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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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4.4 Meaning

You now turn to the question of what messages might be in the text – what it might mean. In doing this you are, in effect, forming an interpretation of the text.

It is important to try to distinguish between what a text is about, and any messages it carries, as often these will be different. For example, this poem is about the poet’s reflection on the depth of her love. But the message of the poem could be said to lie in its comparison to aspects of a religious experience – the depth of expression that true love overcomes all, and is eternal. The word ‘could’ is used in both these instances, as commenting on the meaning of a text is a matter of interpretation. There can be many possible interpretations of a text, but do note that all your interpretations should always be supported using evidence from the text.

However much analysis you have done on a text, your first conclusions about its possible meaning are important. Nevertheless, you should also regard them as provisional. This is because it is possible that you will revise your interpretation in whole or in part a number of times. Be prepared, therefore, to change your mind regarding the meaning of a text. A good time to review the possible meaning of a text is after you have looked at some contextual information relating to it, for example the circumstances in which it was produced.

Finally, try to think of as many possible interpretations of a text as you can. Again, one useful method here is to consider what others might make of it. You could even ask other people for their opinions.