Contextual Analysis: Its Definition, Goals, and Methods

Contextual analysis is a method of studying text and its cultural, social, or political context. It is often used by historians, art critics, or sociologists.

Probably, you have already worked on assignments that contained elements of contextual analysis. Here are tips and suggestions that will help you in the long term.

Contextual Analysis: Avoiding Misunderstanding

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Many students believe that contextual analysis can be used only for studying literary works like novels, short stories, essays, and so forth. Yet, this view is not quite right. The thing is that this method can be applied to various media, including videos, animations, banners, posters, historical documents, and in some cases, even paintings. Almost everything that contains text can be analyzed in this way.

Contextual Analysis: Getting Started

In order to do a contextual analysis of art works or historical documents, you should first answer several important questions about a specific text. In particular, one should focus on social, cultural, political, or even economic factors that could have influenced the writer. The analysis of contextual setting has to be of the greatest importance for the student. You need to consider the following questions:

  1. When was the text written?
  2. Who wrote the text? What kind of views did the author advocate?
  3. What are political, cultural or social factors that could have affected the author?
  4. What kind of audience does this person try to reach?
  5. What kind of reaction does the writer expect from the audience?
  6. Was this text a response to a particular event or a social phenomenon?
  7. Does the text prompt readers to a certain action?

Contextual Analysis: Focusing on the Text

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While studying any text, students should pay attention to the specific devices that help the author express the main ideas and arguments. You can take a look at this template that will help you analyze various texts:

  • The arguments that the author puts forward;
  • The emotions to which the text appeals;
  • The style of the author;
  • Expressive means that he or she uses;
  • The structure of the text;
  • The arguments and ideas that the writer chose to omit;
  • Other texts to which the author could refer.

Contextual Analysis: Concluding Remarks

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If you use the above template you will see that this type of analysis is not as scary as it seems, but remember that practice is the key to understanding this method. Besides, there are various contextual analysis examples available online, and they can be of great use to you. So, good luck to you.

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