Writing an Analytical Essay : How to Excel it

Writing an analytical essay can seem daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. Don’t worry! Buy a caffeinated beverage, relax your muscles and take a deep breath.

An essay is a piece of writing that provides the author’s own argument. Definition of an essay is vague, overlapping with those of a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Formal essays are differentiated on purpose, dignity, logical organization, length whereas the informal essay is characterized by self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner, rambling structure, humor, graceful style, unconventionality or novelty of theme.

Just follow these steps to write a well-crafted analytical essay.

Parts for Writing an Analytical Essay

  • Prewriting for the Essay
  • Writing the Essay
  • Finalizing the Essay

Part 1 of Writing an Analytical Essay : Prewriting for the Essay

Understand the objective of an analytical essay.

An analytical essay means you will require to put some argument, or claim, about what you analyze about a matter. Generally you will have to analyze a piece of writing or a essay. You may be put to test through analyzing an issue, or an idea. You must adjust the topic down into pieces and offer evidence. They may come either from the text/film or from own research, which supports the claim.
For example, “Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining uses a repeating motif of Native American culture and art to comment on America’s history of colonizing Native Americans’ lands” is an analytical thesis. In this there is an analysis of a particular text which sets forth an argument against/with it in the form of a thesis statement.

Writing an Analytical Essay

Decide what to write about.

  • If you are writing anything for a class, the teacher will usually assign you a topic or topics to argue/write about. Read the prompt carefully and try to understand what is it asking you to do? However you will have to think about an original idea or topic.
  • If you’re writing an analytical essay about a work of fiction, you could focus the argument on motivation that you derive from a given character or set of characters. You may also talk about a certain line or paragraph is central to the work as a whole.
  • While writing about a historical event, try to focus on the issues that collaborated to the events to happen.
  • When writing about scientific findings or research, follow the scientific method to conclude or analyze the results.

Brainstorm.

You may not immediately know what your thesis statement should be, even once you’ve chosen your topic. That’s okay! Doing some brainstorming can help you discover what you think about your topic. Consider it from as many angles as you can.
Look for repeated imagery, metaphors, phrases, or ideas. Things that repeat are often important. See if you can decipher why these things are so crucial. Do they repeat in the same way each time, or differently?
How does the text work? If you’re writing a rhetorical analysis, for example, you might analyze how the author uses logical appeals to support her argument and decide whether you think the argument is effective. If you’re analyzing a creative work, consider things like imagery, visuals in a film, etc. If you’re analyzing research, you may want to consider the methods and results and analyze whether the experiment is a good design.
A mind map can be helpful to some people. Start with your central topic, and arrange smaller ideas around it in bubbles. Connect the bubbles to identify patterns and how things are related.
Good brainstorming can be all over the place. In fact, that can be a good way to start off! Don’t discount any ideas just yet. Write down any element or fact that you think of as you examine your topic.

Writing an Analytical Essay

Come up with a thesis statement.

The thesis statement is a sentence or two that summarizes the claim you will make in the paper. It tells the reader what your essay will be about.

Don’t : Write a vague or obvious thesis like “Revenge is a central theme in Beowulf.”
Do : Write a specific argument like “Beowulf explores different styles of vengeance in the Anglo-Saxon age, contrasting the dragon’s honorable retribution with the response of Grendel’s mother.”

This is an analytical thesis because it examines a text and makes a particular claim. The claim is “arguable,” meaning it’s not a statement of pure fact that nobody could contest. An analytical essay takes a side and makes an argument. Ensure the thesis is narrow enough to fit the scope of the assignment. “Revenge in Beowulf could be a PhD dissertation, it’s so broad. It’s probably much too big for a student essay. Arguing with one character’s revenge is more honorable than another’s is manageable within a shorter student essay.

Find supporting evidence.

You may require to work only with primary sources, text or texts you’re analyzing or with primary and secondary sources, like books or journal articles depending on the assignment. The assignment should be able to mention what types of sources are needed. Good evidence helps in supporting the claim and provides a backing to the argument in a more convincing way. List out the supporting evidence, noting where you found it, and how it supports the claim.

Example of supporting evidence: To support an argue that the dragon’s vengeance was more righteous than Grendel’s mother’s, look at the passages in the poem that emphasis on the events leading up to each monster’s attack, they attack themselves, as well as the reactions to those attacks.

Don’t : Ignore or twist evidence to fit your thesis.
Do : Adjust the thesis to a more higher position while you study more about the argument or topic.

Writing an Analytical Essay

Make an outline.

An outline will help structure your essay and make writing it easier. Be sure that you understand how long your essay needs to be. While some teachers are fine with the standard “5 paragraph essay” (introduction, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion), many teachers prefer essays to be longer and explore topics more in-depth. Structure your outline accordingly.
If you’re not quite sure how all your evidence fits together, don’t worry! Making an outline can help you figure out how your argument should progress.
You can also make a more informal outline that groups your ideas together in large groups. From there, you can decide what to talk about where.
Your essay will be as long as it needs to be to adequately discuss your topic. A common mistake students make is to choose a large topic and then allow only 3 body paragraphs to discuss it. This makes essays feel shallow or rushed. Don’t be afraid to spend enough time discussing each detail!

Part 2 of Writing an Analytical Essay : Writing the Essay

Write the introduction.

The introduction should give the reader background information about the topic. Try making the introduction engaging . Do not get overzealous. Avoid summarizing the prompt. Generally it is best to just state the argument. You must avoid dramatic introductions like beginning an essay with a question or exclamation is the best thing to avoid to become a bit of more grown up. Never use the first or second person in the essay. State and explain the thesis, usually as the last sentence in the first paragraph.
The introduction gives the readers information they must know to understand the argument, and then presents an argument about the complexity of a general topic in the essay. Argument can be interesting because it provides the reader what he requires to think about the text very carefully and not take it at face value.

Don’t : Include filler and fluff sentences beginning like “In modern society.”
Do: Slightly mention the title, author, and publication date of the text to be analyzed.

Writing an Analytical Essay

Write the body paragraphs.

Each body paragraph should have :-

  • a topic sentence,
  • an analysis of some part of the text
  • evidence from the text that supports analysis and thesis statement.

A topic sentence must explain the reader what the body paragraph will be about. The analysis of the text is what you make the argument for. The evidence provided by you supports the argument. You must remember that each claim must ensure to support the thesis.

Example topic sentence: The key to differentiating between the two attacks is the notion of excessive retribution.
Example analysis: Grendel’s mother does not simply want vengeance, as per the Medieval concept of ‘an eye for an eye.’ Instead, she wants to take a life for a life while also throwing Hrothgar’s kingdom into chaos.
Example evidence: Instead of simply killing Aeschere, and thus enacting just revenge, she “quickly [snatches] up” that nobleman and, with him “tight in her clutches,” she leaves for the fen (1294). She does this to lure Beowulf away from Heorot so she can kill him as well.
The formula “CEE” helps remembering : Claim-Evidence-Explanation. Whenever you present a claim, ensure you present evidence to support that claim and explain how the evidence relates to the claim.

Know when to quote or paraphrase.

Quoting means that you get a famous personality and extract an exact text written or spoken by them and, put it in quotation marks, place it into the essay at a desired place. Quoting is good as you utilize the precise wording of something to support the claim. Ensure that you use the correct form of quotation, depending on if you are using MLA, APA or Chicago style.

Paraphrasing is used while summarizing the text. Paraphrasing can be used to give background or compress a lot of details into a short space. It can be good when you have a lot of information or would require to quote a huge portion of text to convey something.

Don’t : Quote from more than two passages per paragraph.
Do : Support all subtle or controversial claims with quotes or paraphrasing.

Example of a Quote : Instead of simply killing Aeschere, and enacting just revenge, she “quickly [snatches] up” that nobleman and, with him “tight in her clutches,” she leaves for the fen (1294).
Example of a Paraphrasing : The female Grendel enters Heorot, snatches up one of the men sleeping inside it, and runs away to the fen (1294).

Writing an Analytical Essay

Write the conclusion.

The conclusion is the place or the paragraph which reminds the reader of how you supported the argument. Many teachers wish you to make a broader connection in the conclusion. It means that they wish you to make a ‘wider world connection’. This means stating how the argument affects various claims about the text, or how the claim could change the view of reading the text you have been analyzed.

Don’t : Introduce a completely new argument in the conclusion.
Do : Expand beyond the thesis statement by discussing its implications or broader context.

Conclusion: The concept of an ‘eye for an eye’ was very prevailing in the early Medieval world. By comparing the attacks of both Grendel’s mother and the dragon, the medieval world’s perception of righteous vengeance versus unjust revenge is made clear. When the dragon acts out in the only way he knows how, Grendel’s mother attacks with evil intent.

Conclusion with a ‘bigger world connection’: The concept of an ‘eye for an eye’ was very present in the early Medieval world. As we saw from the study of these characters, the portrayals may get into an early Medieval perception that women had greater potential for evil.

Part 3 of Writing an Analytical Essay : Finalizing the Essay

Proofread the essay for spelling or grammar mistakes.

A paper consisting of various mistakes usually gets a lower grade than one that has been proofread and polished. Do a spell check, check for run-on sentences, and correct the punctuation errors. Ensure to format the essay correctly. Like, using a 12-pt standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman and taking 1″ margins is standard.

Read your paper out loud.

Reading out loud provides you to find paragraph in the essay that might sound awkward. This is also a great way to search run-on sentences which you might not have noticed before.

Ensure that all characters, titles, places, etc. are spelled correctly.

Teachers will often mark you down for the name of a main character is spelled incorrectly throughout the paper. You must go through the text or article and check whether the spellings are correct. Whether you are analyzing a film, look up the list of characters online. Check from two to three sources to ensure that you have the correct spelling.

Writing an Analytical Essay

Read the paper supposing you were the teacher.

You must get your point across clearly. It helps in structuring the essay and makes it easy to understand. Your paper must explain why the topic matters.

Ask someone else to read your paper.

There is always something others will think you should add or remove. Do try to understand their point of view and try to incorporate.

After going through the above steps to improve your skills for writing an analytical essay, it will be definitely give you the desired results if you follow the instructions carefully.

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