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How to Write an Analytical Essay

Developing an analytical argument is one of the most useful skills to learn in school and in University. It helps in your professional career, when making personal decisions, and just navigating life. We analyze things all the time every day, but learning how to write an analytical paper formalizes the process and creates a mental template to follow. In this article, you will learn what is an analytical essay, how to choose a good topic, receive step-by-step instructions for each paragraph, and get other useful tips.

What Is an Analytical Essay?

One of the most common college assignments, an analytical essay asks you to carefully analyze a specific topic. The topic can range from current events, movies, books, news stories, a period In history, or anything that requires further understanding. Analytical essays prove a point using claims backed by evidence. They do not use emotional appeals and personal anecdotes, rather they build an analytical argument using logic and facts. Unlike a persuasive essay where you only need to analyze one side of an issue, when writing an analytical essay both sides must be understood and presented. In the end, you should cover your personal viewpoints of whether you agree or disagree with what you are analyzing.

Analytical Essay Outline

The first thing to consider is the analytical essay format. An analytical essay is usually between 500 and 1,000 words, which means that it can follow the classic five paragraph format of essays with an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. If you need to write a longer or more detailed analysis, you can expand on the number of body paragraphs. Developing an outline is useful to plan the eventual essay and get an overview of the structure. Many people skip making an outline but it is worth it because the time you spend planning will help guide your research and make writing the actual essay take less time. Let's have a look at a typical analytical essay outline.

  • Introduction
  • ~ Hook
  • ~ Background information
  • ~ Thesis statement
  • Body paragraph 1
  • ~ Topic sentence
  • ~ Supporting evidence
  • ~ Transition to body paragraph to
  • Body paragraph 2
  • ~ Topic sentence
  • ~ Supporting evidence
  • ~ Transition to body paragraph 3
  • Body paragraph 3
  • ~ Topic sentence
  • ~ Supporting evidence
  • ~ Transition to conclusion
  • Conclusion
  • ~ Summary of major points
  • ~ Restate the thesis
  • ~ Key takeaways
Analytical Essay Outline Structure
Analytical Essay Outline Structure

Analytical Essay Introduction

Writing an introduction for analytical papers is no different than writing an introduction for any other type of essay. The introduction is the first thing somebody reads so it's important to both engage the reader as well as make sure they understand what the paper is going to be about. A good introduction provides background information, clearly states what the goal of the paper is, and hints at the claims you are going to make.

The very first sentence should be a hook. This means that it should capture the reader's attention and compel them to read the rest of the essay. A hook can be a curious fact, a joke, an engaging question, essentially anything that's connected to your topic and also interesting. 

Next, you need to give background information about the topic you are analyzing. If it is a piece of work done by somebody else like a book or a movie then this is where you give the title, year of release, name of the director/author, etc. If it is an academic subject or an abstract concept then this is where you give some brief background so that the audience gets an understanding of the topic. 

Next, you need to clearly state your thesis. A thesis statement is essentially the main purpose of your essay. It is one or two sentences that clearly identify the issue you are going to analyze,  hints at the claim you are trying to make, and states your opinion if you have one.

Thesis Statement

Coming up with a good thesis statement is one of the biggest challenges of any type of essay writing. A thesis statement clearly states the purpose of your essay in one or two sentences. A good thesis statement gives the reader an understanding of what the essay is about. For analytical essays, a thesis statement presents specifically what you analyzed and the conclusion you drew. 

Each body paragraph should present evidence that backs up the claims you make in your thesis statement, so coming up with a clear and specific thesis is vitally important when writing an analytical essay. A thesis statement that is too broad can be difficult to prove in an analytical essay which is why it needs to be specific. Let's take a look at the following thesis statements:

  • Climate change is one of the biggest problems in the world right now.
  • Video games are going to be more important in the future.
  • Reality television is bad for teenagers.

The topics being analyzed are interesting but the thesis statements are too broad to be covered in just one essay. Exactly how the topics will be analyzed are not mentioned, leaving the reader with no idea how you are going to approach the issue. The following are better versions of these thesis statements.

  • Youth activism is one of the driving forces in the climate change debate and is affecting policy changes in governments.
  • The gamification of education is making video games essential to the future of humanity.
  • False versions of reality expressed in reality television shows are negatively impacting teenagers’ self-esteem.

These thesis statements analyze the main topics of climate change, video games, and reality television, but they focus on specific elements and include an opinion. This gives the paper direction and informs the reader exactly what the paper will be about. They further clearly identify the way the topic will be analyzed and can help you present specific evidence in the body paragraphs.

Analytical Essay Body

In a five paragraph structure, there are three body paragraphs, but in an analytical essay, you might have more. The body paragraphs contain the meat of your essay, the evidence that supports your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should discuss a particular claim or piece of evidence and follows a specific format.

  • Topic sentence that clearly states the direction of analysis for the paragraph
  • The main piece of evidence for your claim
  • Supporting information
  • Transition to the next paragraph

The first sentence of your body paragraph should give the reader an idea of the specific issue that the paragraph will talk about. For example, if the essay is about the gamification of education, the topic sentence for the first body paragraph can be “Educational video games are being used in many third world countries to help children who cannot access standard schooling systems”. This topic sentence clearly explains what the paragraph will be about and allows you to provide factual evidence. 

A good topic sentence helps the reader keep track of and structures the flow of your analysis paper. Imagine having a conversation with a friend about a topic. The main pieces of support you make for your claim are topic sentences. 

The rest of the body paragraph includes factual information that proves the validity of your topic sentence. Each body paragraph should talk about only one issue, so make sure that the evidence you provide is related only to the specific claim you are making in that paragraph. It can be tempting to provide as much evidence as possible, but analytical papers that are too dense with information can be hard to read and understand, so only mention the most important facts and figures. 

End each body paragraph with a brief restatement of the topic sentence, emphasizing how the evidence you've presented backs up the claim. This is a great way of transitioning to the next body paragraph that contains a different piece of evidence and analysis from a different point of view. A one-sentence summary or another kind of transition statement helps the essay flow better and builds a more convincing overall argument.

Analytical Essay Conclusion

The conclusion of an analysis essay restates all the main points in a concise way. This is not the place to add new information or provide new points of analysis, rather it is a summary of the essay presented in a way to make the main purpose clear. In general, this is the format of a conclusion paragraph for an analysis paper.

  • Restate the thesis
  • Summarize the main topic sentences
  • Provide key pieces of evidence
  • Author's thoughts on possible further analysis

If someone can understand the purpose of your paper just by reading the conclusion then you have written a good conclusion paragraph. By restating your thesis at the beginning you reminded the reader of the main purpose of your essay. After going through three body paragraphs this is important so that the reader makes connections between the evidence presented and the thesis statement. 

Follow this up with a brief summary of the main claims and analysis in each body paragraph. Since you have already presented evidence backing up the claims, rephrase the main topic sentences and put together a convincing argument for your points. Make sure you don't include new evidence or points of analysis in the conclusion because this might confuse the reader. The conclusion paragraph only recaps and summarizes information. If you have a new point of analysis then add a new body paragraph. 

Finally, end the conclusion paragraph with some of your own thoughts. Explain why the topic is important, why your perspective adds new information, how your analysis compares to experts in the field, etc.

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Steps For How to Write an Analytical Essay

Before you actually start writing an analytical essay there are several steps you can take to make the process easier. The more preparation work you do beforehand, the easier the writing will go and the essay will have better flow and structure overall. These are the steps you should take before you even start writing.

  • Brainstorm different topic ideas
  • Research a few topics you like 
  • Choose a topic you like that has enough information to back up your claims
  • Come up with a thesis statement to help direct your research
  • Make an outline

It might be tempting to choose the first topic that pops into your head, but choosing the right topic is one of the most important aspects of analytical writing. 

Once you have a few different topic ideas, conduct brief research on them to see if you really find them interesting and if there is enough information for you to write a convincing essay. 

Now that you have a topic and know some information about it you should come up with a thesis statement so that you have a question in mind when conducting in-depth research to find evidence to support your claim. 

Take notes while doing research and put them into an outline so that you can easily recover the information when writing your essay and you get an idea of the overall flow. An outline helps collect information as well as build a convincing argument.

Choose a Topic

The good thing about analytical essay topics is that anything can be analyzed so anything can be a topic. The bad news is that with so many options it can be challenging to find one actually worth analyzing. First things first, if your teacher has assigned a list of topics to choose from, go over the list and pick out the ones you find interesting. If your teacher has assigned a list of options then It is your job to explore one of the topics in a unique and interesting way. If you can choose any topic you want, go over a list of potential topics and conduct brief research to narrow them down to just two or three. The topic you choose should be based on a few things:

  • If you are genuinely interested in the topic it will make the research and writing more fun
  • The topic should have enough research for you to back your claims
  • The topic should not be too broad so that you cannot fully explore it in one essay
  • Try and find a unique way of approaching the topic

Congratulations, you have just finished the first step of how to write an analytical essay!

Steps To Choosing An Analytical Essay Topic
Steps To Choosing An Analytical Essay Topic

Write an Analytical Thesis Statement

Now that you have a topic in mind and have done adequate research your next challenge when writing an analytical essay is to come up with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is one or two sentences towards the end of an introductory paragraph that clearly states the purpose of the essay. A thesis statement directs the entire essay and tells the reader what to expect. Why write a thesis statement so early? Because coming up with a thesis statement early will help direct your research. Not only does this save time, but it also helps structure the essay and arguments in your mind as you discover new information.

A good thesis statement clearly states the specific topic you are going to talk about, what exactly you are going to analyze, and includes your opinion. For example, the thesis statement “The gamification of education is making video games essential to the future of humanity”,  clearly tells the audience the essay will be about video games and their impact on education.

Organize the Body of Your Essay

Body paragraphs are the place in an analysis paper where you provide evidence to show the reader that your findings are valid. Each body paragraph should begin with a clear topic sentence that describes what is going to be discussed in that paragraph. Each body paragraph should only talk about one specific point of analysis or evidence. Each body paragraph should highlight a piece of evidence that backs up your original thesis. Organize your body paragraphs in a way that builds an argument from various viewpoints while ensuring that there is good flow and each individual argument is easy to understand.

Do research

Now that you have a thesis statement and understand the overall structure of the body paragraphs it is time to actually find the information you need to back up your analysis. Research your topic thoroughly while focusing on information related to your thesis. Make a list of information that backs up your claim and check if the sources are reliable or not. Choose three or four of the most relevant pieces of information that back up your claim and conduct further research on that information in particular. Fill in relevant information into your outline and record where you found the information. Doing research when writing an analytical essay doesn't have to take a long time or be boring, it can be fun if you enjoy the topic and conduct well-directed research.

Use Evidence Effectively

For an analytical essay to be convincing it needs facts, but presenting the facts in a robotic way isn't persuasive or engaging. Use the evidence and information you find in your research but craft a story around it. You can state a statistic like “30% of children in third world countries use education applications or say “30% of children in developing countries without access to formal education now use education applications to get high school degrees and pull their families out of poverty”.

Use Contrasting Opinions

It may seem counterproductive to include opinions that disagree with your opinion into your analytical paper, but it is a great way of building a convincing argument in an analysis paper. Find the strongest contrasting opinion and make a body paragraph where you explain why that viewpoint is incorrect using evidence. This builds a strong argument because it shows that you have considered opposing viewpoints, and by undermining the strongest one you strengthen your argument.

Write an Effective Summary

A conclusion paragraph is essentially a summary of all the main points of the essay. A well-written conclusion recaps the most important elements of the essay in just a few sentences. You can do this by restating the thesis to remind the readers about the purpose of the essay,  and then restating the topic sentences from each body paragraph to summarize the strongest pieces of evidence backing up your claim. Finally, in a sentence or two explain why the topic is important and how your analysis is unique. 

Just a few more things and you will know how to write an analysis essay!

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Analytical Essay Topics

As mentioned above, finding the right topic is vitally important when it comes to answering the question of how to write an analytical essay. Which is why we have this section devoted entirely to it. Remember that a good topic:

  • Is something you generally find interesting
  • Should attract a reader's attention
  • Should not be too broad
  • Needs enough quality research to present evidence
  • Asks a question that is important

Finding a good topic for an analytical paper isn't easy, but make sure you spend enough time pinpointing something that fulfills the criteria. A good topic is the difference between enjoying the writing process and getting a good grade, or finding it a chore and getting a bad grade. 

Here is a list of good analytical essay topics to get you started.

Topics about psychology

  • What qualifies as a mental disorder?
  • Why do more young people feel lonely?
  • What is the effect of lockdowns on mental health?
  • Is happiness an illusion?
  • What are effective methods of coping with depression?

Topics about pop culture

  • Why DOTA is the perfect game
  • What is the impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
  • An analysis of the history of Science Fiction
  • Why blank is the best music genre
  • The rise and fall of Kanye West

Topics about art and history

  • How does World War II still affect us?
  • An analysis of postmodern art.
  • Are all artists geniuses?
  • What is the influence of the Renaissance?
  • What are the lessons learned from war?

Analytical Essay Examples

I assume you are going to use the examples that are already on the website

Example 1: The Relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islamic Religions
Example 1: The Relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islamic Religions
Despite the difference in doctrines, the Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in one way or another related in accordance to their faith and beliefs. The three monotheistic religions are known for their high regard for their disparities despite the similarities they manifest. It is not only a matter that concerns the religions themselves, but also the society given the world is slowly changing and more people have begun to question the existence of each religion in essence. While, the similarities may be just but subtle, the extent of reach is relatively wide, and for that cause the standing of these religion need some inspection. Noteworthy, there are common features in the religions such as the tenacious adherence by certain groups, which may also pose the question regarding not only lack of choice but also the need to be considered one.
Example 2: Analytical Essay
Example 2: Analytical Essay
A major consequence of war is in its ability to demolish traditional values and introducing drastic changes the perceptions of the world among those who experience the horror and devastation that define war. For military personnel, assuming a normal life after war is a form of torture because for such an individual visualizing the society from an optimistic perspective is relatively difficult considering that it always in the brink of war which threatens the peace that may be prevailing. Hemmingway uses this story to reminisce about his life after participating in the First World War. It was from his experience in the war as a driver for the Italian Army that he developed depression and he experienced multiple injuries.

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