Analysis versus Summary
When asked to analyze a document, we don't always know what to do. Faced with an assignment that calls for analysis of a topic—say, how the Civil War ended slavery—one might be tempted to simply restate facts. That is summarizing.
Analysis, on the other hand, requires more than simply paraphrasing what a source says or reciting some data: it means examining the facts and reaching your own conclusions regarding the subject. What is the writer trying to say? What does it mean? Is it convincing? Analysis is breaking down the parts to see how they fit and presenting your own synthesis.
Readers especially love seeing analysis in thesis statements and topic sentences because analysis equals your own ideas.
A good test for whether you are analyzing or summarizing is to ask whether anyone (other than a conspiracy theorist) could argue with your statement:
- The 1964 Civil Rights Act legally ended employment discrimination. (Summary: a matter of historical record.)
- Though the 1964 Civil Rights Act legally ended employment discrimination, the battle for equal employment opportunity in the United States remains incomplete almost 60 years later. (Analysis: it calls for additional explanation and evidence.)
There is a difference between quantitative and qualitative analysis, but, in both, you express how the facts or data and your ideas interact.
Analysis and Summary Links