How can I think, read or write more analytically?

Simply defined, analysis means re-organising facts or ideas. That is, analysis is the process of looking at facts or ideas and sorting them into categories, groups, parts, types or relationships.

  • Analytical thinking means seeing similarities and differences between facts and ideas, looking for patterns and trends, identifying real examples of an abstract principle, or breaking something into its different parts.
  • Analytical reading means doing the same things in relation to what you are reading; for example, considering how this article is related to what you have read before, looking at how the main ideas in the article can be broken into parts, thinking of real-life examples, etc.
  • Analytical writing means doing the same things mentioned above, and then naming the analytical categories you have thought about, and using them to organise the structure of your own text. For example, if you are writing a comparison of public and private education, you could name some categories of comparison, such as cost effectiveness, equity and political implications, and use these to structure your paragraphs.

Sometimes, you need to use analytical categories or relationships which are already part of the discipline. For example, in the discipline of Linguistics, there are grammatical categories, such as imperative, declarative and interrogative, which can be used to categorise real examples of spoken language. In the discipline of Law, there are two types of law: common law and statute law.

Often, however, you create new analytical categories or relationships, specifically for your text. For example, if you need to compare two theories, you might break your comparison into 3 parts, based on categories for comparing the theories, such as: how each theory deals with social context, how each theory deals with grammar, and how each theory can be used in practice.

To make your writing more analytical, here are some tips:

  • Spend plenty of time planning. Brainstorm the facts and ideas, and try different ways of grouping them, according to patterns, parts, similarities and differences, using colour-coding, flow-charts, tree-diagrams or tables.
  • Create a name for the relationships and categories you find: e.g. advantages, disadvantages.
  • Build each paragraph around one of the analytical categories.
  • Make the paragraph structure of your paper clear to your reader, by using topic sentences and a clear introduction.

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