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How to Write an Analytical Essay
How to Write an Analytical Essay
Great, you finished watching a movie or reading a book for university! Before you’re free to go on exploring the wonders of college life, the professor decides to give you some more work to do (what a nice guy). Get ready to face the challenge! He gives out the instructions and tells you to analyze the book/movie and provide an informative argument for any related topic of your choice. It has to link back to the book/movie, but contain your judgments as well. Have no idea how to write an analytical essay? Looks like you’ve come to the right place- grab guidelines and professional tips from the top academic writers! To solve your troubles with homework, order custom analytical papers online from the leading writing service . Ready to find out, “What is an analytical essay?” Go!
- Rhetorical Analysis Essay
- Literary Analysis Essay
- Process Analysis Essay
- Character Analysis Essay
- Poetry Analysis Essay
- Causal Analysis Essay
- Steps to Take Before Writing
- Creating A Thesis
What is An Analytical Essay?
What should an analytical essay do? The term “analytical essay” may sound foreign to you, but no worries, it is almost guaranteed that you have written one before! If we take a look at the official definition, the term analysis means a critical and well thought-out observation of a specific idea.
What is an analytical essay? An analytical essay is a piece of writing that provides an informative observation about the specific topic or idea. Imagine that your topic of choice is Marijuana. Writing an essay on the topic of marijuana is general, so focus on one of the related issues: from its origins in ancient times to its impact towards the war on drugs. The analytical essay asks you to take a small section of the entire topic, and use critical thinking to come up with some sort of argument, aka your thesis ! Write an evaluation based on both personal thoughts and credible sources.
Analytical Essay Topics And Ideas
There is an infinite number of different essay topics that can be analyzed. Think about any sort of fact or idea. Connections can be made from anything – we formulate ideas and use facts to support it! In the grand scheme of things, doing jobs like this is what brought humanity from hitting rocks together for warmth to sending humans to the moon. We can create more ideas and advance as a society.
How to choose the proper analytical essay topics? If you wish to learn how to write an analysis essay, you should consider the answers to this question:
- Look for the topic in the essay prompt. If it is absent, brainstorm with your friends. Put down all possible ideas related to the studied subject on a separate piece of paper;
- Search on the web for the information on the chosen topics;
- Analyze the quality of the discovered sources. Decide which topic can be covered better than others based on the amount of available information;
- Evaluate personal understanding of the subject. Pick the one that you know on the advanced level. Consult your teacher to ask whether the problem you wish to analyze is okay and suits the class;
- Pick the eye-catching, original title for your work.
That is how you select the topic if it is not specified. Let’s get into the various types of analysis!
Rhetorical Analysis Essay
It is an essay where you
prove or reprove a fact that already holds weight. Imagine you are proving a fact to somebody who either can’t comprehend it or is skeptical of its authenticity. This type of analysis is based on facts and logic. They tend to be in the fields of science and mathematics!
Examples of the rhetorical analysis ideas could be:
- Geometric Proofs
- Fundamental of Physics (Newton’s Law, Theory of Relativity,…)
- General Principle of Economics (Money makes Money)
Literary Analysis Essay
One of the most common types of analysis that college and high school students perform is a literary one. Be ready to face it at your literature class. After reading a specific short story or any piece of literature, provide an informative analysis of a certain situation, or critically analyze a quote and its impact on the plot. This type of writing is different from rhetorical. A rhetorical analysis is mostly based around logic and provable facts. A literary analysis usually goes deeper into things such as emotion and decision making of certain characters!
Examples could be:
- Effects of “Utopia-rescue” societies on people! Book: 1984 By George Orwell
- Loves an effect on human decision making. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare
- Conforming to societies norms: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee!
Process Analysis Essay
If we think about the definition, a process is a change from one state to another through several stages/levels. A common way to explain this change is through an essay format. This would require you to explain its purpose, as well as explaining the transformation through a series of paragraphs.
Examples of this can be:
- Amazon’s Logistics
- The Water Cycle
- The Cycle of Depression
- Sleep Cycle
Character Analysis Essay
Used within the context of some sort of story/tale, character analysis is similar to process analysis essay . Focus on the character of your choice. This type of essay requires you to explain and analyze the transformation of a character from the initial point until the end. Things that should be analyzed are: personality, character traits, mental reformation, role in society, etc. Explain the character’s development.
Examples of this paper can be:
- Transformation of Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Will Hunting’s mental evolution in Good Will Hunting
- Viktor Navorksi in The Terminal
Poetry Analysis Essay
Poetry analysis requires the writer to research the poem’s content, structure and historical significance in an explanatory style. The goal is to make the reader understand the poems overall significance and its purpose.
Examples of this can be:
- Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken
- Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream
- Emily Dickinson’s There is Another Sky
How to Write an Analytical Essay on a Poem?
It is the most popular type of analysis paper. That is why we decided to briefly explain how to write an analytical essay on a poem:
- Introduce the chosen piece of poem by summarizing it & providing descriptive details. Share a significant context. Come up with an impressive thesis to show an author’s point of view and your personal opinion towards the issue;
- Define the pattern. Insert examples from the analyzed work in the form of citations. Assess the opening part of the poem; evaluate the 2nd part of the poem step-by-step along with introducing evidence in the shape of quotations;
- Start your conclusion by paraphrasing the thesis statement. Stress how the poem meets the author’s intentions. Do not forget to conclude the ideas using the words of the analyzed author and personal opinions on his/her writing.
Causal Analysis Essay
If you have ever dealt with an annoying child asking “WHY” a million times in a row, you have dealt with this type of paper in real life. The causal essay requires you to answer a “why” question. A lot of the times, questions can’t be answered 100%. This is why the causal academic paper is also known as the speculating about causes essay, and it requires you to describe the process that occurs, following up with why you believe it occurred the way it did.
Examples can be:
- Why do we respond physically to fear?
- Why do teenagers rebel against their parents and authority?
- Why are random shootings & similar crimes becoming more common in the US and some other neighboring American countries?
These are just some of the most common types of analytical essays. The variation is practically endless, but they all must follow the same type of outline.
Steps To Take Before Writing
Unless essay writing comes to you naturally, preparation is key in writing that well-rounded and high-quality paper. So before you start typing up your masterpiece, 5 steps should be taken:
- Brainstorming and deciding on a topic (look for the details above);
- Crafting a Captivating Title (it should not repeat the topic);
- Creating a strong thesis;
- Finding supporting evidence from credible sources;
- Creating an outline.
Create A Strong Analytical Essay Thesis
The goal of the analytical essay is to prove a certain point that the writer is trying to make. From the information that has been gathered, the writer needs to link things together and create a certain decision.
This decision is called a thesis statement. It’s an argument created to prove an assumption created by the writer, using facts, statistics, examples, and research findings. For certain topics, it’s important to introduce the outside forces that contributed to the creation of your thesis. An example will help. Say, if you are talking about historical events, it’s important to introduce the external factors (books or manuscripts) that led to your analytical essay thesis. If we are talking about a scientific research, considering the scientific method is a necessity.
The thesis shouldn’t be a simple yes or no question with an answer. It should be a complex point that has many interconnected factors. The thesis should be controversial and require tons of research to come up with a respectable statement. Lastly, the thesis should be a high impact statement that strongly effects the topic of choice.
Find Supporting Evidence
Why do you need evidence? You won’t be able to sway anybody with your thesis statement unless it’s backed by something. This is why all good thesis statements need in-depth research, analysis, & some forecasts. It’s important to gather information that supports your argument from the primary sources:
- Books & e-Books
- Scholarly articles
Depending on the type of essay , it won’t necessarily be straightforward information.
If we are talking about a historical topic or some sort of scientific fact, then your supporting evidence will evidently be facts taken from previous findings. However, if you are writing a literary analysis essay, then most likely your evidence will be quotes from the story. This type of evidence requires analysis and assumptions in regards towards how the reader should interpret the line.
Create an Analytical Essay Outline
Organizing the structure of the essay is very important and makes the entire writing process easier. A number of paragraphs in the paper carries little to no importance. The experts recommend having up to 5 paragraphs. A paper outline will vary based on the topic of discussion and the thesis statement that is created. Regardless, the Intro-Body(s)-Conclusion style is a staple in any analytical essay outline.
Writing an Analytical Essay Introduction
The introduction starts out with some sort of background information. Using a hook statement can be effective.
A hook sentence is made of 1-2 sentences aimed to grab the reader’s attention from the opening lines of the paper. The choice of hook depends on the mood of the work. It could be a funny joke/anecdote, proven fact, shaking statistics, rhetorical question to provoke a debate, or a literary term like metaphor or similar. You can also add a quote of famous person.
There is no specific style for the introduction, but background information is the most common method of approach; provide information that is relevant to your thesis. This information should start out broad and narrow down in relevance towards the thesis.
We prepared a summary of the introduction below.
- Hook Statement/ Brief Introductory Point
- Background Info (Narrowed)
- Transition sentence
- Thesis Statement
Write Your Body Paragraphs
The main goal of the body paragraphs is to fully prove the thesis statement. Each individual paragraph should focus on a certain aspect of the thesis. For example, if the thesis is centered around the evolution of Will Hunting, then the body paragraphs should each hold their own point. One body paragraph focuses on his diminishing self-guilt, and a second could talk about the ever increasing support system and its impact on his mentality. The body paragraphs should maintain proper structure:
Topic Sentence: Introduce the main point of the body paragraph in one straightforward and effective sentence.
Analysis: Analyze your supporting evidence and explain how the evidence supports your thesis. This part should take 1 or 2 sentences and is arguably the most important part of the entire essay. The reader will see your understanding of the topic based on what you write within these 2 sentences. Make sure it’s creative and impactful, but also keep it original!
Evidence: No analysis is complete without supporting evidence. This is where you show how you handled the research. The analysis is created from the supporting evidence that you find, so they should always go hand in hand. Make sure that these 2 parts link together in a straightforward manner.
Concluding Sentence: After providing a well thought out analysis and adding in evidence, the paragraph should always add a concluding sentence. Restate to the reader your analysis and its significance to the point in hand.
After reading a single body paragraph, the viewer should have clearly understood the argument or point you were trying to prove. If he had some trouble painting himself a picture or understanding your logic, then one or more parts of your body paragraph may have some mistakes.
It’s important to mention that having numerous body paragraphs isn’t that important. Depending on the topic, each essay will vary based on the depth of the thesis. Quality over quantity goes a long way here.
How to Write a Conclusion for an Analytical Essay?
The conclusion plays a vital role in the sense that it ties up the entire essay.
Start out by restating your thesis statement. The significance of this is to clearly exemplify to your viewer that you have fully proven the thesis and to summarize the steps you took in order to do so. To end the entire essay, it’s necessary to create an overall concluding statement. This can be either what you have learned from writing the essay or what the audience should take away from your work. The structure should look like this:
- Rephrase the Thesis statement
- Summarize key points
- Overall Concluding Statement
That is how to write a conclusion for an analytical essay.
General Tips & Advice
After writing the entire essay, take a short break and then reread it from front to back. The chances are that you will find parts of the paper which are filled with mistakes or parts that need clarity. Regardless of what the issues are, make sure the essay has clarity before handing in completed work.
You can also get an academic writing help from out company in case You need some third-party opinion.
Get a Second Pair of Eyes
Just because the essay made sense to you, doesn’t mean that everyone else will receive it with the same level of understanding. Online essay writer or peer edits help to give the essay a wider range of clarity.
Make sure the thesis fits your argument points
Your paper will be highly judged based on how well you proved your thesis. That’s why it’s important to edit your thesis based on the type of arguments you provided. If your explanations don’t perfectly suit the thesis statement you crafted, then adjust it accordingly.
Analytical Essay Sample
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
An analytical essay is not explained in many writing textbooks. In essay writing, an analysis is the fundamental element of synthesis essays, summary essays, reflective essays, and most types of college papers. Without knowing how to analyze articles or walk your reader through a process properly, you will not be able to produce lab reports or literature papers. In an essay like this, something to stress is that analysis requires you dig deep; you can not simply summarize. You need to go beyond the who, what, where, and when, and instead answer questions of how and why.
My personal advice is to begin with a set of questions: How is this written? Who is the audience? And Is it effectively written for that audience? After answering these, it will be much easier to answer how exactly the author wrote the piece and elaborate further on why the piece was written. While writing, make sure to annotate and take notes. Keep your eye on the author’s tone and diction. This skill is incredibly important and will follow you all through middle school, high school, college, and then into life itself.
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Your book-smartest friend just got a makeover. Our most popular lit guides now have twice as much
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How to Write Literary Analysis
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
How to Write Literary Analysis
The Literary Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide
When you read for pleasure, your only goal is enjoyment. You might find yourself reading to get caught up in an exciting
story, to learn about an interesting time or place, or just to pass time. Maybe you’re looking for inspiration, guidance,
or a reflection of your own life. There are as many different, valid ways of reading a book as there are books in the
When you read a work of literature in an English class, however, you’re being asked to read in a special way: you’re being
asked to perform literary analysis. To analyze something means to break it down into smaller parts and then examine how
those parts work, both individually and together. Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play,
short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those
elements to create certain effects.
A literary essay isn’t a book review: you’re not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you’d recommend it
to another reader. A literary essay also isn’t like the kind of book report you wrote when you were younger, where your
teacher wanted you to summarize the book’s action. A high school- or college-level literary essay asks, “How does this
piece of literature actually work?” “How does it do what it does?” and, “Why might the author have made the choices he
or she did?”
The Seven Steps
No one is born knowing how to analyze literature; it’s a skill you learn and a process you can master. As you gain more practice
with this kind of thinking and writing, you’ll be able to craft a method that works best for you. But until then, here
are seven basic steps to writing a well-constructed literary essay:
- 1. Ask questions
- 2. Collect evidence
- 3. Construct a thesis
- 4. Develop and organize arguments
- 5. Write the introduction
- 6. Write the body paragraphs
- 7. Write the conclusion
1. Ask Questions
When you’re assigned a literary essay in class, your teacher will often provide you with a list of writing prompts. Lucky
you! Now all you have to do is choose one. Do yourself a favor and pick a topic that interests you. You’ll have a
much better (not to mention easier) time if you start off with something you enjoy thinking about. If you are asked
to come up with a topic by yourself, though, you might start to feel a little panicked. Maybe you have too many ideas—or
none at all. Don’t worry. Take a deep breath and start by asking yourself these questions:
What struck you? Did a particular image, line, or scene linger in your mind for a long time? If it fascinated
you, chances are you can draw on it to write a fascinating essay.
What confused you? Maybe you were surprised to see a character act in a certain way, or maybe you didn’t understand
why the book ended the way it did. Confusing moments in a work of literature are like a loose thread in a sweater:
if you pull on it, you can unravel the entire thing. Ask yourself why the author chose to write about that character
or scene the way he or she did and you might tap into some important insights about the work as a whole.
Did you notice any patterns? Is there a phrase that the main character uses constantly or an image that repeats
throughout the book? If you can figure out how that pattern weaves through the work and what the significance of
that pattern is, you’ve almost got your entire essay mapped out.
Did you notice any contradictions or ironies? Great works of literature are complex; great literary essays recognize
and explain those complexities. Maybe the title
Happy Days totally disagrees with the book’s subject matter (hungry orphans dying in the woods). Maybe the main
character acts one way around his family and a completely different way around his friends and associates. If you
can find a way to explain a work’s contradictory elements, you’ve got the seeds of a great essay.
At this point, you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to say about your topic; you just need a place to begin your
exploration. You can help direct your reading and brainstorming by formulating your topic as a question, which you’ll
then try to answer in your essay. The best questions invite critical debates and discussions, not just a rehashing
of the summary. Remember, you’re looking for something you can prove or argue based on evidence you find in the text.
Finally, remember to keep the scope of your question in mind: is this a topic you can adequately address within the
word or page limit you’ve been given? Conversely, is this a topic big enough to fill the required length?
“Are Romeo and Juliet’s parents responsible for the deaths of their children?”
“Why do pigs keep showing up in
Lord of the Flies
“Are Dr. Frankenstein and his monster alike? How?”
“What happens to Scout in
To Kill a Mockingbird
“What do the other characters in
think about Caesar?”
“How does Hester Prynne in
The Scarlet Letter
remind me of my sister?”
2. Collect Evidence
Once you know what question you want to answer, it’s time to scour the book for things that will help you answer the question.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to say yet—right now you’re just collecting ideas and material and letting
it all percolate. Keep track of passages, symbols, images, or scenes that deal with your topic. Eventually, you’ll
start making connections between these examples and your thesis will emerge.
Here’s a brief summary of the various parts that compose each and every work of literature. These are the elements that you
will analyze in your essay, and which you will offer as evidence to support your arguments. For more on the parts
of literary works, see the
Glossary of Literary Terms at the end of this section.
Elements of Story
These are the whats of the work—what happens, where it happens, and to whom it happens.
- Plot: All of the events and actions of the work.
- Character: The people who act and are acted upon in a literary work. The main character of a work is known
- Conflict: The central tension in the work. In most cases, the protagonist wants something, while opposing
antagonists) hinder the protagonist’s progress.
- Setting: When and where the work takes place. Elements of setting include location, time period, time of
day, weather, social atmosphere, and economic conditions.
- Narrator: The person telling the story. The narrator may straightforwardly report what happens, convey the
subjective opinions and perceptions of one or more characters, or provide commentary and opinion in his or her
- Themes: The main ideas or messages of the work—usually abstract ideas about people, society, or life in general.
A work may have many themes, which may be in tension with one another.
Elements of Style
These are the
hows—how the characters speak, how the story is constructed, and how language is used throughout the work.
- Structure and organization: How the parts of the work are assembled. Some novels are narrated in a linear,
chronological fashion, while others skip around in time. Some plays follow a traditional three-or five-act structure,
while others are a series of loosely connected scenes. Some authors deliberately leave gaps in their works, leaving
readers to puzzle out the missing information. A work’s structure and organization can tell you a lot about the
kind of message it wants to convey.
- Point of view: The perspective from which a story is told. In
first-person point of view, the narrator involves him or herself in the story. (“I went to the store”; “We
watched in horror as the bird slammed into the window.”) A first-person narrator is usually the protagonist of
the work, but not always. In
third-person point of view, the narrator does not participate in the story. A third-person narrator may closely
follow a specific character, recounting that individual character’s thoughts or experiences, or it may be what
we call an
omniscient narrator. Omniscient narrators see and know all: they can witness any event in any time or place
and are privy to the inner thoughts and feelings of all characters. Remember that the narrator and the author
are not the same thing!
- Diction: Word choice. Whether a character uses dry, clinical language or flowery prose with lots of exclamation
points can tell you a lot about his or her attitude and personality.
- Syntax: Word order and sentence construction. Syntax is a crucial part of establishing an author’s narrative
voice. Ernest Hemingway, for example, is known for writing in very short, straightforward sentences, while James
Joyce characteristically wrote in long, incredibly complicated lines.
- Tone: The mood or feeling of the text. Diction and syntax often contribute to the tone of a work. A novel
written in short, clipped sentences that use small, simple words might feel brusque, cold, or matter-of-fact.
- Imagery: Language that appeals to the senses, representing things that can be seen, smelled, heard, tasted,
- Figurative language: Language that is not meant to be interpreted literally. The most common types of figurative
similes, which compare two unlike things in order to suggest a similarity between them— for example, “All
the world’s a stage,” or “The moon is like a ball of green cheese.” (Metaphors say one thing
is another thing; similes claim that one thing is
like another thing.)
3. Construct a Thesis
When you’ve examined all the evidence you’ve collected and know how you want to answer the question, it’s time to write
your thesis statement. A
thesis is a claim about a work of literature that needs to be supported by evidence and arguments. The thesis
statement is the heart of the literary essay, and the bulk of your paper will be spent trying to prove this claim.
A good thesis will be:
- Arguable. “
The Great Gatsby
describes New York society in the 1920s” isn’t a thesis—it’s a fact.
- Provable through textual evidence. “
is a confusing but ultimately very well-written play” is a weak thesis because it offers the writer’s personal
opinion about the book. Yes, it’s arguable, but it’s not a claim that can be proved or supported with examples
taken from the play itself.
- Surprising. “Both George and Lenny change a great deal in
Of Mice and Men
” is a weak thesis because it’s obvious. A really strong thesis will argue for a reading of the text that is
not immediately apparent.
- Specific. “Dr. Frankenstein’s monster tells us a lot about the human condition” is
almost a really great thesis statement, but it’s still too vague. What does the writer mean by “a lot”? How
does the monster tell us so much about the human condition?
Good Thesis Statements
Romeo and Juliet
, which is more powerful in shaping the lovers’ story: fate or foolishness?
Thesis: “Though Shakespeare defines Romeo and Juliet as ‘star- crossed lovers’ and images of stars and planets
appear throughout the play, a closer examination of that celestial imagery reveals that the stars are merely witnesses
to the characters’ foolish activities and not the causes themselves.”
Question: How does the bell jar function as a symbol in Sylvia Plath’s
The Bell Jar
Thesis: “A bell jar is a bell-shaped glass that has three basic uses: to hold a specimen for observation, to
contain gases, and to maintain a vacuum. The bell jar appears in each of these capacities in
The Bell Jar, Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, and each appearance marks a different stage in Esther’s mental
Question: Would Piggy in
The Lord of the Flies make a good island leader if he were given the chance?
Thesis: “Though the intelligent, rational, and innovative Piggy has the mental characteristics of a good leader,
he ultimately lacks the social skills necessary to be an effective one. Golding emphasizes this point by giving Piggy
a foil in the charismatic Jack, whose magnetic personality allows him to capture and wield power effectively, if
not always wisely.”
4. Develop and Organize Arguments
The reasons and examples that support your thesis will form the middle paragraphs of your essay. Since you can’t really
write your thesis statement until you know how you’ll structure your argument, you’ll probably end up working on
steps 3 and 4 at the same time.
There’s no single method of argumentation that will work in every context. One essay prompt might ask you to compare
and contrast two characters, while another asks you to trace an image through a given work of literature. These questions
require different kinds of answers and therefore different kinds of arguments. Below, we’ll discuss three common
kinds of essay prompts and some strategies for constructing a solid, well-argued case.
Types of Literary Essays
Compare and contrast
Compare and contrast the characters of Huck and Jim in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .
Chances are you’ve written this kind of essay before. In an academic literary context, you’ll organize your arguments
the same way you would in any other class. You can either go
subject by subject or
point by point. In the former, you’ll discuss one character first and then the second. In the latter, you’ll
choose several traits (attitude toward life, social status, images and metaphors associated with the character) and
devote a paragraph to each. You may want to use a mix of these two approaches—for example, you may want to spend
a paragraph apiece broadly sketching Huck’s and Jim’s personalities before transitioning into a paragraph or two
that describes a few key points of comparison. This can be a highly effective strategy if you want to make a counterintuitive
argument—that, despite seeming to be totally different, the two objects being compared are actually similar in a
very important way (or vice versa). Remember that your essay should reveal something fresh or unexpected about the
text, so think beyond the obvious parallels and differences.
Choose an image—for example, birds, knives, or eyes—and trace that image throughout
Sounds pretty easy, right? All you need to do is read the play, underline every appearance of a knife in
Macbeth, and then list them in your essay in the order they appear, right? Well, not exactly. Your teacher doesn’t
want a simple catalog of examples. He or she wants to see you make connections between those examples—that’s the
difference between summarizing and analyzing. In the
Macbeth example above, think about the different contexts in which knives appear in the play and to what effect.
Macbeth, there are real knives and imagined knives; knives that kill and knives that simply threaten. Categorize
and classify your examples to give them some order. Finally, always keep the overall effect in mind. After you choose
and analyze your examples, you should come to some greater understanding about the work, as well as your chosen image,
symbol, or phrase’s role in developing the major themes and stylistic strategies of that work.
Is the society depicted in
good for its citizens?
In this kind of essay, you’re being asked to debate a moral, ethical, or aesthetic issue regarding the work. You might
be asked to judge a character or group of characters (
Is Caesar responsible for his own demise?) or the work itself (
a feminist novel?). For this kind of essay, there are two important points to keep in mind. First, don’t simply
base your arguments on your personal feelings and reactions. Every literary essay expects you to read and analyze
the work, so search for evidence in the text. What do characters in
1984 have to say about the government of Oceania? What images does Orwell use that might give you a hint about
his attitude toward the government? As in any debate, you also need to make sure that you define all the necessary
terms before you begin to argue your case. What does it mean to be a “good” society? What makes a novel “feminist”?
You should define your terms right up front, in the first paragraph after your introduction.
Second, remember that strong literary essays make contrary and surprising arguments. Try to think outside the box. In
1984 example above, it seems like the obvious answer would be no, the totalitarian society depicted in Orwell’s
not good for its citizens. But can you think of any arguments for the opposite side? Even if your final assertion
is that the novel depicts a cruel, repressive, and therefore harmful society, acknowledging and responding to the
counterargument will strengthen your overall case.
5. Write the Introduction
Your introduction sets up the entire essay. It’s where you present your topic and articulate the particular issues and
questions you’ll be addressing. It’s also where you, as the writer, introduce yourself to your readers. A persuasive
literary essay immediately establishes its writer as a knowledgeable, authoritative figure.
An introduction can vary in length depending on the overall length of the essay, but in a traditional five-paragraph
essay it should be no longer than one paragraph. However long it is, your introduction needs to:
- Provide any necessary context. Your introduction should situate the reader and let him or her know what to
expect. What book are you discussing? Which characters? What topic will you be addressing?
- Answer the “So what?” question. Why is this topic important, and why is your particular position on the topic
noteworthy? Ideally, your introduction should pique the reader’s interest by suggesting how your argument is
surprising or otherwise counterintuitive. Literary essays make unexpected connections and reveal less-than-obvious
- Present your thesis. This usually happens at or very near the end of your introduction.
- Indicate the shape of the essay to come. Your reader should finish reading your introduction with a good
sense of the scope of your essay as well as the path you’ll take toward proving your thesis. You don’t need to
spell out every step, but you do need to suggest the organizational pattern you’ll be using.
Your introduction should not:
- Be vague. Beware of the two killer words in literary analysis: interesting and important. Of course the work,
question, or example is interesting and important—that’s why you’re writing about it!
- Open with any grandiose assertions. Many student readers think that beginning their essays with a flamboyant
statement such as, “Since the dawn of time, writers have been fascinated with the topic of free will,” makes
them sound important and commanding. You know what? It actually sounds pretty amateurish.
- Wildly praise the work. Another typical mistake student writers make is extolling the work or author. Your
teacher doesn’t need to be told that “Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest writer in the English language.” You
can mention a work’s reputation in passing—by referring to
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as “Mark Twain’s enduring classic,” for example—but don’t make a point
of bringing it up unless that reputation is key to your argument.
- Go off-topic. Keep your introduction streamlined and to the point. Don’t feel the need to throw in all kinds
of bells and whistles in order to impress your reader—just get to the point as quickly as you can, without skimping
on any of the required steps.
6. Write the Body Paragraphs
Once you’ve written your introduction, you’ll take the arguments you developed in step 4 and turn them into your body
paragraphs. The organization of this middle section of your essay will largely be determined by the argumentative
strategy you use, but no matter how you arrange your thoughts, your body paragraphs need to do the following:
- Begin with a strong topic sentence. Topic sentences are like signs on a highway: they tell the reader where
they are and where they’re going. A good topic sentence not only alerts readers to what issue will be discussed
in the following paragraph but also gives them a sense of what argument will be made about that issue. “Rumor
and gossip play an important role in
” isn’t a strong topic sentence because it doesn’t tell us very much. “The community’s constant gossiping creates
an environment that allows false accusations to flourish” is a much stronger topic sentence— it not only tells
us what the paragraph will discuss (gossip) but how the paragraph will discuss the topic (by showing how gossip
creates a set of conditions that leads to the play’s climactic action).
- Fully and completely develop a single thought. Don’t skip around in your paragraph or try to stuff in too
much material. Body paragraphs are like bricks: each individual one needs to be strong and sturdy or the entire
structure will collapse. Make sure you have really proven your point before moving on to the next one.
- Use transitions effectively. Good literary essay writers know that each paragraph must be clearly and strongly
linked to the material around it. Think of each paragraph as a response to the one that precedes it. Use transition
words and phrases such as however, similarly, on the contrary, therefore, and furthermore to indicate what kind
of response you’re making.
7. Write the Conclusion
Just as you used the introduction to ground your readers in the topic before providing your thesis, you’ll use the conclusion
to quickly summarize the specifics learned thus far and then hint at the broader implications of your topic. A good
- Do more than simply restate the thesis. If your thesis argued that
The Catcher in the Rye
can be read as a Christian allegory, don’t simply end your essay by saying, “And that is why
The Catcher in the Rye can be read as a Christian allegory.” If you’ve constructed your arguments well, this
kind of statement will just be redundant.
- Synthesize the arguments, not summarize them. Similarly, don’t repeat the details of your body paragraphs
in your conclusion. The reader has already read your essay, and chances are it’s not so long that they’ve forgotten
all your points by now.
- Revisit the “So what?” question. In your introduction, you made a case for why your topic and position are
important. You should close your essay with the same sort of gesture. What do your readers know now that they
didn’t know before? How will that knowledge help them better appreciate or understand the work overall?
- Move from the specific to the general. Your essay has most likely treated a very specific element of the
work—a single character, a small set of images, or a particular passage. In your conclusion, try to show how
this narrow discussion has wider implications for the work overall. If your essay on
To Kill a Mockingbird focused on the character of Boo Radley, for example, you might want to include a bit
in your conclusion about how he fits into the novel’s larger message about childhood, innocence, or family life.
- Stay relevant. Your conclusion should suggest new directions of thought, but it shouldn’t be treated as an
opportunity to pad your essay with all the extra, interesting ideas you came up with during your brainstorming
sessions but couldn’t fit into the essay proper. Don’t attempt to stuff in unrelated queries or too many abstract
- Avoid making overblown closing statements. A conclusion should open up your highly specific, focused discussion,
but it should do so without drawing a sweeping lesson about life or human nature. Making such observations may
be part of the point of reading, but it’s almost always a mistake in essays, where these observations tend to
sound overly dramatic or simply silly.
Glossary of Literary Terms
The entity that acts to frustrate the goals of the
protagonist. The antagonist is usually another
character but may also be a non-human force.
antihero / antiheroine
protagonist who is not admirable or who challenges notions of what should be considered admirable.
A person, animal, or any other thing with a personality that appears in a
The moment of greatest intensity in a text or the major turning point in the
The central struggle that moves the
plot forward. The con ict can be the
protagonist’s struggle against fate, nature, society, or another person.
first-person point of view
A literary style in which the
narrator tells the story from his or her own
point of view and refers to himself or herself as “I.” The narrator may be an active participant in the story
or just an observer.
hero / heroine
character in a literary work or
Language that brings to mind sense-impressions, representing things that can be seen, smelled, heard, tasted, or
A recurring idea, structure, contrast, or device that develops or informs the major
themes of a work of literature.
The person (sometimes a
character) who tells a story; the
voice assumed by the writer. The narrator and the author of the work of literature are not the same person.
The arrangement of the events in a story, including the sequence in which they are told, the relative emphasis they
are given, and the causal connections between events.
point of view
perspective that a
narrative takes toward the events it describes.
character around whom the story revolves.
The location of a
narrative in time and space. Setting creates mood or atmosphere.
plot that is of less importance to the overall story but may serve as a point of contrast or comparison to
the main plot.
character, figure, or color that is used to represent an abstract idea or concept. Unlike an
emblem, a symbol may have different meanings in different contexts.
The way the words in a piece of writing are put together to form lines, phrases, or clauses; the basic structure
of a piece of writing.
A fundamental and universal idea explored in a literary work.
The author’s attitude toward the subject or
characters of a story or poem or toward the reader.
An author’s individual way of using language to re ect his or her own personality and attitudes. An author communicates
tone, diction, and
Suggested Essay Topics
- No Fear A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Character List
- Puck: Character Analysis
- Plot Analysis
- Is Love More Important than Friendship?
- Quotes by Theme
- Review Quiz
From the SparkNotes Blog
Fresh news and facts about
education and college life.
Home Blog » Guides » How To Write a Critical Analysis Essay
All works of art are subject to criticism. That criticism comes in the form of this essay type. Every time you read or watch a review or a discussion on a piece, you are exposing yourself to a critical analysis. Handmadewritings team prepared this guide for You to learn how to write a critical analysis essay. Let’s rock!
- 0.1 What is a Critical Analysis Essay?
- 1 How to Start A Critical Analysis Essay
- 1.1 Identify the Author’s Thesis
- 1.2 Outline the Main Ideas
- 1.3 Evaluate the Author’s Points
- 2 How to write a Critical Analysis
- 3 Critical Analysis Essay Outline:
- 3.1 Introduction
- 3.2 Summary
- 3.3 Analysis
- 3.4 Conclusion
- 4 Critical Analysis Essay Writing Tips
- 4.1 Do’s and Don’ts From Our Writing Team
What is a Critical Analysis Essay?
A critical analysis essay puts you, the writer, in the position of judging a creative work. Generally, these essays cover what you believe the work did well and what it did wrong, while adding some personal insight. You will use examples from the piece to support your claims.
How to Start A Critical Analysis Essay
Before you start the writing portion of your essay, you’ll need to spend some time with the creative work and get a good idea of the messages it attempts to portray.
Identify the Author’s Thesis
What is the main message behind the creative piece? Identify what the author is trying to argue. Which side of the argument do they fall on? Do they offer solutions to the argument or simply present to show awareness? This isn’t always clear in the work, and some outside research may be needed to fully understand the message.
Outline the Main Ideas
Go through the piece and note down any overarching messages. How does the creator appeal to your emotions? Is it done effectively, or could it have been done better? In most creative works, all of the main ideas come together to form the thesis statement.
A good way of searching for these is to work backwards from the previously established thesis. View the piece with the thesis in mind, and jot down each and every point that contributes to it.
Evaluate the Author’s Points
Summarize these points and state how well they support the thesis. Are they the strongest possible arguments for the thesis? What examples does the creator present against the thesis? Are they fair and objective, or do they lean heavily to one side? Like a good critical analysis, a good creative piece evaluates all sides of the presented argument and supports each side with evidence.
How to write a Critical Analysis
Organizing your research into an outline is the best way to prepare for the writing. A proper outline will allow your writing to flow and give you a structure to adhere to.
Critical Analysis Essay Outline:
When starting a critical analysis essay, you need to state the name of the creative work, the creator, and any relevant publication/distribution details. Then, outline what parts of the work you’re going to discuss. This is when you should introduce the creator’s thesis and how they supported that thesis.
Once that’s done, end the introduction with your thesis statement. Your thesis should consist of your original thoughts and reactions to the creation and its message. Come up with a main idea about the work and use different examples from it to support your statement.
This is your opinion and it should not be the same as the creator’s thesis. A good thesis example would state what the creator’s argument is, and then what it does well/badly and how it accomplishes that.
Here, you’re going to go more in-depth on the main ideas you outlined in your introduction. Break down what the piece is about. Talk about the characters, the themes, how the creator utilizes these to show their vision and argue their points.
Pretend the reader hasn’t been exposed to the piece of creative work. Don’t hold back, show them what the piece is so they can understand where you are coming from.
The part you’ve waited for. The analysis is broken into multiple body paragraphs, much like other types of essays. Break down your ideas that you stated in your thesis, giving each their own paragraph. Do your best to state both positive and negative parts of the creative work. If you really feel strongly one way or the other, highlight the opposite feeling early on before getting into your opinions. If you hate the film, discuss what it did well at the beginning of your analysis, then get into what it did wrong.
When breaking down your ideas, be sure to discuss the three different types of appeals:
- Ethos: How the creator shows their credibility in their art. Why should they be trusted, or how did they fail to establish credibility?
- Pathos: All art is based on emotion. How did the creators work to appeal to your emotions specifically? Did you agree with how the creator wanted you to feel, or did they miss the mark completely?
- Logos: How does the creator use logic to get you on their side?
At the end of your analysis paragraphs, your paper should clearly state your thoughts and opinions on the creation, have those thoughts supported with examples from the piece, and address whether or not the creator achieved their goal.
Restate your thesis. Say it in a different, but similar, way to reaffirm it. Summarize the main point of each body paragraph, strengthening your thesis even more. Finally, your conclusion should show what the reader shall take away from the creation:
- You shouldn’t watch this movie because it’s offensive to all genders.
- You should read this book because it is an incredibly informative retelling of the Watergate scandal
While working on the planning and pre-planning stages of your essay, be sure to keep these tips in mind for a stronger end product:
Critical Analysis Essay Writing Tips
- Provoke your reader to rethink their opinions on the piece. Strive to make your opinion so sound that they have no choice but to consider it.
- Be fair. If you’re just whining or mindlessly praising the piece, no one is going to take your analysis seriously. Provide a quality argument with strong examples. Create a strong foundation for your opinion.
- Have fun. You’re speaking your mind on a creation. Really get into why you feel the way you do. If you’re having fun, it will show, and the reader will too.Check out our paper writing guide to learn how to write other essay types.
And finally, check your essay upon completion and make sure it follows these guidelines. If it does, you’re set:
Do’s and Don’ts From Our Writing Team
- Take the time to find strong examples both for and against your argument.
- Ensure the reader has a clear vision on what the piece is about before you get into the analysis.
- Be honest. Share your emotions with the reader. It will build a stronger argument, and an apt reader will see right through you being fake.
- Research the piece. Reading up on it will give you some insight you may not have considered, leading to a stronger argument.
- Lean too far one way without discussing the other.
- Write “My thoughts” or “My opinion is”. Just state your opinions.
- Use first or second pronouns. Say “the audience” or “the reader”.
- Spend too much time on the summary. Your analysis should be the biggest part of your paper.
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