Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reporting says what something is; analysis says WHY it is. Photo by W. Weller.

One of the major differences between any high school subject and a college subject is that you are expected to actually apply your knowledge. In the case of English, this means analyzing topics rather than just reporting on them. This is a huge difference and one that takes many students a long time to grasp.

An example of what I mean by this difference can be shown through a discussion about a new car. A high school student might say, “Man, this car is really cool. It’s bright red and can go 120 mph and has a neat sound.” That’s all they might have to say.

Someone familiar with analysis, however, might start off, “BMW’s new X car starts up with a throaty roar which soon turns into the ear-splitting whine of a supersonic jet taking off as the all-new 16 cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder kicks into gear as the all-wheel drive hugs the road when most cars would be airborne at 120 mph. An advanced space-age metallic treatment over the car’s all-aluminum skin brings new definition to the meaning of red.”

You will note that both paragraphs cover the same set of facts, but the 2nd version tells you what those facts mean. 

This is the difference between reporting and analysis – anyone can look up information and report it back practically verbatim, but it takes real skill to break that information down into its component parts and say how those parts fit back together to provide meaning to the information being presented.

You will see that there is not much detail in the first version, but the second version has tons of detail, which provides the meaning that was absent in the first version.

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