Making the most of your Books: 3 Great Tips for the analysis process – by India Roberts
Making the Most of Your Books
3 Tips for the Analysis Process
by India Roberts
The academic year is beginning to dwindle and students en mass are preparing themselves for that last minute cramming session, frantically scrabbling for a dreaded dissertation topic. Whether you fit this description, or you just enjoy reading your chosen novels with an analytical, engaged mind and have an interest in literature, this article is for you. Let’s outline three processes that create a fail-safe formula to make sure you understand the intricacies of your book and make it work for you.
- IDENTIFY MAIN THEMES
The chances are you already know the central themes if you’ve read the blurb, it’s on a specific module, or was in a certain section of the bookshop. Even so, diving deeper into what subject matters the book tackles will be instrumental in writing about the book at a later date. There’s no feeling worse than being sat in an exam room, or in book club, and rifling through the filing cabinets lining your brain for the right book to talk about and instead, finding dust and moth balls. Making sure you have each book categorised into the themes you’ll tackle can save lots of time when scrambling for the information you know you have. If you want to take your organisation levels even higher (top of the beanstalk heights), create an index page in the front of a notebook correlating which books go with which themes. By doing this, you’ll know with just one glance which books you can weave together to create a compelling essay or blog post.
- MAP THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
Aside from the journey the narrative takes you on, you also need to identify what journey it takes the characters on. Understanding the development of the characters will often lend you a more in-depth knowledge of the story as a whole, and increased understanding means a higher quality essay or blog post – a bonus whether you’re a student or not. To identify the catalyst of this development, pinpoint where in the story you felt the change happen. By ‘the change’, I mean where you found yourself in a page-flipping-frenzy, your coffee long forgotten and the library lonesome around you. This is often the most important section in the novel and the climax in the story, often stimulating a change in the characters. Realising this change, why it happened and the ramifications will be pivotal for you to be able to engage with the book as well as write about it with confidence.
- CONTINUOUS ANNOTATION
This, admittedly, is much easier said than done. When I’m captivated by a story and in the reading zone, I’m not thinking about tiny sticky tabs to decorate my book with. Nevertheless, annotating as you go is a guaranteed method of making sure the important elements of the book are marked. It also makes the process of mining for quotes a lot easier later on. The annotating part itself is simple – just make a note of lines or sections that you think may be central to the plot and characters, and relate to the themes you’ve identified. This doesn’t just have to be student specific – I know plenty of people who occasionally make a note in their margins or take pictures of paragraphs to remember them. I myself, am partial to turning down the corner of the page when I find a line too wrenching to lose. If you’re inclined, annotating on the second read through can be more effective but reading a book twice isn’t always attainable and so continuous annotation is the easiest way of gaining the same results.
Are there other processes you go through to make the most of a book? Let us know if these tips were helpful for you, and if you’ll use them in future.
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