Writing the Analytical Essay What does it mean to analyze?

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Writing the Analytical Essay

What does it mean to analyze?

  • Analyze means “to separate a subject into its parts (analyze), or the act or result of doing so” (Kennedy, Kennedy, and Aaron 692).
  • The process of analyzing involves breaking an object into its parts and examining those parts.

Analyzing for Essay Writing

  • When analyzing a piece of writing, first examine your response to the elements of the work.
  • Brainstorm your ideas about the work you are analyzing.
  • Create a working thesis (statement of purpose) about the piece you are analyzing.

Analyzing a Piece of Literature

  • Whether your assignment is to analyze an essay, short story, or novel, there are certain steps you can follow in the process of analytical writing.
  • Summarizing the original piece of writing will result in interpreting the work in your own original way.

Analyzing a Piece of Literature, Continued

  • Works of fiction are often complicated and open to interpretation. Likewise, articles and other types of nonfiction are often biased.
  • In the process of analyzing a work of fiction or nonfiction, it is the writer’s job to find unsubstantiated claims or to search for hidden meaning and messages.

Analyzing a Work of Fiction

  • If you are analyzing a short story or novel, look for the author’s use of symbolism. For example, colors often stand for broad ideas. Green can convey envy, money, or fertility.
  • Also, look for allusions to historic or cultural events. Understanding and explaining such indirect references will help you get at the deeper meaning of the story.

Analyzing a Work of Fiction, Continued

  • In the process of analysis, consider the basic plot (your summary), the characters (protagonist, antagonist, and all others), and the setting of the story (time and location).
  • Consider the point of view from which the story is related (first person, third person omniscient, or third person objective).
  • Focus on an interesting or complex character or problem in the plot.

Analyzing a Work of Nonfiction

  • Analyze the claim the author is making. What is the author’s main point? How does the author support that point? Is the support sufficient? Is that support valid?
  • Base your thesis on agreeing or disagreeing with the author’s point of view on the topic of the work.

Constructing Your Essay

  • Like any type of essay, an analytical essay consists of an introductory paragraph ending with a thesis statement, supporting body paragraphs, and a strong concluding paragraph.
  • Make sure that all the supporting evidence in your body paragraphs directly support your thesis.


  • An analytical essay involves a great deal of critical think on the part of the writer.
  • The reward at the end of the process is an original creation.


  • Kennedy, Kennedy, and Aaron. The Bedford
    • Reader. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s,
    • 2009.
    • Kies, Daniel. “Writing an Analysis.” The
    • Hypertext Books. 2009. http://papyr.com/
    • Hypertet books/comp2/analysis. htm.
    • “Literature (Fiction).” The Writing Center.
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
    • http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb.

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