A SHORT GUIDE TO WRITING A GOOD (short) TEXTUAL ANALYSIS
PAPER (according to Joe Harrington © 2002)
A textual analysis is . . .
a controversial argument about the meaning of a text
In other words, it's an
that adds to our understanding of the text.
Thus, it goes beyond mere
observation or summary (that is, restating something the text says without offering any
interpretation or drawing a conclusion) or mere assertions of opinions about your feelings
towards a text.
about the language of a text
, rather than larger issues outside the meaning of the text
itself (even if the text mentions those issues).
That is, one writes about, say, gender
relations as depicted in the novel
rather than gender relations in general (a discussion
which, even if it starts by mentioning the novel, may or may not really have anything to
do with the author's
treatment of the topic).
If you are unsure as to whether or not your thesis is about the text or about
issues extraneous to or beyond the text, try adding the following clause to the beginning
of your thesis statement:
"In __________________[title of text] by __________________, . . ."
See if this statement makes sense – and if you think it's true.
In other words, instead of
making a statement about a social issue, say, you'll be making a statement about how the
text represents that issue
– the focus becomes the author's view of the issue rather than
(as important as that is).
is analytical rather than evaluative
It makes verifiable claims about the text
supports those claims with quotations from the text
Thus its purpose is not to evaluate
the aesthetic, social or moral worth or validity of a work or to assert value judgments or
opinions about it (as one would in a book review).
Rather, it takes a more objective
(and tone) and lets the reader decide for him/herself, based on the evidence.
Guidelines for writing a good textual analysis paper
I evaluate textual analysis (explication) papers principally according to what I call the
Here's what I mean:
Have an THESIS
(otherwise known as an "argument").
This means that you're
saying something original to you, something that has to be proven
, because others might
not agree with it.
This is perhaps the most important of the three, since everything else
flows from it.
It should be stated, as concisely as possible, in the very first paragraph, so
that the reader knows where you're going.
Two good tests to see if you have a thesis: