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UMGC Effective Writing Center Writing to Analyze

When writing to analyze, your job as a writer is to put something under your mental microscope, to break it down and examine it as if you were a scientist studying a new species of bug.

After your examination, you report without prejudice what you saw. Your purpose is to serve as the eyes and ears of your audience, providing a detailed report on what something is or how it works.

For example, you could analyze a physical phenomenon such as a black hole in space or a tornado here on earth, a social custom such as the senior prom or graduation gowns, physical objects such as photographs or paintings, literary texts, or literary characters.

In other words, just about anything in our world can be put under the microscope of your analysis. Let’s look briefly at how we might write one of these essays.

The Atlantic Hurricane

How might we go about analyzing this phenomenon? We could begin by talking about when hurricanes are born—the hurricane season that lasts from June to November. The next step of our analysis might examine the early forms of the hurricane, which are the tropical storms and tropical depressions that occur in this season when sea temperatures and moisture rise. Then comes formation of the low pressure eye that signals the maturing of the hurricane, which is defined as a storm with winds greater than 74 miles per hour.


Thus, we’ve analyzed the hurricane (the "what") and several factors in its formation (the "how"). Based on this initial planning we can now write our thesis statement. In analysis writing, a thesis often consists of the “what” combined with the “how.” For example, our thesis for this hurricane essay could be:

The Atlantic hurricane is best understood by following its formation from birth to maturity.

The Graduation Gown

Let’s put one more topic under our microscope: a social custom like the graduation gown. We will examine its parts from head to toe, literally, beginning with the mortarboard and tassel, the gown, the hood, the honors medals, etc. The “what” is the graduation gown. The “how” is from top to bottom, head to toe. Our thesis simply combines the "what" with the "how":

Each part of the graduation gown, from head to toe, has special meaning.

One of the keys to a successful analysis essay is to have a clear method of taking apart the subject, then focusing on its parts one-by-one. This method (the "how") becomes the basis of your writing’s organization.

So, for instance, our outline for the Atlantic hurricane analysis might look something like this:

  • The introduction paragraph will contain our thesis at or near the end: The Atlantic hurricane is best understood by following it from birth to maturity. 
  • Each of the body paragraphs could focus on the parts one by one:
    • The first body paragraph could discuss the “hurricane season” Our paragraph topic sentence would be something like, "Atlantic hurricanes are born during the hurricane season from June through November." Then would come supporting details to help the reader understand more about the hurricane season: a few storms in June, with the number increasing to their peak in September.
    • The next body paragraph would discuss the role of higher sea temperatures and increased moisture during this time that leads to tropical storms. So the topic sentence could be something like, “During this time, warmer seas fuel for tropical storms—the adolescence of many hurricanes.”
    • The last body paragraph would cover the third stage in the life cycle, when the hurricane’s eye forms and winds are 74 mph or greater. So the topic sentence might be: “Finally, a tropical storm graduates to adult hurricane status when it develops winds of 74 mph or higher.”

Such a clear plan when writing the essay will allow you to bring in the right details at the right time in order to provide your readers a full and satisfying analysis of your topic, from hurricanes to graduation gowns.

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