When was the last time you broke down a piece of work (e.g. text, film) and provided evidence for your argument in an essay?

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Writing an analytical essay doesn't have to be hard. Use these tips to help get you started on writing an effective analytical essay!

What is an Analytical Essay? 🤔

In an analytical essay, you dissect a concept, character, or elements behind a piece of work and present a claim (your thesis statement) about it.

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This type of essay is typically written in literature or art classes, where you have to examine a theme and analyze why or how they contribute to a piece of work.

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  • Analyze and explain how a certain idea was examined and portrayed ✔️

  • Develop an arguable thesis ✔️

  • Support your claim with facts and logic ✔️

Flaticon Icon Don't...

  • Persuade someone to believe you ❌

  • Write long plot summaries ❌

  • Use anecdotes and emotional appeal ❌

1. Draft a Topic 🧐

Unless you've already been assigned one, drafting a topic is the first step in your essay-writing process.

A man saying,

Your topic should:

  • Be something you find interesting and have a unique approach to ✔️

  • Be specific enough that you can cover it in a single essay ✔️

  • Have enough available research to support your argument ✔️

  • Draw the attention of your audience ✔️

2. Do Research and Take Notes 📚

Research helps you get a better understanding of the topic you’ve chosen and gives you the information you need to write your thesis statement.

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You may have already formed a thesis statement for your analytical essay before this process, but it’s perfectly fine to form one as you go or choose an entirely new one!

Here are some ideas on how to approach the research process:

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  • Carefully analyze the work you have chosen by annotating

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  • Check out others’ critiques of the work for insights and different perspectives

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  • Gather and organize your research into an outline or mind map

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  • Keep track of important source details (title, author, URL, page no., time stamps, etc.) to create your reference/citation list at the end of your essay

3. Use Questions for Analysis ❓

Using prompts and questions provides a great starting point for analyzing the work you've chosen.

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Consider these questions when writing your analysis:

  • What was the overall purpose or message behind the work? 💡

  • What was the context of the work and how was it essential to the story? 💡

  • What ideas, imagery, phrases, etc. are repeated to emphasize the work's theme? 💡

  • Why do the characters act the way they do and what does this say about them? 💡

4. Formulate a Thesis Statement ✍️

A thesis statement, often 1-2 sentences, contains the main topic and argument you want to cover in the analytical essay. All the points you make in the essay should tie back to your thesis.

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Your thesis statement should look like this:

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Bong Joon Ho's Parasite uses stairs as a metaphor to symbolize its overarching theme of social stratification and class inequality.

  • Narrowed down enough ✔️

  • Arguable, not just a statement of fact ✔️

But it shouldn't look like this:

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Bong Joon Ho's Parasite has a theme of class inequality.

  • Too vague ❌

  • Doesn't leave room for "arguing" ❌

5. Create an Outline 📝

Developing an outlineis a useful way to organize your thoughts, finalize the structure of your essay, and reduce your writing time.

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Check out this example of an analytical essay outline below:

⭐ Introduction

  • Hook

  • Background information

  • Thesis statement

⭐ Body (x3)

  • Topic sentence

  • Supporting evidence for your analysis

  • Connection to the thesis statement

  • Transition to the next paragraph

⭐ Conclusion

  • Summary of points

  • Restatement of thesis

Quiz: Check Your Understanding 👍

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Janine is a high school student who has been assigned to write an analytical essay for her film class. She drafts the topic: "Characteristics of heroes in 21st-century movies."

Upon hearing about the topic, Janine's teacher, Mr. Cho, suggests that she tweaks it a bit.

Why does Mr. Cho say this?

A. He thinks here are other topics worth analyzing.

B. He thinks there aren't enough research materials to support her essay.

C. He doesn't think Janine is capable of writing about this topic.

D. He thinks that the topic is too broad to analyze in a single essay.


Pick the best explanation for Mr. Cho's suggestion:

Take Action

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Keep these tips in mind as you prepare to write an analytical essay!


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