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The Definition of an Analytical Essay

August 12, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips

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The Definition of an Analytical Essay

An analytical essay is a written work where the author analyzes another written work. This is not to be confused with book report or a review. These focus on what happens (the characters, the plot), and what the writer thinks of the quality of the work. When writing an analysis, the student focuses on various writing elements that are employed, and how they are used in the written work. As you learn how to write an analytical essay it may help to think of an analysis as breaking a written work down into its different parts and then figuring out how those parts work together.

Analytical Essay Prompts

If you are writing an analysis on shorter work such as an essay or poem, you may choose to write an analysis on the entire work. If, on the other hand, you are writing an analysis on a short story, play, or novel you may wish to select or create a prompt. Your prompt will allow you to limit the scope of your analytical essay. This will help you to write an essay that isn’t too long or too generalized. For example, you could choose the prompt, how is hypocrisy demonstrated in ‘Tom Sawyer’? Then, your analysis would focus solely on the element of hypocrisy and the ways in which Mark Twain highlights this concept throughout the novel.

Reading for Analysis

Before you decide on the focus of your analytical essay, you will need to read through the written work once. This is so you know on which elements you will focus. Once you know this, you are ready to read your assigned text with an eye towards analysis. This means that as you read, you will note when and where the writer uses certain writing elements or attempts to highlight a specific theme. Take thorough notes while you do this as you will need to refer back to these later.

Writing your Analysis Outline

Once you have your notes together it is time to organize them into an outline. The outline will be the foundation of what will eventually become your essay. The points in your outline should demonstrate the ways that the author either featured a theme or used certain elements over and over again. As you write your outline, you need to begin thinking about the sequence of your essay. This can impact how your readers perceive your analysis. In many cases it is best to build up to your strongest point.

Writing your Essay Thesis

Your thesis contains your analytical opinion of the work that you have read. It should be a strong statement about how the work was written and whether or not the author communicated to the reader effectively. If you are focusing on a single element, your thesis statement should not refer to anything else. For example, if you are focusing on an author’s use of colors to demonstrate emotions, don’t mention the author’s use of colors in their description of scenery.

As with many other essays, once you have your outline and thesis, your analytical essay will come together quite easily. You’ll just need to build on what you have already written.

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