Gemini could outperform OpenAI's multimodal model, GPT-4, on a range of standard tests. But the margins were slim. 

By baking Gemini into its ubiquitous products, Google is hoping to make up lost ground. “Every launch is big, but this one is the biggest yet,” Sissie Hsiao, Google vice president and general manager of Google Assistant and Bard (now Gemini), said in a press conference yesterday. “We think this is one of the most profound ways that we’re going to advance our company’s mission.”

But some will have to wait longer than others to play with Google’s new toys. The company has announced rollouts in the US and East Asia but said nothing about when the Android and iOS apps will come to the UK or the rest of Europe. This may be because the company is waiting for the EU’s new AI Act to be set in stone, says Dragoș Tudorache, a Romanian politician and member of the European Parliament, who was a key negotiator on the law.

“We’re working with local regulators to make sure that we’re abiding by local regime requirements before we can expand,” Hsiao said. “Rest assured, we are absolutely working on it and I hope we’ll be able to announce expansion very, very soon.”

How can you get it? Gemini Pro, Google’s middle-tier model that has been available via Bard since December, will continue to be available for free on the web at gemini.google.com (rather than bard.google.com). But now there is a mobile app as well.

If you have an Android device, you can either download the Gemini app or opt in to an upgrade in Google Assistant. This will let you call up Gemini in the same way that you use Google Assistant: by pressing the power button, swiping from the corner of the screen, or saying “Hey, Google!” iOS users can download the Google app, which will now include Gemini.

Gemini will pop up as an overlay on your screen, where you can ask it questions or give it instructions about whatever’s on your phone at the time, such as summarizing an article or generating a caption for a photo.  

Finally, Google is launching a paid-for service called Gemini Advanced. This comes bundled in a subscription costing $19.99 a month that the company is calling the Google One Premium AI Plan. It combines the perks of the existing Google One Premium Plan, such as 2TB of extra storage, with access to Google's most powerful model, Gemini Ultra, for the first time. This will compete with OpenAI’s paid-for service, ChatGPT Plus, which buys you access to the more powerful GPT-4 (rather than the default GPT-3.5) for $20 a month.

At some point soon (Google didn't say exactly when) this subscription will also unlock Gemini across Google’s Workspace apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, where it works as a smart assistant similar to the GPT-4-powered Copilot that Microsoft is trialing in Office 365.

When can you get it? The free Gemini app (powered by Gemini Pro) is available from today in English in the US. Starting next week, you’ll be able to access it across the Asia Pacific region in English and in Japanese and Korean. But there is no word on when the app will come to the UK, countries in the EU, or Switzerland.

Gemini Advanced (the paid-for service that gives access to Gemini Ultra) is available in English in more than 150 countries, including the UK and EU (but not France). Google says it is analyzing local requirements and fine-tuning Gemini for cultural nuance in different countries. But the company promises that more languages and regions are coming.

What can you do with it? Google says it has developed its Gemini products with the help of more than 100 testers and power users. At the press conference yesterday, Google execs outlined a handful of use cases, such as getting Gemini to help write a cover letter for a job application. “This can help you come across as more professional and increase your relevance to recruiters,” said Google’s vice president for product management, Kristina Behr.

Or you could take a picture of your flat tire and ask Gemini how to fix it. A more elaborate example involved Gemini managing a snack rota for the parents of kids on a soccer team. Gemini would come up with a schedule for who should bring snacks and when, help you email other parents, and then field their replies. In future versions, Gemini will be able to draw on data in your Google Drive that could help manage carpooling around game schedules, Behr said.   

But we should expect people to come up with a lot more uses themselves. “I’m really excited to see how people around the world are going to push the envelope on this AI,” Hsaio said.

Is it safe? Google has been working hard to make sure its products are safe to use. But no amount of testing can anticipate all the ways that tech will get used and misused once it is released. In the last few months, Meta saw people use its image-making app to produce pictures of Mickey Mouse with guns and SpongeBob SquarePants flying a jet into two towers. Others used Microsoft’s image-making software to create fake pornographic images of Taylor Swift .

The AI Act aims to mitigate some—but not all—of these problems. For example, it requires the makers of powerful AI like Gemini to build in safeguards, such as watermarking for generated images and steps to avoid reproducing copyrighted material. Google says that all images generated by its products will include its SynthID watermarks. 

Like most companies, Google was knocked onto the back foot when ChatGPT arrived. Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI has given it a boost over its old rival. But with Gemini, Google has come back strong: this is the slickest packaging of this generation’s tech yet. 

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For First Time in Two Decades, U.S. Buys More From Mexico Than China

The United States bought more goods from Mexico than China in 2023 for the first time in 20 years, evidence of how much global trade patterns have shifted.

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Workers at an aluminum injection molding plant.

By Ana Swanson and Simon Romero

Ana Swanson reported from Washington and Seoul, and Simon Romero from Mexico City.

In the depths of the pandemic, as global supply chains buckled and the cost of shipping a container from China soared nearly twentyfold, Marco Villarreal spied an opportunity.

In 2021, Mr. Villarreal resigned as Caterpillar’s director general in Mexico and began nurturing ties with companies looking to shift manufacturing from China to Mexico. He found a client in Hisun, a Chinese producer of all-terrain vehicles, which hired Mr. Villarreal to establish a $152 million manufacturing site in Saltillo, an industrial hub in northern Mexico.

Mr. Villarreal said foreign companies, particularly those seeking to sell within North America, saw Mexico as a viable alternative to China for several reasons, including the simmering trade tensions between the United States and China.

“The stars are aligning for Mexico,” he said.

New data released on Wednesday showed that Mexico outpaced China for the first time in 20 years to become America’s top source of official imports — a significant shift that highlights how increased tensions between Washington and Beijing are altering trade flows.

The United States’ trade deficit with China narrowed significantly last year, with goods imports from the country dropping 20 percent to $427.2 billion, the data shows. American consumers and businesses turned to Mexico, Europe, South Korea, India, Canada and Vietnam for auto parts, shoes, toys and raw materials.

Imports from China fell last year

U.S. imports of goods by origin

Mexican exports to the United States were roughly the same as in 2022, at $475.6 billion.

America’s total trade deficit in goods and services, which consists of exports minus imports, narrowed 18.7 percent. Overall U.S. exports to the world increased slightly in 2023 from the previous year, despite a strong dollar and a soft global economy.

U.S. imports fell annually as Americans bought less crude oil and chemicals and fewer consumer goods, including cellphones, clothes, camping gear, toys and furniture.

The recent weakness in imports, and drop-off in trade with China, has partly been a reflection of the pandemic. American consumers stuck at home during the pandemic snapped up Chinese-made laptops, toys, Covid tests, athleisure, furniture and home exercise equipment.

Even as concerns about the coronavirus faded in 2022, the United States continued to import a lot of Chinese products, as bottlenecks at congested U.S. ports finally cleared and businesses restocked their warehouses.

“The world couldn’t get access to enough Chinese goods in ’21, and it gorged on Chinese goods in ’22,” said Brad Setser, an economist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Everything has been normalizing since then.”

But beyond the unusual swings in annual patterns in the last few years, trade data is beginning to provide compelling evidence that years of heightened tensions have significantly chipped away at America’s trading relationship with China.

In 2023, U.S. quarterly imports from China were at roughly the same level as they were 10 years ago, despite a decade of growth in the American economy and rising U.S. imports from elsewhere in the world.

“We are decoupling, and that’s weighing heavily on trade flows,” Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said of the United States and China.

Economists say the relative decrease in trade with China is clearly linked to the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and then maintained by the Biden administration.

Research by Caroline Freund, the dean of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, showed that trade with China fell for products that have high tariffs, like screwdrivers and smoke detectors, while trade in products that do not have tariffs, like hair dryers and microwave ovens, continued to grow.

Ralph Ossa, the chief economist for the World Trade Organization, said that trade between the United States and China had not collapsed, but that it had been growing about 30 percent more slowly than trade between those countries and the rest of the world.

There were two episodes in recent history where U.S. trade with China slowed notably, he said. The first was when trade tensions between the countries escalated in 2018. The second was when Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the United States and its allies to impose strict sanctions and further reshuffling global trade relationships.

“There was a period where geopolitics didn’t really matter for trade much, but as uncertainty increases in the world, we do see that trade becomes more sensitive to these positions,” said Stela Rubinova, a research economist at the World Trade Organization.

Some economists caution that the U.S. reduction in trade with China might not be as sharp as bilateral data shows. That is because like Hisun, the Chinese vehicle producer, some multinationals have shifted portions of their manufacturing out of China and into other countries but continued sourcing some raw materials and parts from China.

In other cases, companies may simply be routing goods that are actually made in China through other countries to avoid U.S. tariffs.

U.S. trade statistics do not record such products as coming from China, even though a significant portion of their value would have been created there.

Ms. Freund, who wrote a recent paper on the subject, said the two countries’ trade relationship was “definitely being attenuated, but not as much as the official statistics suggest.”

Still, geopolitical risks are clearly pushing companies to look to other markets, particularly those with low costs and stable trading relationships with the United States, like Mexico.

Jesús Carmona, the president for Mexico and Central America at Schneider Electric, the French electrical equipment giant, said that the Biden administration’s 2022 climate law and geopolitical tensions stemming from the war in Ukraine were both factors pushing companies toward Mexico.

When China appeared to align with Russia in the conflict, “it triggered all sorts of alarms,” Mr. Carmona said. “People realized we cannot have such dependencies on China, which we built up over the last 40 years as we were making China the factory of the world.”

Schneider, which already had a substantial presence in Mexico with nine factories and nearly 12,000 employees, decided in 2021 that it needed to grow further in the country. Now, after opening new manufacturing sites and expanding existing plants, the company has about 16,000 employees in Mexico, with plans for that number to soon reach about 20,000.

Schneider sends about 75 percent to 80 percent of its production in Mexico to the United States, including an array of products like circuit breakers and panels used to distribute and regulate electrical power.

While foreign direct investment in developing countries fell 9 percent in 2023, the flow of such investment to Mexico surged 21 percent last year , according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Another economy caught in the shifting tides between the United States and China has been South Korea. Like Mexico, South Korea is subject to lower tariffs because it has a free trade deal with the United States. In December, U.S. imports from South Korea were the highest on record.

South Korean firms have also particularly benefited from President Biden’s new climate legislation. The U.S. government is offering tax credits for consumers who buy electric vehicles, but it has set certain limits on sourcing parts of those cars from China.

As major manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries and components, South Korean firms have seized the opportunity to participate in newly expanding U.S. vehicle supply chains. One Korean battery manufacturer, SK On, has invested $2.6 billion in a factory in Georgia and is building new facilities in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky in partnership with Hyundai and Ford.

Min Sung, the chief commercial officer of SK On, said that China was getting more restrictive for Korean businesses. Meanwhile, the U.S. constraints on China benefiting from electric vehicle tax credits had given Korean businesses “more space to play.”

“In order for business to survive, you always find the market that’s got more potential,” Mr. Sung said.

As major South Korean companies like SK, LG, Samsung and Hyundai build new facilities to make products in the United States, that also appears to be increasing U.S. trade with South Korea since companies are importing some materials, machinery and parts from their home countries to supply the new facilities.

In December, Korean exports to the United States surpassed Korean exports to China for the first time in 20 years , driven by shipments of vehicles, electric batteries and other parts.

Mr. Sung agreed that increasing American skepticism of China was pushing the United States and South Korea closer together.

“It’s never been stronger than the last couple of years between two allies,” he said.

Ana Swanson covers trade and international economics for The Times and is based in Washington. She has been a journalist for more than a decade. More about Ana Swanson

Simon Romero is a correspondent in Mexico City, covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. He has served as The Times’s Brazil bureau chief, Andean bureau chief and international energy correspondent. More about Simon Romero


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