What Constitutes An Analytical Essay

Another mind-blowing day in college is over. You finish your classes with a difficult assignment from your professor and have a couple of days to understand how to write an analytical essay properly.

Instructions to analyze a movie or a book seem uncomplicated, but that is not it. You need to write a thoroughly informative argument for a topic that will be interesting to your class. You should link it back to the actual book or a film.


Capturing all the minute details that discover the hidden strings, elements of the plot, characters is difficult.

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If you decide to take on this assignment yourself, you need to start studying analytical essay example first. Look at the structure - make your own analysis. Writing a thesis statement, research outline, or any other academic paper may require your ultimate attention to the structure, style - mla or apa, etc. Analytical essay is different since you don’t have to learn all the terms or compare and contrast the ideas.

Your main task is to choose an interesting, engaging topic to write about. Following the analytical essay structure, analyzing essential aspects in your analytical essay will be your trouble after your ideas for an essay get you inspired to complete an amazing article. The main goal is to present the observation of the topic as informatively as possible.

Why is Consulting Analytical Essay Example Important?

Let’s assume you have never written a similar college essay and don’t even know where to start. You may contact the local library on their site - ask them to select a couple of prominent examples for you to compare. Review all of them - create a steps map to follow when you come home.

After examining the essay examples, you will absolutely notice the main feature all of them possess. This type of a task is never a plain summary! Read your essay - see whether it sounds like you are just describing the events, if it does, then you didn’t do a good job since you’ve created a simple report. What could you have done differently? Please pay heed to the following aspects:

  • Narrow your focus, don’t summarize everything.
  • Relate your ideas to the thesis statement of the essay.
  • Concentrate on “how” instead of “what”: How a theme is covered in a book or how the allegory or symbolism adds to the meaning of the text.

Here are the main rules you need to adhere to understand how to write an analytical essay.


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Rule 1. Clearly understand the objective of analytical essay writing.

We are talking here about the essay that requires you to provide a paper that presents a claim or an argument about the aspect under analysis. A large number of assignments involve concentrating on a film, play, or a book. You need to gather evidence from the materials you researched and support your main idea providing compelling evidence.

Rule 2. Decide what interests you and what you are going to write about in your essay.

Many lucky students get their new assignments to write an analytical essay on a specific, clear topic. Here you can benefit immensely from reading the brief instructions. Such prompts may comprise a list of questions your teacher recommends to answer in your essay. There are times you need to think of your own topic. Your choice will depend on the theme of your essay:

  1. Paper about scientific findings needs you to exploit the specific method inherent to the study.
  2. Essay about a remarkable fact in history may be a blast. You may consider the hidden strings and forces that influenced the events.
  3. For the literary essay, an excellent idea is to focus on a concept or a motif of characters or argue what part of the poem is central to the fictional masterpiece.

Rule 3. Start off brainstorming your writing.

Now that you’ve selected your essay topic, you need to formulate a thesis statement. It should include your own thoughts of the topic. There’s a list of effective ways to create and improve your thesis statement for analytical essay:

  1. Put your central idea and smaller notions in words then draw a mind map connecting all the elements depending on how they relate.
  2. Examine your resources - try to find metaphors, ideas, meaningful phrases that tend to repeat. Authors reiterate the things they deem important for their creation.
  3. Consider visuals, effects, imagery for a film essay, methods used, findings for a scientific analytical essay, logical appeals in supporting arguments for a rhetorical analysis essay.


It is imperative to include every single idea that comes up in your brain - jot down all of them, even those that may seem useless and unworthy of your attention. Later you will examine them to connect in better and complicated notions.

Rule 4. Elaborate your thesis statement.

A thesis statement for analytical essay should be specific. It may be a one-two-sentence passage in your introduction that gives a clear picture of the claim you will defend in your essay. Concentrate on one claim, don’t introduce many points. You are not working on a dissertation. Readers usually skip to the thesis statement to understand the value of the writing and whether the time they will have spent on reading it is worth it. Our piece of advice on this step includes:

  1. Thesis should not be obvious or too vague; argue something narrow, specific.
  2. Thesis examines the source material - focuses on an explicit claim.
  3. Thesis is not just a fact; it should be arguable - writing an analytical essay is always about taking a definite side when arguing.

Rule 5. Find credible sources and strong supporting evidence.

Start listing out every evidence that supports your argument, keep a full log of them. Make notes of where you found this evidence and how strong it is in supporting your claim. Remember to double check what sources you are expected to use. Some assignments require using only primary sources, others may allow for credible secondary articles, books. The main requirement here is – your evidence should add score to your argument, make your claim more convincing. Never discard or change the evidence. It is a more prudent idea to tune, adjust, update your thesis statement as you explore the topic.

Rule 6. Jot down a structured outline.

It is easier to write a paper when you have made a structured outline. Check the required word count to understand how long should your essay be and if you can manage to cover the topic within the given word count. A standard 5-paragraph paper may be not enough for your professor so prepare the outline according to the initial prompt specifications.

  1. Outline is required to make out how your evidence and supporting ideas fit into one article.
  2. A proper outline shows the swift progress of our argument.
  3. Outline may help you group the ideas; later you will break them down in more narrow aspects.

Rule 7. Start writing your paper carefully step by step.

Your introduction should be engaging, give basic information about the topic you will discuss, state your thesis claim at the end. Do not overdramatize or include too many transitions and filler words.

Now it’s time to get started with the body paragraphs. These paragraphs have a set structure you need to follow closely:

  • Topic sentence; state the main idea of the paragraph.
  • Analysis; make your argument here.
  • Supporting evidence; make sure your evidence does not contradict with your claim.
  • Conclusion that links to the thesis; summarize the paragraph, tell how it ties to the thesis statement of your paper.
  • Transition

It is okay to use quotes. You need the exact wording from the text to back up your argument. Remember not to over quote; no one likes to read a paper rich in quotes with no proper analysis. It is better to paraphrase to provide a concise background but you need to stick to the guidelines of referencing and formatting styles.


Conclusion paragraph is as essential as introduction; it should not be a simple summary. In your conclusion, you need to guide your reader once again over all points discussed in your paper and add some details about the impact your argument has on further understanding of the text or how it influences other claims. Never introduce new aspects beyond those you have analyzed in the essay.

Rule 8. Read your essay, proofread, and then read it again.

However profoundly researched and analyzed, an essay with multiple grammatical mistakes makes a bad impression. You cannot expect to get a high grade if your assignment is not proofread. A short list of errors to check your paper against includes:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Formatting
  • Run-on sentences

Try reading the paper as if you are presenting it to the class. You may spot awkward parts. Some paragraphs may not sound convincing enough. Pay ultimate heed to titles, names of characters, places; remember to double check them to make sure everything is spelled correctly.

You may ask your friend to read your analytical essay as if they were your professor. It is essential to understand:

  • Whether the structure is accurate and the topic is properly covered.
  • There are no awkward parts that need more elaboration, what else should you add or do away with in your essay.

Rule 9. Take a deep breath, order an essay online, and go out with your friends.

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Many students are used to writing narratives — stories, description, even poetry, but have little experience with analytical writing. This article is an introduction to six analytical text structures, useful across content areas. See also Analytical Writing in the Content Areas.

Students in middle and high school need help structuring their analytical thinking and writing as they are often expected to write about, explain, and analyze fact-based concepts — concepts they can't make up. Analytical writing in all content areas falls into the following six categories. In a longer non-fiction work, such as a book, the author will mix things up, using text structures within text structures:

Examples of topics for each analytical text structure

TopicDefinitionExamples of Topics

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
A compare-contrast essay focuses on the similarities and differences between at least two objects or ideas. The purpose is to develop the relationship between them and, in the process, explain both in detail.Compare-contrast how plants and animals respirate.

Compare-contrast Oedipus and Creon as leaders.

Compare-contrast the major elements in Christianity and Buddhism.

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
A cause-effect essay first presents a reason or motive for an event, situation, or trend and then explains its result or consequence.How and why do plants grow?

How and why do totalitarian governments form?
Problem- Solution

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
A problem-solution essay informs readers about a complex, real-world, philosophical problem (or related problems), followed by actions that could be taken to remedy the problem.What should be done about global warming?

How can the Federal Reserve help keep economic crises from spinning out of control?
Concept-Definition (descriptive writing)

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
In a concept-definition essay, the writer provides a personal, but still factually complete and correct, understanding of a particular concept or term. The essay conveys what research and experience have taught the writer (what the concept is not is often also part of the definition).Provide a detailed definition of "democracy."

What is figurative language?

What is the Greek heroic ideal?
Goal-Action-Outcome (process or procedural writing)

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
A goal-action-outcome essay either tells the reader how to do something or describes how something is done. Math explanations and science lab reports are good examples of goal-action-outcome writing.A science lab report

An explanation of how to solve a complex, multi-step math problem(s).

A business proposal

A fitness plan
Proposition- Support (persuasive writing)

(writing tips)

graphic organizer
A proposition-support essay uses logic, reason, and supporting data to argue that one idea is more legitimate than another. The argument must include sound reasoning and reliable external evidence, stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples, and quoting reliable experts and original sources.Are modern values and morals more conservative than those exhibited in the life and times of Henry VIII?

Is racism still a problem in this country?

Tips for writing each text structure

The Compare-Contrast Essay

A compare-contrast essay focuses on the similarities and differences between and among situations, processes, objects, or ideas. The purpose is to develop and explain the relationship between two or more items in order to better understand both.

When choosing similarities and differences, mention those that are the most important, the most descriptive, or the most informative. For example, when comparing-contrasting cars, focus on those elements that truly differentiate them based on their purpose. If a car's purpose is to move people and things from one place to another safely, car color is not that important. However, the difference in the power of the engines would be. Elaborate in such a way that similarities and differences are clear and distinct.

The Cause-Effect Essay

A cause-effect essay first presents a reason or motive for a particular event, situation or trend and then explains the results or consequences of that situation. The study of science and history most often use the cause-effect structure.

When selecting causes and effects, choose those that are the most important, the most descriptive, or the most informative. For example, all ships on the North Atlantic the evening the Titanic sank had to contend with the same weather, ice, and light conditions. Not all ships ran into an iceberg and sank. So, while the weather conditions contributed to the sinking of the Titanic, they were not a primary cause. Similarly, when looking at the effects of an event or situation, we focus on the long-term effects, not the immediate effects. Although 1500 people died the night the Titanic sank, we want to focus on the actions taken after the sinking that contributed the safety of life at sea.

The Problem-Solution Essay

A problem-solution essay addresses a complex philosophical dilemma with no clear right answer, develops criteria for addressing the problem, and informs readers about possible actions that might be taken to remedy the situation. No matter what sort of complex problem is encountered, the chances of solving it improve if it is approached analytically, conscious of the steps one can take and escape routes available if the steps become too rigid.

After describing the problem, the essay should outline a realistic solution. Begin by choosing one possibility. Assess any difficulties involved. Perhaps there are rules and regulations that need to be followed. Perhaps the solution will be prohibitively expensive. Where will the money come from? Discuss the solution in detail. Move onto other possibilities, if required, only after the first solution has been explained in full.

The Concept-Definition Essay

A concept-definition essay provides a personal (but still factually accurate understanding of a particular concept or term. The essay conveys what research, understanding, and experience have taught the writer about the concept or term. What a concept "is not" is often part of the definition.

As the name suggests, the purpose of a concept-definition essay is to define a concept. However, a definition can be developed in a number of ways, some of which mimic other text structures. That is OK. If a definition requires an explanation of cause-effect, so be it. The introduction and conclusion will focus the reader on the concept-definition purpose of the essay.

Here are some rhetorical points about definitions:

    Avoid using the phrases "is where" and "is when": A professional sport is when gifted athletes are paid to play a sport as a job. Or A computer virus is where…
  • Avoid circular definitions (repeating the defined term within the definition itself). A computer virus is a virus that destroys or disrupts software.
  • Avoid using a too narrow definition, one that would unduly limit the scope of the essay. Reggae music is sung on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. In fact, reggae music is sung all over the world, although it was born in Jamaica.

The Goal-Action-Outcome (Process) Essay

A goal-action-outcome essay, or process essay, either tells the reader how to do something or describes how something is done. There are two types of process essays: those that instruct and those that explain or analyze. The goal-action-outcome pattern of organization is especially important in scientific and mathematical writing. For example, it is used to describe biological processes like T-cell lymphocyte production, chemical processes like drug interactions, and technical processes like a colonoscopy. In mathematics it is used to explain how to solve complex, real-world, multi-step math problems.

Clarity is critical. When writing a goal-action-outcome essay, the reader should be able to replicate the process or visualize it well enough to explain it to someone else.

The Proposition-Support Essay

"Proposition" is a fancy word for argument. The purpose of a proposition-support essay is to be as convincing as possible, and to convince readers to accept the proposition as true. A proposition-support essay uses logic, reason, and evidence to show that one idea is more legitimate than another. The argument must always use sound reasoning and solid evidence by stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples, and quoting reliable experts.

Though the goal is to convince others that a thesis statement is valid, it is important to remember that reasonable people can disagree. The act of writing the essay should help both the writer and the reader to examine their own and others' assumptions and ideas more carefully. Writing a proposition-support essay helps students to weigh evidence, clearly state ideas, fairly consider the claims of the opposition, and justify the position taken.

It is critically important that the tone of a proposition-support essay be reasonable, and that the presentation be factual and believable. Additionally, although this type of essay reflects the writer's opinion, the first-person point of view is not appropriate in analytical essays. The goal is to convince the opposition. In order to write an effective proposition-support essay, the writer must anticipate and overcome objections that an adversary might raise.

A writer, thinker, learner should be able to effectively argue both sides on an argument — no matter his personal opinion or beliefs. In fact, it is good practice to write the opposing argument; it strengthens the writer's understanding of the issue and helps her to intelligently, rather than emotionally, rebut opposition arguments.

About the author

Ms. Stempel has been working in education and education reform for more than 20 years. Prior to founding Lightbulb Learning Services, which specializes in the alignment of curriculum to academic standards, literacy development, and classroom/school leadership, she led curriculum development projects for the Education Trust, Edison Schools, and the Council for Basic Education. In addition to experience in education policy, Ms. Stempel has taught literature in the International Baccalaureate program for many years.

About the book

Compose Yourself! A Guide to Critical Thinking & Analytical Writing in Secondary School supports teaching critical thinking and analytical writing at the secondary level, across content area. This resource includes step-by-step processes, many examples, writing checklists, helpful tips, and black-line masters. It is perfect for teachers, parents, and students who want to strengthen their thinking and writing skills, better learn and retain information, and improve overall academic performance. After using this guide, students will be able to write clear, concise, analytical texts.

Amy Rukea Stempel (2010)

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