How to write a textual analysis

Textual Analysis

Textual analysis in media means analysing a piece of media text. Media text can be a film, magazine or a radio advert.

The four main areas to analyse in media are:

  • camera
  • editing
  • sound
  • Mise-en-Scene

Analysing is different to describing, in analysis you have to explore the features above and not simply state what you see in the media text. You have to identify the areas above, explain and give an example of it and then discuss the impact of it on the audience.


Components of camera to explore are:

Shot types- Establishing shot (ES), Long shot (LS), Mid shot (MS), Close-up (CU),
Extreme Close-up (ECU), two person shot (2S), Over the shoulder (OS),
Point of view (POV)- directors may use different shots to emphasise things. For example, for emphasis of a large object, a LS may be used to show its scale.

Camera angles- High angle, Low angle, Eye Level, canted angle, Birds eye view- camera angles are used to show significance and status of characters in scenes. e.g a low angle makes characters look big and powerful and a high angle makes characters look small and insignificant.

Camera motion- Tilt, Pan, Tracking, whip pan, zoom- makes the audience feel as though they are following the scene

Camera effects- Pull focus, depth of field, shallow focus


Here are some examples of different types of editing:

  • Continuity editing
  • Cross cutting
  • Cut
  • Cut away
  • Colour correction
  • Transitions
  • Time lapse
  • Shot reverse shot
  • Titles
  • Graphic match
  • Slow motion
  • Montage
  • Superimpose

When analysing a text with edits, think about pace and the impact of the editing style on the audience.


Here are different types of sound heard in texts:

  • Dialogue
  • Sound effects
  • Mood music
  • Diegetic / non diegetic
  • Asynchronous sound
  • Direct address
  • Rhythm
  • Pathetic fallacy
  • Pitch
  • Sound bridge
  • Voice over

 To analyse sound in media texts, like editing, you have to comment on the impact of certain audio. For example, adding diegetic sound gives an air of realness to a scene.


Here are aspects of Mise-en-Scene to explore:

  • Prop
  • Position
  • Location
  • Setting
  • Character
  • High-key lighting / low-key lighting
  • Colour filter
  • Make up
  • Costumes

When analysing the Mise-en-Scene, you should say how the background elements assist the representation of the media text.

Codes in Textual Analysis

An important process you need to know when it comes to textual analysis of films is that when you read, watch or listen to a piece of media text you make meaning of the sounds and imagery presented. This process is decoding.

Codes can be both visual or aural. You can see or hear them. Codes also have a symbolic value. For example, in our society wearing a pair of glasses connotes that the beholder of the glasses is clever. All different media platforms use symbolic codes to generate character types and character archetypes.

Grand Theft Auto

gta-ivThrough the Mise-en-Scene of the image of a women in ‘Grand Theft Auto’, we see she is not wearing much and is showing off her cleavage as if she is trying to seduce the male driver. This visual code of a women seducing a man who is in a vehicle in a public place holds connotations in our society with prostitutes as this is how they attract their customers.

If we look at an image of male characters from ‘Grand Theft Auto’ however, we get a very different representation.

the-original-bad-boys The visual codes of the three male protagonists are weapons and money, which culturally signify power.

The representation of the male characters is very stereotypical, as they are dressed in either work clothes or smartly dressed. Also, each individual character has a code that signifies their power, be it a weapon or money.

The representation of the female character is also stereotypical as the mise-en-scene indicates that she is only there to please the male in the car.

Tomb Raider

This image of Lara Croft from ‘Tomb Raider’ gives a less stereotypical presentation of women as we see her holding guns. The code of a gun culturally signifies power as we are brought up to fear guns and to know that some one carrying one has authority.

tomb_raider_anniversary_pose This image of Lara is a lot closer as to how ‘Grand Theft Auto’ portray their male characters (as seen below) as opposed to their female characters.



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