Analyzing

to analyze: v. to separate into parts or basic principles in order to determine the nature of the whole; examine methodically.

All academic disciplines teach analysis in one form or another. When you analyze something, you must find a logic that holds it together and use that logic to take it apart. Essentially, analysis requires that you identify what parts make up a whole and that you then look closely at what parts make up each part. Depending on your discipline, of course, you may be asked to analyze a story, an argument, a social group, the circulation system, or the universe. All require a similar mental operation.

A simple example of an analytic task could be found in something

*(New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1957)

as common as a table. Depending on your purpose, a table might be analyzed according to structure (legs, braces, top); type (drop leaf, trestle, end); shape (round, oval, square); purpose (dining, coffee, work); or materials (wood, metal, plastic). Each component can be broken down further: the category of wood into oak, cherry, pine, walnut, etc.

For an example of analysis, look again at the water-treatment essay composed for my writing class. The group handed out a survey to citizens of Burlington to find out how much they knew about pollution on Lake Champlain. In order to report the results, they had to collect, tabulate, and make sense of the responses. Here is how they reported the results of their analysis:

Eighty-five percent of the people realized there is a serious sewage problem in Burlington. Sixty-five percent realized Burlington's drinking water comes from Lake Champlain. Seventy percent knew that the beaches closed because of the sewage problem. Forty percent blamed the sewage problem on the city, forty percent blamed it on the treatment plant, ten percent did not think there was a problem, and ten percent did not answer. Only thirty percent of the people bought water because of the problem. ... A surprising sixty-five percent said it is worth the estimated fifty-two million dollars to fix the problem.

This survey further proves that most of the people in Burlington are aware of the serious nature of the sewage problem in Lake Champlain. However, they were not fully aware of the toxic materials being dumped in the water.

Notice that the analysis here depends upon a simple methodical tabulation of quantifiable survey answers and the consequent drawing of conclusions based on the counting.

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