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How to develop and write an analytic essay

Examine how characters are presented in a story. How do they help the main character to develop? Which characters are trustworthy? Which are not? Why are they presented this way?

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In order to find something to argue:

Always go through at least two drafts of you paper. Let your paper sit, preferably for 24 hours between drafts sometime during the process of your writing.

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“Going into Europe” – an essay by E. P. Thompson – …

Re-examine something that the text or most readers take for granted (that Thoreau’s book Walden represents his attempt to escape from society). Question this major premise and see where it takes you

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What philosophical, moral, ethical, etc. ideas is the author advocating or opposing? What are the consequences of accepting the author's argument?

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Ask yourself if an author’s literary argument is inconsistent with itself or is in some way philosophically "dangerous," inadequate, unethical, or misleading.

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Look for images or metaphors that the author uses consistently. What other sort of pattern can you identify in the text? How do you interpret this pattern so that your reader will understand the book, essay, poem, speech, etc. better?

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If you could divide the book/essay into sections, units of meaning, what would those sections be? How are they related to each other? Note that chapters, while they form obvious sections can themselves be grouped.

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If several of your paragraphs are exceedingly short (4-5 lines), it is likely that you are not developing your ideas thoroughly enough--that you are writing notes rather than analysis. Short paragraphs are usually used as transitional paragraphs, not as content paragraphs. (Short paragraphs can be used in the rhetorical devise of reversal where you lead your reader down a certain path (to show them one side of the argument, the one you are going to oppose) and then turn away from that argument to state the true argument of your paper.)

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At least once during the course of writing your essay, isolate what you consider to be your thesis. Is your proposition both arguable and reasonable? If it is obvious (i.e. Mary Rowlandson used the Bible for comfort during her captivity) you don’t have an argument. Argument requires analysis (i.e. taking things apart and explaining them). One test that may help is asking yourself what the opposite "side" of your argument would be. A good, complicated thesis (which was proposed by one of your classmates) is that "Although Mary Rowlandson says she often used the Bible as a source of comfort during her captivity, a closer reading of her narrative suggests her faith may have been more troubled by her experience than she lets on." One useful structure for writing thesis statements is the "although" form used above: "Although x seems to be true about this piece of literature, y is in fact more true (or makes our thinking about x more complex)." In this form you present both sides of your argument at once and show which side you’re on. Your job in the paper is to convince your reader to join you. Another way to write an effective thesis statement is to use the form "If we look closely at x (e.g. how Bradford defines freedom) we discover y (that ).