What is an analytical essay?
An analytical essay is a type of writing concerned with providing an analysis of a topic, argument, movie, book, or article. It focuses on analyzing the style of writing and why the author chose the type of writing. As such, it analyzes the style of the writing, the theme as well as the intentions of the author. It aims at simplifying the information presented by an author by contextualizing it to make it easily understandable by the reader.
The purpose of an analytical essay is to boost one’s analytical skills, particularly in academic writing. It helps students improve their thinking and analytical skills by examining their ability to understand a topic and present it in a way that is understandable to an audience. Analytical writing is also common in media where authors provide critical analysis of stories and news such as political analysis to make them understandable to other audiences.
Comparison between with Literature/article review and analytical essay
While an analytical essay shares some characteristics with the article/literature review, the two should not be confused to mean the same thing. Here are the similarities and differences between the two:
- Both writings involve providing a summary of the work being reviewed or analyzed
- Both involve analyzing the content of the text being reviewed
- The purpose of Literature or article review is to provide criticism to improve on the author’s work while an analytical essay aims at improving one’s analytical skills
- Analytical essay focuses on analyzing the styles, themes, and intentions of the author while literature or article review focuses on analyzing and evaluating the author’s work and provides constructive criticism.
Tips for writing an analytical essay
1. Select a topic
The first step to writing an analytical paper is to identify what you will be writing about. For academic writing, you can pick a topic based on the essay prompt provided by the instructor. In some cases, the instructor provides a specific topic to write about and thus you may not need to look any further for a topic. However, sometimes you may be provided with a broad topic and asked to narrow it down, in which case, you’ll need to conduct some research. The next section discusses how to select a great topic for your analytical essay.
2. Identify main points in the piece
Having settled on a topic, it is important to understand the piece you are analyzing and how different literary components are organized. Go through the piece to identify the main points, style, and structure of the writing. The main points identified in this stage will aid in putting together your ideas and supporting evidence.
3. Obtain evidence
Obtain evidence to support the ideas and points identified in the previous step. The evidence, in this case, can be the original piece you are analyzing. For example, if you are analyzing an article then the evidence will come from excerpts from the piece
4. Put everything together
Having identified a topic, main points, and supporting evidence, you can now prepare to start your writing. Start with an introduction and define your thesis statement, proceed to the body section with in-depth analysis then conclude with a recap of the thesis statement.
How to select a topic for an analytical essay?
Selecting a topic for your analytical essay can be easy or difficult. It can be easy in the sense that you can be easily guided by the piece you are analyzing. For example, if you are analyzing a book on mental illness then your topic is likely to be an adoption of the book title. On the other hand, it can be difficult when you have the freedom of picking a topic on your own. In academic writing, the instructor may give you the freedom of choosing the topic of analysis. This requires that you conduct some form of research to find a good topic for your writing. Here are some tips to guide you in selecting a topic for your analytical essay.
Conducting research on the web or the library is one of the best places to start your search for a topic for your essay. For example, if the assignment is about analyzing an article then the web is the best resource to conduct your research.
After finding some materials to analyze either a book or article, it is important to pick one with a considerable amount and quality information in order to produce excellent analysis. Make sure that the material has reliable sources to ensure the quality of your analysis. Your analytical essay is not just a summary of the piece but should also be informative. Therefore, the piece of analysis should also be interesting to your target audience.
Evaluation simply means ensuring that the selected topic is aligned with the instructions of the professor. This can be achieved by consulting with the instructor on the selected topic piece of analysis. Alternatively, you can go through the essay prompt again and compare it with the selected topic to determine a match.
Steps for writing an analytical essay
Introduction of an analytical essay
The introduction of your essay should provide the background and direction of the analysis. It summarizes the essay structure and provides a thesis statement. Generally, the introduction section of the paper should consist of a hook statement, a short background information, a transition sentence, and a thesis statement. It is a good practice to start your essay with a general statement about the piece you are analyzing and the author. Remember that your analysis will be based on the styles and themes adopted by the author. Therefore, introducing the author at the beginning of the essay creates a perfect picture on the mind of the reader. Your introduction can also focus on a specific aspect of the text you plan to focus your analysis on.
It is advisable that you start your essay with a hook statement to grab the attention of the reader from the beginning. The hook can be a general concept about the topic in question, statistics related to the topic, or a rhetorical question. The idea is to come up with a statement that can arouse the reader’s interest in your analysis but also relevant to the topic in question. Then the thesis statement will close the introduction section by informing readers about the purpose of your writing. The purpose of a thesis statement is to tell readers about the topic and the author’s opinion about it. It also reinforces the importance of the analytical work to the readers.
The body paragraph of analytical essay
The body section of the essay consists of the arguments with supporting evidence. It contains paragraphs representing individual arguments. The structure of the paragraph consists of:
Topic sentence: This introduces the argument of the paragraph. A good topic sentence gives the reader an idea of what the paragraph is about. It can be an introduction of a new argument or a connection with the previous paragraph.
Evidence: After stating your argument, support it with textual evidence. Supporting evidence in most analytical essays come from the piece being analyzed. You can provide evidence in form of quotes from the text accompanied with an explanation for their use. Alternatively, you can paraphrase the text and provide an in-text citation. Either way, you should ensure that the supporting evidence is relevant to your argument stated in the topic sentence.
Concluding sentence: A concluding sentence provides a summary of the paragraph by connecting the argument with the evidence to demonstrate the importance of the analysis to the argument.
How to conclude your analytical essay?
Concluding your essay involves summarizing the main arguments to reinforce their importance to the analysis. Make a brief summary of the main points and emphasize the conclusion you have made from them. You can start your conclusion by restating the thesis statement to remind readers of the purpose of your analysis. Then summarize the arguments to demonstrate to the reader how your analysis achieved its purpose. Finally, end the conclusion with a statement stating the lesson learned from the analysis.
A sample of an analytical essay
Analysis of Two Characters in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction
In Flannery O’Connor’s fictional work, some common themes come out, including family relationships, religion in society, and the impact of personal relationships with others. In the work Wise Blood (1952), O’Connor explores the story of Motes, who is a war veteran and a preacher in his early 20s. Motes goal is teaching on religion without the role of Christ, which he postulated, emphasizing the irrelevance of the belief in God, sin, and evil, as well as, afterlife. On the other hand, O’Connor’s work Good Country People (1955), explores the story of a young woman aged thirty, who uses a wooden leg. The focus for the story is the hard lesson she learned, through her interaction and relationship with a man that poses as a Bible Salesman. Both works depict the intensity of O’Connor’s work, and thus it is crucial to explore the characterization and characters employed to bring out the lessons from the works. In the context of this paper, static characters remain the same despite facing and learning from conflict, while dynamic ones change their views and beliefs. The focus of this essay is demonstrating that the fictional characters of Hulga Hopewell and Hazel Motes in the two works are dynamic, noting the change of views and beliefs during the stories.
Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes is a young man that qualifies as a dynamic character, noting that he began life being very religious, but changed his views of religious beliefs such as the reality of sin and salvation, following the loss of his family during the war. Hazel is the lead character in the Wise Blood (1952) and remains a religious person, which is evident in the quote “There was already a black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin. He knew by the time he was twelve years old that he was going to be a preacher” (O’Connor, 1952, p. 22). The quote shows that as a young boy, Hazel had made the firm decision to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, preaching the gospel of Jesus and staying away from sin, which is the typical teaching done by Christians. However, after about ten years, Motes is a war veteran that returned from a war that is not specified in the book. Unfortunately, during the war, he lost his family, which left him as the only surviving member. The event marked the turning point for him and started the change of beliefs and worldview from one to another one.
The tragic event changed his belief in religion to one of rejection for anything to do with it, noting the quote “Haze followed him around, telling him what it was right to believe. He said it was not right to believe anything you couldn’t see or hold in your hands or test with your teeth” (O’Connor, 1952, p. 206). Hazel makes the statement in reference to religion while dispelling the binding faith that many people have in God, Jesus, sin, and salvation, noting that all one should believe in is what they can see or touch. The change of philosophical disposition from a believer in Christianity and Christian teachings to a person that discredits all the teachings it offers indicates the change of beliefs and worldview. The change highlights that Hazel is a dynamic character, which is similar to what happens to other characters, such as Hulga in “Good Country People.”
Hulga (Joy) Hopewell is another dynamic character covered in “Good Country People” (1955), noting the change of views from an atheist stance to one of showing belief in God and religion, following the encounter with the bible seller. Hulga (Joy) Hopewell is Mrs. Hopewell’s daughter. She is highly intelligent and learned, although cynical of the people around her and the typical life, due to their blind belief in religion and religious sentiments, for example, the conversations between her mother and Mrs. Freeman. Her earlier life shows evidence of a woman that dispels, discredits, and disapproves the views, intelligence, and beliefs of others, including religious beliefs. The proof that she imposed her understanding on others such as her mothers includes the quote that, “Mrs. Hopewell could not say, “My daughter is an atheist and won’t let me keep the Bible in the parlor.” She said, stiffening slightly, “I keep my bible by my bedside” (O’Connor, 1988, p. 270). The quote highlights that Hulga’s mother was sure that she was an atheist, but also that she felt that she was the only one that could dictate what others should believe in or accept as truth. However, after the encounter with the Bible seller, Hulga was left wondering if she was as intelligent as she though. The evidence of her chance of stance includes the statement, “You just a while ago said you didn’t believe in nothing. I Thought you was some girl…her face was almost purple” (O’Connor, 1988, p. 283). By the end of the encounter, the man took away Hulga’s wooden leg and then abandoned her. The surprise and feeling that another person was smarter than her, despite having a PhD, left Hulga astonished, which made her face change to purple. The encounter was a turning point, noting that it changed her believe in her intelligence and smartness, and affirmed to her that she could also be manipulated and misled.
In Flannery O’Connor’s fictional work, the common themes include family relationships and religion in society, which are manifest in the characters Hulga Hopewell and Hazel Motes. The review of the two characters showed that both are dynamic, considering that both changed during the story. In Hazel’s case, he changed from the disposition of belief in religion and God to the belief in what he could see or touch. Similarly, Hulga was an intelligent woman that felt that others were ignorant, and that they could not surpass her smartness, until she met the bible seller that manipulated her and even took her wooden leg away. The two characters are examples of the typical dynamic character, indicating the transformation that some characters suffer during a story.
O’Connor, F. (1952). Wise blood. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
O’Connor, F. (1988). Collected works. New York: Literary Classics of the United States