You’ve been staring at your blank computer screen for what feels like hours, trying to figure out how to start your analytical essay. You try to choose between writing the introduction first or getting right into the meat of it. But somehow, it seems too difficult to do either.
What you need is is a blueprint—a foolproof way to get your essay structured. Then all you have to do is fill in the blanks.
By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What an Analytical Essay Is—And What It Isn’tBefore we get to the good stuff, you should know exactly what an analytical essay is. Your middle school and high school teachers probably told you something like, “An analytical essay is writing that analyzes a text.”
Helpful, right? Um, not so much.
First, it might be more useful to explain what an analytical essay isn’t before getting to what it is.
An analytical essay isn’t a summary. Though this may seem obvious in theory, it’s more difficult in practice. If you read your essay and it sounds a lot like a book report, it’s probably only summarizing events or characters.
One way to figure out if you’re summarizing instead of analyzing is to look at your support. Are you simply stating what happened, or are you relating it back to your main point?
Okay, so what is an analytical essay, exactly?
Usually, it’s writing that has a more narrowed focus than a summary. Analytical essays usually concentrate on how the book or poem was written—for example, how certain themes present themselves in the story, or how the use of metaphor brings a certain meaning to a poem.
In short, this type of essay requires you to look at the smaller parts of the work to help shed light on the larger picture.
An example of a prompt—and the example I’m going to use for the rest of this post—could be something like: Analyze the theme of sacrifice in the Harry Potter series. (Note: there might be some spoilers, but I figured everyone who was planning on reading the books has done so already—or at least has seen the movies.)
One Way To Form Your Analytical Essay Outline
There are quite a few ways to organize your analytical essay, but no matter how you choose to write it, your essay should always have three main parts:
I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of this soon, but for all you visual learners, here is a nice representation of all the components that make a great analytical essay outline.
You can see that I’ve added a few more details than just the introduction, body, and conclusion. But hold your horses—we’re getting to those parts right now.
Introduction of Your Analytical Essay Outline
The purpose of your introduction is to get the reader interested in your analysis. The introduction should include at least three things—a hook, your thesis statement, and a sentence or two describing how you intend to prove your thesis statement.
1. You gotta hook ‘em from the start. The first part of your introduction should draw the reader in. This is called the hook.
The hook should be interesting or surprising. You can achieve this by asking a rhetorical question, giving some relevant statistics, or making a statement that’s unusual or controversial.
For my Harry Potter example, I might say, “Since the publication of the first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, some Christian groups have attacked the books for promoting witchcraft. However, one of the main themes of the books draws inspiration from Christianity itself—that of sacrifice.”
Okay, so that’s two sentences. But it’s got a little bit of controversy and relates to what the rest of the essay will discuss.
2. Get to the good stuff—write a killer thesis statement. Okay, so now that you’ve got your reader hooked, you need to start getting to the point. This is where the thesis statement comes in.
My thesis might be, “The theme of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the series and is embodied as sacrifice for the greater good, sacrifice for an ultimate gain, and sacrifice to keep a promise.”
3. It’s time to back up your thesis. Let the reader know how you’re going to prove your claim.
For my example, I would let the reader know that I intend to analyze the instances of Harry’s “death,” Voldemort’s sacrifice of his soul in exchange for immortality, and how Snape sacrifices in order to honor a promise made to Lily Potter.
These points will be the building blocks of the body paragraphs.
Body of Your Analytical Essay Outline
The body is where you can start to get really creative and play around with formatting.
In the flowchart, there are three body paragraphs. But that’s because I was trained in the 5-paragraph outline. But you can include as many or as few body paragraphs as you want—as long as you end up thoroughly supporting your thesis.
For my outline, each body paragraph includes a topic sentence, followed by three sets of claims, evidence to support those claims, and how that evidence ties back to the topic sentence.
Again, three is not necessarily a magic number here. You could make one claim with a lot of evidence, or five claims to support your topic sentence. But let’s get into it, shall we?
1. Develop a strong topic sentence. Each topic sentence in each body paragraph of your analytical essay outline should tell the reader exactly what that section is going to be about.
My first body paragraph might start with, “Harry Potter is willing to fulfill prophecy and make the ultimate sacrifice—that of his life—in order to save the rest of the wizarding world.”
2. Make your claim. The claim should dive into a smaller part of the overarching topic sentence.
The topic sentence I gave can be broken down into several smaller claims—that Harry knew that he was fulfilling prophecy, that he was actually willing to die, and that his death would be of profound significance.
3. Provide evidence from the text to back your claim. You can’t just go around making claims without any support. You can use quotes or paraphrase parts of the text to add evidence.
For evidence that Harry knew that he was fulfilling prophecy, you could cite the instance in the hall of prophecies with the quote, “and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”
4. Tie that evidence to the topic sentence. You have to make it absolutely clear why you included the evidence. If you don’t, your analytical essay runs the risk of being a summary.
For example, with the citing of the prophecy, I would tell the reader that Harry and his friends found said prophecy and figured out that it had to be about him (although there are objections that it could’ve been referring to Neville, but we’ll leave that out of this example). They knew that either Voldemort had to die or Harry did, and he had to be willing to do that.
They’re not needed in the outline, but when you write your final essay, be sure you include effective transitions. This will help your essay flow.
Conclusion of Your Analytical Essay Outline
After you’ve built up all of your body paragraphs, given the appropriate evidence to back your claims, and tied that evidence to your awesome topic sentences, you’re ready to wrap it all up.
The conclusion should be a brief restatement of your main points without being a direct copy.
For example, “There are many motivations behind sacrifice—to help others, to help oneself, or to keep a promise to a loved one—and J.K. Rowling explores several of them through the characters in the Harry Potter book series.”
This, of course, does not suffice as a full conclusion. To fill it out and give the reader a sense of closure, you can relate the theme to the real world or end with a final quote from the text or the author.
Use This Downloadable Analytical Essay Outline as a Guide
Easy, right? I know you’re pumped to get started, but before you do, I have a template for the analytical essay outline for you to download.
Download the Analytical Essay Outline Template PDF
Download the Analytical Essay Outline Template (.doc)
Of course, your instructor’s directions will trump mine, so if they say to do something a specific way, I won’t be offended if you take their advice over mine.
Need more help? Check out these analytical essay examples.
And don’t forget about the Kibin editors. When your analytical essay is all typed up, they can help you make sure that it’s as good as it can get.
Now… get to it!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Do you remember that analytical essay you were assigned a week or two ago? Do you realize that it’s due in a few days, and you haven’t even started it yet? Yes, really; it’s due in a few days, so it’s time you stop procrastinating and begin writing that analytical essay!
Flickr.com, by Jonund
Keep reading this blog post for useful tips on how to write an analytical essay in no time.
Where Do You Start?
Start with the assignment guidelines. Chances are you haven’t read them in a while, and it’s important that you know exactly what you should be writing.
Should your paper be 800 words? 1000 words?
Are you writing an analytical essay about a poem, short story, or maybe even a novel? Do you need to complete any outside research? Does your professor require a specific format for your analytical essay?
Once you understand the assignment, you can move to the next step: understanding how to write an analytical essay.
What Is an Analytical Essay?An analytical essay is one that analyzes (I know that seems obvious, but stay with me).
To analyze a work of literature, you need to break it down into smaller parts to understand what it means. Looking at smaller parts of a piece of literature helps you understand how the pieces fit together to create the larger meaning.
The Analytical Essay as a Jigsaw Puzzle
Think about writing an analytical essay like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.
When you’re putting together a puzzle, you have 100s of tiny pieces that make up an image. When you’re looking at just one piece, you can’t tell what you’re looking at. You can’t identify the picture in the puzzle until you put all the pieces together.
Learning how to write an analytical essay is like taking apart that puzzle. You start with the large image, and you have to look at each piece to see how it fits into the larger puzzle and to understand what it all means.
What an Analytical Essay Is Not
An analytical essay is not a summary. Do not retell the plot.
In other words, if you’re writing an analytical analysis of The Wizard of Oz, don’t simply tell us how Dorothy lands in Oz and tries to find her way back to Kansas. Your goal is to analyze a piece of writing, not simply tell readers what they have just read.
Now that you understand the basics, use these six tips to help you learn how to write an analytical essay that digs deep.
How to Write an Analytical Essay That Digs Deep (6 Easy Tips)
Nick Bonzey. Creative Commons
1. Take notes. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Taking notes is a crucial step in writing an analytical essay because it will help you discover important points in the writing that you are analyzing and help you see how ideas fit together.
Begin by carefully reading through the writing that you will analyze and take notes as you read.
Here’s where you’ll start to dig.
Write down anything that seems significant to you. Do a character’s actions seem odd or out of place? When you read what one character said to another, did you think it told you something more about the character’s relationship to the story? Did you think it was interesting that the speaker mentioned black boxes four times in the poem?
If so, write it down.
Jot down your thoughts as you read. You need to look beyond the surface of the piece of literature in order to understand the true meaning. Don’t accept anything at face value.
WARNING! If you’re taking notes on a separate page, make sure to write down the page number or paragraph number as a reference. This will make it much easier to find the information again when you’re writing your essay.
2.Dig deep into the writing and examine each level.
A flower in a poem might be more than a flower. It might be a symbol of love. The red hat a character wears might be more than a hat. It might signal a character’s independence.
Don’t merely summarize what happens in the literature. You’ll need to write commentary.
You’re writing your thoughts about what you’re reading. You’re asking questions. You’re asking why events occur, why characters act the way they do, and why the author wrote the piece in a specific way. You’re drawing connections and using the space to help you develop meaning and analyze the piece of writing.
Review your notes and look for the gems you’ve uncovered in your analysis. Decide which ideas you will use as the focus of your paper.
Spend some time examining and organizing your ideas, as you may need to narrow your focus into an appropriate topic for your paper. For instance, you might look for recurring symbols in a poem, or you might look at character development in a short story, or you might look at the theme of a novel.
4. Develop a thesis.
The thesis will be one statement (generally at the end of your introductory paragraph) that tells readers what your paper is about. It lets readers know the point of your analytical essay.
In other words, now that you’ve examined each part of the writing, you’ll tell your readers what it all means.
For instance, if the speaker in a poem refers to black objects, your thesis might explain the use of the black objects as a symbol for death. If a character develops from a shy boy to an outspoken man during the novel, your thesis might explain the theme of the story as the difficulties of transitioning into adulthood.
5. Develop the body.
The body of your paper needs to contain evidence to support your thesis. You need to convince your readers of your point. You’ll do this by finding examples from the piece of writing you’re analyzing.
Use your notes again (those gems you uncovered earlier as you dug through the literature) to find places in the writing to support your ideas. You might use a short piece of dialogue to explain a character’s mood and how it contributes to his character. You might include a summary or paraphrase of an event that contributes to the overall development of the story’s theme.
Don’t forget: all information in the body of your analytical essay must directly relate to your thesis and must support your ideas.
WARNING! Don’t fill your paragraphs with paraphrases, summaries, and quotes without including a discussion of their importance and meaning. Include your own words in your analytical essay and use evidence from the text to support your writing.
6. Develop the conclusion.
Your conclusion will let readers know that they’ve reached the end of your paper and will provide some type of restatement of your key arguments and thesis. (This is not the place to introduce new ideas. Remember, you’re ending your essay, so readers shouldn’t learn new information in your conclusion.
Do you need more help? View this slideshow to learn more tips for writing an analytical essay. If you want to read a sample of an analytical essay, look at these sample student essays. Also check out this great post on how to write an analytical essay outline.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.