It is not so hard to find the definition of an analytical essay on the Internet, it is a lot harder to gather your thoughts and start it. How do I suppose to write my essay? How to make it stand out? What components should I include? Firstly, calm down. We are going to find everything out in a couple of minutes. Let us dive into the question of how to write a good analytical essay.
How to Write an Analytical Essay
In the analytical essay, you examine, interpret, and analyze a book, a play, a poem, a novel, or any kind of written art. The writer’s aim is to consider the object of analysis from several prisms. The point of the analytical essay is to look at one or more pieces of work and analyze what is happening that makes it so interesting. You are not trying to explain what is going on, but rather, why and how it is going on. All you need to do is to analyze specific examples within the text and then come up with an educational rationale as to how those ideas strengthen the work or reinforce the theme.
The analytical essay in a high school setting might have five body paragraphs (an introduction, a conclusion, and three body paragraph). In a university setting, you might write 20 pages but the structure is still the same. The introduction and the conclusion of the analytical essay might be a little bit longer but the three body paragraphs will definitely expand and become three main ideas, which will potentially take several paragraphs each to write.
To understand what we are talking about, just think of analytical essays as merely a more formal and written dialogue between two people. If you met someone on the street and you wanted to ask them for coffee, you would not walk up to them and start mid-conversation by saying: “Hey, let’s go for a coffee”. It would be abrupt and a little bit weird. Instead, there is a bit of a natural flow. You would introduce to a person why you were talking to them, then you would give them two or three things to think about and then you would “conclude”. In a normal conversation with a random person, it would sound something like that: “Hi, I saw you sitting there reading the book “The Catcher in the Rye” (the introduction). I read it a few times already and I love the ending (your main points). Perhaps, would you like to join me for coffee and we can talk about it more (the conclusion)?”
So, analytical essays are the same, less romantic but they embody a similar structure. You can’t just jump into your ideas or arguments. People need to be welcomed into arguments. We will give you a framework from which to spread your linguistic wings. Once you get the hang of the basic pattern, then you can add your own flare, creative style and write something that is more original and unique. Here is our basic layout of the analytical essay.
How to Start an Analytical Essay
Failing to plan is planning to fail. I am sure you have heard this before and there is a reason. It is very true. Without well-organized structure, you are going to have a messy and poorly written analytical essay. So, please, make sure you spend a lot of time planning your paper before you start writing it. We will help you with that. Here are some steps you can take:
Step 1. Read the Question
Reread it, to be more accurate. You can get really passionate about the text of the book or produce an awesome analytical essay but you will not get an A+ if you do not address what the question is asking you.
Step 2. Brainstorm
This is the fun part. Look at the keywords of your poem, story or novel and expand on them. Go absolutely crazy, write everything you know about the text in relation to those words. Do not move on to the next stage until you have got a full crazy-looking page. There are different methods of brainstorming, starting from mindmap and up to Padlet, Popplet (iPad apps).
Step 3. Organize Your Crazy Ideas
Pay attention to what ideas and words dominate, make a simple outline and start writing analytical essay introduction. In here, you have a few jobs to do. How you do them is up to you and the order of these jobs can be negotiated.
Firstly, you need to present the author (or the authors), the title and your thesis statement (main point). These are the 3 must-haves in the introduction of the analytical essay. There are some other things which you really should have in the introduction to dress it up a little bit. As an analogy, when you get dressed in the morning, you are required to put clothes on your body. That is what the 3 must-haves are. Jewelry, accessories, purses, make-up are the extra details which make up the nicer presentation.
The first extra bit is to start the analytical essay with an interesting statement about your topic (it can be a question, startling discovery or quote to further contextualize what you are talking about). The second extra is to reword the statement. All you have to do is find synonyms to rephrase what you have just said. If you do not, you run the risk of having an introduction that is too choppy and very staccato. The third extra would be if you can provide a literary reference. It helps the reader to make a connection. Extra bit number four is to make a statement connecting your literary reference to the theme.
However, the extra bits or accessories are up to you, remember, similar to when you get dressed in the morning, you can’t have too much stuff going on, otherwise, it feels chaotic and unorganized. Finally, you want to tell the readers how you are going to present your thesis statement by telling them three body paragraphs you are going to discuss. Now, you know the best way to start the analytical essay.
Analytical Essay Format
There are several steps you can take in order to write great body paragraphs in your analytical essay. Notice that each paragraph of your analytical essay will have different topics, depending on what you are analyzing but for a generic, fool-proof layout.
First Body Paragraph
In the first body paragraph, you need to analyze a literary device. You want to tell the reader how this literary device reinforces the theme or your thesis statement and why it is important to the overall success of the text that you analyzing. You can use anything from symbolism to repetition, to cacophony, to euphony, to allusion (and so many options). For example, the theme of a book is an eternity. If repetition in the text goes on forever, it will represent the eternity.
Second Body Paragraph
In the second body paragraph of your analytical essay, look at the form of the text, at the way that it is written, at the physical shape of the story and tell the readers why this reinforces the theme.
Let us say you are reading a poem about somebody’s life and it is physically written where the first lines are really long and then towards the end, it gets really short. Symbolically, the form has to represent the context. In the analytical essay, you can assume that the person’s life is slowly coming to an end at the end of the poem. So, in this way, the form does truly embody the meaning of the poem.
So, if there anything interesting physically, like if you make your eyes go blurry, write about it. Let us say the book is written from the 1st person point of view. It means the reader is going to connect more with the text.
Third Body Paragraph
In the third body paragraph of the analytical essay, examine character development. How did the characters grow? What is symbolic about their growth? Does that mirror what the theme is? You might ask: what does “reinforcement of the theme” mean? Let us say, the theme of a book is happiness. If the characters grew in a happy family or in a happy way, then it reinforces the theme.
Pay attention to the word choice in the analytical essay, is there a reason why particularly these words are chosen? How does that influence the way you understand the theme? Maybe some letters go above and beyond the lines? Maybe the theme of the poem is crossing or pushing boundaries? Notice how the letters look. Maybe they have a Germanic or Arabic origin? When it comes to word choice, all these different things really impact how we interpret and perceive either a poem or a short story.
Notice the historical or social significance. Perhaps, what you are analyzing would have been really important for the time it was written. An example of this would be a war poem “In Flanders Fields”. In Canada, people read this poem every Remembrance Day. It would not be as inspirational or meaningful without the reader having an appreciation for the context in which it was written.
Once again, when you choose your three body paragraphs, it is similar to getting dressed. You open up your closet door and see hundreds of choices – a whole bunch of pants, socks, T-shirts, and sweaters. That is what body paragraphs are, they are options.
There are major options you need to analyze in your analytical essay – literary devices, characters’ development, the form of the text, word choice.
So, ultimately, the topics of the three body paragraphs are up to you. Some might be more effective to discuss than others but there are no three topics you mandatory have to discuss. However, analyzing literary devices as one of your three paragraphs is always a good idea because it is really upper-level thinking.
Analytical Essay: The Outline of Body Paragraphs
If you are stuck and having a hard time to come up with what to say, here is a formula which might work for you. So, here are the steps.
1. Make a general statement about the topic of the body paragraph.
2. Directly tell the reader what the topic of the body paragraph is.
3. Provide an example.
4. Explain the example.
5. Analyze the example.
6. Explain WHY the example reinforces the theme.
7. Explain HOW the text which you are reading would be different without the example.
8. Examine how the example changes the tone of the text. What does it do to the piece of writing to make it really effective?
9. Make an observation about the example.
10. Make a final statement which acknowledges the topic of your body paragraph which you are working on and which hints or leads to the next body paragraph.
If you are writing a lengthier analytical essay, you might need to repeat this pattern 3 or 4 times. One of the biggest traps though that people fall into is that they have the grocery list of examples but do not really analyze them.
How to Conclude an Analytical Essay
It can be quite tricky. Although you are concluding your analytical essay, you do not want to sound as though you are simply repeating. One of the tricks I use is to take your introduction and transfer it to the bottom of your paper. Rework until it sounds different enough from the introduction.
If you want a clear guide of how to write a conclusion, here it is:
1. Make a general statement about your whole topic.
2. Make a statement along the lines of: “although this poem may have at first seemed dark, depressing, and dismal, after careful analysis and examination, one can conclude that it is rather encouraging, insightful, and hopeful piece of work”.
3. Show the reader you have found a deeper meaning of a simple story/poem/book.
It is not the time to put in new information. So, make sure to pull out ideas that you have already written in your analytical essay. Restate three main points.
“The poem’s use of euphony directly reinforces the message of beauty and acceptance; the main character develops in a safe and comfortable way mirroring the theme of love. Finally, the poem, written in the first person, enables the reader to connect with the speaker on a deeper level, allowing the reader to experience the love, which poem is expressing”.
End with a question to let the readers think about your topic. You could ask “Would this poem have been as successful without such a reliance on repetition? Perhaps, we will never know”. A safe way to do this is to turn your thesis statement into a question and then ask whether or not it achieved success. So, would this article have been as successful without such a reliance on “analytical essay” phrases? Perhaps, we will never know.