Analytical Essay

Top tips on writing an analytical according to standards:

  1. An analytical essay should be written in response to the assignment’s instructions and description. Because they often do not read the requirements and grading rules properly, a lot of students end up with low or failed grades.
  2. Focus on developing your analytical essay in an argumentative style. This means there should be a thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph upon which an argument can be built. This thesis should then be developed further throughout the body of the essay with a well-supported analysis of a particular work of literature or art. The following is a formula worth bearing in mind when developing a thesis: “The author of [insert title of art or literary work] questions traditional gender roles by [describe how author does this].”
  4.  It is imperative for an analytical essay to have an introductory paragraph, a few body paragraphs, a concluding paragraph, and a Reference or Works Cited page. The five-paragraph essay format does not apply here – this belongs in high schools where essays are a lot shorter and not so complex.
  5. Each paragraph should be well-developed with suitable transitional words or phrases. Body paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that introduces the discussion point for that paragraph, and this sentence should link back to the thesis statement.
  6. Try not to use “laboratory” speak in your essay e.g. “I intend to prove in this essay…” or other phrases such as “It is my opinion that …” or “I feel that …” This is because readers assume that anything you do not credit to other authors is your own personal opinion.
  7.  Try not to over-use book summaries or other unnecessarily lengthy descriptions. Do not forget that you are basing your analysis on argument rather than writing some type of report. Think about including a short summary of the art or literary work you are analyzing in your introductory paragraph. Later on, your task is to recall passages of the text for your audience – ones that constitute evidence to support your argument – and not to provide a description of the plot to readers who are unfamiliar with the text.
  8.  Choose quotes, passages of text, lines, or specific parts of the text as discussion points and to build claims about the entire work.
  9.  It is important your essay is well organized and logically structured without mimicking the exact chronology of the work under analysis.
  10. Do not generalize too much or over-simplify things e.g. “since the dawn of time …” or “everyone believes …”
  11. Do not forget that at least one non-fictional or academic source needs to be incorporated to build your argument(s). Feel free to look at the relevant page on’s website to learn more about academic sources.
  12. Your entire essay should not be dominated by secondary-style sources. To prevent this happening, use a yellow-colored highlighter to mark any sentences that contain borrowed ideas. If your essay contains an excessive amount of yellow, it is very possible your own ideas or voice are not sufficiently developed.
  13. Use direct quotes only where they would not be effective if you paraphrased them. Do not use quotations in place of your own writing. Include tag lines to introduce quotations e.g. “As author X correctly says …” or “In the words of author Y …”
  14. All sources should be correctly cited in the MLA or whatever style is appropriate or you have been instructed to use. Ask if you are not sure.
  15. It is important that your essay is the required length e.g. four or five pages with a Works Cited page.
  16. Please refer to our web page entitled “Rules for Writing Academic Papers” for more information on general conventions.
  17. You should also check any links you are given on the grading conventions for a particular assignment.
  18. Think about using your college writing center or making an appointment with your tutor if you need any writing assistance. NB: Most tutors will answer questions by email, especially if the answers are short. However, you should check with them in advance whether they accept full draft papers or not.

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