Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.
The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.
Answering Questions: The Parts of an Essay
A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.
It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)
"What?" The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.
"How?" A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.
"Why?" Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.
Mapping an Essay
Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.
Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ." Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay.
Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.
Signs of Trouble
A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").
Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
Great, you finished watching a movie or reading a book for university! However, before you’re free to go explore the wonders of college life, the professor decides to give you guys some work (what a nice guy). He gives out the instructions and tells you to analyze the book/movie and provide an informative argument for any topic of your choice. Obviously, it has to link back to the book/movie, but besides that the world is yours. Have no idea what you’re doing? Looks like you’ve come to the right place!
Table Of Contents
What is An Analytical Essay
The term “Analytical Essay” may sound foreign to you, but no worries, it is almost guaranteed that you have written one before! If we take a look at the definition, the term analysis means .
Therefore, an analytical essay is a piece of writing that provides an informative observation about the specific topic or idea. So let’s imagine that your topic of choice is . Obviously, writing an essay on the topic of marijuana is too general. There is so much you can talk about: from its origins in ancient times to its impact towards the war on drugs. However, the analytical essay asks you to take a small section of the entire topic, and use critical thinking to come up with some sort of argument, aka your thesis!
Topics And Ideas
There is an infinite number of different essay topics that can be analyzed. Think about any sort of fact or idea: connections can be made from anything, thus we formulate ideas and use fact to support it! In the grand scheme of things, doing jobs like this is what brought humanity from hitting rocks together for warmth to sending humans to the moon! From what we know, we can create more ideas and thus advance as a society. But enough philosophy, let’s get into the various types of analysis!
Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Just like it sounds, this is an essay where you . Imagine you are proving a fact to somebody who either can’t comprehend it or is skeptical of its authenticity! This type of analysis is based on facts and logic, so they tend to be in the fields of science and mathematics!
Examples of this can be:
- Geometric Proofs
- Fundamental of Physics (Newton’s Law, Theory of Relativity,...)
- General Principle of Economics (Money makes Money)
Literary Analysis Essay
One of the most common types of analysis that college and high school students perform. After reading a specific short or any piece of literature, provide an informative analysis of a certain situation, or critically analyze a quote and its impact on the plot! This is different from rhetorical in the sense that rhetorical analysis is mostly based around logic and provable facts. A literary analysis usually goes deeper into things such as emotion and decision making of certain characters! Examples of this can be:
- Effects of “Utopia-rescue” societies on people! Book: 1984 By George Orwell
- Loves an effect on human decision making. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare
- Conforming to societies norms: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee!
Process Analysis Essay
If we think about the definition, a process is a change from one state to another through several stages or levels. A common way to explain this change would be through an essay format. This would require you to explain its purpose, as well as explaining the transformation through a series of paragraphs. Examples of this can be:
- Amazon's Logistics
- The Water Cycle
- The Cycle of Depression
- Sleep Cycle
Character Analysis Essay
Usually used within the context of some sort of story/tale, character analysis is very similar to process analysis essay. This type of essay requires you to explain and analyze the transformation of a character from the initial point until the end. Things that should be analyzed are as follows: personality, character traits, mental reformation, etc... Examples of this can be:
- Transformation of Huck and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Will Hunting’s mental evolution in Good Will Hunting
- Viktor Navorksi in The Terminal
Poetry Analysis Essay
Poetry analysis requires the writer to research the poem’s content, structure and historical significance in an explanatory style. The goal is to make the reader understand the poems overall significance and its purpose. Examples of this can be:
- Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken
- Edgar Allan Poe's A Dream Within a Dream
- Emily Dickinson's There is Another Sky
Causal Analysis Essay
If you have ever dealt with an annoying child ask “WHY” a million times in a row, then you have dealt with this type of paper in real life! The causal essay requires you to answer a why question to the best of your abilities. A lot of the times, questions can’t be answered 100%. This is why the causal essay is also known as the Speculating About Causes Essay. This requires you to describe the process that occurs, following up with why you believe it occurred in this style. Examples of this can be:
- Why do we respond physically to fear?
- Why do we crave sugar?
- Why do teenagers rebel against their parents and authority?
- Why are random shootings becoming more common in the U.S.?
These are just some of the most common types of analytical essays. The variation is practically endless, but they all must follow the same type of outline.
Steps To Take Before Writing
Unless essay writing comes to you naturally, preparation is key in writing that well-rounded and high-quality paper. So before you start typing up your masterpiece, 5 steps should be taken:
- Brainstorm and Decide on a Topic;
- Craft A Captivating Title;
- Create a strong Thesis;
- Find Supporting Evidence;
- Create an Outline.
Brainstorm and Decide on a Topic:
- Step 1 requires you to figure out what you’re going to be writing about (obviously). Sometimes in the advance, you are given some options to pick from. You could have already been told what type of analytical essay you have to write, or you could have just been thrown into the improvisation pool. Regardless it’s important to scope in to your topic.
- When you get right down to it, the topic that you decide to write about should match one that either interests you or it should be one that you fully understand. It would be idiotic to pick a topic that you struggle to fully comprehend or one that puts you to sleep. It’s fairly important to write about something that you at least slightly enjoy!
Craft A Captivating Title
- As soon as your title is the first thing your reader will see try to make it as attractive as possible. After reading it, readers will decide, does it worth to read the rest or not.
Create A Strong Thesis
- The goal of the analytical essay is to prove a certain point that the writer is trying to make. From the information that has been gathered, the writer needs to link things together and create a certain decision. This decision is called a thesis, and it’s an argument that is created to prove an assumption created by the writer, using facts and research. For certain topics, it's important to introduce the outside forces that contributed to the creation of your thesis. For example, if you are talking about historical events, it's important to introduce the external factors that led to your thesis. If we are talking about Scientific Research, then considering the scientific method is a necessity.
- The thesis shouldn't be a simple yes or no question with an answer. It should be a complex point that has many interconnected factors. The thesis should be controversial and require tons of research to come up with a respectable statement. Lastly, the thesis should be a high impact statement that strongly effects the topic of choice.
Find Supporting Evidence
- You won't be able to sway anybody with your thesis statement unless it's backed by something. This is why all good statements need research and analysis. It's important to gather information that supports your argument. Depending on the type of essay, it won’t necessarily be straightforward information.
- If we are talking about a historical topic or some sort of scientific fact, then your supporting evidence will evidently be facts taken from previous findings. However, if you are writing a literary analysis essay, then most likely your evidence will be quotes from the story. This type of evidence requires analysis and assumptions in regards towards how the reader should interpret the line.
Create An Outline
Organizing the structure of the essay is very important and makes the entire writing process easier. A number of paragraphs in the paper carries little to no importance. Paper outline will vary based on the topic of discussion and the thesis statement that is created. Regardless, the Intro-Body(s)-Conclusion style is a staple in any Analytical Essay.
The introduction usually starts out with some sort of background information. Sometimes using a hook statement can be effective, but it is not required. There is no specific style for the introduction, but background information is the most common method of approach. You should provide information that is relevant to your thesis. This information should start out broad and narrow down in relevance towards the thesis. The structure will look something like this.
- Hook Statement/ Brief Introductory Point
- Background Info (Narrowed)
- Transition sentence
- Thesis Statement
The main goal of the body paragraphs is to fully prove the thesis statement. Each individual paragraph should focus on a certain aspect of the thesis. For example, if the thesis is centered around the evolution of Will Hunting, then the body paragraphs should each hold their own point. One body paragraph focuses on his diminishing self-guilt, and a second could talk about the ever increasing support system and its impact on his mentality. The body paragraphs should maintain proper structure:
- Topic Sentence: Introduce the main point of the body paragraph in one straightforward and effective sentence.
- Analysis: Analyze your supporting evidence and explain how the evidence supports your thesis. This part should take 1 or 2 sentences and is arguably the most important part of the entire essay. The reader will see your understanding of the topic based on what you write within these 2 sentences. Make sure it`s creative and impactful, but also keep it original!
- Evidence: No analysis is complete without supporting evidence. This is where you show how you handled the research. The analysis is created from the supporting evidence that you find, so they should always go hand in hand. Make sure that these 2 parts link together in a straightforward manner.
- Concluding Sentence: After providing a well thought out analysis and adding in evidence, the paragraph should always add a concluding sentence. Restate to the reader your analysis and its significance to the point in hand.
After reading a single body paragraph, the viewer should have clearly understood the argument or point you were trying to prove. If he had some trouble painting himself a picture or understanding your logic, then one or more parts of your body paragraph may have some mistakes.
It's important to mention that having numerous body paragraphs isn’t that important. Depending on the topic, each essay will vary based on the depth of the thesis. Quality over quantity goes a long way here.
The conclusion plays a vital role in the sense that it ties up the entire essay.
First things first, you should start out by restating your thesis statement. The significance of this is to clearly exemplify to your viewer that you have fully proven the thesis and to summarize the steps you took in order to do so. To end the entire essay, it’s necessary to create an overall concluding statement. This can be either what you have learned from writing the essay or what the audience should take away from your work. The structure should look like this:
- Rephrase the Thesis statement
- Summarize key points
- Overall Concluding Statement
General Tips and Advice
After writing the entire essay, take a short break and then reread it from front to back. The chances are that you will find parts of the paper which are filled with mistakes or parts that need clarity. Regardless of what the issues are, make sure the essay has clarity before handing in completed work.
You can also get academic writing help from out company in case You need some third-party opinion.
Get a Second Pair of Eyes
Just because the essay made sense to you, doesn’t mean that everyone else will receive it with the same level of understanding. Online essay writer or peer edits help to give the essay a wider range of clarity.
Make sure the thesis fits your argument points
Your paper will be highly judged based on how well you proved your thesis. That’s why it’s important to edit your thesis based on the type of arguments you provided. If your explanations don’t perfectly suit the thesis statement you crafted, then adjust it accordingly.
Analytical Essay Sample
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Professor Jay, from EssayPro
An analytical essay is not explained in many writing textbooks. In essay writing, an analysis is the fundamental element of synthesis essays, summary essays, reflective essays, and most types of college papers. Without knowing how to analyze articles or walk your reader through a process properly, you will not be able to produce lab reports or literature papers. In an essay like this, something to stress is that analysis requires you dig deep; you can not simply summarize. You need to go beyond the who, what, where, and when, and instead answer questions of how and why.
My personal advice is to begin with a set of questions: How is this written? Who is the audience? And Is it effectively written for that audience? After answering these, it will be much easier to answer how exactly the author wrote the piece and elaborate further on why the piece was written. While writing, make sure to annotate and take notes. Keep your eye on the author’s tone and diction. This skill is incredibly important and will follow you all through middle school, high school, college, and then into life itself.
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