The Mechanics of Text Analysis

DetectiveIn the past I’ve used some very specific exercises to train students how to analyze journal articles and other texts. Here is one of them:

Select a representative text and either distribute copies or require that students print it out. Prepare a few simple questions about the text that relate to the argument it contains.

Each student then . . .

  1. Circles or otherwise identifies words and phrases in the article that provide clues to the structure of the author’s argument. These “clue words” are:
    • Main, primary, only
    • Not, cannot, no, never, seldom, rarely
    • None, neither, nor
    • All, any, entire, most, each
    • Must, always, generally, often, will
    • But (especially if combined with “only” or “must”)
    • However, although, in contrast, contrary, instead, unless, despite
    • False, incorrect, contradict, fail
    • True, correct
    • Should, ought, shall
    • Cause, effect, reason, depends, because, imply
    • Assumes, assumption
    • Claim, argument, argue, contend
    • Proof, prove, evidence, empirical
    • In fact, thus, therefore, of course, thereby, similarly
    • Tend, tendency
    • Conclude, conclusion, result
  2. Writes answers to the assigned questions.
  3. Demonstrates how the clue words in the text indicated answers to the questions.
  4. Reformulates one of the question-answer pairs into a hypothesis and provides one or more pieces of evidence from the text to support the hypothesis.

Students then discuss or do formal presentations of their results in class.

I’ll provide an example of how this works in my next post.

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