Grocery Shopping Analytically

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the basics of analysis

Elsewhere in this module we describe analysis as “the process of methodically breaking something down to gain a better understanding of it; [analysis] includes the ability to connect pieces of information as the basis for generalization or explanation.”

Waiting in line at a crowded grocery store.

Figure 1. Analysis is not only for academic sources. Analysis is a skill we use in our every day life!

Floor plan of a grocery store with arrows and numbers.

Figure 2. What is your usual route when you make a routine trip to the grocery store? Which modes of analysis do you use?

While this sounds pretty complicated, it is actually a thought process we use all the time in situations that have nothing to do with our academic lives. Let’s say that grocery shopping is one of our least favorite chores. We have traffic jams and parking to deal with, after-work crowding, and perhaps a long wait at the checkout line. What to do? If we strategize a bit, and think analytically, we can try to picture an overview of the grocery store’s layout, and then try to move through the different sections quickly and without any unnecessary backtracking. If we break down our shopping list based on the arrangement of the store, selecting fruits and vegetables from the produce section, meats from the deli, and frozen pizzas and ice cream from the refrigerated aisles, then we can trace one continuous line through the store and make our way quickly.

Now, if you were trying to explain how to complete this task as efficiently as possible to somebody who had never been in a grocery store, you could describe how the different sections were organized. This would give your aspiring shopper a general idea of what a grocery store is as well as an explanation of how its sectional organization is meant to work as part of a logical system. You probably do not think about this concept very much as you do your own shopping, but in the course of trying to get somebody else to understand it you would be performing and sharing an analysis.

We can take this a step further, and consider another way of complicating our grocery store analysis, if we imagine that while waiting in line at the checkout we are asked by the store manager to fill out a quick survey asking us a series of questions about how smoothly we were just able to complete our shopping. Perhaps we have some ideas about how the store could be stocked in a slightly different layout and we share these recommendations. Now we have moved on to the work of evaluation, which is a weighing of strengths and weaknesses, often with the goal of recommending a particular course of action. This too can be part of the analytical process, as when we conclude an analytical essay by urging our reader to adopt a certain perspective or to help facilitate a change of some kind.

Try It


Writing Workshop

In your working document, address the following.

Think of a space that has these three characteristics:

  1. It can be challenging to navigate.
  2. It has been intentionally designed to be navigated in a certain way or with a certain goal in mind.
  3. It is a space that you personally are very familiar with.

(The space you choose does not have to be commercial space, but it can be.)

Step one:

Describe the space to a hypothetical individual who has never been there, but who needs to successfully navigate the space to reach whatever goal or outcome people typically try to achieve there.

Step two:

Explain how the space has been intentionally organized by its designer to enable people to navigate through it. What are the different parts of the space and how have they been arranged? How are these parts logically related to the overall purpose of the space?

Bonus step:

If there are obstacles to navigating the space that you think could more effectively be addressed, what are your specific recommendations? Explain how they would be an improvement and how they align with the overall purpose of the space.


Did you have an idea for improving this content? We’d love your input.

Improve this pageLearn More