The Secret of Writing Great Analytical Essays

An analytical essay takes an object, such as a historical event, person, or a work of literature or art, and helps the reader understand it better by examining one particular aspect or detail. They can be intimidating to write, because the number of facets to choose from is potentially limitless. Just thinking about where to begin can become overwhelming.

So, is there a secret trick to help with this task? In fact, there is: passion. If you care about the subject of your essay, then the reader will care, too. If you don’t care, the reader will be able to tell and they will become bored quickly. Have passion, and your writing won’t even seem like work!

This is easier said than done, of course. The subject of your essay will most often be assigned to you, and it might not seem that interesting at first. If you keep looking, however, you will usually find some detail that might be worth writing about. Focus on that, and you’ll find that the rest of the subject gains new meaning and beauty. Here’s another tip: it doesn’t have to be something you like. Something that bothers or angers you serves just as well, or even better, as something you enjoy.

An analytical essay needs to have a thesis, a contestable claim about its topic, and it needs to give evidence to support that thesis. Remember that the goal of an analytical paper is better understanding of the subject. You’re trying to answer the questions, “What does it mean?” and “What is it trying to say?”  The good news is that there are no wrong answers to these questions, as long as you give compelling evidence.

Coming up with a strong thesis can be difficult as well. You may care about your subject and still not know what to say about it. The key is brainstorming. Write down all of your ideas, no matter how silly they seem at first. Pick one you can give the best evidence for. You should also choose something appropriate to the assignment. The shorter the paper, the narrower the thesis should be. Say you’re analyzing a novel. You can write about larger themes and ideas if you’re writing a long term paper, but for a 2 or 3 page paper you’ll want to focus on a specific character or passage.