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

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4.5 Studying works of literature and art

As previously said, the points of the study diamond need not be considered in any particular order. However, it is recommended that you start with ‘effects’, and move round the diamond in a clockwise direction, considering each point as you go.

The meaning of some texts and the messages they contain will be immediately apparent. If this is obvious to you at the outset, it would be artificial to begin with the ‘effects’ point of the study diamond and then move round in a clockwise direction considering ‘meaning’ last, when it was the first thing that struck you. The sensible approach would be to make notes about the meaning first, and then look at the other points of the study diamond. The same would apply if the rhyme in the poem stood out to begin with. You would start by noting your observations about techniques and then move on.

The most important thing about this approach is to consider all four points of the study diamond. This should help you to reach a balanced and well-argued interpretation.

In working through the four points of the study diamond, there is plenty of opportunity to think about the text in a number of different ways. You will have also made notes, which are valuable when explaining your interpretations. It is imperative that you give reasons for what you say, both for your interpretations of texts, and for the viewpoints and opinions which you express. Using the study diamond helps to ensure that you are clear about what your views on a text are, and how your examination of a text has informed your interpretation of it.

Another virtue of the study diamond is that it is recyclable. Once you have worked round each point, write up your notes and then start again.

Activity 7 Key features of the study diamond

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Four ‘points’ are described in the study diamond: effects, techniques, context and meaning. Match each of these points to the correct definition.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Effects

  2. Techniques

  3. Context

  4. Meaning

  • a.Personal response by an individual reader to having read something

  • b.What elements of language use can be identified

  • c.What ‘message’ the reader is able to interpret from the text

  • d.In what circumstances was the text ‘made’

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = a
  • 2 = b
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = c


The study diamond is designed to help you do four things, namely to:

  1. Look at the effects of the text
  2. Identify the techniques used in creating these effects
  3. Look for information about the context in which the text was produced
  4. Use your findings from the three points above to examine meaning.

In thinking about, and writing about, these four techniques of a poetic text, you are moving from what might be an overly personal and unstructured appreciation or dismissal, to the kind of critical engagement expected in HE. In addition, you might also have noted that the study diamond is designed to be used and re-used on the same or different subject matter.