The Language of Observation, Analysis, and Interpretation

“God gave us only one mouth and two eyes and ears so we can listen and watch twice as much as we speak.”

I’m not sure of the origin of that quote, but it’s the mathematical truth. There are a lot of times in life when we fail to really observe. You might say, “Casey, this is a social studies lesson, not philosophy class.” True. But what if I asked you a couple questions?

Lets start off with “Has anyone ever given you the look?” I’ll say yes, because I’ve broken up fights about the look. What if you knew that person wasn’t looking at you but had some family problem? Would it change your reaction? Maybe?

Have you ever watched the news and said, “That’s the dumbest political problem…ever. They should just….” It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback when looking at the problems of others. Everyone else’s problems always seem so….solvable.

The Language of Observation: 

Using the language of observation helps us to get to a deeper level of learning. Use words like, “I see…I observe…I notice…I can identify…I discern…I detect…I recognize…I can locate… helps us to pin down things we can quantify or scientifically study.

The Language of Analysis:

Take this one step further. We can observe, but when we really look deep, we are analyzing. Analyzing is important, because it helps us pick up patterns. We need to see what’s right about a situation and what is unique. We infer meaning and we look for cause and effect.  Using the following sentence patterns help us to dig in and analyze:

  • This reveals…
  • This evokes…
  • This shows…
  • This contradicts…
  • This symbolizes…
  • This stands for…
  • This means…
  • This corresponds to…
  • This demonstrates…
  • This illustrates…

Find a couple more “Analysis phrases.”

The Language of Interpretation: 

Finally, after we’ve observed and analyzed, it’s time to interpret. That’s where you take all the genius inside you and make something happen. Most people want to be told what to think. It’s true–watch the TV news. They’ll tell you what happened in the world and they’ll tell you what you thought about it, if you listen closely enough. That’s tragic. The truth is, if you observe and analyze enough, and you use the language of interpretation, you have the inner expert the world needs. YOU can be the one that makes the call and provides the expert opinion. That’s what we’re trying to arrive at here!

Things like: “Therefore…” “We can conclude…” “This tells us…” are part of the language of interpretation.

Let’s look through a couple of images and see if we can observe.


Choose from the following photo essays. Analyze three photographs using the following format:

Photo essay on the Depression

Photo essay of 9-11

Photo essay of Hurricane Sandy

Photo essay AIDS in Africa

1. Observation: In this photograph I observed… (use at least three words of observation…)

2. Analysis: (use at least three words of analysis)

3. Interpretation: (use at least three words of interpretation)

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