Gutenberg Exchange Lesson 13a: Comparative Textual Analysis
There is another version of this lesson which emphasizes
HTML coding. You may switch
to the HTML version but it is recommended only for
Computer Literacy Objectives: In this lesson you will learn
how to make tables in a word processing document.
Writing Objectives: You will compare the prose styles of
several professional writers.
In this lesson you will analyze selections from six professional
writers, counting the number of times they use various free modifiers, entering
your findings in a table, figuring the free modifier to main clause
ratio of these writers, and writing a paragraph in which you
speculate about the reasons for the differences in style.
- This project requires teamwork. Form teams of two, three, or four or go into
groups assigned by your teacher. You may want to dedicate different computers
to different programs to speed the process. You may also want to assign
different tasks in the project to different team members.
- Open each of the following texts and analyze a patch of text
consisting of approximately 500 words. As you read these texts,
look for free modifiers. Every time you encounter one, determine what
kind it is and keep track of the total. Also count the number of main
clauses in each sample. When you have analyzed each text you should
have collected data on how many of each of the free modifiers appear
in each sample and how many main clauses appear in each sample. Keep this
data somewhere (either in a Notepad document or on a piece of paper).
If they won't load, try backup texts.
- Go to a comparative analysis template. This
page contains a form you are to imitate in a wordprocessing document.
- Open your wordprocessor and copy the everything from the
comparative analysis template into it. If the table copies, it probably
will not copy correctly, so delete everything in it except the caption at
- Go back through the document putting in font changes and itallics, etc.
- Place your cursor where the table should go and activate the table
button. It will ask you for the number of rows and columns you need. You
need nine columns (verticle lines in a table) and seven rows (horizontal
- You will notice a list of items to be inserted in each row. They are to
follow this order: author's name, main clauses (MC), subordinate clauses (SC)
noun clusters (NC), verb clusters (VC), adjective clusters (AdjC),
relative clauses (RC), absolutes (Abs), and free modifier to main clause
ratio (fm:mc). Enter these in the top row, going across the top, so that
they serve as labels for each column head. Bold face these entries. Do not
boldface anything else within the table.
- In the first box of each row, enter the author's name in the order
of the list which appears above the table.
- As you gather data, insert it in the appropriate boxes of the table.
- In the sections of the table where you are to enter the
free modifier to main clause ratio, you need to do a little math work. Here
- Go to your "Accessories" window and open the calculator.
- From your collected data, divide the number of free modifiers by the
number of main clauses for each sample. If, in your sample, there are a
total of 20 free modifiers (when you added all the clusters, absolutes,
subordinate clauses, and relative clauses together) and there are
10 main clauses, then the sample has a 20:10 ratio, or a 2:1 ratio, or
a simple 2 (when the fm number is divided by the mc number).
If the respective numbers are 37fm and 8mc, then the ratio is 37:8 or
4.625. Generally speaking, the higher this final simple number is, the
more facility the writer has with creating complex sentences. HOWEVER,
not all kinds of writing call for complex sentences.
- In the section of the form that asks you to speculate about the
reasons for the different styles, focus on the kinds of writing each
text represents. Because all of these writers are published, we can assume
that they are all good writers. Does the style reflect the author's
individual preferences or does it reflect the demands of the kind of
writing that is being done?
- When you have filled in the form, being sure that all team members'
names are on it, edit it, print it, and save it. Hand it in.
- Close the programs and logout.
Return to The Gutenberg Exchange Homepage