Reading a book or watching a movie for college doesn’t sound so bad, right? Especially, when the professor tells you that you can choose your own angle in analyzing the story in question. Well, it does sound fun until the final pages of the book (or the final scenes of the movie) — that is, right until the moment you realize you have no idea what to do next. Sounds familiar? Read on, we’ll show you how to deal with this task!
Analytical Essay: The Essentials
You have probably heard the term ‘analytical essay’ before. More than that, you most likely have written one or two already. In a nutshell, an analytical essay is an in-depth analysis of a particular idea or observation.
In other words, an analytical essay focuses on one idea or thought and provides an informative piece of writing on the subject. For example, you are to write a paper of guns. This topic may involve a lot of things: from weapons history to the controversies of being an owner. So, you will have to choose a narrow angle and think of a relevant argument to make the paper interesting. This argument is going to be your thesis.
Choosing Topics for an Analytical Essay
Any idea can be a great fit for an analytical essay. No, really — any fact or event that can be supported with evidence may be a basis of a solid paper. After all, it’s our ability to observe and analyze that gave humanity the chance to develop, so the skills to writing an analytical essay are inherent for most people. So, it is not surprising that there are so many different subtypes of essay analysis — and we’ll quickly go through them in the paragraphs below.
Rhetorical Analysis Papers
Despite its a bit confusing name, rhetorical analysis essays deal with facts and logic. Its primary goal is to prove a fact or an idea to a person (in your case, a reader) who is uncertain or skeptical about some notion. Mostly, rhetorical analysis essays are assigned to science students. Here are some examples of typical essay topics:
- Mathematical Proofs
- Chemistry Essentials
- Fundamental laws of economics
Essay on literary analysis
This type of analytical essay is the most widespread one in high school and college. All of your papers on Hamlet and Frankenstein were literary analysis papers. A literary analysis can focus either on a specific idea in a given piece of fiction or even take one little event in the storyline and analyze its impact on the overall plot. Here are some topic examples for a literary analysis essay:
- The role of science in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Historical parallels in Orwell’s Animal Farm
- The role of society in King Lear by Shakespeare
It’s all in the name here — a process essay focuses on a process that leads to certain transformation. Think of ‘before — after’ pictures you see online and describe what happens in between the two. And, of course, remember that the essay should have a purpose, so the choice of a process in question should be well-thought. Here are just a couple of examples:
- Warehouse Logistics
- The Cycle of History
- Biorhythm Cycle
The character analysis essay is basically the same as the process essay because it focuses on the transformations a certain character goes through the plot line. Even though the analyzed objects are different, the logic is exactly the same: you analyze character development from the beginning till the very end of the story. For example:
- Frankenstein’s Monster Evolution in Shelley’s Novel
- Hamlet’s Path from Nobility to Insanity
- Holden’s character development in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
Another essay type with a pretty descriptive name. When analyzing poetry, you are to focus on a poem’s structure, style, content, symbolism, and historical meaning. The specific aspects to focus on may differ slightly as long as you can make the reader understand this particular work of art. For the essay title, you usually take the poem’s title and the author’s name. As simple as that:
- The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
- Success is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson
- Rudyard Kipling’s If
Casual Analysis Papers
What would you answer to a million ‘whys’ a child asks you? Basically, the same as you would when writing a casual analysis essay. After all, not every question has an explicit answer; so, you are to come up with the best explanation you can. Sometimes, this type of essay is also referred to as the speculative analysis essay because instead of operating the facts only, it also allows a lot of space for your own thoughts and theories. Consider these topics as an example:
- Why is violence becoming more and more common on TV?
- Why do children get addicted to video games?
- Why are obesity rates so high in the US?
As you can see, the list of topics to discuss here will be endless — the examples above give you just a general idea of what a casual analysis essay is.
Getting ready to write
Even if you are a natural-born writer, make a note of some preparatory steps that will help you ace an essay. They will help you save a lot of time and trouble in the writing process:
Brainstorming & Choosing a Topic
Choosing a topic is always the first step — not only when you are free to choose your own topic, but also — when you are already given one. After all, there can be many different angles to one and the same issue, and you should pick yours before you start writing.
Making sure the topic is relevant is another important sub-step when figuring out your essay topic. If a chosen subject puts you right to sleep, your readers will unlikely find it interesting either.
Coming up with a thesis
- Choosing a strong and arguable thesis is the most important step in writing any type of essay, including an analytical one. Most often, it will require a certain degree of preliminary research — especially if the assigned subject is new to you. So, try to get some general idea about the topic and see if it has some arguable areas. For example, a history essay thesis may focus on the effects of a certain historic event — a battle, for example. A strong thesis does not state something obvious (like, ‘we won’) but digs into the events that might have led to the victory or the outcomes of winning.
- A relevant and controversial thesis is another thing to focus on. There is no point in proving your point of view if no one really argues with it; just like there is no point in persuading your audience in things they have zero interest in. Take our history battle as an example and think big: what would modern society look like if the outcome was different? This should give you some insight on what a relevant thesis should be.
Researching supportive evidence
- While preliminary research will be useful in figuring out a topic, the best way to come up with a strong thesis is to dig in a little deeper. Plus, you will need all the information you can get to support your argument in the body paragraphs, so get ready to make some notes while reading.
- Choosing the right type of evidence for the right type of paper is what makes your essay credible. So, when analyzing a work of fiction, you are to operate quotes from the original source. When dealing with a paper on science, you should choose other scientific works as the supporting evidence.
Creating an Outline
Many students ignore this step, which costs them a lot of time. Sure, figuring out the structure of your future paper takes some time, too. The good news is that writing based on a plan is way quicker than thinking about every new line on the go.
Sure, the number of paragraphs and the overall logic of the essay will be different for different types of essays and majors. Still, no one ever discards the essentials (that is, introduction — body paragraphs — conclusion).
Outline and Structure of an Analytical Essay
This is the part of the paper where you introduce the topic and give readers the general idea of what the essay will be focusing on. It outlines the topic, the scope of your work, and presents your thesis. It is also common to start an intro with a hook to make your reader interested, but this part is optional. The structure of an intro looks like this:
- Hook statement or a neutral introduction of the general problem
- Description of a narrowed down problem that will be analyzed in your paper
- Transition statement before the thesis statement
- The thesis statement
Essay body paragraphs
The purpose of the body is to prove your thesis. Depending on the paper, there can be a different number of body paragraphs, but we will focus on three as the most common practice. Each body paragraph focuses on a certain fact or event that supports your thesis. Obviously, each of them should also follow a certain logic and structure that usually goes like this:
- Topic Sentence: a brief sentence that presents your supporting evidence.
- Analysis: In greater detail, you are to analyze the statement and elaborate on how exactly it supports your thesis. Try to make the analysis detailed but to the point. Sure, this can be a tricky part, but ideally, 2-3 sentences are enough to provide analytical info for your topic statement.
- Evidence: The only way to support your analysis of the statement is to present some evidence. Think of the structure above as ‘statement — explanation — proof,’ and make sure all three always go hand in hand.
- Concluding sentence: If you have done a good job with the topic sentence, explained it properly, and presented some facts to prove the idea, just one concluding sentence is enough to highlight the significance of the entire paragraph.
- Now, repeat with the remaining two paragraphs!
Remember that a single body paragraph should give a quick detailed overview of the problem. Ideally, the reader should have no questions left after reading this section. So, take a good critical look at your logic to see if the information you provide is really enough.
Also note that ‘the more, the better’ is not always the case with a good analytical essay. It all depends on the topic and the angle you choose. Sometimes, you will need ten body paragraphs; sometimes, two will be enough.
The conclusion wraps up your entire paper. It quickly summarizes the relevance of your topic and the facts you operated in the process. In the ideal world, a conclusion dots the i’s and crosses the t’s of your paper. The structure is usually like this:
- Rephrased thesis statement
- Quick summary of the key points
- Concluding statement with the results of your work
More Tips and Tricks
Choose relevant arguments
It is imperative that your supporting evidence matched your thesis. If in the course of writing, you drifted apart from the logic of your thesis, chances are — you will have to rewrite the thesis (or the topic sentences).
As we write, we make dozens of typos and other mistakes, so proofreading is always a must. As you do, pay attention not only to spelling and punctuation but also to the overall logic of your work. Also, do not start proofreading as soon as you’ve finished writing. Take some rest and come back to the assignment in a couple of hours at least.
Get someone to help you
Sometimes, getting a pair of fresh eyes can be very useful — especially, if you have little experience as an essay writer. If you want to make sure your ideas are clear enough, ask someone else to read your paper.
Writing advice from a pro
The problem with analytical essays is that most textbook definitions are pretty vague. After all, an analysis is an important part of essay writing, which is why the thin line between summary, reelection, and criticism can be very confusing for most college students. In a nutshell, an analytical essay means digging into the subject as deep as you can. Forget about what, where, and when. They are superficial. Focus on why and how.
My tip when working on an analytical essay is to ask yourself a couple of simple questions. The first is, how to write it? Next, who is your audience? Then, what are those people really interested in? If you answer all three correctly, coming up with an A+ analytical essay will be easier than it probably sounds at the moment. When it comes to the actual writing, mind your tone and word choice. Stick to the original plan (have one before you start — making notes during the research should help you with that). Don’t shift from one thought to another — keep your logic consistent and easy to trace. This kind of skill will help you through college years and will prove incredibly useful in your future profession. Mary, an essay expert at Elite Essay Writers
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