1 Munos

Syntopical Analysis Essay

 Lauren Griffin Cornell Sociology PhD

Module 6: How to Read

In high school, you were likely reading to memorize factual information (surface learning) rather than reading for analysis by making meaning, finding connections, or constructing strong arguments (deep learning).* Each week in this course you will be asked to engage with the readings in a meaningful way. In order be successful, you may have to read things more than once. First, you should skim the text for overview and discovery. Then, read closely for detail and understanding, taking notes and summarizing the main points in your own words. You should consider using the SEEK Method, involving Sources, Evidence, Explanation, and Knowledge (Sanchez, Wiley, and Goldman 2006).** This encourages you to 1) think about the reliability of sources, 2) evaluate the evidence and explanations provided, and 3) relate new information to prior knowledge

The comic below illustrates three different types of reading, all of which we will be practicing in this class (Adler and Van Doren 1940).*** Inspectional reading (or "systematic skimming") looks at the text as a whole. Analytical reading focuses on a close examination and analysis of the text. Syntopical reading focuses on the relationships between texts by synthesizing, comparing, and contrasting.
​As with studying, you should create the right environment for reading and thinking about what you read. At a college-level, reading cannot be a passive activity. It’s not something most of us can do while we listen to music or watch TV. So to begin, you’ll want to make sure you have a quiet, comfortable space to read, free from any distractions.  

You might want to watch this video with tips about how to comprehend and remember what you read. ​

Please follow the links to these articles to learn how to read academic papers:
1. Reading Journal Articles
2. How to Read an Academic Article
2. How to Read a Paper: Papers That Go Beyond Numbers (Qualitative Research)
3. How to Read a (Quantitative) Journal Article
          a. Referenced Handout

Then, explore the following pages to learn about what's important, how to ask guided questions as you read, and how to take notes. 

*Surface learning is "studying without much reflecting on either purpose or strategy, learning many ideas without necessarily relating them, and memorizing facts and procedures routinely" (Hattie and Donoghue 2016:3). On the other hand, deep learning is characterized by "seeking meaning, relating and extending ideas, looking for patterns and underlying principles, checking evidence and relating it to conclusions, examining arguments cautiously and critically, and becoming actively interested in course content" (Hattie and Donoghue 2016:3).****

**Sanchez, Christopher A., Jennifer Wiley, and Susan R. Goldman. 2006. "Teaching Students to Evaluate Source Reliability during Internet Research Tasks." Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Learning Sciences, International Society of the Learning Sciences.
***Adler, Mortimer J. and Charles Van Doren. 1940. "How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading."
****Hattie, John A. and Gregory M. Donoghue. 2016. “Learning Strategies: A Synthesis and Conceptual Model.” Science of Learning 1(1).

Don't panic when your instructor tells you that you need to write an analysis!  All he or she wants is for you to take something apart to see HOW it works.

To write an analysis, you need to think about how each part of something contributes to the success of the whole.

Caution!  Make sure that you're NOT just summarizing the original article, story, novel, poem, etc.  Go beyond simply telling us WHAT you are talking about: describe HOW and WHY its elements function.

Specific Information for Analyzing Literature

Summarizing = WHAT
Analyzing = HOW & WHY

When you think about analysis, try thinking about how you might analyze a car.

  • Ask yourself: What do we want the car to do or accomplish?
    • Answer: (minivan) “provide transportation for my family”
      • Analysis: how does each part of the van achieve this goal?
        • Example: gasoline powers the engine
    • Answer: (sports car) “speed, agility, and style”
      • Analysis: how does each part of the sports car achieve this goal?
        • Example:  light-weight construction enables speed

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