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How to Analyze Two Texts Related by Theme or Topic

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  • 0:01 Related Texts
  • 0:39 Analyzing a Text
  • 2:57 Analysis Practice
  • 5:16 Synthesizing Information
  • 6:34 Synthesis Practice
  • 8:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn how to analyze two texts related by theme or topic. We will discuss how to analyze the texts individually and then how to synthesize their information.

Related Texts

Whether you are reading for personal enjoyment or researching for a paper, you will often come across two or more texts with a related topic or theme. While you can certainly read, study, enjoy, and learn from each text on its own, you will usually find it helpful to synthesize, or combine, the information from all the texts to attain a broader picture of the topic or theme.

In this lesson, we'll discuss how to analyze two texts individually and then synthesize them to retain as much information as possible.

Analyzing a Text

Before synthesizing information from multiple texts, you must make sure that you analyze, or look closely, at each of those texts individually. To draw out as much information as possible from each text, follow this series of steps:

  1. Read each text very carefully, several times if necessary.
  2. Identify the type of text. Is it a magazine article, a letter, a textbook, a diary, a newspaper editorial, an academic essay, or something else?
  3. Identify the text's topic. What is it talking about?
  4. Identify the text's purpose. Does the text merely entertain you? Does it inform you through a set of facts? Does it try to persuade you to accept a position or perform an action?
  5. Identify the author's main idea or argument. What is the primary position or main message that the author is presenting about the topic?
  6. Identify the reasons and evidence the author uses to support or explain the main idea. What points does the author use to justify his argument or explain his message? Does he use facts and statistics, stories and examples, or expert testimony to support his points?
  7. Clarify any unknowns about the text. Look up unfamiliar words. Research references that are not clear.
  8. Ask questions about the text and think critically about whether the main idea, reasons, and evidence are clear, well connected, logical, and accurate.

As you progress through the eight steps, jot down some notes either in the text's margins or on a separate sheet of paper to remind yourself of your discoveries and questions. Then repeat the process with the second text.

Analysis Practice

Let's practice analyzing a text with this small sample.

'The battle of Gettysburg, which was fought over three days on July 1-3, 1863, was the turning point of the Civil War that led to ultimate Confederate defeat. First, it was a great victory for the Union Army of the Potomac, which had been struggling to gain military success for nearly two years. Second, the fight at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, foiled Confederate General Robert E. Lee's plans to invade the North. Lee was forced to retreat back into Virginia after the battle, and he never again led his army into the North. Third, the Confederate army suffered over 28,000 casualties, including more than 3,900 killed and over 18,000 wounded. While the Union casualty numbers were nearly as high, the Confederacy lacked the manpower to replace its lost soldiers, and its army continued a steady decline from which it could not recover.'

First, read the paragraph a few times and note that it seems to be an excerpt from an essay. Now, what is its topic? It is talking about the battle of Gettysburg. What does it say about Gettysburg? It is trying to persuade (purpose) readers that Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War (main idea). What reasons and evidence are offered to support that idea? The author says that Gettysburg was a victory for the Union, foiled the Confederate plan of invasion, and led to a decline in the Confederate army. The author offers some facts about the battle and statistics about casualties as evidence to support her points. Now take a few minutes to look up any unknowns (do you know what the word 'casualties' means). Then ask yourself some questions. Does the argument seem clear and logical? Are the reasons and evidence convincing? Why or why not?

Congratulations! You've just analyzed a text.

Synthesizing Information

Your job isn't done, however. If you are studying a topic like the battle of Gettysburg, you will certainly read more than one text about it. You must, of course, analyze each text individually, but you will also have to synthesize information from all the texts. To synthesize simply means to combine information in a logical way to form a clear and comprehensive picture of the topic. To synthesize information from two texts you have already analyzed, follow these five steps:

  1. Review the two texts and the notes you took.
  2. Compare their types, purposes, and main ideas. Write them side by side if it helps.
  3. Compare their reasons and evidence.
  4. Look for similarities and differences between the texts.
  5. Think about how the texts fill in each other's gaps and how they offer reasons and evidence for each other's main ideas. How do the two texts together form a broader picture of the topic than either did on its own?

Synthesis Practice

Let's practice synthesizing information. First, read and analyze the following text, which is part of a letter about Gettysburg written by Confederate Captain Joseph Graham, in which he describes the actions of the armies on the day after the battle.

'That night, about dusk, both Armies, badly crippled, retired in different directions, they towards Baltimore and we towards Hagerstown. If we had only remained 'till the next day we could have claimed the victory. But our supplies were exhausted, and a retrograde movement absolutely necessary. And for want of transportation, we left about 4,500 wounded to fall into their hands. Neither side buried the dead of July 3rd before leaving. It was an awful affair altogether.'

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