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Steps to Text Analysis

Updated on January 28, 2014

RECOMMENDED STEPS IN TEXT ANALYSIS

Introduction: briefly define the text type (the functional style and the
genre), the topic, the problems raised, the cultural and historical background of
the author and his text.
Useful tips: The first step includes defining the type of the text you are analysing.

  • Does the text represent fiction / Belles Lettres Style or non-fiction?
  • Is it a whole text or an extract?

If it is fiction what genre does the text represent? It should be noted that
many texts have features of more than one genre (social, psychological, biographical,
autobiographical, humorous, satirical, historical, detective, love, science
fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, parable, allegory etc.). Such texts can be classified
as the texts of a complex or mixed nature.
The next step would be defining the topic, the subject and the problems.

  • What is the text about?
  • What is the focus of the author’s attention?
  • What aspects of the topic are touched upon in the text?

In the introduction it is also essential to consider the historical and cultural
backgrounds of both the author and his text. These would include some biographical
facts about the writer, especially his ethical, esthetical, political etc.
views, his belonging to a certain literary and cultural tradition as well as the
elements of the setting of the story, including the time and place of the action,
some cultural and historical realia present in the text.

Analysis of the text

The analysis of the text starts with presenting its summary.
Useful tips: Summarising the text must be done in accordance with certain
rules. First of all, you should select all important facts and events omitting
unnecessary details, then order them chronologically (or logically, depending on
the type and genre of the text) using appropriate connectors and linking expressions.
It should be remembered that no matter what register and style the original
text belongs to, the summary should be written in the neutral style. Wherever
possible, paraphrasing should be preferred to quoting.

The plot and the verbal composition of the text.

The next point could be commenting on the composition of the plot and the verbal composition of the text.


Useful tips in text analysis:
The classical structure comprises three main parts in a story – the exposition, the plot and the epilogue.

The exposition usually contains the setting of the scene (i.e. the time and
place of the action) and some preliminary information about the topic and subject
of the story, its main characters etc. By nature it is a static part of the story
and contains no action.
The plot consists of a series of episodes relating to the development of the
central conflict of the story. It usually starts with the so-called narrative hook,
which introduces the conflict and begins the dynamic (sometimes, dramatic, and
in that case we may call it suspense) action aiming at the ultimate resolution of
the conflict. The highest point in the development of the plot is called the climax.
The series of events preceding the climax is usually termed, rising action,
whereas post-climax events are falling action coming to a resolution (or dénouement).
When all the action is over, the author may supply some extra information
about the following events, the after-life of the story characters etc.
Similarly to the exposition, this part of the story is static rather than dynamic,
and is called the epilogue. It should be noted, that the above-described three-part
structure is by no means the universal type, which can be applied to all existing
fiction texts. The composition of a story is a matter of the personal choice of the
author, who may decide to end the story just at the point of its climax, or, start it
in the middle of the action, or introduce chronological steps back in the action.
A special feature of the story composition is a framed story, or a story-within-astory.
In such stories, the theme and the main conflict are developed within the
'inner story', related by one of the characters of the 'outer story' (or a frame).
The verbal composition concerns the modes of presenting the story. Narration
moves the plot and can be presented from different points of view: the
first person, the third person, a limited third person (the story is presented
through the limited perspective of one of the characters), a shifting point of
view; there can also be the author-observer (observing the characters' actions
but not penetrating in their thoughts and feelings), as opposed to the omniscient
author (knowing all about the characters' inner life, their past and sometimes
even the future). These points of view are important in the process of conveying
the author's attitudes and ideas to the reader, creating a certain tone or atmosphere
in the story.
Description usually has emotional-evaluative implications depending on
the choice of vocabulary and imagery. Characters’ speech exists in emotive
prose in the form of a monologue/inner monologue, dialogue. Besides there
can be digressions (the author's remarks breaking the narration and containing
some personal reflections concerning the story, its theme, problems, setting or
characters)

Characters of the story

Another aspect of a story is represented by characters.

Useful tips:

Since all fiction stories include some action (which makes it different from other types of texts, e.g. essays), they necessarily have a character, or, more frequently, several characters to perform this action. Traditionally, allcharacters are divided into principal (or main) and secondary ones. Those, who form the focus of the author's (and, hence, the reader's) attention, and take an active part in the central conflict of the story are the main characters, others serve as the background for the portrayal of the main characters and their conflict. If there is only one main character in the story, he is sometimes called the protagonist, his main opponent in the conflict would be then the antagonist. Also, in literary criticism there are further terms to describe different types of characters: static vs. dynamic (the former stay virtually the same as regards their traits of character, values, attitudes etc, whereas the latter undergo some serious
changes in the course of the story events) and also round vs. flat (the former are drawn in detail, including the characteristic of their inner selves, the latter are more or less schematic). The analysis of the characters should include (if the text supplies the necessary details, or, at least implies them) their physical description, social background, some distinctive traits of their character, their typical ideas, attitudes, manner of speech (which can be very characteristic and suggestive), actions, relations with other characters and their role in the central conflict, and, finally, the author’s attitude towards them (whether it is directly revealed or implied implicitly).


Stylistic features of the text

The next part of the analysis deals with the stylistic features of the text. It focuses on the language register, or combination of different registers (formal, semi-formal, neutral, semi-informal, informal; high-flown, poetic, casual, colloquial etc.) employed by the author, on syntactic peculiarities of the text (types of sentences prevailing, rhetoric questions, elliptical or inverted phrases, parallel constructions), special choice of the vocabulary (terms, dialectisms, slang
etc.), stylistic tropes (see a short description of some of them below), and the general tone or atmosphere of the text (serious, light, elevated, solemn, ironical, humorous, gloomy and so forth). The thorough analysis of these features will enable you to define the author's position, his/her attitude towards the subject of the story and its problems, towards the characters and their actions, and finally to understand properly the author's message, the main idea of the story. Sometimes these attitudes and the message are expressed openly and directly (usually in the beginning or the end of the story), but more often than not it is revealed indirectly in the whole complex of linguistic and stylistic peculiarities of the text, in the author's characteristics of the characters, in the atmosphere created by the author in the story. Hence, the analysis of stylistic features of the story has a principal importance for the proper understanding of its message.

What messages does the system of images convey? Please read more here


Steps in Text Analysis

Step 1a
Introduction: briefly define the text type (the functional style and the genre), the topic, the problems raised, the cultural and historical background of the author and his text.

Step 1в
The next part of the analysis deals with the stylistic features of the text.

Step 2a
What messages does the system of images convey? Stylistic devices.

Step 2b
If it is non-fiction, what is the genre? (a public speech, an advertisement, an academic text, a letter, a feature article, a polemic article etc.)

Step 3a
1) What is the structure of the prosaic text? (narration, description,
characters’ speech)
2) What compositional elements can we see there? (exposition, the narrative hook, development of action, climax, disentanglement)
3) What mood or atmosphere is created by the author with the help of stylistic devices and the choice of verbs, nouns and adjectives?
4) What are the attitude and the tone of the text under analysis (positive negative, ironical, lyrical, sad, and joyful)
5) How do the actions and the speech of personages characterize them?
6) What are the relations between characters’ speech and the author’s remarks in drama? Also consider 3), 4), 5).
7) What is the rhyme pattern of a poem?
8) What metre does the poet use? (Trochee, Iambus, Dactyl, Amphybrach, Anapaest); or is it blank / free verse?
9) What is the rhythm of the text? (relevant for both prose and poetry)
10) Consider points 3) and 4).
11) Are there any allusions or cultural realia in the prosaic, dramatic or poetic text?

Step 3b
1) What is the structure of the text? Can you see any specific patterns used?
2) What is the purpose of the text? (to inform, to persuade, to influence, to urge, to warn)
3) What linguo-stylistic means are used by the author to achieve the purpose?
4) What are the attitude of the author and the tone of the text under analysis?
5) What prevails in the text logics or emotions?
6) Are there any allusions or cultural realia in the text? Explain them.

Step 4
What is the author’s message?

Step 4b
What is the author’s message?

Conclusion

Once again enumerate the means with the help of which the author conveys the message and achieves the goal of communication with the reader.
The final step of the text analysis includes your personal impressions and attitudes towards the story, its subject, problems, stylistic features and the message.

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    • profile image

      Mbakwem Annastecia U. 

      6 years ago

      This page is very clear and informative, and it helped me so much during the preparation of my examination.. I appreciate!

    • SpiritLeo profile imageAUTHOR

      SpiritLeo 

      6 years ago from Europe

      Thank you for kind words my dear HP friends!

    • supercibor profile image

      Hector Herrera 

      7 years ago from Dominican Republic

      Useful and entertainment information

    • salt profile image

      salt 

      7 years ago from australia

      Quite a good summation of text analysis. I think you could add little bit of depth of plot, sub plot and themes or symbolism that are all very prevalent to analysing any english literature text and its true subject matter.

    • profile image

      PC 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub, Thank you so much for Useful tips

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      This is a great Hub on Style and function of language. The questions are very important. You really probe the subject well and make some great point. Well done!

    • SpiritLeo profile imageAUTHOR

      SpiritLeo 

      8 years ago from Europe

      Gramarye, Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your opinion!

    • gramarye profile image

      gramarye 

      8 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Great Hub - well written and explained

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