How to Analyze an Article the Right Way

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do most anything.

Imagine you’re on an African safari dream vacation. Your tour guide stops in the middle of the Serengeti to point out a pride of lions and to allow a photo op.

The right way to enjoy this breathtaking moment: Stay inside the vehicle (as instructed), and admire the lions from afar. Use your new long-range lens to take amazing closeups of the lions.

The wrong way to enjoy this breathtaking moment: Leave the tour behind, and strike out on your own to get a once-in-a-lifetime selfie with a lion.

Sure that selfie would be amazing, but it’s not worth the risk. On your African safari, it’s always wise to listen to your tour guide (and stay a safe distance from the lions). After all, she’s the expert, and she’s there to protect you and help you enjoy your experience.

Consider me your guide too—one who’s here to help protect you from poor grades and to help you analyze an article the right way.

So let’s get started on how to analyze an article by first looking at the wrong way to do it. (Feel free to take photos along the way, but please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.)

The Wrong Way to Analyze an Article

how to analyze an article
“Snarling lion” by Aurelio Arias, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Just like there are certain things you shouldn’t do when you’re on safari with dangerous lions in your midst, there are certain things you shouldn’t do when analyzing an article.

Here are three things you shouldn’t do.

Don’t stop reading after you skim the article

When reading any article, especially longer scholarly articles with headings, it’s always a smart strategy to skim the article to get a sense of the key headings and the gist of the contents.

You don’t, however, want to stop there. You won’t fully understand the arguments of the article if you only skim the content. You’ll need to read the article with a critical eye (more about that in a bit).

Don’t assume there’s nothing to critique

If students are assigned an article to analyze, they sometimes wrongly assume their profs want them to only point out the positive aspects of the article.

Your profs expect you to look at both positive and negative aspects of a piece, so it’s okay to find fault in the article or with the writer’s logic or arguments.

Don’t forget the evidence

Another important point to remember is that no matter whether you ultimately present a positive or negative critique, you’ll need to support your comments with evidence. Don’t make the mistake of writing your analysis without directly referring to evidence from the article itself or using outside sources.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t do, here’s what you should do when analyzing an article.

How to Analyze an Article the Right Way

how to analyze an article

We covered what not to do. Now let’s look at how to analyze an article effectively.

Analyzing an article—such as a news article, an editorial, or a scholarly article—is different than analyzing literature. (If you’re looking for help with writing a literary analysis, read How to Write a Literary Analysis That Works.)

When you’re analyzing literature, you’re looking for things like symbolism, metaphors, and other literary techniques. Though an article might contain a stray metaphor or two, the goal of an article isn’t to tell a story. The goal is to inform or persuade.

With this in mind, here are three strategies to help you see how to analyze an article the right way.

Read and take notes

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Remember, you can’t get away with skimming the article. It would be like watching a movie trailer and assuming you know the entire plot of the film.

So read the entire article, and read it more than once. As you read, take notes.

What type of notes should you take?

Here are a few tips:

  • It’s only natural to have to stop and read a section again or to have a few questions. These are key points to notice. Write about what confuses you, and ask questions about the content.
  • Identify and take note of key arguments. Articles often uses headings to identify specific sections. If no headings are included, look for changes in topics at the beginnings of paragraphs.
  • Look for patterns in the writing. Does the author use the same type of reasoning, logic, or evidence to support arguments throughout? Does the author use humor, or is the tone serious? Jot down your thoughts on how the writer develops the article.

If you’d like to learn more about specific note-taking strategies, read 10 Note Taking Strategies to Write a Better Essay.

Examine the arguments in detail

how to analyze an article

Through your note-taking, you’ve already identified the main arguments of the article, now take a closer look. How do the arguments hold up?

Here’s what to look for:

  • Evidence: What type of evidence does the writer use to support the argument? Does he/she use statistics, examples, or original data? Remember, writers shouldn’t simply make statements without sufficient evidence to support their claims. It’s like a little kid asking a question and a parent replying, “because I said so.” There’s no real evidence to support the parent’s statement. The child is simply supposed to accept the statement.

  • Credibility: Even if a writer appears to use a variety of evidence to support arguments, you need to make sure the sources are reliable. Does the writer cite Wikipedia or statistics from a peer-reviewed, scholarly article? Clearly, there’s a difference between the two.
  • Persuasion: If the goal of the article is to persuade, you’ll need to consider whether the writer is convincing. What makes the piece convincing, or why isn’t it convincing?

Need help on what questions to ask? Here’s a pretty solid list of what to consider when analyzing a research article OR a newspaper (or other informational-type articles).

Look for what’s missing

Even if a writer supports the arguments presented in the article, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something missing.

For instance, let’s say that a writer argues that more students should be eligible for student loan forgiveness. While anyone who has student loans would certainly agree with this idea, the writer may fail to address how the forgiveness of student loans may affect other parties, such as the lenders, colleges, or financial aid programs.

If you find yourself reading an article and saying things like, “…but what about…,” or, “why doesn’t he mention…,” this is a good indication that there is, in fact, something missing from the article and the writer’s arguments.

The End of Our Tour

how to analyze an article

We’ve reached the end of our tour about how to analyze an article, but as you exit, please stop by the gift shop and check out our additional resources to help you turn your notes into an actual essay.

Here are some resources to help you get started with your paper:

If you’d like to book another tour, Kibin also offers editing services, so send your essay to us to make sure your paper can soothe even the most savage of professors.

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