Five Levels of Analytical Thought

1. What is it?  Analysis begins by defining the topic in terms of its parts and its relationship to other similar topics.  This requires familiar sub-skills sometimes taught separately, like description, comparison and contrast, and illustration with specific examples.

2.  How does it work? Then, analysis attempts to explain how the topic "operates" because the world is a dynamic place: all things are products of processes, and those things also can become agents that probably will produce other things (implied consequences).

3.  How well does it work?  Once one understands how the topic came to be, and what the topic itself can cause, one must evaluate those processes based upon some rule for judgment that you must persuade your reader is relevant to the topic.  For instance, are those things/processes efficient, pleasing, just, profitable, beautiful, moral, etc.?    

4.  What should/should not be done and why?  This evaluation leads one to persuasive argument, to control what those processes should be by maintaining or changing the processes, usually in order to avoid harms or to obtain benefits

5.  How do we know?  Finally, a thorough analysis leads us back to redefine the topic at a higher level (called "epistemic"): how do we know what it is, how it works, or what it should be?  On what principles do  we base our analyses, evaluations, and prescriptions?  Are those methods and principles good enough, or should we change them?

     Good 104 papers will progress at least through the first two stages in the first draft.  The keys to doing excellent work are evaluation (3), prescription (4), and epistemic re‑definition (5).  That is, once you know how your topic works, ask yourself if that process is as good as it could be, could you justify maintaining or changing it, and would that justification lead you to see it more completely than before?