What is analysis?
Analysing means carefully examining information in order to understand, interpret and explain it. This can involve identifying assumptions, gaps and connections between such things as data, reasoning or evidence. A thorough analysis prepares you well for a final evaluation, where you form judgements and draw conclusions.
In the identifying stage, you will have asked critical questions to determine what kind of information you are working with, who produced the information, and for whom. Analysing involves thinking very carefully about this information and the claims being made.
This involves looking beyond the surface of what is said and examining assumptions and reasoning behind a perspective.
The building blocks of analysis are questions. Questioning scrutinises your sources of information and the arguments being presented. For example:
- Why did the author write this text? (or: Why was this data produced?) Is there any evidence of bias?
- Why did the author make particular assumptions and not others?
- Why was certain evidence presented?
- How does (or doesn’t) the evidence provided support the conclusions reached?
- Who would benefit from this proposal or argument, and is there evidence of a conflict of interest?
- What information has been omitted from this source, and why?
When asking critical questions, you demonstrate you can think carefully about the evidence that supports your arguments and the arguments of others. Each point of analysis communicates your thinking towards a final evaluation, judgement or conclusion.
What do I analyse?
In your assignments, you can apply questions to arguments, to research methodologies, and to evidence.
Ask analytical questions for a deep understanding of the reasoning that constitutes an argument, for example:
- Does the argument contain assumptions? What are they?
- Is the reasoning balanced? Are different perspectives taken into account?
- What is the background to this issue? Are there any implicit arguments?
- Is the argument logical?
- Are the claims adequately supported by evidence?
- What is not said or omitted that should be considered?
Academic work will use a research methodology relevant to the field or discipline. When analysing, think about what this methodology is and how it influences the findings:
- Why was this methodology chosen? Were there are alternatives? Was this the best choice?
- How has the research methodology been designed?
- What are the benefits or shortcomings of this research methodology?
- Have assumptions influenced the methodology?
- How might this methodology favour certain types of data, social groups or conclusions?
All scholarly claims are supported by evidence, hence the term evidence based. Nonetheless, types of evidence can vary widely depending on the academic discipline.
- How is this evidence shaped by the context in which it was created?
- What tools or concepts must be applied to properly understand this evidence? Are these accepted within the discipline?
- Is the evidence form the best type of evidence available?
- Has the evidence been gathered properly?
- Has data been cleaned with notes available?
- Is bias evident in survey questions or methods by which the evidence has been collected?
- Does the evidence really support the claims being made?
How do I analyse?
Analysis is an essential tool across academic tasks. However, analysis can mean different things depending on discipline and context – and can be applied to a diverse range of evidence, information and data.
Typically, the purpose and scope of analysis will be defined by your task description or research question. Whatever the context, ask questions that help you understand information more deeply and critically.
How do I communicate my analysis?
When a task requires you to ‘critically analyse’ information, you are expected to do more than simply describe or summarise it. Analysis of information requires description plus critical interpretation.
In practice, this means communicating your questions about arguments, methodologies or evidence. The writing process is your opportunity to demonstrate how rigorously you have considered the issue by looking beyond the surface layer of information by asking insightful questions.