How to Write an Analytical Essay

8
min read
September 13, 2020

Writing essays is an essential part of the study process on every step of the academic ladder. There are many types of academic papers, and each has to be written according to very specific rules. To succeed in academic writing and get high marks for writing assignments, a student should be aware of these rules and be able to follow them strictly. 


An analytical essay is one of the most common essay types; every student gets to write it more than once throughout his or her school and college years. It is also one of the most complex types of essays, as it requires strong analytical and research skills and a good knowledge of analytical essay structure. In the following article, you’ll find everything you need to know about writing an analytical essay that will impress any demanding reader.

TABLE OF CONTEXT

What Is an Analytical Essay?

In order to write an impressive paper, one should know the analytical essay definition and how this essay type differs from the rest.

An analytical essay is a form of academic writing that focuses on details and methods rather than on the overall contents of the subject. Figuratively, it deals with the elements of the puzzle which is a complete work of art to show how the picture is made.


Considering the latter, keep in mind that analysis is an essential part of an analytical essay. A simple summary of the plot or description of an event will not make a good essay of this type. Trying to insist on your personal point of view or focusing on your own impressions from the subject will also get you to fail the assignment. An analytical essay should be based on facts and evidence that you have proof of.


Now that we have the definition, we can move on to the next question.

What Is the Analysis In Writing?

Analysis in general means dividing something into smaller elements in order to examine them (usually by asking critical questions such as “how” and “why”) and draw your own conclusions based on the results of such examination.


In your academic analytical essays, you will most probably be focusing on literary analysis. That will require you to look at how the author uses various techniques to produce certain effects, as well as how the issues are addressed. Sometimes such analysis will also require evaluating a literary work from the point of logic and proper handling of the issues of controversy.

What Is an Analytical Argument?

An analytical argument is basically the body of your essay. It is built upon a thesis statement (which we will discuss later in this article) and should focus on discussing one idea with supporting evidence.


It is important to distinguish between an argument and an opinion. An argument is always backed up by sufficient evidence. Whereas an opinion is a personal point of view that is based upon an individual experience or is downright intuitive.


Let’s see how it works. 


For example, “Employees who are working from home are less productive than those who work at the office. I know that from my own family’s example – me and my husband always get interrupted and can never concentrate,” this is an opinion because it is based on individual experience.


On the contrary, “A 2019 study by Airtasker conducted among 1004 full-time employees from different parts of the U.S. found that working from home increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles, so remote work can be a better alternative for both companies and workers,” is an argument, as it draws conclusions based on evidence.


Having explained all these terms, we can finally discuss an analytical essay outline and structure.

Analytical Essay Outline and Structure 

An analytical paper is a complex work that involves extensive research, using many sources for citations and reference, and putting together a lot of facts and thoughts on the subject. So, thorough knowledge of an analytical essay structure is essential, as is creating an outline.


An outline is a good way to encompass all the preparatory work that you do for your essay. It starts by taking down notes about possible topic ideas, arguments, and any useful resources on the subject of your paper. When you do any research, don’t forget to archive the sources and highlight the citations you might need to use in your work so that you could access them easily during your writing process. Having all this information will help you write a strong thesis, formulate persuasive arguments, and fill in the gaps in your outline step-by-step.


You can organize your outline any way you like, but the easiest and most efficient way to do it is to create a simple bulleted list. This is how it may look like. 

Introduction:


  • Hook statement;
  • A short summary of background information;    
  • Thesis statement. It usually has a complex form of a number of correlating factors and should be controversial.

Body paragraphs (there are 3 of them usually):

  • Topic sentence. This is where you introduce your main point;
  • Analysis. Here, you should analyze the provided evidence and determine its meaning;
  • Evidence. Every paragraph should have evidential support in the form of a source or an actual quote;
  • Concluding sentence. Here, you can restate and emphasize the main point.

Conclusion:

  • Restatement of your thesis statement; 
  • Short summary of the essay’s key points; 
  • Proof of why the text is important.

Now that you know how to work with an outline, let’s start filling in the gaps. 

How to Start an Analytical Essay: Introduction Paragraph

An analytical essay introduction is crucial to catching your reader’s attention. Therefore, it should be relevant and concise, and provoke interest for how you’re going to develop your topic. There are three main components that an analytical essay introduction should contain:


  • Hook statement;
  • Thesis statement;
  • A short explanation of how you’re going to prove your thesis in the following paragraphs.


A hook is immensely important for the overall impression that your essay will produce on the reader. So, it must contain something interesting, engaging, or surprising. It should instantly grab your audience’s attention and make them wonder what you have to say next. You only have one chance to win your readers at this point, so put a lot of effort into formulating a good hook. Start with finding out who your readers are, and then choose from the most effective methods of attracting their attention. You can do it with a quote, statistic figures, a rhetorical question, or a provocative statement.


Then, move on straight to your thesis statement. In this essential part of your analytical essay, you should explain to your readers what your paper’s subject is and why it matters. You might give your own opinion about the topic, and state why it is important to read your analytical work. Read on to learn how to write a strong thesis statement – we will discuss it in the next paragraph.

How to Create a Strong Analytical Thesis Statement?

But what is a thesis statement for an analytical essay, exactly? Before we move on, let’s define the term. So, a thesis statement is basically your answer to the question posed in the topic. A thesis is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph and consists of one to three sentences that encompass the gist of your paper, concentrating your viewpoint on the subject and giving the reader an idea of how you’re going to develop the topic.


The claim you make in your thesis statement should be debatable so that you could have something to work with in the next sections of your essay. A strong thesis statement helps to get a clear idea of a paper from the start and serves to organize and develop the arguments in the body paragraphs. 


A good thesis includes the following:

 

  • The main idea;
  • Key points of your topic; 
  • Your position towards the subject of the discussion; 
  • Conclusion.


In order to create a powerful thesis statement, follow this step-by-step guideline:


  1. Brainstorm an interesting topic.
  2. Make the topic more specific.
  3. Formulate the question for further research.
  4. Extract the main idea and make a statement.
  5. Decide on your position on the topic.
  6. Mention an opposing position.
  7. Support your point of view using arguments, evidence, and reasoning.
  8. Draw a conclusion.


There are also some things you should avoid when writing a thesis statement:


  1. Using common knowledge, bare facts, or quotes (all these make a poor thesis).
  2. Be careful not to choose topics that are too broad, and avoid language that’s vague or ambiguous.
  3. Exclude all information that is irrelevant to the topic and phrases like “I think”, “I believe”, etc.


To get a better understanding of what a strong thesis statement should and should not be like, compare the examples below.


  • According to various studies, more than a half of first-year college students experience strong anxiety, which puts their health at a great risk. In order to protect it, psychologists should work with every freshman on campus. (Strong).
  • Academic anxiety is a big problem for all students. (Weak).

Body Paragraphs of an Analytical Paper

A body paragraph is where you make an argument and bring evidence to support your claims. An analytical essay format usually implies having three of four body paragraphs. Each of them should start with a sentence that defines the main point of discussion for the paragraph – sort of a mini-thesis. Then, you should analyze this point, looking at it from different angles and bringing sufficient evidence to support your assertions. The more evidence you provide, the more persuasive your arguments will be. After you’ve run out of strong points for the arguments, move to the next paragraph. You can also add a transition sentence to make you text smoother; some professors require it, and some don’t.


So, each body paragraph should include:


  • An introductory sentence;
  • Analysis;
  • Evidence (actual quotes from the text, statistic figures, facts from trusted sources);
  • Transition sentence to the next paragraph (mandatory).


If you still wonder about how to write a good analysis, look at the following sample body paragraph to see how it should work in an actual paper.


For example, our topic is the perception of happiness in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. The first body paragraph might be as follows:


“The world in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is a place where hardly anyone thinks about what happiness really is. Safety and stability are what matters for them the most, not happiness. But the majority of the society depicted by Huxley really considers themselves happy: they have everything they need to satisfy their basic needs, and these are all the needs they seem to have. People in the brave new world don’t have to struggle for anything, they have everything. So, in an episode where Bernard asks Lenina if she wants to be happy in her own way, she seems to not understand what he’s talking about. And what was he?.”


In the second paragraph, we can discuss Bernard’s own perception of freedom, and in the third – move on to John the Savage, who is the impersonator of freedom in the novel.


After you’ve dealt with several body paragraphs in this manner, proceed with the conclusion.

How to Conclude Your Analytical Essay?

An analytical essay conclusion is where you rephrase and emphasize your thesis statement, summarize the key points of your analysis and give some concluding afterthoughts. There’s no need to present any new ideas in the final paragraph, but it’s important to give the reader a clear idea of what your essay was about. When rephrasing anything you said earlier in your essay, be careful to keep the same meaning and avoid any ambiguity.


Here is what your analytical essay conclusion should consist of: 


  • Restatement of your thesis statement in other words;
  • Summary of the main points of the body paragraphs;
  • Concluding afterthoughts.


That’s basically all you need to know about how to write an analytical essay. Now you can go an extra mile – examine our sample topics.

Analytical Essay Topics to Inspire

Below you’ll find an analytical essay topics list on literature, art, society, and nature. Use them for inspiration to create powerful topics of your own.


Literature:


  • What are Achilles' biggest flaws? Explain the modern use of the phrase “Achilles’ heel” using the Greek hero’s motivations, character, and deeds. 
  • Irony in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: where does it occur? Provide examples of verbal and situational irony and explain where exactly the irony in them is and why. 
  • Which of the characters in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” relates the most to “the lost generation” and why?
  • What is so frightening about Aldous Huxley’s fantasy of the “Brave New World” and why has it become one of the most famous dystopias ever?
  • John Updike’s Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom as an “average American man”. What makes the character so believable?


Art:

  • Impressionism in art. What makes it so special?
  • Modern art: is it art at all, after all? Analyze several works of modern art to explain what features they have that enable them to be considered art.
  • When and how did photography become art?
  • The therapeutic effect of art: does it really exist?


Society:

  • Multicultural families. Is it possible to maintain an ideal cultural balance within such families?
  • Feminism: do we still need it and why?
  • The transformation of gender roles throughout the XX century. Was it ever avoidable?
  • The Internet and its effect on the educational system. Advantages and disadvantages of its use in a study process.


Nature:

  • Climate change as a major threat to the stability of ecosystems worldwide.
  • Can we do anything now to prevent rising numbers of natural disasters in the future?
  • Is testing and experimenting on animals a necessary evil?
  • Why is it essential to protect the Arctic?
  • Biodiversity on Earth. Why is it so important?

To Sum Up

Writing a good analytical essay requires a lot of time, patience, and consistency. This type of academic paper is very complex and demanding towards a student’s knowledge of the subject, his or her research and analytical skills, critical thinking and an ability to draw conclusions based on pieces of evidence.


But whatever your abilities and skills are, it’s impossible to write an impressive paper without a thorough understanding of an analytical essay definition and structure. The best decision would be to create an outline in the form of a bulleted list before starting to actually write your essay. Clear understanding of all the key elements of an analytical essay like a hook, a thesis, and analysis, is also crucial to your success.


Finally, don’t forget that a great essay starts with a great topic. If a specific topic has not been assigned to you, put enough effort into developing one of your own that you will really enjoy writing an analytical essay on. Good luck!