How can I analyse a quote using close reading?

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It is important to use quotations as evidence in your essay, but you also need to use them in a way that effectively backs up your argument, rather than simply inserting them after a statement. A good way to add to your explanation is through close reading, in which you examine and analyse the quote in detail. Here are a few points to consider when close reading.

First impression: To begin with, think about your immediate response to the quotation you’ve chosen – what are the first things that stand out about it? What is its overall effect? Why is it significant?

Language: Look at the language used, focusing on individual words. What kind of imagery do they create? Do any words have particular connotations? Do any allow for contrasting interpretations – and if so, which reading do you think is correct? Make a note of any devices that are used: e.g. metaphor or simile, alliteration, rhyme, repetition etc. What effect are these used to create?

Structure: Does the word order affect your response, and how? You can also look at the length of the sentence and the way punctuation is used. For example, a very short sentence might be used for dramatic effect. Or, in a long sentence, a crucial piece of information might be withheld until the end of a sentence, creating suspense as the reader waits to find it out.

Link to the question: Keep in mind that this should all be relevant to the essay you are writing. You should avoid just listing what’s there, and instead talk about the way it affects the rest of the text, how it relates to the context, and how it supports your argument. Looking closely at a small quote is a useful way to illustrate your points, but remember to answer the question, and link your close reading to your response.

Melissa T. GCSE English tutor, A Level English tutor

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is an online A Level English tutor with MyTutor studying at Bristol University

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