How to analyze a book

Learning to analyze a book can come in handy for high school or college classes, though it’s also a fun and challenging hobby. While there are several specialized terms that will certainly be valuable, there is also a technique behind reading a book with the intent to analyze that is part of the task.

Read slowly and closely. Analyzing a book demands an astute attention to detail in order to recognize the structure, plot devices, themes and sub-themes at work. If you have time, read the novel twice. Keep a dictionary on hand to look up any words you don’t understand.

Underline or highlight passages that strike you as meaningful or important. This way, when you finish reading, you don’t need to search through the book to find them again.

Note the literary devices and recurring themes at work in the book. Write notes in the margins when you recognize these elements.

Choose a topic to address. Books are full of interesting themes and characters to analyze, and it’s impossible to address them all at one time. Pick one that you find interesting or central to the novel as a whole-a main character, recurring theme or integral literary device such as allegory, metaphor or satire.

Develop a thesis or argument and gather evidence to support your claim. For example, if you believe the book suggests capitalism is bad for society, find specific passages, conversations or quotes that support this idea.

Construct your analysis by putting together the information and evidence you gathered into a cohesive idea or use them to develop a paper if you are a student.

MARA PESACRETA

25 JUN 2018

CLASS

College students may feel like a book analysis paper is just a grown-up book report. However, a book analysis paper is an essay describing factual and personal information regarding a work of literature. Book analyses are typically only about four paragraphs. They are meant to provide a brief overview and review of the book without providing unnecessary details. Writing a book analysis potentially helps writers think critically about the literature piece or determine their literary preferences through active reading of the text and essay writing. In order to write a book analysis paper, first read the book and then create an outline followed by the actual book analysis essay writing.

Explore this article

  • Read the Assigned or Chosen Book
  • Create an Outline
  • Organize Introduction
  • Determine Literary Objective
  • Take Character Notes
  • Record Positive and Negative Aspects
  • Write Analysis Paper
  • Proofread Analysis Paper

1 Read the Assigned or Chosen Book

First, in order to write a book analysis paper, you need to have to read the assigned book or book of your choice. This will enable you to analyze the book and better comprehend its positive and negative attributes. You can find a book to read online, at the library or bookstore.

2 Create an Outline

Create an outline in order to organize your information for the book analysis paper. Your outline should have at least four headings. The first heading can be the introduction while the second heading can be the literary objective. The third section can be about the characters in the book, and the fourth section can be the positive and negative aspects of the book.

3 Organize Introduction

Organize the introductory information in the outline. The introductory paragraph of the book analysis paper should contain basic information about the book, such as the title, the author, the publication date, a very brief summary, whether or not the book is part of a series, and the genre.

4 Determine Literary Objective

Determine the literary objective of the book. Under the second heading of your outline, write notes about the message the author wanted to portray when writing the book. For example, the author may have written a book about friendship in order to display its typical characteristics. Also, list some of the prominent literary devices within the book. For example, the author may have used foreshadowing in order to provide you with insight on how the book would end.

5 Take Character Notes

Take notes on the characters within the story. When you write the outline and the book analysis paper, you have to explain the qualities of the main characters within the book. For example, the main character of the book may have a bold personality whereas the friend of the main character may be shy and timid.

6 Record Positive and Negative Aspects

Record notes about the positive and negative aspects of the book. Your book analysis should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the book. For example, the positive aspects of the book might be that the plot and characters were engaging. The negative aspects of the book could be that more characters were not involved in the story and that the final outcome was disappointing.

7 Write Analysis Paper

Write the book analysis paper. Use your outline to help you write the paper. Each heading corresponds to a separate paragraph. As you write the paper, do not use the pronoun “I.”

8 Proofread Analysis Paper

Proofread your book analysis paper. When you proofread your paper, read it aloud. This will help you to find mistakes that you will not always notice by reading it silently. Also, have a friend read your paper aloud. Then, fix your mistakes and create the final draft of your analysis paper.

When asked to write an analysis, it is not enough to simply summarize. You must also add your own analysis of what you’ve discovered about your topic. Analysis means breaking something down into its various elements and then asking critical thinking questions such as WHY and HOW in order to reach some conclusions of your own. Let’s examine what it means to analyze and what it looks like.

What is analysis and how is this different than summary?

To summarize is to take ideas and present them again in a more concise way. But to analyze is to reach your own conclusions about how the elements of a topic, theory, issue, or story fit together to create something that may not be evident at first glance.

How to analyze a book

As you can see from the list of traits above, summary involves identifying, while analysis takes this a step further by discussing how and why pieces of a whole function together to create meaning and significance.

How does one do an analysis?

Choose a Topic

Take Notes

Draw Conclusions

What does analysis look like compared to summary?

Example Summary of the Wright Brother’s Aeroplane Company Museum

How to analyze a book

Example Analysis of the Wright Brother’s Aeroplane Company Museum

Published on November 8, 2019 by Jack Caulfield. Revised on June 19, 2020.

Textual analysis is a broad term for various research methods used to describe, interpret and understand texts. All kinds of information can be gleaned from a text – from its literal meaning to the subtext, symbolism, assumptions, and values it reveals.

The methods used to conduct textual analysis depend on the field and the aims of the research. It often aims to connect the text to a broader social, political, cultural, or artistic context.

Table of contents

  1. What is a text?
  2. Textual analysis in cultural and media studies
  3. Textual analysis in the social sciences
  4. Textual analysis in literary studies

What is a text?

The term “text” is broader than it seems. A text can be a piece of writing, such as a book, an email, or a transcribed conversation. But in this context, a text can also be any object whose meaning and significance you want to interpret in depth: a film, an image, an artifact, even a place.

The methods you use to analyze a text will vary according to the type of object and the purpose of your analysis:

  • Analysis of a short story might focus on the imagery, narrative perspective and structure of the text.
  • To analyze a film, not only the dialogue but also the cinematography and use of sound could be relevant to the analysis.
  • A building might be analyzed in terms of its architectural features and how it is navigated by visitors.
  • You could analyze the rules of a game and what kind of behaviour they are designed to encourage in players.

While textual analysis is most commonly applied to written language, bear in mind how broad the term “text” is and how varied the methods involved can be.

Textual analysis in cultural and media studies

In the fields of cultural studies and media studies, textual analysis is a key component of research. Researchers in these fields take media and cultural objects – for example, music videos, social media content, billboard advertising – and treat them as texts to be analyzed.

Usually working within a particular theoretical framework (for example, using postcolonial theory, media theory, or semiotics), researchers seek to connect elements of their texts with issues in contemporary politics and culture. They might analyze many different aspects of the text:

  • Word choice
  • Design elements
  • Location of the text
  • Target audience
  • Relationship with other texts

Textual analysis in this context is usually creative and qualitative in its approach. Researchers seek to illuminate something about the underlying politics or social context of the cultural object they’re investigating.

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How to analyze a book

Textual analysis in the social sciences

In the social sciences, textual analysis is often applied to texts such as interview transcripts and surveys, as well as to various types of media. Social scientists use textual data to draw empirical conclusions about social relations.

Textual analysis in the social sciences sometimes takes a more quantitative approach, where the features of texts are measured numerically. For example, a researcher might investigate how often certain words are repeated in social media posts, or which colors appear most prominently in advertisements for products targeted at different demographics.

Some common methods of analyzing texts in the social sciences include content analysis, thematic analysis, and discourse analysis.

Textual analysis in literary studies

Textual analysis is the most important method in literary studies. Almost all work in this field involves in-depth analysis of texts – in this context, usually novels, poems, stories or plays.

Because it deals with literary writing, this type of textual analysis places greater emphasis on the deliberately constructed elements of a text: for example, rhyme and meter in a poem, or narrative perspective in a novel. Researchers aim to understand and explain how these elements contribute to the text’s meaning.

However, literary analysis doesn’t just involve discovering the author’s intended meaning. It often also explores potentially unintended connections between different texts, asks what a text reveals about the context in which it was written, or seeks to analyze a classic text in a new and unexpected way.

Some well-known examples of literary analysis show the variety of approaches that can be taken:

  • Eve Kosofky Sedgwick’s book Between Men analyzes Victorian literature in light of more contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality.
  • Roland Barthes’ S/Z provides an in-depth structural analysis of a short story by Balzac.
  • Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence applies his own “influence theory” to an analysis of various classic poets.

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How to analyze a book

Quote Analysis— The Easy Way!

Just Remember WPAE!

  1. Writing the quote
  2. Paraphrase
  3. Analysis
  4. Evaluation

Ways to introduce quotes

When (event in book) happened, (character) states, “. “

Ex: When Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macbeth states, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more (V.V.19-20).

(Character) explains: “. ” (citation).

(Your own words) “direct quotes from book” .

Ex: Macbeth pines over his miserable fate, calling life a “walking shadow” (citation).

Ways to paraphrase

Directly look at quote and replace the text with your words. It is vitally important to maintain the same meaning:

Ex: In other words, Macbeth compares his existence to the condition of being a mere ghost. He goes on to compare people to actors who worry about their brief moment in the spotlight only to cease to exist before he realizes his life is over.

Ways to analyze

Look at the subtle parts of the quote, and explain why the author used them in his writing–Tone, diction, mood, figurative language (metaphors, similes, imagery, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification. there are A LOT).

Ex: The metaphors Shakespeare uses, comparing life to a “walking shadow” and man to “a poor player” emphasize the fleeting nature of life. Shadows are gone as soon as they appear, and actors only assume their character: the people they represent have no true meaning.

Ways to evaluate

Show the importance of the quote with respect to your argument and your thesis. Explain the significance. Tell the reader why they bothered to read your essay. This is where you tie your thoughts together in a nice bow.

Ex: Here, Macbeth realizes that his pitiful existence, from the moment he decided to kill King Duncan to the moment when his beloved wife killed herself, has been consumed by his reckless ambition. This directly shows the damaging power of ambition. If Macbeth had been content with his previous title, which was prestigious enough, a host of tragedy would have been avoided.

Full text

When Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macbeth states, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more” (V.V.19-28). In other words, Macbeth compares his existence to the condition of being a mere ghost. He goes on to compare people to actors who worry about their brief moment in the spotlight only to cease to exist before they realize it is over. The metaphors Shakespeare uses, comparing life to a “walking shadow” and man to “a poor player” emphasize the fleeting nature of life. Shadows are gone as soon as they appear, and actors only assume their character: the people they represent have no true meaning. Here, Macbeth realizes that his pitiful existence, from the moment he decided to kill King Duncan to the moment when his beloved wife killed herself, has been destroyed by his reckless ambition. This directly shows the damaging power of ambition, a major theme of the play. If Macbeth had been content with his previous title, which was prestigious enough, a wealth of tragedy would have been avoided.

Your Turn!

Write your thesis here for reference:

1. Write the quote here, with a way to introduce it:

2. Write a paraphrase here (remember to keep the same meaning):

3. Write your analysis here (look for the subtle, key parts of the quote):

  • Type
  • Importance

4. Write your evaluation here (prove why the quote is important in relation to your thesis):

5. Repeat for the rest of your text-based essay.

Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Critical reading:

  1. Identify the author’s thesis and purpose
  2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
  3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
  4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
  5. Write a summary of the work
  6. Determine the purpose which could be
    • To inform with factual material
    • To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
    • To entertain (to affect people’s emotions)
  7. Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his purpose
  • If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
  • If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
  • If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?

Consider the following questions: How is the material organized? Who is the intended audience? What are the writer’s assumptions about the audience? What kind of language and imagery does the author use?

SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY

After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.

  • I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
    • A. Information about the work
      • 1. Title
      • 2. Author
      • 3. Publication information
      • 4. Statement of topic and purpose
    • B. Thesis statement indicating writer’s main reaction to the work
  • II. Summary or description of the work
  • III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
    • A. Discussion of the work’s organization
    • B. Discussion of the work’s style
    • C. Effectiveness
    • D. Discussion of the topic’s treatment
    • E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience

Avoid introducing your ideas by stating “I think” or “in my opinion.” Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.

Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work’s title.

Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?

What about the subject matter is of current interest?

What is the overall value of the passage?

What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.

Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.

Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.

Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.

Published on November 8, 2019 by Jack Caulfield. Revised on June 19, 2020.

Textual analysis is a broad term for various research methods used to describe, interpret and understand texts. All kinds of information can be gleaned from a text – from its literal meaning to the subtext, symbolism, assumptions, and values it reveals.

The methods used to conduct textual analysis depend on the field and the aims of the research. It often aims to connect the text to a broader social, political, cultural, or artistic context.

Table of contents

  1. What is a text?
  2. Textual analysis in cultural and media studies
  3. Textual analysis in the social sciences
  4. Textual analysis in literary studies

What is a text?

The term “text” is broader than it seems. A text can be a piece of writing, such as a book, an email, or a transcribed conversation. But in this context, a text can also be any object whose meaning and significance you want to interpret in depth: a film, an image, an artifact, even a place.

The methods you use to analyze a text will vary according to the type of object and the purpose of your analysis:

  • Analysis of a short story might focus on the imagery, narrative perspective and structure of the text.
  • To analyze a film, not only the dialogue but also the cinematography and use of sound could be relevant to the analysis.
  • A building might be analyzed in terms of its architectural features and how it is navigated by visitors.
  • You could analyze the rules of a game and what kind of behaviour they are designed to encourage in players.

While textual analysis is most commonly applied to written language, bear in mind how broad the term “text” is and how varied the methods involved can be.

Textual analysis in cultural and media studies

In the fields of cultural studies and media studies, textual analysis is a key component of research. Researchers in these fields take media and cultural objects – for example, music videos, social media content, billboard advertising – and treat them as texts to be analyzed.

Usually working within a particular theoretical framework (for example, using postcolonial theory, media theory, or semiotics), researchers seek to connect elements of their texts with issues in contemporary politics and culture. They might analyze many different aspects of the text:

  • Word choice
  • Design elements
  • Location of the text
  • Target audience
  • Relationship with other texts

Textual analysis in this context is usually creative and qualitative in its approach. Researchers seek to illuminate something about the underlying politics or social context of the cultural object they’re investigating.

What is your plagiarism score?

Compare your paper with over 60 billion web pages and 30 million publications.

  • Best plagiarism checker of 2020
  • Plagiarism report & percentage
  • Largest plagiarism database

How to analyze a book

Textual analysis in the social sciences

In the social sciences, textual analysis is often applied to texts such as interview transcripts and surveys, as well as to various types of media. Social scientists use textual data to draw empirical conclusions about social relations.

Textual analysis in the social sciences sometimes takes a more quantitative approach, where the features of texts are measured numerically. For example, a researcher might investigate how often certain words are repeated in social media posts, or which colors appear most prominently in advertisements for products targeted at different demographics.

Some common methods of analyzing texts in the social sciences include content analysis, thematic analysis, and discourse analysis.

Textual analysis in literary studies

Textual analysis is the most important method in literary studies. Almost all work in this field involves in-depth analysis of texts – in this context, usually novels, poems, stories or plays.

Because it deals with literary writing, this type of textual analysis places greater emphasis on the deliberately constructed elements of a text: for example, rhyme and meter in a poem, or narrative perspective in a novel. Researchers aim to understand and explain how these elements contribute to the text’s meaning.

However, literary analysis doesn’t just involve discovering the author’s intended meaning. It often also explores potentially unintended connections between different texts, asks what a text reveals about the context in which it was written, or seeks to analyze a classic text in a new and unexpected way.

Some well-known examples of literary analysis show the variety of approaches that can be taken:

  • Eve Kosofky Sedgwick’s book Between Men analyzes Victorian literature in light of more contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality.
  • Roland Barthes’ S/Z provides an in-depth structural analysis of a short story by Balzac.
  • Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence applies his own “influence theory” to an analysis of various classic poets.

How to analyze a book

Jetta Productions / Getty Images

  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

We’ve all encountered chapters or books that we just can’t get into or we don’t understand. There are lots of reasons for this: sometimes we’re required to read about a topic that is just plain boring, sometimes we try to read material that is written way above our current reading level, and sometimes we find that the writer is just plain bad at explaining things. It happens.

If you find yourself reading an entire chapter or book several times without understanding it, try taking the following steps. Be sure to do steps 1 to 3 before you jump in to read the text.

Difficulty: Hard

Time Required: Differs by length of written material

What You Need:

  • A difficult book or passage
  • Note paper
  • Pencil
  • Sticky note flags
  • Quiet room

How to Do It

1. Read the introduction and reflect. Any nonfiction article or book will have an introductory section that gives an overview of the main points. Read this first, then stop, think, and soak it in.
Reason: All textbooks on a certain topic are not created equal! Every writer has a certain theme or point of view, and that will be introduced in your introduction. It’s important to understand this theme or focus because it will help you to recognize why certain examples or comments appear in your reading.

2. Look at the sub-headings. Most books or chapters will progress in some manner, whether they show a progression of time or an evolution of ideas. Look over the topics and try to find the pattern.
Reason: Writers begin the writing process with an outline. The subheadings or subtitles you see in your text show you how the author started when organizing his/her thoughts. Subtitles show the overall subject broken down into smaller segments which are arranged in the most logical progression.

3. Read the summary and reflect. Right after you read the introduction and subheadings, flip to the back of the chapter and read the summary.
Reason: The summary should re-state the points that were mentioned in the introduction. (If they don’t, then this really is a difficult book to understand!) This reiteration of the main points may offer the material in more depth or from a different viewpoint. Read this section, then stop and soak it in.

4. Read the material. Now that you’ve had time to understand the points the author is trying to convey, you’re more apt to recognize them when they come along. When you see a major point, flag it with a sticky note.

5. Take notes. Take notes and, if possible, make a brief outline as you read. Some people like to underline words or points in pencil. Only do this if you own the book.

6. Watch for lists. Always look for code words that tell you a list is coming. If you see a passage that says “There were three major effects of this event, and they all impacted the political climate,” or something similar, you can be sure there is a list following. The effects will be listed, but they may be separated by many paragraphs, pages, or chapters. Always find them and make note of them.

7. Look up words you don’t understand. Don’t be in a rush! Stop whenever you see a word that you can’t immediately define in your own words.
Reason: One word can indicate the entire tone or view of the piece. Don’t try to guess the meaning. That can be dangerous! Make sure to look up the definition.

8. Keep on plugging through. If you’re following the steps but you still don’t seem to be soaking in the material, just keep reading. You’ll surprise yourself.

9. Go back and hit the highlighted points. Once you get to the end of the piece, go back and review the notes you’ve made. Look over the important words, points, and lists.
Reason: Repetition is the key to retaining information.

10. Review the introduction and summary. When you do, you may find that you’ve absorbed more than you realized.