Three Major Types of Analysis



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Three Major Types of Analysis
First, it is worth noting that these are not the only three types of analysis. Analysis abounds in the world around us, and without realizing it, we’re constantly imbibing and synthesizing information, sorting it out in our minds, and turning it into something else entirely.
But for the purposes of this class, we’ll break analysis—written analysis, at least, into three major groups:

Social Analysis: Reading and explaining a “cultural text”


This type of analysis is generally based on observations about the world around you. It might explain a social or cultural phenomenon—like why more boys play video games than girls, or make a comparison between rushing a fraternity and trying out for a sports team. Characteristics of social analysis:


  • Answers the question, “What exactly is this phenomenon?”

  • Has a point

  • Takes examples from the “real world”

  • Is analytical, not argumentative, in tone

  • Is clearly organized

  • Explains cultural references or phenomena with which the reader may be unfamiliar

  • May use anecdotal evidence


Some real-world examples where you might use the skills of social analysis: a newspaper editorial or column, a feature article in a magazine (in any variety of topics—science, history, etc.)political commentary, business proposal, speech, grant proposal

Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding a someone else’s argument or position


This type of analysis seeks to synthesize, summarize, and understand what the author is trying to say. It doesn’t argue against something. This can be a really hard kind of analysis to write, especially if you disagree with the topic.


  • Answers the question, “What is this trying to do?”

  • May have several points

  • Evidence comes primarily from the text

  • Stays focused, usually on the text as a whole rather than one particular part of it

  • Is analytical, not argumentative, in tone

  • Is clearly organized

  • Assumes its audience is somewhat familiar with the subject


Some real-world examples where you might use the skills of rhetorical analysis: lab report summary, an introduction to a book, within a book or movie review, interpreting architectural or engineering plans for a particular project, making a psychological diagnosis, or listing out the goals for a corporation.

Critical Analysis: Assessing the success of some aspect of a text


This type of analysis is, as the name suggests, critical. It assesses the success of some aspect of a text (not typically of the text as a whole). For example, if you were writing a critical analysis of an essay that supports U.S. actions in Iraq, you would not argue for the war. Instead, you would be arguing against some aspect of the essay—maybe it misdefines a term; maybe it doesn’t take all the facts into consideration; maybe it is too moralistic and cannot appeal to a wide audience. You’re not critiquing the position itself, though—you’re critiquing how the essay does what it’s trying to do.


  • Answers the question, “Is this (or a particular part of this) working?”

  • Generally has a central point with many sub-points

  • Assumes the audience is familiar with the subject—does not waste time summarizing

  • Anecdotal evidence rarely appropriate

  • May focus only on one particular aspect of the text, not necessarily the text as a whole

  • Tends to be argumentative in tone, but it is also important to remember that a critical essay does not have to be negative—it can argue that the author is doing a great job, and go into detail about what he or she is doing within the essay and why it is so effective.

  • Makes an argument about the text, not about some general topic related to the text


Some real-world examples where you might use the skills of critical analysis: a legal brief, literary analysis, writing laboratory conclusions(or disagreeing with someone else’s), rejecting or giving a grant, or writing a review of an employee.


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