Related Texts For Belonging Analysis Essay

Introduction to Textual Analysis

Do you know how to read English texts for textual analysis? Reading a text is an essential part of studying English. Obviously, you can’t write essays without reading and analysing your texts. But where should you start with textual analysis?

In this Part of our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English, we will give you a thorough explanation of textual analysis and how to read your texts and walk you through a step-by-step process for creating flawless and insightful notes.

Why do so many students find textual analysis difficult?

You, like many students, might feel that textual analysis sounds ominously overwhelming, broad, and vague. But it shouldn’t be. Why?

There is a process for reading and analysing your English texts.

It’s mainly due to students not adopting the right process for reading and analysing English texts. Consequently, many students experience the following problems:

  • Failing to engage with their texts;
  • Struggling to produce adequate and useable notes, and
  • Difficulty writing essays that respond to the Stage 6 Outcomes or the Module requirements because they haven’t “read” their texts in the most effective manner.

What is “reading” and what are “texts”?

When we discuss “reading” we mean the process of engaging with a text. This can include viewing a film or reading novel or looking at a picture. As we engage with it, we try to understand the meaning it contains. This is a process of analysis that we generally refer to as “reading.”

Keeping thorough and accessible study notes is a very important part of reading a text. After you have read the text, you need to note down your findings. You will use these notes as the basis for your responses. Does this sound familiar?

The process of making and keeping notes for English is similar to noting down the results of an experiment.

Similarly, when we speak of “texts” for English, we mean a wide variety of text types (what NESA sometimes refers to as the medium of production) including (but not limited to): novels, novellas, non-fiction writing, short stories, graphic novels, comics, images, plays, poems, films, television series, and websites. Each text type will require a particular approach to reading it, as things like plot, characters, and ideas are rendered differently in different mediums of production.

What is the process I should use for reading and analysing English texts?

The process of reading and analysing texts is something that often gets taken for granted in the school classroom. You need to read, or view, your texts in order to understand them. Then you have to translate your reading into critical analysis of the texts’ meaning. Then you need to collate this insightful analysis into practical and effective notes.

At Matrix, we teach our students the following process:

  • Step 1: Reading or Viewing a Text for Themes and Ideas
  • Step 2: Making Notes
  • Step 3: Identifying Ideas / Themes
  • Step 4: Identifying Examples and Techniques
  • Step 5: Tabulate Your Notes

Let’s discuss each step of the process in detail.

The Process for Textual Analysis

Step 1: Reading or Viewing a Text for Themes and Ideas

Reading a text for study is a multi-step process. To extract the most information out of a text in the shortest amount of time, students should follow a logical process. Let’s take a look at the process involved:

Flowchart: How to Read or View Your Text


This process is used in our Matrix Textual Analysis Planner.

So, what does this entail? Let’s have a look at the specifics of reading a text:

1. Read the text for the first time – This may mean reading the book or watching the film set for study. The first time you engage with a text should be to enjoy it and understand what is happening in it. You want to understand what the plot is about and who the characters are.

2. Write down your initial observations and feelings about the text – Jot down whether you liked the text. Note down what you think it is about and how it relates to your Module.

Don’t worry if your annotations get messy.

3. Read the text a second time – This is when you should begin making notes. Underline and highlight important sentences and phrases in poems, plays, non-fiction texts, and novels. Make notes about scenes in films. This step is very important because it is where you start unpicking how the composer has developed meaning.

4. Make notes – Now you’ve read the text twice, you should be able to start identifying the themes in the text.

The notes you make are very important, you’ll use these to write your essays and responses.

Write down answers to the following questions:

  • What are the prominent ideas in the text? – These are your key themes.
  • Who are the significant characters?
  • What are their roles?
  • What are their characteristics?
  • How do these characters embody the ideas in the text?
  • What are the characters’ narrative arcs?
  • How are the characters’ experiences resolved or concluded? – Analysing a character’s development in a text will help you understand a composer’s perspective on a theme.

5. Read the text a third time – This reading is where you develop your understanding of the text. You must go through the text looking for where an idea is best represented. While you may have underlined or highlighted large swathe of your text on the second reading, the third reading is where you will be able to see what is really relevant to your study of the text. When you find an example that conveys the detailed meaning that is relevant to your study of the text, you should write it down and make note of the technique.

What if my text isn’t a film or novel?
Some text types may require a slightly different approach.
Do you need specific help with analysing poetry?
You should read our blog post, How To Analyse A Poem In 6 Steps!

Has reading Shakespeare left you stumped?
You should read our step-by-step blog post on How to Analyse Shakespeare.

Step 2: Making Notes

Now that we’ve discussed reading texts, we need to look at making notes. A student’s notes will develop with each successive reading of the text. For example,

  • 1st Reading – A broad understanding of the text – its plot, characters, and setting;
  • 2nd Reading – A developing understanding of its core ideas, an understanding of character development, lots of examples underlined or highlighted in your texts or detailed notes of visual texts;
  • 3rd Reading – Detailed notes about ideas. Each one of these central ideas is a theme. You want to organise the examples from your texts around these themes. When you do your 3rd reading, you should note how specific examples from your text reflect its central ideas. You must make notes as you go,  as you want to keep track of the insights you have while engaging in analysis.We’ve looked at how to read and how to start organising your ideas and examples. But sometimes it is difficult to know what ideas are worthwhile. Similarly, it can be difficult figuring out which example is worth utilising and incorporating into your notes.

Let’s have a look at how to spot the key ideas in a text.

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Step 3: Identifying Ideas / Themes

Understanding the plot and following what happens to the characters in the text is one thing, but understanding the ideas that these convey is an altogether different one.

When we refer to “themes” we really mean the key ideas in the text.

Often we refer to ideas as themes because they are common to a number of texts, but also whole genres or selections of art and literature. Knowing the genre of the text you are studying will give you hints as to what sort of themes you should look for. For example, a Gothic text will have themes of death, decay, and secrets. Even if you know roughly what themes will be in a text, you still need to identify them.

Here are some practical approaches you can take:

1. Consider the plot – Ask yourself what the key ideas in the plot are. For example, is it about two people who are in love? Then love is a theme.
Does the plot involve people trying to find things? Discovery is a theme.
Do characters have trouble knowing if they are being told the truth or manipulated? The rift between appearance and reality is a theme.

2. Look at the characters’ positive and negative qualities – The characters’ flaws are often the substance of the ideas the composer is trying to convey. We can look to a characters’ narrative arc to see what ideas are in a text.
For example, In Othello, the main characters are very proud and jealous. Pride and jealousy are key ideas in the play. We see these qualities reflected in the characteristics of other characters in the play, too.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character, Winston, and his lover, Julia rebel against the government. We can say resistance is a key idea in the text.

3. Look for recurring symbols in the text – A recurring symbol, or motif, can embody a key idea in a text.

For example, In Black Swan, Nina’s character has to perform the roles of the Black and White Swan from Swan Lake. She has to be two opposing characters – pure and innocent and powerful and provocative – at the same time. We can say that dualism is a key theme in the text.

Image: Aronofksy’s Nina as the White Swan looks vulnerable and uncertain

Image: Aronofksy’s Nina as the Black Swan looks confident and predatory

Similarly, In The Great Gatsby, many characters are bad drivers. This is symbolic of how out of control society is. We can say that personal responsibility is a key theme.

4. Consider the ideas that are explicitly stated in a text – Sometimes composers are very direct with the ideas they feel are important in a text. They might discuss these ideas at length in the text – either directly or in the conversations that characters have. For example,

  • In the Handmaid’s Tale, Offred speaks explicitly about her name and the character she has to play in Gilead. This means that identity is a key theme in the text.
  • In The Motorcycle Diaries, Che writes at length about the divide between rich and poor and how he perceives this as being unfair. He is discussing the theme of class difference.

Now that we’ve identified some themes, we need to think about gathering evidence. Let’s look at some strategies for identifying evidence.

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Step 4: Identifying Examples and Techniques

Essays for Stage 6 must be evidence-based. This means that students must provide examples from the text to support their arguments. They must then discuss how the techniques in those examples develop a certain meaning or reinforce a theme.

One of the difficulties students face is identifying examples and the techniques in them. Unfortunately, this is a skill that must be learned and practised rather than solved with a quick tip or fix.

To be effective at identifying techniques, students must be aware of a wide range of literary/ dramatic/ poetic/ filmic techniques and their various applications.

That method looks like this:

Flowchart: How to Identify Examples and Techniques

1. Familiarise yourself with the specific techniques the texts medium of production uses. You can find a list of literary techniques and their effects here and here. You can find a list of filmic techniques here. Information on analysing poetry can be found here.

2. Read or view your text, focusing on places where the thematic ideas you are interest seem most prominent and visible.

3. Look for quotations, scenes, or images that seem to embody the idea that you are concerned with. These will be the parts of the text that you have highlighted in your text or made notes about.

4. Try to rate the value of the technique that the quotations are using. Not all techniques are equal. If you have a pair of adjacent quotations and one uses alliteration (3 words in a row beginning with the same letter – “she studies solidly and scored an A on her physics exam”) and the other is a metaphor (it makes something into something else – “she was a gun in the physics exam and got an A”), then the metaphor is going to convey the idea with more strength and clarity.

Similarly, in film, a two-shot (a shot that places two characters in the same shot to show a relationship) will be less effective than a selective focus shot (where a two-shot switches the focus from character to another without panning or moving the camera to demonstrate a change in the relationship between the characters). A general rule to follow is:

The more complex the process of representing, the more effective the technique is for your argument.

5. Make note of the example and its technique in your table. You must ensure that you can relate the examples you have chosen to the concerns you need to discuss. The more detailed you can be in your notes, the more you will be able to elaborate on your points in an essay.

6. Gather as many examples as you can. You will use these to populate your table with. It is worth remembering that some examples will be suitable for several themes or ideas in your text.

For some units such as Module A or Module B, analysing and identifying techniques will not be enough. You will also need to discuss context or critical views. this means you will need to engage in some research. Let’s have a look at how to go about this.

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Step 5: Tabulate Your Notes

Making tables is the most efficient way to produce study notes for English. The principle behind making tables is to extract all of the relevant information from a text and place it in an easy to access document.

When you prepare for exams or write practice essays, you don’t want to be fishing through novels for quotations or skipping through films for the appropriate scene. Instead, you want to be able to find the example you need as quickly and simply as possible. This is what tables are for.

Let’s look at an example of a study table:

Theme/ CharacterExampleTechniqueEffectResearch
What to doOrganise your notes by theme or characterProvide a quotation or example from the text.Note and describe the technique used.Explain how the technique affects or shapes your understanding of the meaning in the example.Look for what others say about this theme or example from the text? Try to look for scholarly articles.

Wikipedia is a good place to begin research, but it is not always reliable or accurate. After reading a Wikipedia article, you should look at its sources and read those articles.

Often Wikipedia articles included suggested further reading, these are ideal places to further continue your research. We discuss Wikipedia and other research resources in Chapter 3 of this guide.

Make note of your findings and keep track of the references.

Example“The Difficulty of Year 11”Year 11 English is like scaling Mount Everest.The use of “like” signifies this is a simile.This simile compares Year 11 English to climbing a large mountain. This argues that Year 11 is hard and requires a lot of careful preparation.25th June: Lots or people agree that Year 11 English is hard. Some say that universities require to study specific units of English and achieve specific marks. I should look into why that is to develop my notes further.

26th June: The Matrix blog states that “The English Advanced Modules are more complex and demanding than the English Standard Modules.” (

Example From OthelloIago’s VillainyIago: And what’s he then that says I play the villain?  / When this advice is free I give and honest (2.3. 330-331)Rhetorical Question (hypophora – asks a question and immediately answers it).Iago is giving them logical and helpful advice. The use of hypophora is a manipulative technique. Answering the question he’s asked immediately means that Iago’s listeners aren’t given time to formulate an answer against it.24th June: Not sure why Iago is evil?

26th June: Found a quote by R.Berry: “This is of the same order as the grotesquely exaggerated hell-imagery in his speeches, which we should not take at face-value. Iago, in truth, likes to think of himself as evil, as the villain: he plays the role in capital letters.” Berry argues that Iago revels in his villainy and his concealment of it. (R. Berry 1972.

The above table has 5 important columns:

  • Theme/ Character: the key idea, or the character you are focusing on.
  • Example: The quotation or a description of the scene you are using.
  • Technique: The technique(s) present in the example. It might be useful to define the technique if it is not a common one.
  • Effect: Explain the effect of the technique – discuss how it develops the meaning you see in the quotation.
  • Research: Go online and start looking for the appropriate information for your module. You may need to find contextual information for Module A, or critical perspectives for Module B.

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Need more help with textual analysis?

Download your FREE Textual Analysis Planner.


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Welcome to the first post in our Area of Study: Discovery series. In this post, we will outline what the AOS Discovery Module requires you to do and how best to approach it. The other posts in this series will show you how to prepare for the short answer questions, how to write a Discovery creative, and how to produce a Band 6 Discovery Essay. If you are struggling for related texts for AOS: Discovery, we have suggestions that you can read in this post,  this posts, and this post that will help you out.

Students struggle to understand what the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery asks of them. Students must come to terms with the concept of discovery and then apply this to their study of the HSC English Area of Study prescribed texts and their supplementary texts. In this post, we will discuss what HSC English Area of Study: Discovery requires you to do, and how to analyse your texts for the various forms of discovery.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is something that we have all participated in. It is important, however, for students to recognise that Discovery is also a concept. The purpose of the HSC Area of Study is to analyse how themes and notions of discovery have been represented through texts. When thinking about the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery –

  • Discovery is treated as an abstract and dynamic idea;
  • There is no one type of discovery, nor are discoveries represented in one particular wa;.
  • Depending on a number of factors (such as context, culture, values and attitudes), notions of discovery can vary greatly;

In the past, HSC English Area of Study concepts have included ‘change’, ‘journeys’ and ‘belonging’. These are all abstract concepts, and can be represented in a variety of ways. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of representing ‘change’, nor is there a shortage of texts which explore a sense of ‘belonging’. Just as Harry Potter struggles to find a sense of belonging with his classmates as a group, Darth Vader finds a sense of familial belonging with his son before his death.

Notions of ‘discovery’ are similarly complex and abstract – it is therefore important to read through the expectations of the Board of Studies, which are detailed below:

This Area of Study requires students to explore the ways in which the concept of discovery is represented in and through texts.Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed. Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected, or they can emerge from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder. Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful in ways that may be emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual. They can also be confronting and provocative. They can lead us to new worlds and values, stimulate new ideas, and enable us to speculate about future possibilities. Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others.An individual’s discoveries and their process of discovering can vary according to personal, cultural, historical and social contexts and values. The impact of these discoveries can be far-reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. Discoveries may be questioned or challenged when viewed from different perspectives and their worth may be reassessed over time. The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.By exploring the concept of discovery, students can understand how texts have the potential to affirm or challenge individuals’ or more widely-held assumptions and beliefs about aspects of human experience and the world. Through composing and responding to a wide range of texts, students may make discoveries about people, relationships, societies, places and events and generate new ideas.By synthesising perspectives, students may deepen their understanding of the concept of discovery.Students consider the ways composers may invite them to experience discovery through their texts and explore how the process of discovering is represented using a variety of language modes, forms and features.In their responses and compositions, students examine, question, and reflect and speculate on:
  • their own experiences of discovery
  • the experience of discovery in and through their engagement with texts
  • assumptions underlying various representations of the concept of discovery
  • how the concept of discovery is conveyed through the representations of people, relationships, societies, places, events and ideas that they encounter in the prescribed text and other related texts of their own choosing
  • how the composer’s choice of language modes, forms, features and structure shapes representations of discovery and discovering
  • the ways in which exploring the concept of discovery may broaden and deepen their understanding of themselves and their world.
Source: English Stage 6 Prescriptions, Higher School Certificate, 2015-2020.

When analysing a text for HSC English Area of Study: Discovery, and when preparing for your HSC Exam, it is vital that time is spent reviewing this document and the types of discovery that may form the basis of the HSC paper.

Remember that the focus of the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery is on representation – this is best illustrated by the line,

“Students consider the ways composers may invite them to experience discovery through their texts and explore how the process of discovering is represented using a variety of language modes, forms and features.”

You should be focusing on discovery as a topic or theme, and perhaps more importantly on how a text represents discovery, the beliefs about discovery and the human values implied in the concept of discovery.

The Board of Studies divides the concept of discovery, generally, into two spheres – discovery and rediscovery. These forms of discovery can be internal and external; that is, an individual can discover something within themselves, or something about the world around them. This is a great way of beginning your analysis of a text for the Area of Study – ascertain what type of discovery is being explored or represented, and make a judgement on the ramifications of this discovery.

Some questions to ask could include:

  • What ideas about discovery exist within my text? What different types of discovery can be seen?
  • What perspectives about discovery exist within my text?
  • How has the concept of discovery been represented in my text through language modes, forms and features?

2. The HSC English Area of Study: Discovery Exam

Paper 1 of your final exams is focused purely on the Area of Study: Discovery, and is sat by all students studying English Standard and Advanced. The paper is designed to test you on your analysis of unseen material – that means that there is only so much planning that you can do for the paper. The paper is marked out of 45 – fifteen marks per section – and is a total of two hours long.

Section 1 of the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery paper will present you with a number of unseen texts (these can include story extracts, articles, poems, visual images, letters to the editor and speeches) that are usually related to each other by theme (for example, confronting or provocative discoveries). Students are required to answer a number of short answer questions on the texts – these can include one mark questions such as:

Text one – Visual text 

a)    Select ONE aspect of the visual text and explore how it reflects notions of spiritual discovery.

Furthermore, they can combine a number of texts and expect a 5-mark extended response:

Texts one, two, three and four – Visual text, Poem, Transcript and Nonfiction extract 

e)    Analyse the relationship between spirituality and discovery in TWO of these texts.

Generally, questions will range between one and five marks – the total mark value of Section 1 is fifteen marks.

Section 2 of the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery paper requires you to complete a writing task in response to a given stimulus (which is usually a visual or a quote). Generally speaking, this section normally requires you to compose a creative piece of writing that explores notions of discovery. Section 2 might look something like this:

Question 2 (15 marks)Select ONE of the quotations as the introduction for a piece of imaginative writing that explores a revised perception of discovery.

“It was not an everyday occurrence.”


“I feel like I cannot try anything new.”

Finally, Section 3 of the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery paper is designed to test your understanding of how notions of discovery can be represented and explored through an extended response essay. You are required to write about a Prescribed Text, which your school will choose, and usually one or two related texts of your own choosing. It is advised that you plan to write about two related texts so that you are prepared for any situation. An essay question for Section 3 of the HSC English Area of Study: Discovery paper could look like this:

Question 3 (15 marks)

‘The ramifications of an individual’s discovery can change their perspective of themselves and the world.’

Discuss this statement with detailed reference to your prescribed text and TWO related texts of your own choosing.

If you want guidance on how to approach the HSC, you should read our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English.


If you are currently unsure what your prescribed text for HSC English Area of Study: Discovery is, consult your teacher as soon as possible so you can begin to read your prescribed text and consider relevant related texts.

Below is the list of prescribed texts for HSC English Area of Study: Discovery.

Area of Study 2015–18: Standard and Advanced

Students explore the concept of discovery through at least one of the following:

Prose fiction (pf) or nonfiction (nf)
  • Bradley, James, Wrack (pf)
  • Chopin, Kate, The Awakening (pf)
  • Winch, Tara June, Swallow the Air (pf)
  • Bryson, Bill, A Short History of Nearly Everything (nf)
  • Guevara, Ernesto ‘Che’, The Motorcycle Diaries (nf)


Drama (d) or film (f) or Shakespearean drama (S)
  • Gow, Michael, Away (d)
  • Harrison, Jane, Rainbow’s End from Cleven, Vivienne et al, Contemporary Indigenous Plays (d)
  • Lee, Ang, Life of Pi (f)
  • Shakespeare, William, The Tempest (d/S*) * In order to satisfy the text requirements of the different English courses, The Tempest is classified as a drama text for the Standard course and as a Shakespearean drama text for the Advanced course.


  • Dobson, Rosemary ‘Young Girl at a Window’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Painter of Antwerp’, ‘Traveller’s Tale’, ‘The Tiger’, ‘Cock Crow’, ‘Ghost Town: New England’
  • Frost, Robert ‘The Tuft of Flowers’, ‘Mending Wall’, ‘Home Burial’, ‘After Apple-Picking’, ‘Fire and Ice’, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’
  • Gray, Robert ‘Journey: the North Coast’, ‘The Meatworks’, ‘North Coast Town’, ‘Late Ferry’, ‘Flames and Dangling Wire’, ‘Diptych’


  • Nasht, Simon, Frank Hurley – The Man Who Made History
  • O’Mahoney, Ivan, Go Back to Where You Came From – Series 1, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 and The Response

Find out more about AOS Discovery:

© Matrix Education and, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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