Analysis vs description

You may have received feedback from your lecturers saying your essay writing is too descriptive, and doesn’t contain enough analysis.

But what does this mean?

Analytical writing: 

  • evaluates strengths and weaknesses
  • makes reasoned judgments
  • draws conclusions.

On the other hand, descriptive writing

  • evokes a particular person, place, thing
  • recounts what happened
  • only explains a theory.

Essays need to be analytical rather than descriptive.

Activity

Below are two paragraphs. One of them is descriptive while the other is analytical. Read both paragraphs, then answer the questions that follow.

Example A
According to the trait theory of leadership, some people are better suited to leadership because they are born with particular qualities and characteristics. This theory is likely to have stemmed from the work of Galton (1869) who argued that the qualities necessary for effective leadership are naturally endowed, and therefore only passed on through genetics. This idea was popular until the 1950s when it was thought to be too limited in its explanation of what makes a good leader (Zaccaro, 2007). The theory regained popularity in the 1980s, after new research highlighted the importance of personality traits in successful leadership. A five-factor model of personality has been developed to outline what these favourable personality traits are. They include: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Digman, 1990). The degree to which these five factors are present in an individual can be used to predict whether someone will emerge to be a leader, and how effective their leadership will be (Judge, Bono, Ilies, and Gerhardt, 2002).
Example B
The trait theory of leadership indicates that some people are better suited to leadership because they are born with particular personality traits. Although it is unlikely that genetic factors alone influence leadership ability, this theory is nonetheless a useful tool for predicting whether someone will emerge to be a leader, and how effective their leadership will be (Judge, Bono, Ilies, and Gerhardt, 2002). A five-factor model of personality has been developed to outline what these favourable personality traits are. They include: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Digman, 1990). While application of the theory is useful for assessing the relationship between personality and leadership, it does have limitations. Firstly, to determine the degree to which these traits are present to an individual, a self-evaluation of personality is carried out. To make the assessment more objective, observer ratings should also be included (Colbert, Judge, Choi and Wang, 2012). The main limitation, however, is that trait theory does not consider the extent to which developing and honing one’s natural abilities make a person a good leader. Innate personality characteristics are undoubtedly necessary for successful leadership, as trait theory suggests, but a leader must be able to take advantage of and develop their natural traits.