Writing a Multi-paragraph Analysis Essay

Learning Objective:

  • Develop a thesis and write a multi-paragraph analysis essay.

One of the most common college writing assignments is the analysis essayA written evaluation of a topic, such as an article, piece of art, person’s life, etc. An analysis essay may include a summary of the subject, but is mostly used to evaluate and discuss: Is it good? Is it bad? Is it poorly written? Was the author misguided or very accurate?. Analysis is the investigation of a topicThe subject of a reading. . In an analysis essay, instructors expect you to closely examine a given topic and then present your own perspectiveThe point of view from which an author considers a subject or issue.. Analysis essays may contain a summaryA brief restatement of an author’s main idea and major supporting details. Summaries are factual and should be written in the third-person with an objective point of view. of the topic to provide readers with contextThe larger setting in which something happens; the "big picture.", but they are not merely summaries. For example, if you are analyzing the novel Moby Dick, you might sum up the plot of the book before you give your slantInformation presented with a particular focus or from a certain perspective, such as a writer's angle on a topic. on the text. In this lesson, you will follow these seven steps to writing an analysis essay, complete with an introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis., a bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed., and a conclusionThe end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement.:

  1. Understand your assignment.
  2. Gather ideas.
  3. Create a working thesis.
  4. Develop paragraphs that support your thesis.
  5. Write a conclusion.
  6. Write an introduction.
  7. Revise the essay.

Step 1: Understand your assignment.

The first step in developing any essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. is making sure you understand the focus and scope of your assignment. Remember, the heart of an analysis essay is your own perspective on someone else's work. It is closely tied to that person's work, but it is not a summary. Be sure to read your assignment carefully before you begin and refer to it often throughout development to make sure you have stayed on track.

Step 2: Gather ideas.

The next step is establishing your topic and gathering ideas about it. To begin gathering ideas, you might want to do some reading to help you develop a clear idea of how you want to approach the topic. Remember, though, that your instructor will want to know what you think about the topic, so while you can read others' ideas about it, ultimately your ideas are what matter most. After doing such secondary reading, brainstormingA prewriting technique where the author lists multiple ideas as he or she thinks of them, not considering one more than another until all ideas are captured. The objective is to create one great idea, or many ideas, on which to base a writing. techniques such as outliningA preliminary plan for a piece of a writing, often in the form of a list. It should include a topic, audience, purpose, thesis statement, and main and supporting points. , freewritingA prewriting technique where the author begins writing without regard to spelling or grammar about ideas, topics, or even characters, descriptions of events, and settings. Often the writer will freewrite for a set period of time. The objective is to develop a storyline through the writing process itself., clusteringA prewriting technique where the author creates an informal visual layout of possible ideas, grouping them together. The objective is to create visual clusters of information on which to base a writing., mind mappingA prewriting technique where the author brainstorms and writes down his or her ideas by grouping and connecting ideas into a type of visual map., and listingA prewriting technique where the author writes down ideas in categorized lists in order to gather ideas. are all good ways to develop ideas.

Step 3: Create a working thesis.

Once you have conducted some research, you probably have a general idea of what your thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work. will be. You can write a tentative thesis statementAn early form of a thesis statement that can be developed into a more formal thesis statement by creating supporting details., keeping in mind that the actual wording and emphasis may change as you gather more information and think more deeply about your topic. In an analysis essay, your thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? should include the topic, subject, or item that you are analyzing and the point that you are making about it.

Step 4: Develop paragraphs that support your thesis.

Now, pick the two or three ideas that you developed in Step 2 that relate to your thesis the best and write the body paragraphsThe part of an essay that comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. Body paragraphs lay out the main ideas of an argument and provide the support for the thesis. All body paragraphs should include these elements: a topic sentence, major and minor details, and a concluding statement. Each body paragraph should stand on its own but also fit into the context of the entire essay, as well as support the thesis and work with the other supporting paragraphs. on them. If it is difficult to decide what ideas to write about, you should choose the ones that you know the most about and that interest you the most. Writing tends to be easier when you know about and enjoy a topic. In addition, limiting the scope of your writing to the most powerful and interesting points will make the writing of greater interest to the reader. Nobody wants to read everything you know about the topic; be selective, and your writing will be more powerful.

Once you have narrowed down how you want to support your thesis, you might need to brainstorm a bit more and develop evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. for your major supporting detailsStatements within a reading that tie directly to the work's main idea. These can be provided in examples, statistics, anecdotes, definitions, descriptions, or comparisons within the work. . You may also find it helpful to conduct additional research and look at other analyses that people have done on the topic.

Remember that your essay must include enough context for your reader to understand your analysis. If, for example, you are writing about a character from a classic novel, you will need to provide enough information about that novel so that someone who has never read it will still enjoy and understand your analysis. However, avoid making the summary the center of your essay. Provide just enough context, then move on to your own ideas.

Step 5: Write a conclusion.

It may seem strange to write your conclusion before your introduction, but sometimes doing this can help you focus your ideas. It is like giving directions—you need to know where you want your reader to end up before you can lead him or her there. Remember that a strong conclusion reflects the main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. of your essay without repeating it.

Step 6: Write an introduction.

Now that you know where you want your reader to end up, go back to the introduction and prepare the way. Remember that a good introduction hooksIn writing, a device used to grab a readers' attention, often in the form of interesting, surprising, or provocative information. the reader, introduces the topic, sets the toneThe feeling or attitude that a writer expresses toward a topic. The words the writer chooses express this tone. Examples of tones can include: objective, biased, humorous, optimistic, and cynical, among many others. , and presents the thesis.

Step 7: Revise the essay.

After you write your introduction, there is just one step left: revising your essay. Some people like to take a break at this point so that they can review their essays with fresh eyes. Remember that revision involves contentThe text in a writing that includes facts, thoughts, and ideas. The information that forms the body of the work. and organization. You will editThe process of improving a writing by reviewing content and making changes that affect its overall meaning and clarity. and proofreadThe process of carefully searching a writing draft for mistakes at the sentence- and word-level in order to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. at the sentence and word level after you have revised your essay. To revise your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

Review your entire essay with these questions in mind. Remember, you may need to add or remove information or reorganize your writing. Being a careful reviewer of your own work is crucial in writing a quality essay. When you have completed this step, be sure to go back one more time to make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuationMarks such as such as a comma (,), period (.), question mark (?), and exclamation mark (!), among others, that help break a writing into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Different types of punctuation marks give the reader different impressions of the writer’s purpose in that sentence. are correct. It is always a good idea to have another person read your essay since even the best speller and grammarian can miss his or her own mistakes.