GUIDELINES AND DETAILS
"Thematic Analysis" papers use one field of study or knowledge as a "lens" to
understand some aspect of a particular essay, story, play, etc.
For example, to better relate to and understand the play,
we might think about the ways the issues Hamlet is faced with seem to
imply what we now call family "dysfunction." Or we could examine how
Hamlet's behavior, as the play presents it, might suggest something like bipolar
disorder. Or from an historical perspective, how the personal lives of
government leaders affect historical events. Or from a criminology
approach, a writer might focus on how evidence in the play suggests what happened to Hamlet's
father. A title for a psychological approach might be: Hamlet: Some
Results of Family Dysfunction (uses psychology to understand this story).
Or to understand an aspect of Native American culture, a title for a paper dealing with a certain traditional story could be: Pueblo Creation Myth: A Map for Human Social Organization
examine the meaning and "application" of this myth).
Such traditional accounts can also be seen as examples of philosophy, theology, or other fields of study. We can also "approach"
the understanding of a text (story, book, play, essay, etc.) by analyzing some internal
artistic, stylistic, literary or symbolic aspects of the piece itself which is called the
Some other approaches, or "lenses" might be: biographical, how the author's own life is reflected in the work, archetypal how certain "universal" symbols (the Father, the Healer, etc.) guide the work, the feminist, how
the role of women affects the work, and virtually any topic or field of
study that a student feels is central to the work, can be used. List
of fields of study
Here is a short
of an Hour" and an
approach analysis peer reviewed paper about
it that illustrates this kind of paper. Though it is a bit longer than
a paper for this class, it clearly shows how to view the key ideas and
events in this story from a specific perspective, or "lens," in this
case the psychological quality of "emotion."
These papers should amount to about 4-5 pages
(depending on the class & particular assignment on the syllabus) following the general MLA format guidelines.
Papers should include a 2-part title (topic and position using a colon to join the parts)
and use standard (parenthetical) current MLA documentation style.
Each paper should credit information from the writing under consideration, from at least
3-5 separate PEER REVIEWED sources and have a balance of summary, paraphrase and personal
comment. Direct quotations should not constitute more than 10-15% of the
total word count.
material in the Works Cited should include the writing being studied AND peer reviewed
articles from online data bases and print publications.
Steps to produce this paper:
- Read or
reread the text you choose until you have an understanding of it.
Story Chart and
find your personal thinking and ideas about the story or essay.
(Topic Exp. part 6 and #4 in story chart) of the story. The meaning
that you identify,
may be the element that stands out most (for you) in a story or essay.
A theme/meaning will usually fall under
one of the disciplines/fields of study:
of fields of study. So, a theme of "honesty"
might be explored through the study/field of philosophy and what it
"says" about being honest. A theme of "loss/grief" might be explored
through psychology; "revenge" through theology, philosophy, etc.,
self-knowledge through psychology, stealing/murder >criminology, a
child's behavior>child development, etc.
Do a brief
investigation of the
field of study. Find what that field is concerned
with--what it actually studies. Example: Just
Google, "What does psychology study?"
List all the qualities/elements of the story that seem to relate to
that field of study.
Using all the pre-writing material,
make notes that sketch out a
general layout of the paper:
1. intro. and thesis. A working thesis
should link the story to the field of study (Example: "Hamlet
faces family problems of dysfunction and dishonesty.")
2. Write 3-5 reasons for that claim
and make notes about how the sources can support them.
3. Write notes for a conclusion that
re-explains your thinking and restates the thesis.
Begin writing in sentences and paragraphs, what you think about the
story and how it is part of the field of study you chose. Add
paragraphs for each reason and the evidence to support it.
careful not to RE-TELL the story. Add only the parts of the story
that connect to your thesis and field of study, as the story reveals
those connections for you.
Please use clear, accurate word
choice, complete and correct sentences--of course.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THIS KIND OF PAPER:
Organization of this kind of MLA paper could be:
- 2-part thematic title, then under that:
(saying/aphorism, quote, etc. that relates to your thesis).
might start with a paragraph like the opening one in
Emotions in Story of an Hour
- identification of writing to be
analyzed and very brief comment about the point/idea of the writing.
Example: In Annie Dillard's essay "Lenses"
she explores a function of human memory of .
- definitions of key terms, field of
study and how it relates to your understanding of the writing.
Example: Memory is usually studied by the
field of psychology because memory affects many aspects of human
- your thesis sentence (underlined) expressing
your topic and position/claim about what you are analyzing.
Annie Dillard uses the essay "Lenses"
to explore how memory can change a person's understanding of an
explain the thesis--each reason gets one ¶ (or more):
reasons for thesis, each ¶, with cited sources
and explanation to support.
- III. Conclusion-1-2 ¶s:
- restates the idea in the thesis, key
reasoning and maybe reference to title, epigraph and "larger" value.
- Works Cited = lists all publishing information of sources
used in the paper including definitions and the writing being analyzed.
Sample of a general MLA paper with Works Cited
possibilities are really endless; the task is to get into--engage--the
text in thoughtful, critical investigation. This is a process of
discovery, so being open to how your thinking develops is very
important. Game on.