Your first analytical essay assignment might seem scary and complicated. However, once you learn the tricks professional writers use, you’ll realize it’s no harder than any other piece of homework you deal with in high school or college.
What Is an Analytical Essay?
Whether you have to write a critical analysis essay or break down an issue, the core of the assignment remains the same. So what is an analytical essay? It’s a paper that analyzes the topic and provides evidence to support the arguments.
Simply put, to analyze anything you should break it down into smaller parts and study each of them separately and in relation to other pieces. This critical thinking technique is the opposite of synthesis, which prompts you to compile a whole from separate parts.
To better understand these concepts, remember your favorite Sherlock Holmes book or movie. When the great detective breaks the crime scene into small details and takes them in separately, he uses analysis. When he puts the clues together to identify the criminal, he uses synthesis.
Now it’s time to put on your thinking hat, light up the metaphorical pipe and dive into writing. Let’s go over the steps of writing an analytical essay one by one.
Choose the Analytical Essay Topic
Usually, professors assign specific subjects for your analysis. Even if they don’t specify the book or poem, they narrow your choice to a single writer. However, if you get to choose the topic for your critical analysis essay, you can select any literary work you like.
Choose the one you know well to save time. Alternately, select the book you’ve been meaning to read for a long time to get yourself into gear. Before making the final choice, research the title a little to ensure there are references you could use as secondary sources. They will help support your arguments and make the essay credible.
However, do not settle for something as common as “Romeo and Juliet” or “Farewell to Arms”. These books have been analyzed so extensively; you are unlikely to come up with a new perspective. Moreover, your professor is undoubtedly fed up with the same topic repeated across dozens of papers every year. A little originality will go a long way in earning extra points.
Research the Topic
After you decide on the focus of the paper, it’s time to investigate the topic and turn your detective and critical skills to the maximum. Research is the most exciting of all steps, and the most dangerous one. If you get too invested in looking for information and evidence, you might forget to keep track of time and miss the point when it’s time to go from collecting data to putting it to use.
To avoid this mistake, set interim deadlines for all writing steps. For example, two days are more than enough for choosing the topic, while research can take 7 to 10 days. Writing is another week, and you’ll need a couple of days for polishing the paper before submission.
Taking notes while reading up will save your time on developing the outline and writing. You can use a notepad, but digital notes are even better. Create a text file or a Trello board and copy all excerpts you find interesting. Always add the title of the source, the page number, and the link to your note. Otherwise, citing the references will become a nightmare. Once you collect 5 to 10 notes, start organizing them into separate groups or Trello columns. As you aggregate more data, these groups will form your outline, and you’ll save even more time.
Remember to use credible, recent, and unbiased sources. You can find them through your school library, online repositories, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or Academia.edu. DeepDyve is another excellent tool though only the first two weeks are free. You might wish to purchase a premium subscription, but even the trial period will provide dozens of excellent references for any analytical essay topic.
Develop an Analytical Essay Thesis
You will never get an A for a paper without a thesis statement. Do not skip this step hoping for the best. The thesis is the first thing your professors seek in the paper. It allows them to assess your writing at a glance.
Developing an analytical essay thesis before writing the paper itself is difficult even if you’ve created a detailed outline. So don’t waste much time on it and consider the first iteration of the thesis statement a draft. It’s there to keep you on track, same as the outline.
Do not settle for this first attempt at building a thesis. Instead, come back to it after you finish the paper. Think about the way you could retell your essay in a single sentence. It should contain the issue, your stance, and critical arguments. If possible, include alternate opinions you address in the paper. Cut filler words, redundancies, and repetitions, and you’ll have a perfect thesis statement.
Create an Analytical Essay Outline
You don’t travel without a map unless you wish to get lost. So you don’t write without an outline unless you wish to get yourself into a dead end. Your analytical essay outline doesn’t have to be formal or detailed, but it should define the starting point and the destination, as well as the critical stops of the way.
Similar to a journey, your outline will include three parts: preparations (introduction), travels (body), and memories (conclusion).
Imagine yourself trying to convince your significant other to join you on an adventure. You wish to grab their attention from the start and lay out all the fun and exciting experiences you will have together.
Essay introduction is your elevator pitch to the reader. Use the hook to surprise and excite them, reel them in with a solid thesis statement and add a transition to lead to the body paragraphs. If you don’t know how to write an analytical essay introduction right away, start with the body paragraphs and return to the first passage later.
Writing an analytical essay body is like choosing your route and stops on the way. You only have so much time, and there is no way to see every exciting place you’ve heard about. You have to be decisive and plan each stop carefully to ensure your trip is entertaining and not too draining.
Your analytical essay assignment comes with a word count limit. Factor out the first and last passages, and you’ll have your body word count. If your professor expects a standard 5-paragraph essay, you only have room for three points, so choose them carefully. Even if you have room for more arguments, do not go overboard. Make each of them powerful and support them with plenty of evidence, instead of cramming dozens of unsubstantiated points into the paper.
Each section should come with a topic sentence to hold your argument, supporting evidence from primary and secondary sources, and your analysis. All three elements are necessary, as without a topic sentence your paragraph will be pointless, without evidence it will be unverifiable, and without analysis, it will just be a collection of quotes and summaries from different sources.
The best part about your trip is the chance to brag about it and share your memories with others. You always have the answer to the central question of how your journey went. It’s short and powerful, similar to your opening arguments, making your listeners want to learn more.
Analytical essay conclusion doesn’t have to be drawn out. Revisit the thesis and remind the readers of the paper’s focal point. List the critical arguments and wrap up with a final thought about the topic.
Check Your Writing
Do you check your wallet, keys, and phone before going out? It’s an essential habit if you don’t want to get into trouble when getting a cup of joe in your favorite coffee shop or being stuck before the closed door to your room or flat. Editing and proofreading before submitting the paper should become a similar good habit.
First, get your mind off the essay and rest for at least a couple of hours. Better yet, have a good night’s sleep. With fresh eyes, reread the paper and notice everything that’s wrong with it. You will see clumsy phrasing, logical inconsistencies, unnecessary repetitions, faulty reasoning. Don’t feel bad, instead enjoy the chance to make things right and get a better grade. If possible, get your hands on your professor’s grading criteria and keep them in mind when editing the essay.
Proofreading one’s writing is tricky since you get too familiar with the paper, and your brain tricks you into filling the gaps and ignoring typos. If you don’t have the luxury of a few days to let your memories fade before proofreading, ask a friend to look through your writing. Even a quick skim through the pages will help you get rid of the most glaring mistakes and typos. For the best results, getting a professional proofreader is the fastest and most efficient option.
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