Visual Analysis Essay
Guidelines for Visual Analysis Essay
Your next major essay in this course will be a visual analysis essay. In this essay, you will be expected to apply the concepts covered in Units 1-4 as you analyze an image to show some of its larger meanings. This includes knowledge of the writing process, rhetorical situation, formal register, essay structure, and visual analysis. This essay also requires you to cite at least one credible source.
Refer to the assignment calendar for due dates. Remember, peer reviews are graded separately and have their own due dates in the assignment calendar.
Purpose and Learning Objectives
In this assignment, you should practice analyzing visual texts, using the writing process, and developing a well-constructed essay in formal register. The essay should show how an analysis of the visual components of an image leads to a better understanding of the image.
Process for Completion
- The first step in this process will be to choose an image. Browse the images available through the Gordon Parks Foundation Archives. The link is available near the end of Unit 3. Choose an image that you find engaging and that you feel offers ample opportunity for analysis. Some images are interesting, but they’re difficult to talk about. The image you choose will be the subject of your essay.
- After you have chosen your image, you should engage in some prewriting activities using the ideas and terms presented in Unit 4. First, take stock of your initial reactions to the image. What emotions did you feel as you first looked at the photograph? What aspects about the image lead viewers to react a certain way?
- Before you begin writing, you will want to perform some research. This assignment requires at least one source (print or web). If you’re choosing an image about the Civil Rights Movement, you might want to research the movement. If you’re choosing an image about Flavio in Rio de Janeiro, you might want to research how Gordon Parks met Flavio. You’re welcome to use more than one source, but be sure to keep track of the information you gain from your source so that you can cite the source appropriately.
- Next, analyze the image by looking closely at the content, framing, composition, focus, color, lighting and context. What interesting or unique features do you notice about the image? What is the cultural or historical context of the image? You should record all of these activities. Some of them will become important pieces of your final draft.
- Next, it will be time to find your focus and begin generating a working thesis statement. For this assignment, your thesis will make a claim about the meaning of the image. In other words, what message does the image communicate? Remember, every image tells a story and an image may tell a different story depending on who is looking. Once you have decided what idea or story the image communicates to you, you will need to explain how content, framing, focus, color, angle and lighting come together to create that story or convey meaning. Your thesis will be more specific if you show which visual elements your essay discusses and what they do to create meaning. So, an example thesis might be something like this: “Through content, framing, and angle, the image demonstrates how segregation affected not only adults but also the children of black families in the South.”
- After completing the previous steps, it will be time to begin drafting your essay. The following outline might help you to structure your initial draft.
Introduction: Identify and describe the image. It is so very important that you identify the image very clearly. Use the name of the photographer and the image: for example, you might say, “In Gordon Parks’s photograph titled “American Gothic,” a woman stands in front of a flag with a broom in her hand and a mop in the background.” In the introduction, you might show why the image is important or relevant or provide some background information about it. Please embed the image into the body of your essay somewhere so that the readers can see it. One way to embed the image is to put your mouse on the image and right-click, and then select “copy.” Next, go to your document and right-click on your document, and then select “paste.”
Thesis: Tell your readers what idea or story the image communicates. Be sure the thesis shows the result of your analysis. (See the above discussion in #4 under Process for Completion.)
Supporting paragraphs: Explain how the visual elements come together to create meaning. In multiple body paragraphs, discuss the effect of content, framing, composition, color, focus, angle, lighting and/or context. You should not discuss every one of these elements, but you should discuss enough of them so that your reader understands how the visual elements work together to create a story and to create meaning. You may have three or more body paragraphs dedicated to this task. It would be a good idea to discuss just one or two elements in each paragraph.
Conclusion: At a minimum, your conclusion should remind your reader how the visual elements convey meaning.
- The final draft of your essay should be between 600 and 900 words in length (about 2 -3 pages long).
- The essay should meet the expectation of an academic rhetorical situation. You will be expected to use formal register English. Your audience will be a general audience of educated adults.
- The image you have chosen as the subject for your essay should be linked to or embedded in the body of the essay.
- The essay should be written in MLA format, with a proper header, page numbers, title, and font. See the MLA guidelines in the unit.
- The essay should discuss two or more visual elements from the lessons.
- The essay should cite at least one source. The source should be cited in MLA format, so there should be an in-text citation for the source and a works cited page. Books, journals, magazines, and web sources are all acceptable for this assignment, but you should be sure to consider the reliability of your sources. You should not use Wikipedia.
If you do not meet the minimum requirements for the essay, you should not expect to earn more than a 60% on the assignment.
Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas without giving credit and is a serious academic offense. It can range from:
- Turning in a paper any part of which you did not write,
- Cutting and pasting a paper together from various sources without attributing the sources correctly,
- Changing a few words but basically keeping most of the words and sentence structure of the original,
- Using the ideas of another without giving credit to the person who originally had the idea.
- Using the exact words of the source without using quotation marks even if you give the name of the source.
Refer to the syllabus for consequences of plagiarism in this class. For more information, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/
Your assignment must be submitted as a , x, or .rtf attachment. Microsoft Word is available to students for free. Let me know if you need help gaining access to it.
The Gordon Parks Foundation Archive
This link will take you to an archive of photographs by Gordon Parks. Choose one image from the archive to be the subject of your visual analysis.
Peer Review: Visual Analysis
To earn credit for peer review, you must submit a draft to the peer review discussion board by the due date and comment on one of your classmates’ drafts by the second due date (the schedule lists two due dates: the first is when you must submit your draft; the second is when you must submit your responses to others). You must submit a draft AND comment on someone else’s draft to earn any credit for peer review. Just submitting a draft OR just commenting on someone’s draft will not earn credit.
Posting Your Draft
Create a new thread and post your draft as an attachment. Your attachment must be saved as a or x document. Please ensure that your draft uploads correctly.
Responding to Classmates
- Select a classmate’s thread and download his/her attached draft.
- Reply to his/her thread to indicate the draft is under review (i.e. John Dow is currently reviewing the document). Do not select the paper if someone else is already reviewing.
- Read the draft carefully and respond to the questions listed below, either in a new document or at the top of your classmate’s document. At the very least, you must answer the questions, but you can also use the “Comment” function in Microsoft Word to write comments to your classmates within the essay (put your cursor where you want the comment, go to the “Review” tab in Microsoft Word, and select “New Comment”).
- Complete the review and save the document to your computer.
- Once you have completed the review, reply to your classmate’s thread and upload the review.
Questions for Peer Review
1. Read your peer’s essay from beginning to end just to let its ideas wash over you. What are your initial thoughts? Did your peer satisfy the requirements of assignment? Please explain in detail.
2. Review the essay’s title as well as its introduction and conclusion. Think about the relationships among these three components. Do they match or do they disagree? Make note of strengths or weaknesses in these crucial areas. Please explain in detail.
3. Like other essays, a visual analysis essay should have a thesis. Find the essay’s thesis. Is it clear? Does it make some claim or statement about the image? Paraphrase (put in your own words) the thesis of the essay to check your understanding. Review the assignment guidelines to ensure that your peer’s thesis is on target. Make note of strengths or weaknesses in this area. Please explain in detail.
4. Evaluate the quality of the visual analysis. Does the writer use some of the vocabulary introduced in Unit 3? Focus, Color, Framing, Context, etc.
5. Focus on the individual paragraphs of the essay. Does each paragraph have a topic sentence that previews the ideas of the paragraph? Observe the essay’s development of paragraphs. Does each paragraph have a single main idea that relates to the thesis? Are there any paragraphs that seem disconnected or out of place?
6. Consider the essay’s use of the English language. Are sentence structures, grammar, spelling, punctuation and mechanics employed effectively, or do errors distract the reader from understanding and enjoying the writer’s analysis? Make note of strengths and weaknesses in this area. Please explain in detail.
Remember: When in doubt about how to do the peer review, be honest, helpful, and constructive. Saying “Great job! Don’t change a word!” never helped anyone to be a better writer.
Now, go to the discussion board and find the forum for the visual analysis peer review and complete the peer review process.