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This LibGuide provides information on where to start when you read poetry and how to conduct a Close Reading, as well as general guidelines on how to research for papers.

Analysis versus Explanation

Many students have difficulties with the difference between explanation and analysis.  Here is a little bit of clarification on the matter:
  • Explanation: clarification; restatement of the main idea; the clearing up of possible misunderstandings
    • Questions Associated with Explanation:  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  How?
  • Analysis:  examination of details in order to seek or form a deeper understanding concerning a text
    • Questions Associated with Analysis:  Why?  So, what?

So, what does that look like in action?  Here is an example of what explanation versus a surface analysis would look like of Mark Twain quote.

Quote:  Mark Twain once joked, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”
  • Explanation:  Mark Twain is emphasizing how cold San Francisco can be year-round, even during the summer.
  • Analysis:  By using the opposition between summer and winter, Twain emphasizes the frigid temperatures and plays upon the idea that summer should be warm, especially in California, as people erroneously believe that the whole state is warm and sunny year-round.  Twain plays on these stereotypes about California, which aid in creating the humorous qualities in this quote.  In addition, if a person is from the Bay Area and/or familiar with the cool climate of San Francisco, the quote becomes especially humorous as individuals can relate to the sentiment presented.  By connecting to his audience members through their familiarity with San Francisco, Twain can then use that familiarity to persuade those audience members to believe or subscribe to an idea that he might present after this quote.  In essence, he creates a rapport with his audience.
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