By Luna Laliberte - SAS & SCI 2021
We’ve all been there. We open our readings, thesis in mind, sharp and focused and ready to get to writing. We copy over our quote to our document, typing fast, riding the high of a strong introduction. We enter that ending quotation.
What comes next? What do you write after a quote? Should you explain the quote again and then analyze it? Wait, how were you going to analyze it again? You remember your thesis, you remember your argument, but you just can’t word it. You don’t know how to saywhat you want to write. How can you ever finish this paper if you can’t analyze a single quote?
No need to fear, the Rutgers Writing Centers are here! With these 5 easy steps, you’ll be churning out quote analysis faster than your papers are assigned. It’ll take some practice, and it’s best to try it out with a friendly Writing Center tutor by your side, but no matter how you go about it, following these five simple steps is sure to guide you to a page full of quote analysis for your body paragraph.
Step 1: Rewrite the quote. Seriously, take a piece of paper, and write it down. If you find it’s longer than three lines and may be hard to write down in full, then consider being judicious about what exactly you quote (employ the trusty [...] ellipses method). Take the time to grab a pencil, some paper, and write down each word. This study shows that people can remember lists of vocabulary words better when writing them down by hand; another study shows that taking notes by paper helps with information recall when typing them, and yet another study shows that students taking lecture notes by hand tend to perform better on tests than students who take notes on their computer. Rewriting this quote will help you familiarize yourself with the writing, and move it onto a medium you can directly manipulate to however you see fit.
Step 2: Underline the key terms. This strategy will help you to actually identify the key terms in the first place. Look for words you don’t know, or words you do know that tend to hold lots of connotative meaning. Look for words that the author uses frequently, or that the author invented or repurposed. Those are the words you want to underline. Write those below the quote, giving each term one line in between the other.
Step 3: Paraphrase and define the key terms. Write briefly about what the word means to you when removed from the quote and the context of your reading. Just think about that term all by itself. What does it usually mean? How would you use it in a sentence? Write those down next to the word. Then, think about the connotations of the word.
A connotation is the meaning of the word behind the definition. It’s the feeling or idea evoked by the word. For example: Jennifer floated through the house like a ghost, distraught with grief. Think about the word ghost here. It may be that Jennifer is literally a ghost, a spirit floating around in an abandoned house. But, it may also be that Jennifer is alive, and so upset about losing her husband that she is likea ghost, pale and solemn and barely present in anything else. She is ghostly because she feels transparent to the others living with her. Jot down the connotative meanings of each word as notes. These connotations will help you better understand what these words mean in the context of the quote.
Step 4: Connect each term together. Below your notes, write one key term, the plus symbol, another key term, and then write about how the meaning of each word changes in context to each other. Think about the definitive meanings and the connotative meanings. Do this for every term you underlined. This will help you think about how these words change together, and about why the author used them. Draw a star next to or highlight anything you really want to remember or feel proud of.
Step 5: Connect the terms to the quote. Put together all of the connotative and definitive meanings that you’ve extracted from the key terms, and think about them in the context of the quote.
Why does the author say so and so about this? What can it mean when these words are used together to say that? Think about what the author is conveying here. Think about the main idea you, as a reader, are supposed to get from this quote. You can move from here to write about this quote in the context of your thesis. How does this defend or contradict your argument? What main idea is conveyed that also applies to your thesis? By now, you should be so familiar with the quote that you can make these intellectual leaps with the analysis necessary to support your findings.
Phew. That felt like a lot, right? But guess what? You’ve just analyzed a quote! With pen and paper, a five-step process, and a hefty amount of determination, you have taken this quote apart in every sense possible. Quote analysis is all about practice, so make sure to continue using this process. The more you use it, the easier it will be to do it in the first place. Soon enough, you’ll get so good at it that you can skip right to the fifth step!
*Credit goes to the writing tutor who first taught me this and saved me from a miserable time analyzing
quotes without it.
*Pictures are examples of the process with a quote I used in my own class.