So, you have read a textbook for your course or watched a movie that your professor recommended. Great! But before you have chance to explore all that your new college or university has to offer, your nice professor gives you an assignment! He has instructed you to analyze the book you have read or the movie you have watched and write an informed and well-reasoned argument on a topic of your own choosing. Clearly, your topic needs to relate to the book or movie but, otherwise, you have a blank canvas.
But perhaps you cannot think of any good analytical essay ideas or you do not know what you are supposed to do? In that case, you could not have come to a better place!
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What are Analytical Essays?
The concept of an analytical essay may not mean much to you, but you need not worry. Most likely, you have already written one of these essays. Taking a closer look at the term’s definition you may notice the word “analysis” is described as “a well-considered and critical observation about a particular idea or thing.”
Consequently, an analytical essay should be just that – a paper or written piece that offers an informative and detailed observation about a particular idea or topic. So, let us say you choose “marijuana” as your topic. Clearly, however, this topic as it stands is too broad ranging or general. There are so many aspects you could write about, from the drug’s ancient origins and its effect on people who take it to the global war against drugs. In fact, an analytical essay expects you to select a specific element of the overall topic and to think about it in a critical manner in order to develop some type of argument, which is commonly referred to as a thesis.
Ideas and Possible Topics for an Analytical Essay
There are numerous topics that you could choose to analyze. Think of any idea, concept or fact. It is possible to develop associations from any of these. Therefore, for an analytical essay, you simply need to come up with some idea and find factual information and/or evidence to support that idea. Indeed, it is tasks of this nature that united mankind from the days of rubbing stones together to generate warmth to launching our fellow humans into space. Using our knowledge, it is possible for society to continue creating ideas and thus to continue to advance. But let us not dwell on philosophical thoughts.
Let us instead look at the structure of an analytical essay and the different forms of analysis.
Analysis of the Rhetorical Variety
Much as the title suggests, a rhetorical analysis essay is a type of writing where the writer’s task is to prove or disprove a concept or fact that is already relatively well established or accepted. Tell yourself that you are trying to prove some fact to another person and that person either cannot understand your reasoning or they are doubtful about its validity. Therefore, analysis of this nature is logical and fact-based so it is often used in fields such as mathematics and science.
The following are some suggested topics for an analytical essay of the rhetorical variety:
- Physics fundamentals e.g. the theory of relativity or Newton’s law
- Proof of geometric concepts
- Basic economics principles i.e. money generates more money.
Analysis of the Literary Variety
This type of analytical writing is extremely common in high schools and colleges and is often given to students as an assignment. The process begins with the reading of some literary work and then the writer develops an informative analysis of the text or they critically evaluate a particular quote and how the storyline or plot is impacted by it. This type of analysis differs from the rhetorical variety insofar as the latter type is, in most cases, based on irrefutable facts and logic. Literary analysis, on the other hand, digs deeper and goes into such areas as the emotional aspects and the decisions of particular characters.
The following are examples of literary analysis:
- How “Utopia-rescue” societies affect people! 1984 Book by author 1984 By George Orwell
- Conforming to the norms of societies: Book entitled To Kill a Mockingbird by author Harper Lee
- “Love’s an effect on human decision making.” Quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
If you consider the term “process” and its definition, you will probably know this means changing something from a particular state to a different state by going through a number of steps or stages. A good way of explaining such a change would be to compare it to the format of an essay. This requires the writer to describe the purpose of their work and explain the topic’s progress or transformation as it advances from one paragraph to the next.
The following are examples of process analysis:
- The cycle of water
- The different stages of sleep
- The different stages of depression
- The logistics of Amazon.
This style of analysis usually applies to the evaluation of some type of tale or story, and it is similar in many ways to the process style of analysis. Character analysis requires the writer to analyze and explain how characters in a story or book are transformed over the course of the plot from the start to the ending. To do this, the elements that should be analyzed include the personality and traits of a character, mental transformation, and so on.
The following are examples of character analysis:
- The mental transformation of Will Hunting in the US drama movie Good Will Hunting
- The progress of Viktor Navorksi in Steven Spielberg’s US comedy-drama movie The Terminal
- How Jim and Huck are transformed in the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Poetry or Poem Analysis
Analysis of this type means researching and explaining the structure, content and historical importance of a given poem. The aim is to help readers understand the purpose and importance of the poet’s work.
The following are examples of poem’s that are frequently the subject of analysis:
- A Dream Within a Dream poem by Edgar Allan Poe
- There is Another Sky poem by Emily Dickinson
- The Road Not Taken poem by Robert Frost.
You have almost certainly come across this style of analysis in real-life situations e.g. dealing with a child persistently asking “why” questions. Causal analysis requires the writer to answer one or more “why” questions as best they can. Often, it is not possible to fully answer such questions, which is why this style is sometimes referred to as “speculating about causes” since there is an amount of speculation involved. Essentially, this style means describing a process and saying why you think some thing or situation occurred.
The following are examples of casual analysis:
- Why do people have cravings for sugar?
- Why are mass shootings getting more frequent in the USA?
- What prompts rebellion in teenagers?
- What triggers our physical responses to danger or fear?
The above examples are just a few types of analysis. There are endless varieties but each type must adhere to the same outline.
Preparation is crucial to writing a well-balanced and good-quality essay, unless or even if you are a natural-born essay writer. So, even before you begin to write or type, there are four essential steps you should undertake. These are a) brainstorming to find a good topic, b) the creation of a solid thesis statement, c) the identification of reliable evidence to support your angle, and b) the development of an essay outline.
Brainstorming to Identify a Suitable Topic
- The first step involves figuring out what you will write about. At times, you may be given a choice of topics to select from. It may be that you have been told already what sort of analysis essay you need to write, or it may be that you have been thrown in at the deep end. In either case, you need a topic and you need to define the scope of the task.
- The crux of the matter is that the topic you choose should either be one you are interested in or one that you really understand. It does not make sense to choose a topic that you find really boring or one you do not really understand. It is quite important to have a topic that you find at least slightly enjoyable!
Develop a Solid Thesis Statement
- One of the primary aims of an analysis essay is for the writer to prove a particular point they are attempting to convey. This means they need to link the pieces of information they have collected together and come to some stance or decision. This stance or decision is known as the essay’s thesis, and it is often an argument designed to prove a claim or assertion put forward by the essay writer. This thesis should then be supported with research and facts. In the case of some topics, it is essential to list any external sources used to create a thesis. If, for instance, your topic is about one or more historical events, it is vital to mention any outside factors that led to the creation of your essay’s thesis. In the case of a scientific paper, it is necessary to mention the research method(s) used in one’s exploratory or investigative work.
- A thesis should be more than a question that just requires a “yes” or a “no” answer. Rather, it should be quite a complex assertion or point with a number of interlinked aspects. It is recommended that a thesis comprises of a controversial statement that requires extensive research in order for it to be a worthy centerpiece of an essay. Last but not least, a thesis statement needs to be high-impact with a strong influence on your chosen topic.
Identifying Evidence to Support Your Thesis
- It will not be possible to convince readers of the validity of a thesis statement without supporting it with strong evidence. Hence, every worthwhile thesis needs to be adequately researched and then analyzed. This implies it is essential to collect enough information to support your assertion(s) or argument(s). While much depends on the essay type, supporting information may not necessarily be entirely straightforward.
- If your topic relates in some way to some scientific finding or historical event, the supporting materials will clearly need to come from previous efforts in that field. If, however, your essay involves literary analysis, then it is very likely you will take evidence or quotes from the text in question. Evidence of this nature usually requires careful analysis and sometimes the drawing of assumptions to indicate to readers how they should interpret the material.
Creating an Analytical Essay Outline
Usually, the introductory section begins with the writer providing some background or historical information. In some cases, it can be effective to use a “hook” sentence or statement, but this is not a strict requirement. An introductory section does not have a particular style, but a common approach is to provide some information about the topic’s background. Hence, you should endeavor to provide some information related to your central thesis statement. It is also recommended you begin with some broad information and then narrow this down until it becomes specific to the thesis. The following is an idea of the structure of an analytical essay:
- Short statement of introduction with “hook” sentence or statement
- Relevant (narrowed down) background information
- Transitional phrase/sentence
- Central thesis Statement.
Main Body Section
When writing an analytical essay, the main body paragraphs serve the primary purpose of proving the thesis. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the thesis. If, for instance, you develop a thesis about the way the character of Will Hunting evolves, then each individual body paragraph should focus on one point e.g. one may focus on Hunting’s reduced sense of guilt, the next on the growing support system and how this impacts Hunting’s mentality. Body paragraphs have a specific structure as follows:
- Begin with a topic statement or sentence: This single straightforward sentence introduces the key point of the paragraph it relates to.
- Information/evidence analysis: The next task is to analyze in one or two sentences any evidence being used to support and explain the central thesis. Arguably, this is the most crucial part of a body paragraph and, indeed, a whole essay. Readers will be able to see how well you understand your topic by what you write in these one or two sentences. So be sure to write creatively, in an original manner, and with impact!
- Present your evidence: It is not possible to complete an analysis without evidence to support one’s topic and thesis. It is here you demonstrate how you did your research. Your analysis should be developed from the support materials you found with everything linked together in an easy-to-understand manner.
- Concluding statement/sentence: Once you have provided a well-consider-analysis and strong supporting evidence, you will need to add a closing sentence to round-off this paragraph. Draw readers’ attention back to the materials you analyzed and reiterate their significance.
Upon reading just one paragraph in your essay’s main body, readers should have gained a clear understanding of your argument or the point(s) you were attempting to prove. If they find it difficult to follow your logic or develop a picture of the situation for themselves, then there may be some omissions or mistakes in your essay or in some parts of it.
It is very important to note that it is not essential for the body of an essay of this type to comprise of several paragraphs. While much depends on the chosen topic, essays will vary according to the depth and scope of their thesis statements. As always, quality counts for more than quantity.
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Like an analytical essay thesis, the concluding paragraph is critical insofar as it brings a whole essay together.
Firstly, it is important to begin with a reiteration of the thesis statement. The reason for this is to show readers that you have comprehensively proved your thesis and to sum-up how you did this. It is necessary to write a strong closing statement in order to bring your essay to a smooth end. This statement may comprise of a take-away for your readers or a summary of the lesson(s) you learnt from researching and writing about the topic. The following is an example of the structure of a conclusion:
- Reiteration of thesis statement
- Summary of all main points
- Concluding sentence or statement.
Once your analytical essay is complete, have a break. Then return and reread your work from beginning to end. There is every chance you will find some remaining errors or sections that need clarifying. Irrespective of the issues, make sure your essay is clear before you submit it.
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Get the Benefit of Fresh Eyes
Even if your essay makes perfect sense in your eyes, this does not mean others will understand it in the same way. Asking a peer to proofread and/or edit your work is a good way of making everything clearer. Getting as many people as you can to edit a paper and improve it makes it more understandable.
Check that Your Thesis Matches Your Argument
How well your written work is judged will depend on how effectively its thesis has been proven. Hence, it is essential to edit or rework your central thesis according to the arguments you have put forward. In the event your arguments or explanations are not a good fit with the thesis, then you will need to amend it.