How to Write an Analytical Essay

An analytical essay plays a significant role in academic life. It requires activating one’s critical thinking finesse to be able to complete the assignment correctly. But even though the task is crucial and commonly assigned among educational institutions, many students face serious problems, not knowing how to write it. 

And it comes as no surprise, as there are several types of analysis, approaches, and strategies students can use to complete their papers. This article strives to provide efficient guidelines for writing an analytical essay and making it peerless and thought-provoking.

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What is an Analytical (Analysis) Essay?

The paper’s definition can be presented as follows: an analytical essay is a piece of writing that relies on the writer’s analytical evaluation. Usually, this kind of essay writing focuses on delivering a claim or argument about the topic the writer analyzes. However, many people have an erroneous approach to writing an analytical essay. They tend to write a summary of the topic and remain on top of it, being broad and general.

Contrary to that, a good analytical essay aspires to disclose certain themes existing within the subject. The writer needs to focus on a specific aspect or set of items and analyze how it was written and influenced the entire work. Usually, the general goal is to examine a particular issue within the piece of writing, which will make the subject clearer to the reader in the long run.

To learn more about essays in general, read our detailed article: What is an Essay?

Analytical vs. Critical Writing

Analytical and critical writing are usually perceived as going hand in hand. Students mix them up and use these writing strategies interchangeably, which is undesirable because in no condition are they similar and homogenous. In fact, they are entirely different and require various approaches to reveal the topic.

The main difference is that an analytical essay is a simple analysis of the text and/or a bit of text that helps the reader understand the subject. For example, an analytical essay may focus on a short section of the poem to understand its topic and explain why it is important in a broader scope. Analytical writing requires critical analysis to answer the How and Why questions.

In turn, critical essay writing is an in-depth examination of the topic; not only does this type of essay require analyzing the topic, but it also evaluates devices and terms used within the work. For instance, a critical essay evaluates an entire literary work and devices, such as metaphors, digressions, and allegories the author used. It is useful to know such a difference before writing an analytical paper to avoid mistakes.

Literary Analysis

A literary analysis paper is the examination of a work of literature or a specific section. The primary purpose here is to analyze an idea presented within a certain part. This is especially effective in providing a deep understanding of the literary work as a whole. 

Such an analysis paper is prevalent in extensive and complicated works, such as poems, plays, and prose. Shorter works can also require writing an analytical paper. It might include determining one theme and analyzing how it is portrayed throughout the story, its impact on the outcomes, and why the writer used it. 

Types of Analysis

There are many types of analysis students might deploy these days. Every academic institution may require using a specific kind of analysis. So it is important to clarify which type of analysis your instructor expects you to stick to. Notwithstanding, the three most dominant kinds are rhetorical, process, and causal analyses. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Rhetorical Analysis

Each great politician has excellent rhetorical abilities. It doesn’t matter what message they want to convey to the audience. It is more crucial how they intend to convince the listeners. The same goes for using a rhetorical analysis when writing a rhetorical analysis essay

Using this type, you focus on answering the question, “How did the author organize the work to make it compelling?” You don’t have to pay close attention to the content and semantics but to the arguments themselves and how they cooperate with speech to persuade people. 

Even though this type is not among the most used, it can definitely hone your critical analysis skills. However, be sure to dedicate plenty of time to this type, as it evokes asking the bulk of questions regarding the author’s competence, point of view, and emotional state. 

Process Analysis

Another type is process analysis. Simply put, it demonstrates how the product was created from scratch. It is widely utilized when doing scientific projects, lab reports, and other experiments. Process analysis shows the steps undertaken within every stage with a view to making the readers aware of the concept. 

However, science is not the only field where process analysis is used. Students of different majors—be it Humanities, Management, Business, or Anthropology—can benefit from this type as well. For instance, those interested in cross-linguistics can utilize process analysis to show how languages work with one another, during which step they are most similar, and during which they are most dissimilar. 

Typically, this is done to explain how things are created or how they work from the very beginning, changing, or not changing onwards. This analysis paper may evoke some counterevidence with regard to the process itself. It is useful to know them and explain how processes may be different.

Causal Analysis

Last but not least, a causal analysis. The word itself is the incorporation of cause and effect. Using this type, you aspire to understand why something has occurred and what outcomes it has brought consequently. Researchers who are deeply involved in Social Sciences prefer this type because it enables them to understand why social phenomena took place and what they subsequently brought. 

For example, linguists use causal analysis to understand why two parts of the same country have different vernaculars. Or, why isoglosses are theoretically effective and show the prevalent lect on the map, but practically they fail to approach accurate statistics. Finally, why language policies work in one state and fail to bring substantial outcomes in another. 

As a matter of fact, a causal analysis is used when analyzing events that have already happened. And since many pundits have analyzed different phenomena, there must be counterevidence concerning causal analysis. Make sure to include other causes harmonically in your piece of writing.

Organizing Your Analysis Essay

Writing an analytical essay doesn’t differ from a descriptive paper, for instance. In regard to the essay structure, it has an introduction, the main part, and a conclusion by default. Depending on the word count, you may want to modify your essay, adding more body paragraphs. However, a common structure is a five-paragraph essay with one paragraph dedicated to the introduction and conclusion and three devoted to the body part. 

Structure

A five-paragraph essay is a common structure in high school and college. Indubitably, it depends on your academic level and institution, which means that the higher the level, the more complex essays you will have to write. But a standard paper doesn’t usually exceed 500 words. It must contain the three main components, which we are further going to overview.

To learn more about writing essays in general, check our definitive guide: How to Write a Standard Essay?

Introduction

An analytical essay introduction is the first section of the essay. It sets the tone and introduces the reader to the topic providing arguments to be discussed within the essay. The introduction comprises three crucial elements: the opening sentence, background information about the topic, and, a thesis statement

The opening sentence, also known as a hook, aims to draw the reader’s attention to the topic. It has a multitude of forms, which are dependent on the paper and the audience itself. Hooks can be written in the form of a quote, statistics, fact, anecdote, or misconception. 

In turn, background information sheds some light on the topic to provide the reader with some knowledge and thus help understand the essay. 

A thesis statement is the most critical element, as it shows the main points the writer will develop.

To learn more about ways to start an essay, consider reading our dedicated article: How to Start an Essay.

Thesis statement development

The thesis statement here identifies what the writer will talk about within an analytical paper. In other words, it is a concise sentence that demonstrates your paper’s goal. Typically, it is the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. It must be interpretive, meaning it provides statements that are neither broad nor very precise. 

Your role is to write a thesis statement and include the main points in it that will be developed further in the essay. 

The following is a strong thesis statement for a two-page analytical essay example:

Even though the Observer’s Paradox is an unavoidable notion, it is possible to decrease its effect by considering the interlocutor’s gender, age, and class when eliciting data.

Body

As we already know, a standard essay has three body paragraphs. These body paragraphs (usually) cover a single point stated in the thesis statement. A body section starts with a topic sentence that correlates with the argument. The topic sentence should remind the reader of the thesis.

Such a topic sentence is followed by an analysis of the argument, along with credible textual or statistical evidence to support the claim. You should also interpret the sources added to the analytical paper. To make body paragraphs coherent, you are encouraged to end every section with a smooth transition.

Conclusion

A conclusion is a caveat in essay writing. Students are prone to adding redundant points and new information that was not present in the essay. The lower grades are the result of such mistakes. 

To succeed in writing the conclusion, simply rephrase the thesis statement, emphasize the main points stated in the essay, and provide the reader with final thoughts regarding the subject. Sometimes, it is a great idea to include a “Call to Action” sentence to provoke a discussion afterward.

Analysis Essay Outline Example

Topic: Explain the notion of the Observer’s Paradox and how to minimize it

  • Analytical Essay Introduction
    • Hook (start with explaining how technology advanced within years)
    • Provide brief information about technology and linguistics, state how Natural Language Processing (NLP) developed and how it correlates with Sociolinguistics as a discipline.
    • Thesis statement (The interlocutor’s gender, age, and class are crucial elements to take into consideration when eliciting data to decrease the effects of the Observer’s Paradox)
  • The Main Part
    • The first body paragraph
      • Gender must be taken into account because many topics are acceptable by men but not by women.
    • The second body paragraph
      • Age is another vital element to consider because there are topics unknown for younger speakers.
    • The third body paragraph
      • Social class is critical because a higher class uses more complicated grammatical constructions, whereas a lower class does not.
  • Conclusion
    • Rephrasing the thesis statement
    • Brief encapsulation of the Observer’s Paradox and how to diminish its impact.
    • Strong closing sentence

Evidence in Analysis

Remember that whatever your supporting evidence is, it is unreliable without a proper presentation and interpretation. Every time you write an essay and insert credible data in it, you have to interpret it with your point of view, giving proper credit to the scholars. 

Presentation

First and foremost, you have to make sure the academic materials you plan to include in the paper are authoritative and up-to-date. No matter what topic you have to write an analytical essay on, the sources must be credible and continuously updated. Under no circumstances should you rely on Wikipedia and similar web pages. Instead, concentrate on looking for sources on Google Scholar, Academia.edu, JSTOR, and ResearchGate. As a general recommendation, the articles should be published no earlier than your current year minus four-five years. Of course, it depends on the topic, as it is not always possible to find “fresh” research papers and authoritative sources.

Interpretation

When looking for a quote to add to the paper and interpret it, ask yourself why the audience should know it. Needless to say that your readers aren’t always as aware of the topic as you are. Your explanation can give a clear picture of the quote and how it correlates with the argument. 

Before looking for credible data, analyze your claim and examples. What does your analytical essay aim to reveal to the reader? Why are your examples the best to understand the topic? Is there a strong connection between your example and the thesis statement? Answering them, you will make your essay analytical, comprehensive, and impeccable. 

Whatever evidence to support your point of view you choose—be it a direct quotation, specific detail, summary, or paraphrasing—make sure to cite your sources judiciously and only when it is needed. Failing to do that results in academic dishonesty, which leads to severe penalties, such as failure and (in rare cases) expulsion from the institution.

To learn more about proper citation rules, check our different guide: How to Cite Articles in an Essay.

Sample Analysis Essay Topics

Oftentimes, educators provide students with essay topics. But this becomes a thing of the past, and professors often prefer to give freedom of choice. They allow students to select an essay topic to make them more enthusiastic about analytical essay writing. If your teacher lets you choose the subject by yourself, take a look at the following essay topics. They might help you come up with a unique prompt to write an analytical essay of your own.

  1. Why does politics influence social media platforms?
  2. Why does globalization have an adverse impact on local businesses? 
  3. Why is high-school education essential?
  4. Effects of living within a multicultural society.
  5. Cause and effect of Artificial Intelligence advancement.
  6. Effects of Natural Language Processing development.
  7. Religion in The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot.
  8. Rhetorics of the current president of the U.S.
  9. Process analysis of an official speech recording.
  10. Cause and effect of language documentation.
  11. Effects of destitution in South Africa.
  12. Effects of perjury in the United States.
  13. Why has the obesity level skyrocketed in the United States?
  14. Why have politicians changed their rhetorics throughout the years?
  15. Cause and effect of vaccination against Covid-19.

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CONTINUE

Key Tips to Remember

Here, you can get familiar with a set of tips to accelerate your writing process. Incorporating them will increase your chances of writing a top-notch analytical essay. 

  1. Understand the topic: It is vital to know what you have to write about. Before writing an analytical essay, make sure you understand the question. Analyze the topic word-by-word, defining every term unclear to you. 
  2. Compose a clear thesis statement: Remember that a thesis statement is the chief element of a successful analytical essay. It has to be condensed and accurate. Write it at the end of the introduction and rephrase when writing a conclusion.
  3. Structure and format your paper: Every essay needs to include the introduction, the central part, and the conclusion. Neglecting to follow the structure results in a lower grade. Besides, don’t forget to cite your sources according to the formatting style.
  4. Bolster coherence with transitions: To make an analytical essay smooth, make sure to use transitions when writing the paper. Those are words like besides, moreover, however, in addition to, conversely, contrary to, likewise, etc.
  5. Avoid first-person writing: Omit first-person pronouns when working on an analytical essay and any other essay. It is recommended to refer to a group of scientists or scholars to preserve the formal writing style.
  6. One source per page is a must: Keep in mind that you have to include at least one scholarly source a page. But do not go overboard. Plenty of supporting evidence doesn’t mean the writer is more proficient in the topic.
  7. Meet the word count: Even if you have a knack for the topic and can write a full-fledged scientific article about it, you have to bear in mind the word limit. You are usually allowed to exceed the word count by 10 percent if not told otherwise. 
  8. Stay away from generalizations: Saying that all scientists think the same will make you worse off. If an academician has a certain point of view, prove and cite it. Make sure to get rid of placeholders.
  9. Make your paper debatable: Your analytical essay must provoke a discussion or at least a pure interest after reading. If it doesn’t, then your work is broad, and its concepts are widely agreed upon.
  10. Edit and proofread first, then submit: Once you are done with the first draft, reread it and point out unnatural sentences. Repeat the process as many times as needed until you can’t find any imperfections. Ask your peers or parents to proofread your work and submit it on time.

Analysis Paper Rubric (Assessment)

Now, if you want to get the highest grade, you must know the grading criteria that your work will be checked based on. It comes as no surprise that an analytical essay should be understandable, cohesive, and structured to get you an A+. However, the parameters of a flawless paper go way beyond the mentioned adjectives. 

The grading system may differ from one academic institution to another. To be on the safe side, ask your teacher to provide you with such a list of requirements. Nevertheless, let’s look at a common rubric with requirements to get the highest grade possible.

Thesis

Not only does a thesis statement have to be arguable but also clearly represented in the introduction and conclusion. It doesn’t have to be copied. A rephrased thesis sentence should draw crystal clear parallels with the original statement.

Argumentation

The main argument must be logical and comprehensive to the reader. The entire argumentation and every body paragraph is coherent and lets the reader understand the thesis statement. In case there are counterarguments, they should be analyzed and dismantled. 

Originality

An analytical essay is exclusive and unparalleled. The work doesn’t have any signs of plagiarism. It correlates with the main points mentioned during classes. Moreover, the writer stands out with unique knowledge of the topic gained outside academia.

Writing Style

The essay has comprehensive ideas glued together with transitions. There is a sufficient number of different grammatical structures. Body paragraphs are cohesive, and there are nearly no grammatical, lexical, or punctuation mistakes. 

Use of Sources

Every backup material is updated and authoritative. Arguments are strong and supported by credible sources. In-text, as well as end-text citations, are correct and pertain to the right formatting style.

Understanding of the Topic

The writer provides in-depth knowledge of the given topic, writes a solid essay, and uses reliable material. Arguments are robust and reveal the individual’s understanding of the course and their interest in it. 

FAQ

Can an analytical essay be written in the first person?

No, analytical essays should not be written in the first person. First-person is subjective and analytical essays are objective. You may use “I” when you are referring to yourself or in personal essays (narrative, reflective, etc.), but try to avoid it as much as possible in other academic works.

What should an analytical essay include?

The most important part of an analytical essay is its thesis statement (including supporting evidence and its analysis). However, analytical essays should also include an introduction, body paragraphs that develop the thesis, and a conclusion.

How do you start an analysis essay?

The best way to start an analytical essay is to introduce your topic and then state your thesis. Make sure to include evidence to support your argument. You may also want to include a counterargument, which is a position that disagrees with your thesis. After you’ve presented your argument and evidence in the essay, you can then refute the counterargument.

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