Are you struggling to come up with an analysis for your English texts? There are a lot of steps involved in writing a textual analysis so it might feel a little daunting. You’re probably wondering where to even start!
Well you’ve clicked on the right article! In this article, we’ll walk you through some easy steps to analyse English texts (with examples included!) so that you’re on your way to acing textual analysis in no time.
What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Understand the Foundations of the Text
The first thing you need to do when completing a textual analysis is to build a strong foundational understanding of the text. This will help you create a more nuanced and complex analysis later on!
#1: Make a Plot Summary
One of the most important things to do is to make sure you understand what’s actually happening in the text! As you read your English text, make chapter/scene summaries with only the super important parts and compile them all together once you finish the text.
Edit this so that you end up with a short 1-2 page summary of the key events in the text.
If you ever feel confused about what to include in the plot summary, try collaborating with a friend or check out plot summaries online! While it can be tempting to just copy paste online summaries, try to only use them as a reference and still make your own summary so that you understand it better.
#2: Create Character Profiles
Characterisation is a pretty big part of English analysis and will be super important when analysing texts, so make sure you have a good understanding of the characters in your text!
The best way to do this is to create character profiles for main characters. Your profile should include your character’s name, background, personality, and any other details that are important to the plot.
You should also include the character’s significance to the overall plot, such as the role they play, how they grow, and their relationships with other key characters. These profiles can also include some important quotes related to the character.
Feel free to get creative with your character profiles! If you’re a visual learner, you can even add some sketches or pictures of what you think the characters look like!
#3: Understand the Context
The context of the text and the composer is a very influential element of textual analysis. It can help you uncover the purpose of the author, the effect of the text, and some of the symbols, metaphors, and deeper meanings hidden in the text, which will allow you to formulate stronger arguments during your analysis.
When you’re studying your text, the best way to contextualise it is to make note of the setting of the story including when and where it’s set.
Next, before reading or watching the text, do some research into the time period and country/place it’s set in. Take some notes about the social, political, cultural, and economic circumstances of that time and place.
Now, do the same thing but with the context of the composer. Check out some author/director biographies and write down their background, when and where they lived, and how this might affect their perspective when composing the text.
Step 2: Identify Significant Themes
Now that we have a good understanding of the text, it’s time to dig a little deeper!
Literary themes are the underlying main ideas of a text. Themes are a lot more complex and sophisticated than the overall plot and narrative events of the text. This is why it’s super important to look closely at literary themes! They can help provide structure and depth to your English analysis.
Some easy ways to identify themes in English texts include exploring the language used, making note of characters and the plot, and looking out for motifs and symbols, which are images and ideas that appear repeatedly throughout the text. These can give you a good sense of what the composer is trying to express, which will help you identify key themes within the text.
Some common literary themes interrogated by texts might include:
- Coming of age
- Appearance VS Reality
- Good VS Evil
Step 3: Choose Examples and Techniques
You’re almost ready to jump into writing a comprehensive analysis! The only thing left to do is to choose your examples and techniques.
Your examples are basically the evidence to support your argument, so it’s really important to choose strong and relevant examples!
When you’re choosing your examples, make sure you’re able to identify techniques within the example. Techniques help you to dig deeper into the meaning of the text that the composer’s trying to express and will really strengthen your argument!
Try to come up with at least two techniques for each example so that you can build a sophisticated and solid analysis.
The best way to organise your examples and techniques before starting any essays, exams or other assessments, is to write up a TEE (Technique, Example and Effect) Table. By creating a TEE Table, you’re practically breaking down an English paragraph into three columns, which are super easy to fill out.
This way, when you get around to carrying out your analysis during exams or assessments, you’ll know exactly which examples and techniques you want to use to support your thesis!
Need help making your TEE Table? Read more about how to use a TEE Table here!
Step 4: Carry Out Your Analysis
Once you’ve picked out your example and technique, it’s time to put it all together!
Make sure to focus your analysis on supporting your overall argument or thesis. As you analyse examples and techniques, flesh out their effects and emphasise on how they prove your point.
Think about what the composer’s purpose is, how these techniques and examples achieve this purpose, and most importantly, how readers or viewers respond to the text.
Let’s take a look at an analysis of Macbeth as an example. Rather than a simple statement like this:
Macbeth highlights the destructive impact of guilt and ambition through Lady Macbeth’s use of a rhyming couplet “’tis safer to be that which we destroy/than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy,”. This is further interrogated through the motif of sleep, as Macbeth says “ “ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep… terrible dreams… the torture of the mind to lie”.
Our analysis should expand on how the examples and techniques support the thesis. This will look more like this:
Textual Analysis Examples
We’ve walked you through a step-by-step guide to analysing English texts, including understanding the plot, identifying themes, and choosing examples and techniques. Apply these to your English texts and you’ll be acing your analysis in no time!
You can also check out the range of texts we’ve covered below to give you a better understanding of how to analyse specific texts:
- Jane Eyre
- Lord of the Flies
- All the Light We Cannot See
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Pride and Prejudice
- Past the Shallows
- Things Fall Apart
- Mrs Dalloway
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Jasper Jones
- The Book Thief
- In Cold Blood
- The Union Buries its Dead
- The Great Gatsby
- Fahrenheit 451
Non-Fiction and Media
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Maitreyi Kulkarni is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is currently studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications (Public Relations and Social Media) at Macquarie University. She loves writing just about anything from articles to poetry, and has also had one of her articles published with the ABC. When she’s not writing up a storm, she can be found reading, bingeing sitcoms, or playing the guitar.