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Study Tools: How to Tackle Commentaries (or Close Readings) in the Arts and Humanities: READING for Commentaries on Texts, or Images

The instruction to write a commentary on (or close reading of) a specific extract from a text, or example of visual material studied in a module is a common analytical task set for students in the School of Arts. The nature of the text will differ from discipline to discipline, for example, a poem, a paragraph of philosophical writing, a clip from a film, a painting, a photograph, an advertisement. The fruits of such commentaries usually have to be submitted not long after Reading Week, or towards the end of the Autumn Term. This is often the first form of extended writing which students are asked to produce. It is understandable if students feel nervous or uncertain about what it is they are required to do.

Basic questions: how does a commentary differ from an essay?

In this workshop and the next, we ask some basic questions: what IS a commentary? How does a commentary differ from an essay? What do I have to do when writing a commentary? What must I NOT do when writing a commentary? What is the point of asking students to produce such analyses? In these workshops, we provide answers to these questions and to any others you may wish to ask.

Where does a commentary begin?

In this session, we will focus on how to PREPARE for writing a commentary. Where do you begin? What do you need to know? What are you expected to be looking for? What are you expected NOT to be doing in a commentary? How do you READ the selected item to find the points you will need to write your commentary?

If you have any doubts about writing commentaries, let me assure you that it is actually an enjoyable activity. It also begins to equip you with the skills of close analysis which will enhance your critical faculty, and your employability when your degree programme has concluded.


We will practise on extracts which will be supplied in the workshop.

This course is not currently timetabled. You can add your name to a waiting list if you are interested in attending at a future date.

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Theme tags: Academic Skills, Academic writing, Critical thinking, Reading and note-taking skills, Study skills, Writing skills