Write an analytical essay.
It’s a short sentence, but it packs some intimidation, doesn’t it? Don’t let it scare you. It’s really just a fancy way of saying, “Write a paper, and support what you say.”
It’s like piecewise linear interpolation. Now that sounds scary! Someone once explained it to me as a mathematical way to connect dots. Sure, it’s much more complex than that, but would you rather learn how to connect dots or learn piecewise linear interpolation?
It’s all about the wording. Explaining something another way makes it easier to understand.
With that in mind, let’s try some piecewise linear interpolation. Okay, maybe not. But I am going to connect the dots for you and explain four expert tips to help you write an A+ analytical essay.
A One-Sentence Definition of an Analytical Essay
An analytical essay is an essay in which you’ll analyze something (like an article or a piece of literature) and then support your arguments with evidence (generally from the source you’re analyzing).
Simple enough, right? So how do you put this into practice? Here are four tips to writing an analytical essay.
Expert Tip #1: Find Something to Analyze
Analyze an article
If you’re analyzing an article, look for the author’s key arguments. Determine the purpose of the article. Does the author want to inform you or persuade you? Look at the language, the tone, the writing style, and how the writer appeals to the audience.
Does the author fail to address key points about the topic? Does the author use humor or sarcasm to make a point? Does the author use emotional appeals to convince readers? (You know, like those commercials that ask you to save a sad, lonely puppy.)
For example, you might be analyzing a persuasive article or opinion piece about standardized testing. If John Carter, the author, neglects to support his argument and uses lots of emotional language to try to convince you, you can start to develop an argument.
By analyzing these points, you can determine whether the article is effective and whether the author achieves the intended purpose in writing the piece.
Or analyze a piece of literature
If you’re analyzing literature, look for the following:
- moral or ethical dilemmas
- the author’s arguments
Pick something you (and your readers) can take a stance on. For instance, don’t try to argue that blood is everywhere in Macbeth. That’s pretty obvious. Lots of people die in Macbeth.
Instead, write about the symbolism of blood. Remember when Lady Macbeth utters the famous line, “Out, damned spot”? She’s imagining the blood because she feels guilty.
Thus, you can argue that blood is a symbol of guilt throughout Macbeth.
Expert Tip #2: Create a Strong Thesis Statement
The thesis is a one-sentence statement that tells your readers what your paper will be about.
This statement is going to set up your argument, so take time to word your thesis carefully. (Remember, you might need to revise your thesis a few times before you get it just right.)
If you’re analyzing an article…
If you’re writing about the effectiveness of an article, your thesis might look like this:
While Carter’s essay begins strong with relevant examples about standardized testing in elementary schools, he fails to use sufficient data and updated statistics, ultimately making it difficult for readers to support his claim.
If you’re analyzing literature…
If you’re writing about symbolic blood in Macbeth, your thesis statement might look something like this:
Although violence and bloodshed are present throughout Macbeth, it is the imagined blood that proves most powerful as it symbolizes guilt in both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Still looking for more help crafting that perfect thesis? Read How to Write a Thesis Statement in 5 Simple Steps and What Twitter Can Teach You About Writing a Thesis Statement.
Expert Tip #3: Use Evidence to Support Ideas
Simply saying something doesn’t make it true.
You cannot write, “Carter’s essay isn’t convincing,” or, “Blood symbolizes guilt in Macbeth,” and expect your readers to believe you. You need to convince them. To do this, you’ll need specific evidence.
If you’re analyzing an article…
Look for places where the author doesn’t support his ideas. Is he missing details or statistics? You might also paraphrase an important argument to help make your point.
Don’t just pick any random phrases or sections because it looks good to have quotes. Make them count!
In the article about standardized testing, perhaps the author includes valid points about testing but might be using statistics that are 15 years old. Are the numbers still accurate today?
Perhaps the author states that kids are worn out from standardized tests but doesn’t provide any evidence to support this claim.
If you’re analyzing a piece of literature…
Look for examples and ideas that you might paraphrase and quote. Look for key scenes or dialogue that illustrate your claim and are crucial to the story.
In an analytical essay about Macbeth, you might point to the scenes where Macbeth kills Duncan or where Macbeth kills Banquo then feels guilty. You might also point to the scene where Lady Macbeth, due to her own guilt, imagines blood spots that she cannot wash away.
Expert Tip #4: Evaluate, Interpret, or Analyze
If you want to write an effective analytical essay (and I’m assuming you do), you cannot just summarize what you’ve read. If someone is reading your paper, chances are they’ve read the article or piece of literature you’re analyzing, so don’t simply retell the story.
Choose an important quote or perhaps paraphrase an important scene. Then evaluate it, interpret it, or analyze it.
In other words, make some sort of relevant comment.
For example, when analyzing an article…
Let’s analyze the following quote:
“Ten year olds step off the bus after school looking sad and worn out. Some are too tired to play when they arrive home. Some are worried, scared that they will not move on to the next grade. The cause of this stress? Standardized tests. Imagine how stressed-out 10 year olds must feel after spending an entire day completing a long, ineffective standardized test. It is no wonder children are having trouble eating and sleeping. It is painfully obvious to any caring adult that these kids are simply too young to be put under such pressure.”
- Does the author make a valid point about kids being forced to take long standardized tests? Yes.
- Does author go overboard with the wording and emotional appeal to get you to feel sympathy and empathy for kids taking standardized tests? Most certainly.
This is the starting point of your analysis. Use these key ideas to develop a discussion of how the author supports his arguments and uses language and emotional appeals in an attempt to convince readers.
You’ll also want to comment on whether this strategy is effective. Does the author achieve his purpose of convincing readers?
For example, when analyzing literature…
When writing about literature, let’s say you pick one famous quote to begin. What does it mean when Lady Macbeth says, “Out, damned spot”? You cannot just say it symbolizes guilt.
How do you know what the words symbolize? How does this quote fit into the larger context of the play and your paper’s argument?
You might interpret the scene as Lady Macbeth developing paranoia as she reflects upon the murderous deeds she and Macbeth have taken part in. You might analyze her sleepwalking ramblings as clear evidence of guilt.
The key takeaway here: It’s not enough to simply include a quote or paraphrase and call it good. You need to explain its importance and interpret its meaning.
The Complete Picture: An A+ Analytical Essay
Once you connect the dots and put these four expert tips together, you’ll have a complete and (hopefully) A+ analytical essay.
Even with these four tips in mind, it cannot hurt to learn more about analytical essays, right? For more writing tips, read this post on writing an analytical essay that digs deep.
Still struggling? Try some prewriting strategies, or check out a few analytical essay examples. Here’s a few to get your started:
- Emotional Distance in A Dream Pang by Robert Frost
- An Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s Humor and Sarcasm in Her Works
- Analyzing A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
If you’ve started your paper but still feel like you cannot put the ideas in place, try writing an analytical essay outline. An outline can help you organize your thoughts and connect ideas to create a structured, well-written analytical essay.
Want to make sure every t is crossed and every i is dotted? Let a Kibin editor help! Remember, editors are not just proofreaders. They can help revise your writing too.