Students often comfortable discussing fiction texts, but come unstuck when dealing with prose non-fiction. In this Guide article, we're going to help you get to grips with analysing prose non-fiction with clear explanations of different types of texts and the practical approaches to analysing them.
Prose non-fiction texts might sound hard to analyse, but it really isn’t! In this article, we’ll walk you through different types of non-fiction – their purpose and unique features. Then we’ll give you a guide for how to analyse prose non-fiction in Year 10.
Non-fiction texts are texts that are based on facts and reality as opposed to imagination.
When someone says non-fiction, people assume that it is always 100% true. However, non-fiction texts are often based on opinions and unsupported facts.
Non-fiction texts may try to persuade of things without these things being true or supported by evidence.
Essays are pieces of writing that focus on a particular argument, theme or subject.
Speeches also do this. However, they are spoken to an audience, instead of being read. So, speeches are much more simplified and employ different structures and features to make them more interesting.
In Year 10, you are expected to analyse prose non-fiction texts, including essays and speeches. But why?
Citing is essentially giving credit for the ideas used in a text, instead of looking at the way the text’s form and content creates meaning.
When we analyse essays and speeches and other prose non-fiction texts, we are reverse-engineering how the composer uses the form (structure, features unique to form etc.) and content (techniques, examples, evidence, etc.) to create a compelling argument.
This requires you to look deeply into a text and take context and audience into consideration as opposed to just reading and comprehending (which is what you do when you merely cite texts).
In Year 10 English, you may be expected to analyse a range of prose non-fiction texts.
Here is a list of the different text types that you may come across, what they are, and how to analyse them:
As we’ve discussed, essays are a form of prose writing that discusses a certain topic, subject or present an argument.
however, there are many different types of essays that you may need to analyse in Year 10. Let’s see what a few of them are:
When you analyse essays, you need to look at:
Some examples of essays are:
Speeches are spoken addresses that aim to convince, inform, or entertain an audience.
They have existed in society for a very, very long time – since one early human was trying to convince another to go hunting or move camp. We have records of famous speeches going back thousands of years… even dating back to around 326BC with this speech by Alexander the Great.
In Year 10 English, you may be expected to know how to analyse different types of speeches. Let’s have a look at a few of them:
Remember, speeches might fall under the banner of prose non-fiction texts, but they have their own set of unique features you need to look for:
When you think of presentations, the first image that comes to mind is a business person in a meeting, speaking to their coworkers with a powerpoint behind their back.
This is true. However, it is important that you realise that presentations are NOT speeches.
Presentations are oral talks to smaller audiences. They are often more interactive than speeches and rely on visuals to support their message.
The purpose of a presentation is to present information and/or convince the audience to do something. Think of the sales pitch.
When you analyse a presentation, you can’t just focus on the words… you need to consider and unpack the VISUAL ELEMENTSS.
Here is a list of some features you should pay attention to:
TED Talks are short talks (less than 18 minutes) produced by TED, a non-profit organisation who aim to share ideas.
Basically, these talks cover a range of topics like technology, science, personal growth and so much more.
People listen to TED Talks because it informs them about particular subjects, learn useful life lessons, broaden their perspective and attitude and be inspired.
When analysing TED Talks, you should look out for the same techniques as speeches and presentations. However, you should also take note of the way the speaker talks:
Obviously, you can use some of these techniques to analyse the other forms of non-fiction texts if it applies too.
Vlogs are basically blog entries made through videos.
You may have come across things like “A Day in My Life” or “My Trip to Hawaii” on YouTube. These are vlogs.
People make vlogs to inform others of their thoughts, personal lives, food, travel or basically anything else. Think of it as a diary or journal but in video form.
When you analyse vlogs, you have to consider:
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Prose non-fiction texts aren’t the same as fictional texts. So, obviously, there are features unique to non-fiction texts that you need to look at when you are analysing it.
Argumentation – also known as the argumentation theory – looks at the way humans communicate with each other through logical reasoning.
In terms of analysing prose non-fiction texts, argumentation is the way the composer develops their argument to make it sound convincing.
The Toulmin Model of Argument recognises that good, realistic, and persuasive arguments consist of 6 components:
The claim, ground and warrant are required to create a persuasive argument. However backing, rebuttal and qualifier are not always needed.
When you analyse prose non-fiction texts in Year 10, you should look out for these points to evaluate the text. It will help you bring your analysis to the next level because you are looking at the effectiveness of the text and how it’s written.
When we analyse prose non-fiction texts, it is easy to overlook the structure of the text.
However, it is crucial that you don’t do this.
The structure of any text helps the composer develop their message and convey its importance.
When you look at prose non-fiction texts, you will find that they always have a logical progression of arguments. This structure creates a persuasive argument.
You might think that prose non-fiction texts like biographies or autobiographies are just a series of life experiences. However, they are all based on a narrative structure. This makes the text more interesting and captivating to read compared to a series of experiences and facts. Usually, they follow the structure:
These are just some structures that are used in prose non-fiction texts. You should make yourself familiar with these different structures.
To write a convincing piece of writing, you need to use evidence. Evidence is PROOF that your argument is valid.
This includes data, statistics, examples, analogies, techniques, studies etc.
Remember, without evidence, lawyers cannot build a case.
So, when you analyse prose non-fiction texts, you need to look at the evidence used and see how it helps the composer convey their message.
To do this, you need to determine if it is:
Rhetoric refers to the ‘art of persuasion‘. It is basically a set of linguistic techniques that make your argument sound more persuasive.
Humans have developed rhetorical skills and devices over thousands of years, long before written arguments existed.
Here is a list of some rhetorical devices.
|Logos||Using logic (facts, statistics and data…) to convince an audience of your argument.||According to the Cancer Council, nearly 1/3 of Australians have skin cancer.|
|Pathos||Appealing to the audience’s emotions to convince them of your argument. Usually by using figurative language like emotive language, high modality, metaphors etc.||We are all humans. It is time we start acting like it.|
|Ethos||Showing authority or credibility to convince an audience of your argument. Usually by stating your status, experience etc.||Noel Pearson establishes that he is an Indigenous Australian before he talks about the changes needed to establish Indigenous Australian rights.|
|Alliteration||Repetition of the first letter/sound of words||Corrine couldn’t carry the carrots anymore.|
|Anaphora||Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of the sentence.||“We brought the alcohol. We brought the guns. We brought the diseases. ” – Paul Keating|
|Emotive Language||Words that are deliberately chosen because of their ability to evoke an emotional reaction from the audience.||From “The boy was killed” to “The young and innocent boy was killed in cold blood”|
|High Modal words||Words that show high certainty.||Must, will, it is, need to…|
|Pronouns||Words that replaces a noun in a sentence.||He, she, we, I, our, it, they…|
|Repetition||Repeating a word or phrase.||Go, go go!|
Figurative devices are another type of persuasive techniques that is used to create a more vivid image of something. It usually adds depth to the meaning of the subject.
Remember, figurative devices are just as important as rhetorical devices in prose non-fiction texts. When you are analysing them, make sure you have a balance between both devices.
Here are some examples of figurative language:
|Hyperbole||An exaggeration||Yesterday was scorching hot. I nearly died.|
|Idiom||A commonly used phrase which has abstract meaning.||‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ means that you shouldn’t be judging people or things based on their appearances.|
|Metaphor||A comparison that says that one thing is the same as the other.||The blanket of stars…|
|Motif||A recurring image, symbol or icon throughout a text.||Anwar Sadat uses the motif of God in his address to the Israeli Knesset.|
|Oxymoron||A pair of words that contradict each other but are put together.||Bitter sweet, terrifyingly beautiful, living death|
|Personification||Saying than an object or non-living subject has human features||Death crawled up on Mrs Greenway.|
|Simile||Saying that something is LIKE another thing.||Your cheeks are as red as an apple.|
|Symbolism||When an object represents more complex ideas.||In William Deane’s speech, the golden wattle symbolises Australian identity.|
Some prose non-fiction texts come in a video format. This means that you not only need to analyse rhetorical and figurative devices, but also filmic techniques.
Let’s take a look at some filmic techniques:
|Close up shots||When the camera is positioned very close to the subject. It makes a more intimate feel.|
|Cuts||An edit between shots||If you want to watch a video about different cuts and transitions…|
|Diegetic sounds||Sounds that come from the movie world.||If you hear footsteps and see the character walking in sync with the sounds… that is an example of diegetic sounds.|
|Extreme close-up shot||Camera is positioned so close to the subject that it only focuses on one specific aspect.|
|Facial expressions||Looks at what emotion is represented on the face.|
|Foreground / Background||Foreground refers to what is placed at the front of the image and background is what is in the back. Usually, the placement of objects indicate their significance.|
|Gaze||The direction that the subject is looking at. This can be directly at the audience, or something within the visual text.|
|High-angle shot||When the camera is placed higher than the subject, and looks down on them. It usually makes the subject look inferior.|
|Lighting||Refers to how illuminated the image is. It can be bright lighting, dim lighting or even a filtered lighting.|
|Low-angle shot||When the camera is placed below the subject and looks up at them. It often makes the subject seem superior.|
|Non-diegetic sounds||Sounds that aren’t part of the movie world, but is used to enhance what is happening on screen.||When you hear a music soundtrack but you don’t realise it’s source in the movie world, then it is a non-diegetic sound.|
|Pan||When the camera swings on a horizontal or vertical plane||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBL6vu9NQtw|
This is an example of a panning shot
|Tracking shot||When the camera moves and follows a character or object.||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLuEskAhRGE|
Here are some examples of tracking shots.
|Voice over||A narrator speaks, but we cannot see them talking on screen.||Think of all the movies when you hear the character’s thought or God narrating the story.|
In our Year 9 article, How to Analyse Prose Non-Fiction Texts, we went through the strategies for analysing non-fiction texts as well as a step-by-step analysis with an example. We will quickly go through it now, but CLICK HERE if you want to see it in detail.
Reading prose non-fiction texts can sometimes be difficult, let alone analyse them. But it doesn’t have to be! Use these tips to make analysing these texts a lot easier:
Matrix students are so adept at this because they learn to follow a process for analysis.
What you should do:
Here you need to:
Non-fiction texts also exist in digital form. Websites and multimedia texts are important parts of our day-to-day existence and their prevalence is increasing.
In the next article, we give you an overview of a variety of digital texts, their purpose, and features before providing you with a process to analyse them.
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