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. 
- For example, “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.
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Decide what to write about. If you are writing this for a class, your teacher will generally assign you a topic (or topics) to write about. Read the prompt carefully. What is the prompt asking you to do? However, sometimes you will have to come up with your own topic.
- 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 the concept of vengeance in the epic poem 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.
Brainstorm. 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.
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.
Don’t: write a vague or obvious thesis such as “Revenge is a central theme in Beowulf .”
Do: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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. To support a claim that the dragon’s vengeance was more righteous than Grendel’s mother’s, look at the passages in the poem that discuss the events leading up to each monster’s attack, the attacks themselves, as well as the reactions to those attacks.
Don’t: ignore or twist evidence to fit your thesis.
Do: adjust your thesis to a more nuanced position as you learn more about the topic.
Make 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!
Part Two of Three:
Writing Your Essay Edit
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.
- Example introduction. Revenge was a legally recognized right in ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. The many revenges in the epic poem Beowulf show that retribution was an essential part of the Anglo-Saxon age. However, not all revenges are created alike. The poet’s portrayal of these revenges suggests that the dragon was more honorable in his act of revenge than Grendel’s mother.
- This introduction gives your readers information they should know to understand your argument, and then presents an argument about the complexity of a general topic (revenge) in the poem. This type of argument can be interesting because it suggests that the reader needs to think about the text very carefully and not take it at face value.
Don’t: include filler and fluff sentences beginning with “In modern society” or “Throughout time.”
Do: briefly mention the title, author, and publication date of the text you’re analyzing.
Write your body paragraphs. Each body paragraph should have 1) a topic sentence, 2) an analysis of some part of the text and 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.
- Example analysis. 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.
- Example evidence. 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: Claim-Evidence-Explanation. Whenever you present a claim, make sure you present evidence to support that claim and explain how the evidence relates to your claim.
Know when to quote or paraphrase. Quoting 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. Paraphrasing, 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. 
Don’t: quote from more than two passages per paragraph, as a rule of thumb.
Do: support all subtle or controversial claims with quotes or paraphrasing.
- 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).
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.
Don’t: introduce a completely new argument in your conclusion.
Do: expand beyond your thesis statement by discussing its implications or wider context.
- Example conclusion. 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.
By Grace Fleming. Homework & Study Tips Expert
Grace has worked with students for many years as an academic advisor and college enrollment counselor. She currently works as a Senior Advisor at a university in Georgia, where she teaches courses to help students improve academic performance, enhance research skills, and expand information literacy.
Updated August 25, 2016.
A thesis statement provides the foundation for your entire research paper or essay. This statement is the central assertion that you want to express in your essay. But there are a few different types, and the content of your own thesis statement will depend upon the type of paper you’re writing.
- Are you defending a stance in a controversial essay ?
- Are you simply giving an overview or describing an event, object, or process?
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- Are you conducting an analysis of an event, object, or process?
In every thesis statement you will give the reader a preview of your paper’;s content, but the message will differ a little depending on the essay type .
Argument Thesis Statement
If you have been instructed to take a stance on one side of a controversial issue, you will need to write an argument essay. Your thesis statement should express the stance you are taking and may give the reader a preview or a hint at your evidence. The thesis in an argument essay could look something like the following:
- When students are exposed to graphic documentaries that show the dangers of texting and driving, they become more responsible drivers.
- The practice of hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas can lead to dangerous man-made earthquakes.
- The popular practice of leashing a child can lead to risky behavior in adolescence.
- Street cameras and street-view maps have led to a total loss of privacy in the United States .
These work because they are opinions that can be supported by evidence. If you are writing an argument essay, you can craft your own thesis around the structure of the statements above.
Expository Essay Thesis Statement
An expository essay "exposes" the reader to a new topic ; it informs the reader with details, descriptions, or explanations of a subject.
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If you are writing an expository essay, your thesis statement should explain to the reader what he or she will learn in your essay.
- Eggs contain many of the ingredients that your body needs for good health.
- The rewarding process of photographing a lunar eclipse requires careful preparation and sound equipment.
- The Mesa Verde National Park reveals the fascinating culture of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived on the land for more than seven hundred years.
- The Spanish Inquisition is characterized by religious persecution that was often carried out with extreme cruelty.
You can see how the statements above provide a statement of fact about topic (not just opinion), but this statement leaves the door open for you to elaborate with lots of details. The good thesis statement in an expository essay leaves the reader wanting more details!
Analytical Essay Thesis Statements
In an analytical essay assignment you will be expected to break down a topic, process, or object in order to observe and analyze your subject piece by piece. Your goal is to clarify the object of your discussion by breaking it down. A thesis statement might contain the following format:
- A careful examination of the way that our fat cells store and release calories will shed light on the difficulties of losing weight.
- Ultimately, the crime scene did yield sufficient evidence for solving the crime, but the clues were only discovered after a meticulous investigation.
- It is easy to see why school mornings are so chaotic when you examine every task we try to accomplish in this short amount of time.
Because the role of the thesis statement is to state the central message of your entire paper, it is important to re-visit (and maybe rewrite) your thesis statement after the paper is written. it is quite normal for your message to change as you construct your paper!
Your Easy Guide on Expository Essays