Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
How to Write an Analytic Response
You have two jobs in this sort of essay. Your first job is to think carefully about what the author is trying to say to readers and to decide whether they write effectively to persuade that audience. Secondly, you need to explain how you personally react to the essay. Does this essay persuade you? Give you new ideas? Remind you of something you've seen, read, or heard? Have you had a personal experience that gives you an insight into this subject?
How to Write an Analytic Response:
1. Evaluate the author's purpose and audience.
2. Summarize the main points.
3. Analyze the effectiveness of writing for that purpose and audience.
4. Share a personal response.
1. Evaluate the Purpose and Audience
In order to analyze the essay, you will need to consider the author's purpose in writing and the audience the author intended to reach. You may or may not be a part of that audience. In addition, you will need to consider any events or historical circumstances that prompted the author to write. Here are some questions to answer that can help you develop this part of your essay:
- Who was the author? What is their point of view on this subject? What about their personal life would make them take this point of view? You might want to research to find out more about the author's life.
- Why did the author write this? Before you can decide whether the author did a good job of writing the article, or what was effective or ineffective, you will need to decide what the author intended to do. To find out the purpose, think about these questions:
- When was the article written? What was happening at that moment of time that made the author decide to write? You might want to research the news, events, or ideas in the article.
- Who was the audience for this article? Was the author writing to people who would tend to agree with them on the issue, trying to persuade a group that was neutral, or trying to argue with an audience who disagreed?
- Where was this published? What sort of a publication was this and who were the readers? What did the readers of this publication think about this subject? Were readers of the article the main group the author hoped to persuade?
- What is the takeaway for readers? What does the author want the readers to think, believe or do after reading this article?
2. Summarize the Main Points
Often, you will need to include at least a brief summary of the ideas in the article you are discussing. If your audience is familiar with the text, then this can be a one or two-sentence reminder:
Example: In Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, King sets forth his idea of a society free from racial discrimination and encourages his audience to not only envision but to work to create this new world.
If your article is not familiar to your readers, you may need to do a more extended summary, but be careful not to get into too many details because you want to make sure most of your paper is analysis and response. Just tell the main ideas. Generally, one paragraph is enough.
Want to include more? Don't forget that you can include more details from the original article as examples to prove your different points of analysis or reasons for your response.
2. Analyze the Effectiveness
Analysis includes description (how the paper is written) and evaluation (how effectively it persuades).
- Describes author's purpose in writing.
- Explains historical context and events which prompted the author to write.
- Analyzes intended audience and what they believe about this subject.
- Examines how this piece of writing fits into other writing about this subject.
- Describes the organization of the essay.
- Tells the claim and sub-claims.
- Explains the support.
- Analyzes the type, quantity, quality and relevance of the support.
- Explains how the author shows they are an authority.
- Explains how the author makes their writing interesting and effective for this audience.
- Tells what makes this essay effective or ineffective as an argument.
How to Write an Analysis
There are several ways to effectively analyze an article but every analysis must have two parts: description and evaluation. How do you do this? First, it helps to do a short outline or write notes as you read so that you can see the structure of how the essay is written. Second, answer the following questions. One hint I give students is that if they write the answers to the questions in full sentences, you can actually save a lot of time because those full sentences can be copied and pasted right into your essay.
- What kind of an essay is it? Types of essays: cause, problem solution, definition, evaluation, analysis, comparison and contrast, personal experience.
- What sort of claim does it make? Types of claims: fact, definition, cause, value, policy.
- How is the essay organized?
- What is the main claim of the essay?
- What are the sub-claims or reasons to support the thesis?
- What does the author do at opening and conclusion?
- What kind of support does the author use? Types of support: Logical: sign, induction, cause, deduction, analogy, definition, statistics, pathos, authority, emotional, values. Don't forget visual proof and stories in the article which attempt to persuade you.
- Who is the audience? How well does the author appeal to this audience? How does the author establish common ground?
- Is the organization effective?
- Is support effective? Relevant? Enough? Logical?
- What is the purpose of the author in this essay? Is the argument obvious? Extremist? Hidden? Unconscious? Exploratory? Objective Reporting?
- Is this article a classic argument where the author wants to convince you of their point? Or is it more exploratory and consensual, attempting to look at several sides of an issue and letting the reader decide or leaving the decision tentative?
- What are the constraints on this issue? What current events, circumstances or attitudes affect the audience and author?
Use this sample format to take your questions from description and evaluation above to turn them into a smoothly written paper. The "XXX" is your answer:
In "Why I Hate Cats" author John Stephans explains XXX (give a summary of article).
"Why I Hate Cats" is an XXX essay which makes the claim XXX. The essay opens with XXX and makes the claim XXX in paragraph XXX that XXX. The rest of essay is organized by XXX (very brief description of the outline of essay perhaps telling where the description of problem is, where claims are and where support is located in the paper).
Because the article was published in XXX, the intended audience is probably XXX and they believe XXX. Stephans wants to convince them XXX. The author establishes his/her authority by XXX. The author assumes an audience who XXX. He (She) establishes common ground with the audience by XXX. The purpose of the author is XXX. The constraints on discussing this issue are XXX.
The support includes XXX. The support is adequate (inadequate) and is relevant (irrelevant) to the author’s claim because XXX.
Overall, the article is effective (or ineffective) because XXX.
3. Share a Personal Response
Adding a personal response to your analytical essay will help the reader understand your own point of view.
How to Write a Personal Response
A response answers the question, "What did you think?" it may include one or more of the following:
- Your personal reaction to the article's ideas.
- Your reaction to the author's writing.
- Your opinion about the topic.
- How your life experience makes you reflect on this topic in a similar or different way from the author.
- How the current events when you are reading the essay make you view the article ideas differently.
- How other things you've read, heard about, or seen make you reflect on the article.
Part of your reaction will be based on your life experiences and values. In order to evaluate your reaction, you need to think about how your life has been the same or different from the authors. You may want to address those similarities or differences in your response. In addition, you can consider what about the way the author has written the piece makes you respond the way you did. Perhaps you agree with the author's claim, but find the writing dull and ineffective, the examples outdated, or the argument too predictable.
- What is your personal reaction to the essay?
- What common ground do you have with the author?
- What was the original audience of the essay? How are they the same or different from you? Did the author argue effectively for the original audience?
- What in the essay is new to you?
- What does this essay make you think about?
- How do current events relate to this essay?
- What personal experiences does this essay remind you about?
- How do other things you've heard or read about relate to essay ideas?
- What do you like or dislike about the essay and/or the ideas in the essay?
Before reading this essay, my understanding of this topic was XXX. I have XXX as common ground with the author. I am like the original audience because XXX and unlike them because of XXX. My reaction to this essay is XXX. What was new to me is XXX. This essay makes me think XXX. I like/ dislike XXX in the essay.
Questions & Answers
Question: How do I evaluate a news article?
Answer: News articles are evaluated the same way as other articles. However, you might want to add in a response section which tells your personal opinion. Here is an article that helps you do that: https://hubpages.com/academia/How-to-Write-a-Summa...
Question: How do I evaluate an essay about removing foreign text from the Canadian curriculum, when keeping in mind that the essay has grammar, diction, and organization mistakes, and it lacks the support and evidence?
Answer: You would evaluate the essay based on how well it convinces the reader. One part of your evaluation could be the fact that when an article has poor grammar and writing, it is less convincing. For help in writing this sort of evaluation, see: https://hubpages.com/academia/How-to-Write-a-Summa...
Shana on February 13, 2013:
I had to read the story Attitude is everything and report what it is that the eassy means, as well as giving my evaulutaion of the ideas in the story.
rockdresses from Turkey on September 05, 2011:
very useful information!