A close analysis is a very detailed investigation of an author's text and how it pertains to themes, motifs, symbols, or anything related to the message of the story, including characters.
Prepare yourself before you read and annotate. Annotation is an explanation or comment to a text, which you will provide. Before you annotate, it's important to consider these tips.
- Think about what they already know/search their prior knowledge
- Identify a purpose for reading the text
- Make predictions
- Have a sense of how major ideas may fit together
As you read the text, write notes about actions, words, or the environment the author has presented. Why did they write it this way? Are there repeating patterns within the text? As you annotate, try to do the following:
- Underline important terms.
- Circle possible themes or motifs.
- Write key words and definitions in the margin.
- Signal where important information can be found with key words or symbols in the margin.
- Write short summaries in the margin at the end of the paragraph or chapter.
- Write questions in the margin next to the section
At this stage, you're gathering information of the text, and putting the author's work under a microscope. Here's an example of an annotated poem (Harlem by Langston Hughes)
At this stage, you'll want an outline of what you're going to write about. Write down the main ideas of what you think the text means and then decide how you'll explain them to your reader. If you feel that the story is a metaphor for pollution, then show how. You want to provide direct quotes from the text and any background information you may have researched.
Using the notes you took during your annotation, you can begin writing your close analysis. When writing, be sure to reference any main points or ideas within the text. This analysis is an explanation of what you believe the text is about, or what certain concepts mean. Pinpoint where two or main ideas reference each other. In Harlem, Hughes compares "The Dream" as a few different things, as to question the reader. Where can you find similarities in your text?
It may be tempting to go back and change ideas or feelings that you've written in past readings, but it's important as a writer and reader for you to grow with your close reading. You may have learned a character's evil intentions, but before you've thought they were the kindest person in the world. Don't go back and change what you felt in the past, but express it in your current analysis.
Close analysis papers require a good amount of time to break down the author's intentions for content and word use. Before you submit a paper, make sure you confidently understand the material, in order to make any necessary changes. If at anytime you should need help, contact your instructor during their office hours, or schedule a tutor to help refine your paper.