analysis (composition)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms



In composition, analysis is a form of expository writing in which the writer separates a subject into its elements or parts. Plural: analyses. Also called division.

When applied to a literary work (such as a poem, short story, or essay), analysis involves a careful examination and evaluation of details in the text. See critical essay.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Greek, "loosen"

Examples and Observations

  • Keep two phrases in mind when conducting an analysis: "Show me" and "So what?" That is, "show me" (or "point out") what you think are the significant details in the text (or speech or movie--or whatever it is you're analyzing); and then, regarding each of those points, answer the question, "So what?":
    What is the significance of each detail?
    What effect does that detail create (or attempt to create)?
    How does it shape (or attempt to shape) the reader's response?
    How does it work in concert with other details to create effects and shape the reader's response?
    In a rhetorical analysis, the "details" will include the rhetorical strategies and stylistic devices identified in the Tool Kit for Rhetorical Analysis.
  • Sample Analysis: The iPod Nano
    "Some music players contain a tiny hard drive, offering huge capacity. Others store music on memory chips, which permit a much more compact design. (This type is known as a flash-memory player, or flash for short.)

    "What's so clever about the iPod Nano is that it merges these two approaches. It contains memory chips, so it's dazzlingly tiny--3.5 by 1.6 by 0.27 inches, to be exact, about the size of a folded playing card and thin enough to slip under a door. Yet because Apple stuffed it with four gigabytes of memory, it holds as much music as some hard-drive players--more than 1,000 songs. (Apple also offers a $199 model with half the capacity.) Because it contains no moving parts, the Nano is less delicate than full-size iPods and virtually skip-proof.

    "To sweeten the deal, Apple endowed the Nano with a sharp color screen (176 by 132 pixels, 1.5 inches diagonal), the better to show off album-cover art, your photo collection and the iPod's famously clean menu system. The Nano even has room for a click wheel, the scrolling device that makes iPod navigation simple even when you're hunting for a musical needle in a haystack of albums.

    "The resulting slab is sweet, small and shiny, a comfortable fit in the middle third of your palm. It weighs so little (1.5 ounces), you don't have to worry about dropping it onto pavement; even if it flies from your hands, the earbud cord catches it like a leash. Once again, Apple has mastered a lesson that its rivals seem unable to absorb: that the three most important features in a personal music player are style, style and style."
    (David Pogue, "IPod's Law: The Impossible Is Possible." The New York Times, Sep. 15, 2005)
  • The Lighter Side of Analysis
    "If you've ever watched ski jumping on television, you've probably asked yourself: How do they DO that? How is it POSSIBLE? The answer to that question is two words--two words that define the spirit and essence of this amazing sport. Those words are: computer graphics. The 'jumpers' are actually suspended by cables about a foot off the ground in a studio in Los Angeles. Also 'Bob Costas' is an elaborate puppet operated by four people.

    "No, I'm kidding. I personally watched the ski jumpers here hurtle down an incredibly steep ramp, launch themselves off the end, soar through space long enough to qualify for beverage-cart service, then somehow land on their skis and slide, triumphantly, to the underwear-changing station. After each jump, two enthusiastic dudes would get on the public-address system and analyze it for the crowd. Most events at these Olympics have enthusiastic announcer dudes who are really, really into the sport. At ski jumping, they were always saying helpful things like: 'Wow! He got a real huge float off his V!'"
    (Dave Barry, "Competitive Ski Jumping Is a Weighty Issue." Boogers Are My Beat: More Lies, But Some Actual Journalism! Three Rivers Press, 2003)

    Pronunciation: ah-NAL-i-sis