I came across the following paragraph in a book on political science:

"As I enter my third decade of teaching undergraduates, I also find myself increasingly convinced of the importance of helping students understand that analytical approaches to the study of politics have many practical and immediate uses, whether in clarifying the logic behind divergent perspectives on international security questions or in identifying the shared ontological assumptions of individualist conservatism and classical liberalism."

What does analytical approach mean here? Does study of politics itself doesn't mean analysis of politics? Since the study of politics also means the analysis of politics, could the above boldened sentence be rephrased to "I also find myself increasingly convinced of the importance of helping students understand that analytical approaches to the analysis (instead of study) of politics..."? Now, what would an "analytical approach" to the "analysis of something" mean?

  • The study of politics includes its history as well as analysis You will be required to remember dates and names of influential people, not just political theories . " analytical approaches to the analysis" doesn't mean anything. Dec 18, 2020 at 14:16
  • The meanings of analysis and study can be easily established using online dictionaries. To some extent they'll overlap, but in your specific context, the relevant difference will be that analysis implies the students actively participating in identifying / creating a meaningful breakdown of factors relevant to the subject, whereas study probably just implies learning pre-established "facts" by rote. Essentially, the writer is just saying that after over 20 years in the profession of teaching, he's realised that it's a good idea to engage his students. Dec 18, 2020 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


There are various uses of analyse and related words. Many academics use them informally, to mean study, explain, describe, etc---which was your understanding of the word. (Edit: this 'informal' use is standard English; you should not understand it to be colloquial.)

However, a more specific meaning of analyse is to break something up into smaller parts. The idea is that going from the whole of some phenomenon to its parts will ultimately aid in understanding the phenomenon. So analytical approaches to the study of politics is not a tautology, because other approaches are imaginable.

In other words, we can take nonanalytical approaches to the study of politics. For example, we could write metaphorically about the similarities between the rule of Caesar and the rule of Xi Jinping. This might help us to understand the politics of Xi Jinping, but it would not be an analytical approach to his politics.

(I know this answer doesn't go into full detail, but hopefully it puts you on the right track. Look up the difference between analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy if you want to read about the classic schism in how big academic issues should be approached.)


Analytical approach is

the use of an appropriate process to break a problem down into the elements necessary to solve it. Each element becomes a smaller and easier problem to solve.

and I think that in your text it is used here as opposed to synthetic approach, which can be defined as

the combining (synthesizing) of various processes, systems, skills, or other components into a more complex whole as a means of learning or better understanding the whole.

(Check this link for more information about analytical and synthetic approaches)

As for your thought of replacing study with analysis, I don't see why you would want to do that, since you will end up with a somewhat disturbing repetition in your sentence.

Now, I understand that you are thinking this sentence may be slightly pleonastic, but I personally don't think it is. There are different ways to approach a subject of study, and one of them is the analytical one. It seems to me that study has a more general meaning than analysis. If you look up the synonyms of analysis in the Wordhippo dictionary, you will not find study on top of the list, although it is true that these two words are informally used as synonyms quite often. It occurs to me that analysis is a particular kind of study.

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