Exploring Perspectives: A Concise Guide to Analysis
Randall Fallows, University of California Los Angeles
Pub Date: 2011
ISBN 13: 9781453311455
Publisher: Saylor Foundation
Conditions of Use
Fallows does not purport to offer a complete handbook and in fact states that this volume would be most useful as supplemental reading assigned during the first two weeks of a semester. That said, it successfully covers a wide range of topics... read more
Fallows does not purport to offer a complete handbook and in fact states that this volume would be most useful as supplemental reading assigned during the first two weeks of a semester. That said, it successfully covers a wide range of topics central to the writing classroom, including source selection, notetaking, responsible source use, pre-writing strategies, reverse outlining, among others. Additionally, the FAQ section, appearing at the end of the volume, addresses a variety of student concerns, namely the transferability of the analytical skills introduced in the volume. This edition does not contain an index (and only the online edition contains a table of contents), so readers might find the interface frustrating when looking for a quick reference.
The information presented in this volume is reliable, and the advice offered should prove useful to students at various levels of writing proficiency. Fallows is careful to avoid offering too prescriptive a guide to writing, recognizing that different rhetorical situations require different approaches and strives instead to offer guidelines that could be easily transferred across disciplines. His discussion of the potential effects (good and bad) of employing first-person pronouns in academic writing, for example, is accurate and prepares students to adopt a voice appropriate to a given situation.
Fallows’s strategies for writing are consistent with many process-based handbooks and so should prove relevant for the foreseeable future. His references to Twain, Shakespeare, Plato, among others, should likewise stand the test of time. His pop culture references, on the other hand, will likely appear dated to current college students, as references to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Don McLean, Beavis and Butthead, and Office Space, for examples, are not likely to reflect their interests.
Perhaps one of the biggest strengths of Fallows’s book is his conversational tone, and he provides numerous analogies and personal examples to clarify his points in a style readily accessible to freshmen readers. His use of the acronym “AXES” (“making assertions, “including examples,” “explaining the examples,” and “extending the significance”) to help students remember the four components of analysis is clever and easy to follow.
Fallows seems focused on breaking students out of potentially limiting and/or outdated forms of composition to help them view writing as a process of inquiry and discovery. Each section of the book works toward this end, offering students new strategies to adopt and adapt to suit their future writing needs.
Exploring Perspectives is designed to be read as a linear work, as Fallows builds on previously-discussed skills and examples in each subsequent chapter. That said, his chapters are broken into manageable sections, and instructors would face little difficulty in assigning them in a different order to suit the needs of the class, so long as they were prepared to explain a few recurring concepts like the Burkean parlor.
The organization of Fallows’s book is strong, with each chapter beginning with clear objectives and ending with exercises and a list of “key takeaways” for review. The book, as indicated by the table of contents (which, as noted previously, appears only in the online version), moves from concept to application, thereby progressing in a logical manner.
The textbook is easy to follow whether reading online or downloaded as a PDF, though at least one internal link in the online version is broken (between chapters 3 and 1). The online version includes a number of highlighted words over which readers can hover and view a definition. These hover boxes work, though their value is questionable, as many of the definitions offered are almost the same as those given in the body of the text. See “freewriting” and “brainstorming,” for examples (chapters 2 and 4, respectively).
The book contains only a few minor grammatical errors, though the most common problems throughout the volume are inconsistent capitalization and missing spaces between words. The most glaring editorial error is the repetition of the same paragraph on page 102.
Fallows works to offer examples from a variety of fields—literature, film, philosophy, political science, history, among others—and should likewise be accessible to a variety of readers. While nothing about his discussion, references, or writing style appears offensive, I do wonder at how culturally inclusive his work will appear to students for whom his pop culture references fall flat. See "Relevance/Longevity."
Overall, Exploring Perspectives would serve as a useful supplement to a writing-intensive course in which students are assumed to have some proficiency in writing at the college level (i. e. they have already taken first-year writing). A first-year writing course would require a more comprehensive resource, but this text, particularly with its examples of underdeveloped analysis, would likely prove useful to students in a literature survey, for example, or other general education courses.
The scope of this book is to provide a basic approach for writing an analytic essay for college students unfamiliar with the practice. In that it never forgets its audience and takes care to provide structure and advice for "beginning" students to... read more
The scope of this book is to provide a basic approach for writing an analytic essay for college students unfamiliar with the practice. In that it never forgets its audience and takes care to provide structure and advice for "beginning" students to write analytic essays, its coverage is excellent. It does not, however, explore more advanced analytic essay style.
This book is fully accurate except for a very limited number of places where spaces between words are missing or font is non-standard. There might be 5-10 of these occurrences in the entire work. These are in the PDF version only. The web-based version of the text is perfect as best as I can determine.
Many of the fundamentals of analytic thinking are, indeed, enduring. But the portions of this book devoted to research need better attention to digital resources. The word "internet" appears only three times in the entire volume. Some comments feel dated. For example, "And thanks to the Internet, I do not even have to leave the house, but can do a Google search for up to the minute news or visit any number of academic websites to see what my fellow scholars have written about my subject."
Clarity is one of the outstanding successes of this work. It has excellent structure, clear and clean prose, ample examples, useful callout boxes, and conceptual rigor. The book reads quickly and easily and would be easy to navigate, too, should one need to go back and locate a certain topic that was discussed.
This book has been well-conceived and reconsidered and rewritten with care, affording a strong sense of an "organic whole" to the project of teaching how to build a good analytic essay from the inception of the ideas to the submission of the work. The key concepts are kept alive and effective everywhere. There is no sense that the topic or argument is shifting or slipping at any point.
This book has struck an excellent balance between the full explanation of a concept and the packaging of it in a module of a size that would be comfortable for undergraduates.
The author has a vision of how an analytic essay gets started and grows into its final form. After a chapter that establishes his definition of analysis, its four key components, and the need to maintain a balance among them, then a much longer chapter that argues for the necessity to think of analysis as an act of a thinking subject embedded in contexts that affect the direction of analysis, he takes up each of his three phases of development: establishing key perspectives / theses, explaining the origins and implications of them, and structuring the essay argument. This 5-chapter approach offers a logical progression of ideas that significantly improve the chances that undergraduates unfamiliar with writing analytic essays can develop a writing path that will work for them.
The web-based version of this book is well designed, with a table of contents listing hyper-linked chapters and chapter sections. Many of the key terms have useful pop-up definitions associated with them. As with many web-based books, the chapters require a considerable amount of scrolling to navigate. The PDF version seems more like an afterthought. There is not even a title page or table of contents.
This book keeps its sentence structure simple and clear. There are times when I felt that the tone was just slightly condescending because of its simplicity. On the other hand, as a textbook for those not strong in reading, or in a hurry, or for non-native students, this approach is understandable, perhaps even laudable.
There is some narrowness in its cultural terrain, in my opinion. For example, the author writes, "Jeff is not happy. His clock shows 2 a.m., but his computer screen shows nothing. For the last four hours he has tried to get started on an essay on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but he just doesn’t know where to begin. 'It’s Professor Johnson’s fault I’m in this mess,' he thinks to himself." To my ear, "Jeff" and "Johnson" — although I understand the wish to be generic and broadly approachable — seem a bit too exclusively of a certain cultural background. Also, the text feels just slightly "old" to me in this way. Again, when discussing argument in advertising, the example used, as if recent, is "things go better with Coke" — a 1960s phrase. This just evokes a certain America to me.
This work is most appropriate for lower-division undergraduates or college students of any level who have not had much training in analytic essay writing. While I wouldn't be able to use it in my lower-division literature classes in its entirety, there are portions definitely worth sharing. For example, the coverage of basic errors is something I feel could be repackaged and offer welcome guidance. I am glad to have read it. Some of its observations may well find a place in my teaching plans. As a final note, some of the author's arguments seem just a little too simple. But perhaps avoiding those complexities is one of the strengths of this basic textbook.
The book focuses on analysis and breaks the subject into easy-to-use chapters. While not deep or entirely comprehensive, the book does provide a baseline explanation that instructors can add to as needed. I could see using my own examples, for... read more
The book focuses on analysis and breaks the subject into easy-to-use chapters. While not deep or entirely comprehensive, the book does provide a baseline explanation that instructors can add to as needed. I could see using my own examples, for instance, or easily applying his concepts to my particular assignments. As other reviewers have noted, the book touches on the most important aspects of analysis both in composition and literature/film. I particularly like the section on moving from interpretations to analysis. This chapter identifies key aspects of argument, thesis statements, and analysis that are helpful in a variety of writing situations. I also like the organization within each chapter. Each section and chapter begins with learning objectives that are explained in the chapter, illustrated through examples, tested with exercises, and enforced with the "key takeaways" box. This varied approach to learning styles works with different students and different assignments. Finally, the appendix, which highlights student questions, puts writing in a larger perspective which in turns shows students that writing skills and analysis with benefit them beyond the assignment or class.
Fallows deals accurately with the major aspects of analysis. While I think the examples are geared more toward a literature course, overall the book provides a strong base for all analytic writing situations.
The explanation of analysis is up-to-date and the content is arranged in such a way as to make updates easy and straightforward.
The book is clearly written and Fallows has an accessible, conversational style. The online version has hover links for definitions to enforce key terms.
Chapters are consistent and content builds from one chapter to the next. If I were to change anything, I would suggest moving the chapter on using sources to later in the book.
Because each chapter builds on the previous, I imagine instructors would teach the book in the order presented. Later chapters often reference terms or ideas presented earlier. In the online version, quick links between chapters would be helpful so students, when reading about brainstorming techniques in chapter 4, for example, could quickly link back to the first description of this practice in chapter 2.
Topics are presented in a clear and logical fashion. As noted earlier and in other reviews, the organization of each chapter is quite useful.
I read the book both in PDF form and in its online form and found no problems with the interface. Chapters were easy to navigate. The PDF version has a note to teachers while the online version has links to definitions and other content. Neither version has a glossy or index, and the PDF version does not have a table of contents. In the online version, links between chapters would be helpful to remind students of key concepts.
No glaring grammatical errors.
The examples Fallows uses are not culturally offensive or insensitive, but the book would be more appealing with a wider variety of cultural examples. The Wizard of Oz, Tori Amos, Office Space, and the Beatles could be replaced with a wider variety of cultural representations that more accurately reflect our students.
The strength of this book is that it is limited to exploring one very specific type of academic writing: the analytical essay. Over the five chapters included in the book, it provides students with a step-by-step breakdown of the process of... read more
The strength of this book is that it is limited to exploring one very specific type of academic writing: the analytical essay. Over the five chapters included in the book, it provides students with a step-by-step breakdown of the process of analyzing texts, formulating theses, compiling examples, and organizing the analysis into a coherent essay that provides consideration of the significance of the approach to the analysis within the context of the larger body of scholarship surrounding the topic. It also provides students with in-depth examples--and, what is perhaps more helpful, for each example, an explanation connecting it back to the sections of the book outlining the analysis and writing processes. It also gives consideration to how these steps to analyzing texts can be applied to a wide range of types of texts, from literature, to film, to advertisements.
The content is accurate and error-free. It does draw heavily from the authors own experience in teaching analytical writing to college students, but that bias in relation to the books' topic is arguably a strength rather than a weakness in terms of the trustworthiness of the information provided.
The book is relevant in terms of the pedagogical approach it advocates when it comes to both scholarly analysis and scholarly writing in the college classroom. The examples used in the book (both the sample writings and the examples used to explain the analysis process and the writing process) are likely to remain accessible to students for some time. The book also provides useful background explanation for students not familiar with the examples. So, for example, when the film The Wizard of Oz is used to provide an example of how to analyze a text, the author includes a plot summary for students who have not seen the film.
The book is very accessible for undergraduate students, steers clear of jargon for the most part, and when rhetoric/composition jargon is used, explanations are provided to make clear the concepts behind what those terms refer to.
The book is consistent all the way through in terms of both the use of specialized terminology and its framework.
The book follows a step-by-step process for how to analyze and write about a variety of texts. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the analysis and writing processes. Chapters are also broken up into sub-sections based on specific steps in analyzing and writing. This makes it very easy to divide the book up into modules for a syllabus. The book is not as easily switched around to align with a teaching approach that follows a slightly different order in terms of these steps, since each chapter (and each sub-section within each chapter) builds on a skill and on context examined in the previous chapter.
The book is very clearly and logically organized. It is easy to follow the flow of information from one section to the next and one chapter to the next. Again, this is a plus for use in undergraduate writing courses (or other courses where analyzing texts is a key component).
I read part of the book as a PDF downloaded to my computer, part of it in a web browser on my computer, and part of it on a web browser on my tablet. The interface in all three versions was intuitive and easy to navigate.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive. It uses a variety of examples and a variety of approaches to analysis that include examinations of ideological analysis around issues of race and gender. It also avoids the use of the "universal" male pronoun when discussing hypothetical readers or students.
I teach both first year writing in an English department and a variety of film analysis courses in a film studies program. I would definitely use this book for both first year writing and for my intro to film course. In fact, I will be adopting it for both next year.
The first two chapters show the most promise in discussing the concept of analysis, but the development is very thin. In later chapters, I was hoping to see more of a pay off from this initial promise. Instead, it seems to devolve into a typical... read more
The first two chapters show the most promise in discussing the concept of analysis, but the development is very thin. In later chapters, I was hoping to see more of a pay off from this initial promise. Instead, it seems to devolve into a typical composition textbook in terms of "how to write an essay." An example of what I am talking about comes in Chapter Two: In the first section of Chapter Two, Fallows endeavors to explore the effect of personal circumstances on one’s opinions, but he merely scratches the surface here. He doesn’t really show how a student might deal with this in any kind of depth. I'm wondering if the author was so focused on being concise that he sacrificed other aspects of the topic? The book does not contain an index or glossary. In the on-line version of the text, some of the terms are given a hyperlinked definition, but the application of this feature seemed inconsistent (not all instances of these words throughout the later chapters are given this link). In the .pdf version of the text, there's no table of contents.
I found much of Fallows's advice to be sound. When Fallows writes in his Appendix of Frequently Asked Questions “analysis is not an objective process. You cannot necessarily uncover the author’s intentions or reveal the one correct conclusion just by thoroughly understanding specific relevant facts,” I think he is correct and also providing students a helpful way of thinking about analysis. Other helpful nuggets of advice: “A good analysis starts with the right questions. To uncover your point of view, you need to identify the dilemma or confusion in the scenario. And then you need to ask a question that requires more than a summary or objective answer.” In Chapter One, he writes, “Though you need to provide examples, you should select and discuss only those details that shed the most light on your points of view. “ In Chapter Two’s description of the writing process, I agree with his assessment that writing is not necessarily a linear process, but more recursive. “Remember that the goal is not to come up with an answer to the question ‘what’s THE meaning of the piece?’ But rather to explore dimensions of the subject that do not have definitive answers, allowing us to consider our own subjectivities.” Chapter Three.
Fallows makes an effort to bring in a discussion of non-academic topics, such as students' potential career choices, to demonstrate how analysis is a life-long skill that can be used in many different contexts. This comes across most clearly in the Appendix of Frequently Asked Questions. The content seems almost timeless to me as this pattern of thought has been around for a long time.
Mostly very good, I think. Fallows really makes an effort to explain his concepts in a very basic way so that any first year student should be able to understand these concepts. Potential exceptions include "heuristics" and "rhetorical choices." In the on-line version of the text, there is a hyperlinked definition for heuristics (but only the first time he uses this idea). I thought his use of the acronym AXES (assertion, examples, explanations, significance) was clever, and he shows how the plural form of both "axis" and "axe" apply well to the notion of analysis.
The exact purpose of the book feels inconsistent to me. Is it mostly a book on academic analysis or on the writing process. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, but it did feel like the book was attempting to be all things to all people. This criticism applies specifically to the "framework" of the book in a conceptual sense. In terms of its use of terminology and its references, it is very consistent.
The concise nature of the text makes it easy to adapt to different contexts. Helpful features of the text (Learning Objectives and Key Takeaways) are also useful in this regard. There are a few moments where the text does seem self-referential. Sometimes the use of hyperlinks (in the on-line version of the text) direct readers back to relevant sections, but this is not always applied.
The book has a strong sense of continuity. Again, its concise nature aids in achieving this quality.
The use of hyperlinked definitions of key terms in the on-line version of the text were helpful, but their use was inconsistent. Usually only the first instance of a word had the hyperlinked definition. If a teacher were using sections of the book out of order, then this practice would not be helpful. Sometimes, I wondered if words really needed this definition: such as "examples" (do some people really not know what an example is?) Another problem with the hyperlinked definitions was that they were the exact same wording as the text. If the term is being defined in the text, then why the need for the hyperlink?
I found two errors: “a students was inspired” in Appendix and Chapter Three: “The best way to begin your analysis is with an attentive, open mind; something that is more difficult than most of us care to admit. “ semi-colon usage? The text is inconsistent about coordinating quotation marks with other punctuation (does period go inside or outside?).
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive, but it also feels very "white bread" to me. Text does make an effort to achieve a sense of gender balance.
I wish that he would have followed his own advice in Chapter Three: “ it is almost always better to write ‘a lot about a little’ than ‘a little about a lot.’ “ In trying to tackle the writing process as well as analysis, the book ends up saying a little about a lot. At the same time, there is a lot of helpful information about the process of analysis (and his discussion of the writing process is not bad--it just seems to detract from the book's focus). I'm almost wondering if the material on analysis wouldn't work better as an essay rather than an entire book? As I was reading the book, I felt that it was really an extended essay.
This is an engaging text that clearly covers the the purpose, strategies, and writing process for an analysis assignment for a variety of disciplines. The most comprehensive sections of the text are the descriptions and examples of various aspects... read more
This is an engaging text that clearly covers the the purpose, strategies, and writing process for an analysis assignment for a variety of disciplines. The most comprehensive sections of the text are the descriptions and examples of various aspects of the writing process. The sections that cover analysis are less detailed and sometimes skim over important concepts. As a result of the uneven coverage, it is somewhat difficult to pinpoint the student audience for the text. For example, some of the detailed discussion of the writing process would work well for a lower level class, but the instructor would need to supplement/expand some of the analysis concepts. For a higher level class, some of the extensive examples about general writing strategies like creating an introduction might be repetitive, but the analysis sections would offer enough information. However, the text is consistently formatted and sections are clearly labeled, so instructors could pick and choose which sections are most relevant to their courses. The text does not have an index or a glossary, and a table of contents would be a helpful addition. There is an appendix of FAQs about analysis, but it is a somewhat confusing mixture of odds and ends.
The content is accurate, and the author clearly and completely cites all references to outside sources. The author does have a bias concerning the use of first-person and the ability to achieve objectivity, but he is up front about his positions. It will be up to each instructor to decide how comfortable they are with some of the author's statements on these issues. The text does have a number of distracting editing errors.
The content rests on a solid foundation of writing and analysis strategies and principles that will remain relevant. In fact, the author does an excellent job discussing often-tread writing concepts such as thesis statements in a refreshing manner, bringing new life to established concepts. The one element of the text that runs the risk of becoming dated is the reliance on pop culture references. In the case of the extended use of the film Office Space in Chapter 3, the reference might be hard to update; however, most references, such as the use of South Park, are brief examples that could be quickly replaced with more current examples. Note: Most of the music examples have already passed their expiration date and should be updated in the next revision.
The clarity of the text is definitely a strong point. The author is skilled at drawing the reader into the text and providing engaging descriptions of the various writing and analysis concepts. For example, in the section on conclusions in Chapter 5, the author does not just repeat the old adage to avoid starting a conclusion with the phrase "in conclusion"; instead, he offers a full paragraph describing how this phrase limits the possibilities of the conclusion. The author is at his strongest when discussing writing principles, and offers clear explanations and effective examples. In other parts of the text, namely Chapters 2 and 3, discussions of some of the more academic concepts such as researching and gauging an argument's effectiveness get a bit thin, and too many concepts are covered in large sections of text. The author does offer a plethora of examples and definitions for most ideas in the text. The most effective ones are those that are briefly woven into the flow of the text such as the quick definition of stock phrases in Chapter 3. Other examples, especially long, narrative examples such as the issue dialogue on page 36, are less effective as they get lost in too much detail and sometimes seem too personal and simplistic to be useful for an academic course. There could be increased attention to various learning styles as the book is quite text heavy with just one visual in Chapter 4. For example, adding visuals to the AXES and pentad heuristics discussions would help clarify these ideas for all students, but particularly for visual learners.
As a whole, the text is consistent in terms of tone, approach and formatting. The one section that stands out as lacking consistency is 3.2. All other sections open with an appealing introduction that engages the reader with a hypothetical scenario or some real life situation that leads the reader into the focus of the chapter. However, section 3.2 has a brief, abrupt introduction, and the rest of the section is not as cohesive and examples are not as fully integrated as in other chapters of the text.
Chapters, sections and sub-headings are clearly and consistently labeled throughout the text, so assigning specific portions of the text is feasible. One drawback is that some chapters such as Chapter 2, which opens with Kenneth Burke's parlor parable, and Chapter 4, which opens with a extended focus on The Wizard of Oz, refer to the opening examples throughout the chapter, so assigning individual parts of these chapters could be confusing if the opening of the chapter is not also assigned. Additionally, the first few pages of Chapter 5 refers back to concepts and examples from Chapter 1, but most of this chapter could easily be assigned independently from other parts of the text.
While the interface and modularity of the text are strong, the organization of ideas is somewhat uneven. The author is adept at explaining different parts of the writing process, but the elements of the writing process are scattered across Chapters 2 - 5. For example, Chapter 2 describes how to approach the general writing process, but additional pre-writing strategies such as brainstorming and clustering are not brought up until Chapter 4. It is also unclear what the function of the Appendix is. Some of the responses to the FAQs seem like they could be integrated into Chapters 1 - 5. For example, the response to the question about "good" questions seems like it could be worked into Chapter 2. Within chapters, the flow of ideas is excellent, with smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph, but the chapters themselves are unevenly structured. For example, Chapter 5 offers extended discussion and examples for composing parts of the paper such as the introduction, yet parts of Chapter 3 skim quickly through more complex issues like evaluating arguments and logical fallacies. Condensing or deleting some of the long, extended examples (esp. those that are heavily narrative/personal) would leave more room for dividing some of the longer chapter sections into smaller, more focused sections with more academic depth added to the discussion.
The text is clear and easy to navigate. Consistency in formatting chapters is strong with all chapters set up in the same format and sections of chapters (learning objectives, exercises, etc.) clearly labeled and arranged in the same order in each chapter. There is only one image (see response to Clarity), but it comes through clearly.
With a few minor exceptions, the grammar throughout the book is correct; however, the book could use some additional proofreading. Some examples of minor grammar corrections to note include the use of plural "students" when the singular is needed (page 100, Appendix), and the need to use "shown" vs. "show" in the first paragraph on page 46. The more pressing issue is the need for additional proofreading to fix a number of minor but distracting errors such spacing between words, correcting repeated text (page 102, Appendix), and double-checking that the correct spelling and forms of specific names and ideas are correct. For example, it seems that Kenneth Burke's pentad heuristic is generally not capitalized. Additional editing would be a quick fix that would reduce distractions for the reader and increase the overall credibility of the text.
There are no overtly offensive elements of the text, and the writing is quite reader-friendly and inviting. However, the examples used often rely heavily on pop culture references to movies and television shows, so some students may have trouble fully understanding the references if they are not familiar with current American culture due to their cultural background or age. Some of these pop culture examples may also quickly become dated. While examples are generally engaging, most are heavily dominated by white males, and wider variety of voices and perspectives would be a welcome revision. Additionally, the text could accommodate a wider range of learning styles by adding in visuals and hyperlinks (see suggestions in the Clarity response). The author's extensive use of his own experience works well when he is relating his experiences in the classroom, but the approach is less successful when there are long descriptions of the author's own writing process or his personal life such as trips to the gym.
With some revisions, I would consider using all or parts of this text in my courses. The tone and approach is similar to other texts I have chosen, and I find the conversational, descriptive style effective in holding students' attention. However, this text errs too far on the side of personal vs. academic. A number of the examples are quite long and based on personal experience/response (either the author's or the reader's), and this approach is reflected in the exercises at the end of each chapter, creating a gap between personal response and the academic approach required in many courses. Refining some of the organization, reducing/replacing extended sections that focus on a personal approach with more academic examples and depth, and revamping the exercises so that a variety of exercises are inserted throughout the chapters to practice or reinforce the writing and analysis concepts would strengthen this text.
This textbook gives a thorough presentation of the process and steps involved in writing an analytical essay. It provides a general but systematic method for students to use in approaching writing assignments in a number of areas (especially... read more
This textbook gives a thorough presentation of the process and steps involved in writing an analytical essay. It provides a general but systematic method for students to use in approaching writing assignments in a number of areas (especially literature, film, media studies) and thoroughly explains the different steps involved in developing a written analysis for a college course, from beginning to end. It lacks an index, and it even lacks a table of contents. The latter would be helpful for readers and for instructors using it in a class, and would be relatively easy to provide using standard pdf features. The instructor is left to develop his/her own table of contents by going through the book and noting the page numbers of each of the six chapters, and their sub-sections and sub-headings. Fortunately, the book is clearly organized and easy to navigate one's way through, thanks to the chapter titles, sub-headings of major sections, and sub-titles within major sections of each chapter.
The author presents his own approach to teaching analysis and essay writing, so the terms "accurate" or "inaccurate" are not the best. However, based on my own experience dealing with student writing and my knowledge of current approaches to writing and composition, this book seems to be well-informed in its approach. The author's assertions are well-illustrated and based on many years of experience in the field. I would not say that the text is "unbiased" either, but since the author does not pretend to objectivity and does not think that student writers can or should be "objective", this is not an issue. I would say the author is clear about his own positions, and supports them well.
The content is more or less up-to-date. The author makes many references to popular culture and current technology, and some of the references to television shows such as "Family Guy" or "Friends" are already dated or soon will be, and others may also be dated in a few years. Nevertheless, even if some of the references are not salient for students in a few years, the author provides enough context to make them understandable. It remains to be seen whether in 2020 or afterward students will relate to the cultural content, however.
Very clearly written, as one would expect and hope for in a book about writing by an English professor. The style seems to me attractive and friendly, and very approachable.
Very consistent in terms of its approach, its use of terminology and its organization. The author presents a set of elements that belong in any written analysis, and provides a useful mnemonic for these four elements (AXES: assertions, examples, explanations, significance). (This is all clearly presented initially in the overview in the preface.) Then, in chapters devoted to each one, he explains their importance and presents ways students can approach these elements, and the stages involved in developing them. One feature of analysis and the writing process that the author emphasizes throughout the text is the recursive nature of writing, and this is a useful theme, as it continually reminds students that the writing process is rarely linear, and prepares them for the real nature of the process.
As stated above, chapters are clearly organized and broken up into sub-sections, which are further broken into subunits with subtitles. Each chapter section states the main topics of that section in outline form at the head of the section and then graphically highlights the key ideas of the section at the end of the section. The graphical layout is simple and uses contrasting color and text boxes effectively: it is easy to follow the structure of each chapter as one progresses through it. Again, it would be nice if there a table of contents that laid out chapter titles, subsections and their page numbers at the beginning of the book.
Organization is very clear and logical.
Very simple presentation, clear and unobtrusive. Use of html (hyperlinks from a table of contents to each chapter, section and subsection) would make it easier to navigate.
Very well written (again, as one would expect from an English professor). There are a few typographical errors, and several instances (10-20 of them) where the space that should separate two words is missing, but these are easily deciphered. There is one section where three paragraphs are repeated (page 102).
Quite relevant. The author shows how analysis is a useful practice to develop in college, but also in one's profession and one's life. The examples he makes use of deal with a variety of personal, political, environmental, social and cultural concerns, and a realistic understanding of the features of college student life pervade the book (e.g., procrastination, boredom, relationships, the role of popular culture). I found these elements to be meaningful and interesting, but it remains to be seen whether students would have the same reaction as the 60-year old academic who is writing these comments.
I found this to be a useful, interesting read. I appreciate the author's organization and his ability to explain his ideas clearly--in short his effective use of the very principles he puts forth for students to follow when they write. There is an openness to his discussion of how to approach writing that is refreshing, and that I believe students would appreciate. He is firm regarding his principles but not dogmatic, and he justifies his assertions in a way that students would, I believe (hope?) find convincing. There is also a certain level of personal honesty that is refreshing: the teacher in this book is someone that students will get to know to a certain degree, and that seems as if it would be appealing to student readers. I have not yet decided how I might incorporate this book into my French literature and French composition classes, but there is a great deal of useful material concerning methods and approach to writing that I would like to provide to my students, one way or another.
Fallows uses a conversational tone to share a stirring range of helpful insights. He frames each chapter with objectives and takeaways while offering examples to highlight his points throughout the middle. There is no index or glossary. However,... read more
Fallows uses a conversational tone to share a stirring range of helpful insights. He frames each chapter with objectives and takeaways while offering examples to highlight his points throughout the middle. There is no index or glossary. However, while an index would be helpful, Fallows defines his central language (either directly or through example(s) or both), so I see the lack of a glossary as an opportunity for students to create their own glossaries. Depending on the type of class, student-created glossaries could be a wonderful way to increase comprehension and study for quizzes and exams; additionally, these glossaries might be employed by teachers to monitor which students read. The appropriateness of this text is dependent on the type of class. For example, I could see this text as wonderfully appropriate for the literature classes I teach, but, across the board, it falls short of the depth required for a composition class.
While Fallows is just one speaker representing one person’s views on subjects that can be interpreted and applied in many ways, there was nothing major about the content itself that weakened his authority in my eyes. His tone is relatable, and his insights are often more than sound. Still, a bit more concision and proofreading would advance his ethos.
Some examples are more timeless than others. The textual excerpts and models are timeless because students can review for themselves the techniques that Fallows highlights; in contrast, references may become outdated or prove too narrow for a wide audience, which is one of the most common difficulties for any text like this one. Still, Fallows selects references that are more universal than niche.
A relatable, flowing voice is one of the strengths of this textbook. At times, Fallows could clarifying terms and context in more detail, but, on the whole, he does this quite well. Additionally, this book is a better match for a lower-division course because the terminology and concepts can deepen from here.
Chapters are consistently presented and content builds on itself.
While there are a number of visual cues (like colored boxes) and a consistent use of headings, since the flow of the author's voice is one of the leading organizational tools, chapters may resist being broken into parts.
Easy to follow and reference.
Nothing about the interface confused this reader, but there are no images or charts, which might be nice additions.
While the text never becomes unreadable, punctuation and sentence clarity do cause some stumbles. As an instructor in an English department, I do not want to put a textbook in front of my students that does not model consistent and clean sentences at a level they should aim for.
Topics and language do not sway into the offensive, and the tone of the text is inclusive and friendly – inviting all readers to think and learn. However, the vast majority of examples represent Western cultural as embodied largely by its white (and predominantly male) members (Alfred Hitchcock, Vincent Van Gogh, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, and Tori Amos, just to name a few). Additionally, I wonder about the demographic nature of audiences for media like Office Space and Family Guy, but it is a daunting task to find media that has a true appeal for an enormous audience (perhaps a movie like Cloud Atlas would at least encourage students to consider at least some elements of diversity more directly). On the whole, this textbook could do more to appeal to the rich diversity of American students, the realities of our histories and its contributors, and our expanding global context.
This book provides a thorough, far-reaching introduction for students in various disciplines, at different stages of their academic careers; the discussions and gudelines contained in this work are specific enough to be helpful yet broad enough... read more
This book provides a thorough, far-reaching introduction for students in various disciplines, at different stages of their academic careers; the discussions and gudelines contained in this work are specific enough to be helpful yet broad enough for students to adapt them for their own purposes. The book does not contain an index or glossary, and I would have especially liked to see the former, especially as this is an electronic book. Perhaps a summarizing checklist of ideas, strategies, and terms used in the book (such as "assertion" and "working thesis") could be included in a glossary or appendix.
The content itself is largely accurate and clearly-presented. However, there are numerous formatting errors and typos that detract from the text. Spaces between words are missing, and some sentences appear twice (see, for instance, the text after the checklist on page 102). These are not especially egregious but, in the aggregate, they are distracting. Further, I think that, if we implore students to review, self-edit, and proofread their work (as this text rightly does), we need to be especially certain that our own work is free of such issues. On a much more minor note: in his extended discussion of the Wizard of Oz, the author repeatedly refers to the Good Witch as "Glenda," which is incorrect. Her name is "Glinda."
The discussions of analytical reasoning and writing are excellent, and I do not believe they will prove obsolute anytime soon. However, the author frequently cites popular culture references and ideas, and these do run the risk of becoming dated. For instance, today's students will likely be unfamiliar with the Coke and Pepsi slogans discussed on pages 35-36. I imagine that I'd have to explain to my students some of these examples and references.
This book is written in exceptionally lucid, cogent prose; the author avoids jargon and explains all other terminology, ideas, and theories he references. However, I found some of the end-of-chapter excercises to be too abstract and generalized, and, with their overweening focus on feelings and experiences, they veer too far from the realm of academic writing. If students cannot think of a relevant experience or topic from their own lives, they may just ignore the excercise entirely. I'd have liked to have seen excercises that present a particular idea or claim to be discussed so that students can jump right into the task at hand.
The text consistently employs terminology and a clear structure; this is an easy-to-follow text, with each chapter building upon the ideas contained in the previous chapter(s).
I could easily assign sections of this work, although the large size of each chapter, plus the multiiple sections in each chapter, make the chapters appear far more unwieldy than they actually are. The formatting (what appears to be 1 1/2 spaced text) and layout also creates the illusion of larger, bulky chapters; single spaced text would allow more compact, modular chapters and clear divides between sections and chapters.
The text's organization of ideas and topics should pose no problems for students, although, again, the layout and present size of each chapter impedes flow. Some of the examples could be condensed, too, in order to present a more cohesive, concise narrative structure. I'm not sure why the footnotes to cited sources appear at the end of a section, not the chapter as a whole. It's confusing and distracting.
See above comments regarding typos and formatting issues; the lack of an index and glossary; and layout. The book is not as user-friendly as I would have expected from an electronic book.
The text does not contain grammatical errors other than what I presume to be typying/formatting errors.
I do not find any examples or discussions to be offensive or exclusionary, although, as noted above, some of them are dated and will presumably become even more so. Students may not understand the references contained in the book.
In sum, this is a comprehensive, valuable text that demystifies analytical thinking and writing. I plan to assign this book--whether in whole or in part--in my undergraduate courses in history, where it will effectively complement history-specific writing guides and pedagogies. I am confident that the text will help students understand how to craft arguments, formulate assertations, and employ relevant details and examples.
The text was insufficiently comprehensive for me to adopt, although i am interested in seeing it in a future state, so that I can. There was no title page, Table of Contents, glossary, or hyperlinks to navigate readily through the document,... read more
The text was insufficiently comprehensive for me to adopt, although i am interested in seeing it in a future state, so that I can. There was no title page, Table of Contents, glossary, or hyperlinks to navigate readily through the document, which I would need for any text of this type that I would use for the classroom. The text too could use some (but NOT lots) of work of consistency. For example, one of my comments on page 3 is "It would be good to add the titles earlier when mentioning Chapters 1 and 2 above, and final chapter later in this paragraph "It would be good to add the titles earlier when mentioning Chapters 1 and 2 above, and final chapter later in this paragraph."
The content and organization are very strong. The author uses examples from various media, like books, films, popular culture. The grammatical and syntactical errors as well as plain problems that could be resolved with proofreading need attending to. As for proofreading one comment from page 2 is "earlier use of the singular reader and here the use of singular purpose and audience reflects a set of assumptions I try to avoid" and I noted on page 22 the typo of "Mary Shelly's Frankenstein" (it is Shelley). I am unable to adopt this book because it reflects the sufficiently high level of errors that I want my students to avoid. I would like the text to define its audience a bit more. One comment I wrote at the bottom of page 6 is that I have a "concern regarding grammatical skill of splitting infinitives which is often confusing for non-native speakers. Also see typo in last sentence of this page and later in paragraph."
I very much like the scope of this text and on page 4 wrote "I like this aim of two weeks." Following up on my comment above, the author refers to literary and visual works that have Western cultural endurance. The author also uses pedagogical techniques that will remain important, and he sufficiently shows their foundations.
Expanding upon a comment above, at the top of page 14, one comment was "limited-perspective cultural assumption, as is use of 'American' business paragraph." US universities have more and more international students and even native speakers would benefit from reading texts that model global rhetoric, so this text might benefit immensely from a few changes.The author might be willing to do so as the author does a great job illuminating biases in the pages 31-32 section.
The author's use of sub-titles and repeated sections at the end of chapters is excellent.
I answer this question by referring to page 6. One section that might be added to the beginning of each section or chapter might be tips that may seem obvious but are not, like reading the assignment, asking the instructor about use of formal or informal tone, active peer-reviewing. This could and should be done in brief because one of the very positive points of this text is its brevity.
The author did an excellent job organizing the text, and maintaining the brevity. No easy task.
This does seem relevant overall to this text. However, I did mention above that adding a ToC and glossary that could be linked onto so that it could jump to the appropriate section would be welcome.
There are some that seem due to lack of proofreading or sufficiently carefully editing.
Indeed, this book is not culturally insensitive or offensive, although i do not find it "global" -- not that it should be, but I repeat that the preface should address this more. The author might also add or modify the Exercise sections so that instructors and readers can benefit from the global representation they might have, without disaffecting or being unuseful to classrooms that do not have wide global representation
I am very interested in seeing this book revised/improved and would be willing to share my sticky-note marked chapter to provide more details. This text has great potential to be used by many instructors who teach liberal arts classes that do not have much time to focus on the kinds of matters that this text addresses, but could advise students to review it in brief and bring in completed Exercises to office hours electively or even as required assignments.
The text covers a number of areas of analytical writing comparable to many other for-sale textbooks. The areas into which the text is divided suggest tremendous usefulness, and I applaud the intent of the book to concentrate on analysis... read more
The text covers a number of areas of analytical writing comparable to many other for-sale textbooks. The areas into which the text is divided suggest tremendous usefulness, and I applaud the intent of the book to concentrate on analysis specifically, as that is an area that students in lower- and upper-division courses find especially difficult to perform with any kind of conscious methodology or understanding. They often resort to a kind dart-board approach in which they lob shots at "meaning" without necessarily appreciating the steps required to get to meaningful claims. Unfortunately, I found that, while this text provides a great deal of discourse on the subject and offers many models that could prove useful with the aid of--ironically?--further analysis in a classroom discussion or via exercises, the text lacks fundamental guidance and precision that would help students to replicate the process of analyzing texts, data, or other artifacts. For example, somewhere in the introduction or first few chapters, I would expect to see the term "analysis" explicitly defined, and perhaps discussed in terms of etymology, as understanding the definition and perhaps having some concrete examples of the concept in a variety of contexts would help students to better engage in actual analysis themselves. This text seems geared toward introductory, general composition courses. As such, it appears comparable to many other closed-source texts available and would function as a suitable replacement to many other fore-sale texts of its kind. The fact that it discusses analysis without attempting to provide catchy, current, or not-button readings/sample issues means instructors can supplement readings as they choose, and that flexibility may offset its lack of rigor or explicit, technical treatment of analysis.
There are a few typos--missing spaces, for example--and some usage errors (that/which confusion). In terms of the content, the text did not seem to me to be wrong so much as lacking in rigor.
The content seems general enough that it should not seem dated any time soon. The organization and simplicity of the objectives should make updates relatively simple to implement.
The book is simply written, aimed toward lower-division students, and seems largely free of technical terminology. Given the topic, however, I'm not sure that's a plus.
The book seems very consistent in content and layout.
The book is very well-organized in terms of modularity.
To my way of thinking, although the modules included do flow logically, the book seems to start a bit in medias res.
The layout and organization are simple in a pleasing, useful way, especially for reading via PDF/electronically.
The text contains some typos and a few imprecise usage errors (that/which, etc).
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.
I think this text would prove useful in introduction to composition courses--variants of English 101--more than in a designated critical thinking course or a course in reasoning and argumentation. The book seems most appropriate for those in search of a general composition textbook that would aid students in providing more detail in their essays.
The text primarily explores analysis of literary and cinematic texts but also, to a lesser extent, some discussion of other objects of analysis: personal, cultural or fictional events and personal or political decisions or policies. Some... read more
The text primarily explores analysis of literary and cinematic texts but also, to a lesser extent, some discussion of other objects of analysis: personal, cultural or fictional events and personal or political decisions or policies. Some discussion of close-reading techniques, the composition process, modes of development, finding and using sources and effective use of detailed evidence are included. The importance of prewriting/thinking to allow for depth of analysis is emphasized, and the text encourages research on the topic itself but also on the cultural context in order to explore significance. Analysis is carefully distinguished from other genres of writing such as review, summary, description or tangential response. Each chapter provides learning objectives, examples of student work, an exercise or exercises and key takeaways. No table of contents, index or glossary are provided. Ideally, instructors would assign this text or portions of it during the first two weeks of literature or film course.
Content is accurate and free of errors and demonstrates minimal theoretical or political bias.
Examples are drawn from classical and contemporary texts such as The Wizard of Oz, Office Space, Family Guy and The Tempest, making the concepts accessible to most readers, both faculty and students, but not necessarily immediately relevant to a young twenty-first century audience. No blogs, music videos or other online texts are discussed, and the most current musical reference involves Lennon and McCartney. Updating the discussion with more current examples would require some effort on the teacher's part.
Informal, conversational tone is likely to engage students. Minimal jargon appears in the prose, and ideas are clearly expressed. Some highly abstract content, such as the nature of significance or the distinction between assertion and interpretation, may prove difficult for students without the addition of concrete examples.
Content is theoretically and pedagogically consistent throughout.
Subsections are clearly marked, so content can be assigned in sections, but focus within sections is occasionally inconsistent (see below, #7). Much of the later portion of the text, especially the last chapter on FAQs--is self-referential, so using the content out of its published sequence could present some challenges.
Chapters and sections are numbered. Content could be more logically organized. Some subsections lack consistent focus and contain content that logically should be placed elsewhere. For example, an argument justifying the study of analysis appears at the end of the composition process section, a survey of the ubiquity of analytical thinking is placed in the section on close reading, and of brainstorming or clustering strategies are explained in the chapter on significance.
No particular problems with layout or display, but the text looks a little like a 1970s textbook: minimal graphic elements such as text boxes, diagrams or illustrations are provided.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
Examples are drawn from mostly dead white male authors such as Frank Baum, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, although a few examples from more contemporary white male authors such as Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) or Mike Judge (Office Space). The author tends to use his own writing and personal thoughts or experiences frequently throughout the text, limiting the appeal for some audiences.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Analysis for Multiple Perspectives
- Chapter 2: Setting the Stage for Writing
- Chapter 3: Developing Assertions: From a Close Reading of Examples
- Chapter 4: Explanations and Significance: Developing Your Analysis
- Chapter 5: The Analytical Essay: Expressing Your Points of View
About the Book
About the Contributors
Randall Fallows is a lecturer and writing two coordinator for the Department of Writing Programs at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds an M.A in Rhetoric and Composition from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California, San Diego. He has published articles on composition theory, popular culture, literature and philosophy in The Journal of Popular Culture, Rhetoric Review, The Journal of Popular Film and Television, American Drama, Americana, and contributed to the books Conversation: Theory and Practice, Taking South Park Seriously, and Americana: Readings in American Culture.
Since 1982, he has been teaching courses in writing, composition pedagogy, literature, and American Culture at SDSU, UCSD, and UCLA. He also spent two years teaching at ELTE University in Budapest, Hungary. When he’s not teaching or writing articles, he participates in both standup and improvisational comedy at various venues throughout Los Angeles, and likes to spend his summer traveling with his wife, Tamar Christensen.