Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Adding Analysis
In the past couple weeks, Beth and Jen have outlined the importance of including a main idea sentence and credible evidence in each of your MEAL plan* paragraphs. This week we’re going to examine the third letter of this acronym: A, for “analysis.”
Effective paragraph-level analysis should explain your evidence for your readers and clearly link each piece of evidence to your main idea. In other words, analysis should function as both the “you” (your unique interpretation of evidence) and the “glue” (a clear linkage among pieces of evidence and between evidence and the topic sentence) in every paragraph. To ensure you have analysis in your paragraph and that it serves the appropriate function, you will want to ask yourself three key questions:
1. Do I interpret/explain each piece of evidence for my reader? Let’s say I only included the following evidence in my paragraph:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16.5% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011).
Without analysis, my readers could interpret this statement in many ways. For instance, a reader from Louisiana, a state that has much higher youth obesity rates, might interpret this evidence to mean that the state of Georgia is doing pretty well regarding youth obesity. However, a reader from Oregon, a state that has very low youth obesity rates, might read this same statement very differently. My job as a writer is to tell my readers what this evidence means or how it should be interpreted.
2. Do I clearly link my ideas together? Often, writers might include strings of paraphrased evidence, but they do not tell readers how these pieces of evidence are connected. Highlighting the relationships between pieces of evidence is also an important form of analysis. For instance, let’s add another sentence of evidence to my previous sentence. Now, the evidence portion of my paragraph reads as follows:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011). In 2007, 16% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 21.3% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2007).
Here, I have written out two pieces of evidence, but I have not informed my readers of how this evidence is related or what this evidence means within the context of my paragraph. In order to clarify my meaning, I need to add some analysis to my second sentence:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011). Although still high, these numbers have decreased significantly from 2007—when 16% of the youth in the state were categorized as overweight and 21.3% were categorized as obese (CAHMI, 2007)—indicating that the state’s healthy eating campaign is having a positive result.
This revised second sentence clearly demonstrates a relationship between the pieces of evidence and details why I’ve included the evidence—to demonstrate the decrease in overweight and obesity rates as a result of the state’s healthy eating campaign.
3. Are my ideas clearly connected to my paragraph’s main idea? Your evidence must be linked to or progress your main idea. You can ensure this connection or progression through the use of solid analysis. For instance, let’s say my topic sentence for the above evidence and analysis is as follows:
Healthy eating campaigns are one effective way to reduce rates of youth obesity in the state of Georgia.
My above analysis helps link back my evidence to this very claim, progressing my argument and, hopefully, persuading my reader to agree with my position.
So, now let’s ask these same questions of the sample paragraph Beth introduced in her initial post:
Many infant and mother deaths can be prevented, especially in the third world. Worldwide, around 11,000,000 children under 5 years old die primarily from preventable diseases, and over 500,000 mothers die from pregnancy- or delivery-related complications annually; almost 99% of these occur in developing countries (Hill et al., 2007). This high number is devastating because while infants in these countries have a high risk of dying, their risk does not stop once they are adults. For women, the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes is about 100 times higher in Bangladesh than in developed countries (WHO, 2004). The continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions targeting the root causes of mortalities have been responsible for these deaths (McCoy, 2006). The medical community has not been able to come up with simple, cost-effective, and life-saving methods that would help save lives in developing countries. This lack of innovation in the medical field has resulted in the continued unnecessary deaths of thousands of mothers and children.
1. Do I interpret/explain each piece of evidence for my reader? Yes! I provide a clear statistic of infant and mother deaths, then I tell my reader how to interpret this statistic: “This high number is devastating…”. Next, I demonstrate why it is devastating, highlighting the medical community’s “continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions…that would help save lives in developing countries.” In this paragraph, words like “devastating” and “unnecessary” also act as analysis, telling readers how they should interpret the evidence I am providing.
2. Do I clearly link my ideas together? Yes! By using transitional phrasing throughout my paragraph, I am forcing readers to see connections between my ideas. For instance, the phrase “This high number” that begins my third sentence relates to the number of deaths I detail in the second sentence. Similarly, “This lack of innovation” is an analytical phrase that ties my last sentence to the details concerning the medical community’s failure to innovate to saves lives in the previous sentence. Even transitions such as “likewise” or “however” can draw out connections for your readers and serve as part of your analysis.
3. Are my ideas clearly connected to my paragraph’s main idea? Yes! My main idea sentence addresses the preventability of many mother and infant deaths in developing countries. In this paragraph, my analysis highlights this claim as both serious and devastating, blaming the international medical community for these deaths. This analysis explains and progresses the argument I laid out in my initial main idea sentence.
Although academic prose requires more than inserting the “you” and “glue” into your writing, effective analysis plays the important role of convincing readers of your interpretation of a topic or an argument through well connected ideas and evidence.
*The MEAL plan is adapted from the Duke University Writing Studio.
*The MEAL plan is adapted from the Duke University Writing Studio.
For our final post in the series, go here next.
Dr. Sarah Prince is a writing instructor and coordinator of embedded writing support and design. Sarah's favorite thing about working with Walden students is helping them develop the confidence, clarity, and unique critical voice it takes to become effective and articulate scholarly writers.