Analytical Paper

Virginia Montecino

May be copied with attribution.

For this assignment you will analyze an article on a biology subject in a publication for a general audience. You will be analyzing the approach the author uses because of the audience and purposes for which the article was written. You will not be summarizing content in this assignment. Your analysis should be in essay form. You need to provide evidence from the article to support the points of analysis you are making. Relate these points of analysis back to the audience and purpose. Analyze the article according to the points listed below (but not necessarily in the same order):

a) What are the main points the author is trying to get across to the readers? In your own words, state what you think the controlling idea, the thesis, is.

b) Who is the primary reader for the article? What publication is it in? If the publication is Newsweek, you can assume the audience is the general public and addresses a number of news issues a variety of people might be interested in. But would Women's Health have as broad an audience, or Discover? How might the audience for these last two publications be narrower than Newsweek's? One clue that might help you decide if a publication is for the general public is that it will be sold at newsstands. However, a publication like Personal Computing can be bought at a newsstand but the articles are all related to people interested in computers. Some of the articles may be difficult to read unless the reader has background in computers. Scientific American can be bought at stores; the articles deal with many aspects of science and technology. The writers for this publication assume that the readers are knowledgeable about science, but the publication is not a scholarly journal in that field and would not be used as a reference in a scholarly research article. BioScience is a biology journal suitable for specialists and some general readers. As you can see, there are many aspects to the subject of audience. Do not rely entirely on your expectations of the publication to explain the technicality or lack of technicality in an article. Some articles in specialized journals are written in clear, non-technical language, and some, popular articles, alas, are not.

c) Does the title give you a good picture of what the article is about? Does the title seek to attract the readers? Or does it just inform the readers about the topic? How does the title fit the audience and purpose?

d) Explore the language the author uses. Does the article contain some specialized language? Does the author assume the readers know the terminology or does the author explain scientific terms and/or use analogies to make his/her points clear? Does the author write from personal experience? Does the author use first person, "I," or does he or she remain removed from the subject? The "I" perspective is increasingly used in scientific writing. Is the author writing up his/her own experiment for a general audience? Does the author use slang, irony, humor? Does the author have a strong opinion? If so, what language tells you this?

e) Is the author trying to persuade, inform, reach a conclusion, find the solution to a research problem? Use evidence from the article to support your points.

f) What rhetorical approaches does the author use? She or he may use a combination of narration, comparison/contrast, description, classification, cause and effect, or explain a process? How do these approaches relate to audience and purpose? Does the author begin with a story (narrative)? Why would the author do this?

g) How is the article structured? Does the author use subheadings to organize his/her material? Are the subheadings designed to entice the reader or to inform? Does the text under the subheadings fulfill what is advertised?

h) How is the article organized? Even if there are no obvious keys such as headings, try to figure out the author's organizational pattern. Discuss this organizational pattern in relation to purpose and audience.

i) What kinds of sources does the author use and why? Does the author use authorities in that field as spokespersons for a particular point of view? Does the use of these authorities lend credibility to the author's points? Relate these points to purpose and audience.

j) What are the author's credentials? Is the author an authority in the field he or she is writing about? Or is the author a reporter or columnist who has researched the material but who, we can assume, has no expertise in the field? (Just because the author is not "in" that field does not necessarily mean that we can't believe what he/she says, but the credibility of the author becomes more important when he/she speaks from a position of authority, as in a scholarly research paper.)

k) Do pictures, illustrations, or graphs accompany the article? Describe the illustrations. How do the graphics complement the text? What is the purpose of the graphics? Do the graphs help clarify concepts? Do the pictures bring in a human interest angle? Discuss in relation to your article.

l) How does the author conclude his or her article? What is the significance of the conclusion? Does the author, for example, sum up what went before? Does the author project into the future? Perhaps the author takes a stand and reiterates that stand. How does the conclusion relate to what you think the main idea of the article is? Relate the conclusions to audience and purpose.

m) Look through the journal which contains the article. Do the other articles give you any clues about the audience? Describe the advertisements. What are they trying to sell? What does this tell you about the interests of the readers? Do all the articles deal with variations on a particular subject or is there a wide choice of subjects? Are the articles written on a variety of different subjects? Or do they all deal with science subjects, some type of technology, or other field? What do these clues tell you about audience and purpose?

Suggested approach to the assignmentt:

Feel free to write from the "I" (first person) perspective where appropriate. Write your analysis in the form of a cohesive essay, with focused paragraphs, logical transitions between paragraphs, and sufficient supporting evidence from the articles to support your claims. Don't answer the points of analysis in a numbered form. The items listed above should all be covered (if they apply to your article), but don't feel bound to follow the order of the points above. Provide evidence, quotes, description, etc., from the article to support your points. You should quote from the article, when necessary, to provide evidence for the points you make.

You may want to begin your analysis with a brief general discussion of the subject the author writes about. Tell your reader the name of the author, the title of the article, and the publication it is in. Then briefly discuss the author's focus on the subject and his/her purpose in writing the article.

Don't assume that you are an authority in the field and you are going to "teach" the reader of your paper or the author of the article how to better write the article. Do not set yourself up as an authority on writing style or presume to have all the answers as to how the article should have been written. This is not your purpose. If the article does not address the subject from a point of view that you want it to does not necessarily mean that the author's focus is "wrong." His/her purpose for writing the article many not fit in with what you were expecting. But feel free, at the end of the paper (in an addendum) to include your views as to why you liked it or did not like it, or why you disagreed with the author's point of view.

A suggested way for you to conclude your analysis is to deal with how the author concludes his/her article and, in your addendum, end with your personal comments about the article. Did you enjoy reading it? Why? Was it difficult for you to read? Why? What did you learn about the subject the author wrote about? What did you learn about his or her writing style that you thought was effective and enjoyed reading or might want to emulate in your own writing?

Be sure to use parenthetical citations giving the page number when you quote from the article.

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