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Steps to Writing an Essay
Transcript of Steps to Writing an Essay
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How to Write an Analytical Essay
Writing an analytical essay can seem daunting, especially if you've never done it before.
Take a deep breath, buy yourself a caffeinated beverage, and follow these steps to create a well-crafted analytical essay.
Prewriting for Your Essay
1. Understand the objective of an analytical essay.
An analytical essay means you will need to present some type of argument, or claim, about what you are analyzing. Most often you will have to analyze another piece of writing or a film, but you could also be asked to analyze an issue, or an idea. To do this, you must break the topic down into parts and provide evidence, either from the text/film or from your own research, that supports your claim.
"Stanley Kubrick's The Shining uses a repeating motif of Native American culture and art to comment on America's history of colonizing Native Americans' lands"
is an analytical thesis.
It is analyzing a particular text and setting forth an argument about it in the form of a thesis statement.
2. Decide what to write about.
Sometimes you will have a free reign assignment, sometimes specific subjects and other times specific prompts.
Read the prompt carefully.
What is the prompt asking you to do?
What is the point or main idea of the prompt?
If you're writing an analytical essay about a work of fiction, you could focus your argument on what motivates a specific character or group of characters.
Or, you could argue why a certain line or paragraph is central to the work as a whole. For example:
Explore characterization and how it drives the plot in the Epic of Beowulf.
If you're writing about a historical event, try focusing on the forces that contributed to what happened.
If you're writing about scientific research or findings, follow the scientific method to analyze your results.
in the Epic of Beowulf
You may not immediately know what your thesis statement should be, even once you've chosen your topic. That's okay! Doing some brainstorming can help you discover what you think about your topic. Consider it from as many angles as you can.
Look for repeated imagery, metaphors, phrases, or ideas.
Things that repeat are often important.
See if you can decipher why these things are so crucial.
Do they repeat in the same way each time, or differently?
How does the text work?
If you're writing a rhetorical analysis, for example, you might analyze how the author uses logical appeals to support her argument and decide whether you think the argument is effective.
If you're analyzing a creative work, consider things like imagery, visuals in a film, etc.
If you're analyzing research, you may want to consider the methods and results and analyze whether the experiment is a good design.
A mind map can be helpful to some people. Start with your central topic, and arrange smaller ideas around it in bubbles. Connect the bubbles to identify patterns and how things are related.
Good brainstorming can be all over the place. In fact, that can be a good way to start off!
Don't discount any ideas just yet.
Write down any element or fact that you think of as you examine your topic.
4. Come up with a thesis statement.
The thesis statement is a sentence or two that summarizes the claim you will make in your paper.
It tells the reader what your essay will be about.
write a vague or obvious thesis such as "Revenge is a central theme in Beowulf."
make a specific argument such as "Beowulf explores different styles of vengeance in the Anglo-Saxon age, contrasting the dragon's honorable retribution with the response of Grendel's mother."
This is an analytical thesis because it examines a text and makes a particular claim.
"If one focuses solely on the monster Grendel in the famous epic poem “Beowulf”, then these models show unconscious sexuality in the Heorot mead hall, Grendel's Oedipus love for its mother, and the need of castration from a father figure, Beowulf. All of which make Grendel into the monster he is."
The claim is "arguable," meaning it's not a statement of pure fact that nobody could contest. An analytical essay takes a side and makes an argument.
In the case of the thesis shown the slide before, the argument is that Grendel has an "Oedipus" love for its mother meaning incestuous. This argument was made but there is no pure proof anywhere that this was exactly the case in the epic.
Make sure your thesis is narrow enough to fit the scope of your assignment. "Revenge in Beowulf" could be a PhD dissertation, it's so broad.
It's probably much too big for a student essay. However, arguing that one character's revenge is more honorable than another's is manageable within a shorter student essay.
Unless instructed to write one, avoid the "three-prong" thesis that presents three points to be discussed later. These thesis statements usually limit your analysis too much and give your argument a formulaic feel. It's okay to state generally what your argument will be.
5. Find supporting evidence.
Depending on your assignment, you may need to work only with your primary sources (the text or texts you're analyzing) or with primary and secondary sources, such as other books or journal articles.
The assignment should tell you what types of sources are required.
Good evidence supports your claim and makes your argument more convincing. List out the supporting evidence, noting where you found it, and how it supports your claim.
Example of supporting evidence:
Grendel could also be seen to try to punish those partaking in any sexual acts as he himself cannot take part in them. It states in the poem on line 166-168 that Grendel “took over Heorot, haunted the glittering hall after dark, but the throne itself, the treasureseat, he was kept from approaching; he was the Lord’s
outcast.” This line could be read that Grendel is not allowed to indulge in intercourse, which the word “treasureseat” could be a symbol for, and therefore Grendel takes out his rage and frustrations elsewhere since he cannot have this great gift.
- Tiffany J. Williams- Solod
: ignore or twist evidence to fit your thesis.
: adjust your thesis to a more nuanced position as you learn more about the topic.
6. Make an outline.
Using our Epic Hero Journey chart as the first step to gathering evidence, you will apply it to making an outline.
An outline will help structure your essay and make writing it easier.
Be sure that you understand how long your essay needs to be.
While some teachers are fine with the standard "5 paragraph essay" (introduction, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion), many teachers prefer essays to be longer and explore topics more in-depth. Structure your outline accordingly.
If you're not quite sure how all your evidence fits together, don't worry! Making an outline can help you figure out how your argument should progress.
You can also make a more informal outline that groups your ideas together in large groups. From there, you can decide what to talk about where.
Your essay will be as long as it needs to be to adequately discuss your topic.
A common mistake students make is to choose a large topic and then allow only 3 body paragraphs to discuss it.
This makes essays feel shallow or rushed. Don't be afraid to spend enough time discussing each detail!
Writing your Essay
1. Write your Introduction
Your introduction should give your reader background information about your topic.
Try to make your introduction engaging but not too overzealous.
Avoid summarizing the prompt--it’s best to simply state your argument.
Also avoid dramatic introductions (beginning an essay with a question or exclamation is generally best to avoid).
In general, do not use the first (I) or second (you) person in your essay.
State your thesis, generally as the last sentence in the first paragraph.
2. Writing body paragraphs
Each body paragraph should have:
1) A topic sentence
2) An analysis of some part of the text
3) Evidence from the text that supports your analysis and your thesis statement.
A topic sentence tells the reader what the body paragraph will be about.
The analysis of the text is where you make your argument.
The evidence you provide supports your argument. Remember that each claim you make should support your thesis
Example topic sentence
: The key to differentiating between the two attacks is the notion of excessive retribution.
Grendel's mother does not simply want vengeance, as per the Medieval concept of ‘an eye for an eye.’ Instead, she wants to take a life for a life while also throwing Hrothgar’s kingdom into chaos.
Instead of simply killing Aeschere, and thus enacting just revenge, she “quickly [snatches] up” that nobleman and, with him “tight in her clutches,” she leaves for the fen (1294). She does this to lure Beowulf away from Heorot so she can kill him as well.
The formula "CEE" may help you remember:
Whenever you present a claim, make sure you present evidence to support that claim and explain how the evidence relates to your claim.
3. Know when to quote or paraphrase
means that you take the exact text and, placing it in quotation marks, insert it into your essay.
Quoting is good when you use the precise wording of something to support your claim.
Make sure that you use the correct form of quotation, depending on if you are using MLA, APA or Chicago style.
on the other hand, is when you summarize the text.
Paraphrasing can be used to give background or compress a lot of details into a short space.
It can be good if you have a lot of information or would need to quote a huge portion of text to convey something.
Example of a quote:
Instead of simply killing Aeschere, and thus enacting just revenge, she “quickly [snatches] up” that nobleman and, with him “tight in her clutches,” she leaves for the fen (1294).
Example of a paraphrased sentence:
The female Grendel enters Heorot, snatches up one of the men sleeping inside it, and runs away to the fen (1294).
4. Write your conclusion
Your conclusion is where you remind your reader of how you supported your argument.
Some teachers also want you to make a broader connection in your conclusion.
This means that they want you to make a ‘bigger world connection’.
This could mean stating how your argument affects other claims about the text, or how your claim could change the view of someone reading the text you analyzed.
introduce a completely new argument in your conclusion.
expand beyond your thesis statement by discussing its implications or wider context.
The concept of an ‘eye for an eye’ was very present in the early Medieval world. However, by comparing the attacks of both Grendel's mother and the dragon, the medieval world’s perception of righteous vengeance versus unjust revenge is made clear. While the dragon acts out in the only way he knows how, Grendel's mother attacks with evil intent.
Example conclusion with a ‘bigger world connection’:
The concept of an ‘eye for an eye’ was very present in the early Medieval world. However, by comparing the attacks of both Grendel's mother and the dragon, the medieval world’s perception of righteous vengeance versus unjust revenge is made clear. While the dragon acts out in the only way he knows how, Grendel's mother attacks with evil intent. As we saw from the study of other characters, these portrayals may tie into an early Medieval perception that women had greater potential for evil.
Finalizing the essay
1) Proofread your essay for spelling or grammar mistakes.
2) Read your paper out loud
3) Check for proper spelling, grammar, etc.
4) Check rubric with paper & grade yourself
5) Peer-edit workshop