Volume 17


Drawn from the Greek word analusis (meaning “to break up” or "to loosen"), analysis essays break a text into meaningful components, examining each component carefully in order to illuminate something significant about the text as a whole. The components identified as the basis for analysis are determined by the writer’s audience and purpose. For example:

A rhetorical analysis identifies key rhetorical strategies at play in a text and the impact those rhetorical strategies have on an audience (e.g., the role of ethical, logical, and emotional appeals in King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” or the role of enthymeme in an advertisement).

An evaluative analysis identifies key criteria for the text under scrutiny and examines the extent to which the text succeeds based on those criteria (e.g., the effectiveness of a speech, based on the speaker's clarity, presence, and organization, or the quality of a restaurant based on its ambiance, service, and menu options).

A lens analysis breaks up a text in light of a specific theory, concept, or reading (e.g, the role of allegory in Life of Pi, or examination of a pro-life website through the lens of Kenneth Burke's pentad).

A satirical analysis mimics the conventions of a genre in order to illuminate and critique those conventions (e.g., fake “news” venues like The Daily Show and The Onion, or Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”).

Regardless of the approach, the most successful analysis essays reveal something new or less obvious about the text under scrutiny, developing that case with evidence and examples from the text to demonstrate each point of discussion.