So your assignment is writing an analytical essay? And now you’re asking yourself, “What do I do? How do I start? Will I ever be happy again?” The answers are don’t panic, follow these simple guidelines about how to write an analysis paper, and yes (when your essay is done).
There are many styles of writing papers and types of analytical writing, so perfecting a strategy will help you throughout your education.
If you’re totally unsure of where to begin, consider watch a video on the process of writing this type of essay.
But why are these essays so difficult to write?
Look, analytical essays can be one of the trickiest challenges for even professional writers for two reasons:
First, these essays require you to explore a topic by letting the experts argue about the subject. Arguments should be provided by the people who know the most about your subject — the experts!
Second, you must present these expert arguments without arguing about the subject from your own perspective. In other words, this type of essay is all about objectivity. By being objective, you help the reader understand the topic, which allows them to come up with their own conclusions.
This next tip may sound crazy, but…
What makes an analytical essay great
Actually, the most persuasive essays are written to sound totally objective!
Oddly, by not directly stating your opinion on a topic, you can more easily convince the reader of your own opinion!
One quick and easy tip to seem like a more objective writer:
Avoid first-person pronouns like the plague. If you can banish “I” and “me” from your essay vocabulary, your analysis will instantly be elevated by the expert opinions you present. Even though they forbidden by the rules of writing, the person grading your essay might hate first person pronouns, so don’t use them!
But don’t worry:
We’ll dig further into other super important tips throughout this blog post, so don’t skip ahead, especially if you’re unsure how to write your essay!
How are analytical papers different from other types of essays?
Remember, analytical essays are just one of many types of essays. Even though most types of essays share the same basic rules, it’s still helpful to figure out how each type is unique.
To keep things simple, roughly speaking, there are two types of research papers: argumentative and analytical.
Argumentative research papers try to accomplish exactly what their name suggests — they try to persuade the reader by making an argument about some particular issue.
In contrast, analytical research papers do something a little bit different — they explain a complicated subject, presenting all sides of an issue as objectively as possible (if you skipped ahead, refer back to the last section for more thoughts on the importance of objectivity).
In an argumentative research paper you are the main authority. You compile facts and perhaps some arguments from experts in the field, but at the end of the day, you weigh in on the subject with facts and logic. So the point of an argumentative essay is to argue what you think is true.
Compare this to an analytical paper:
A strong analytical research paper presents the expert opinions specifically and only! In other words, your analysis paper (regardless of the research paper type or styles of writing papers you like to use) does shape the analysis by deciding which expert opinions to include, but you do not try to invalidate one expert opinion or another — that is the job of other experts.
Consider another way:
In an analytical essay, you should never write something like, “Kant was wrong about the basis of human perception.” However, you absolutely should write something like “Schopenhauer believed that Kant was wrong about the basis of human perception.”
And doesn’t that sound much more impressive? In both versions, your essay essentially made the same point, but in the second version, you let famous 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer tackle the ideas of famous 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. And don’t you think that sounds like a much fairer debate? (After all, you’re not a famous 21st century German philosopher, yet.)
Whether you are writing an intricate discourse analysis on metaphysis or composing an essay on the all-time best baseball teams, an analysis paper, like all types of analytical writing, is all about objectivity, even more than other different types of research papers.
By now you’ve probably realized that both analytical and argumentative reports share a lot of similarities. In fact, most research paper types have a lot in common. And that’s why the number one flaw in most essays is a lack of structure.
The basics: starting your essay structure right
Your analytical essay is only as strong as its structure.
Think about this:
How seriously would you consider a friend who called you in the middle of night with a jumble of thoughts? One moment he is talking about the ending of some movie, and the next minute he is figuring out which movie to see. Then your friend starts filling in the plot of that movie in a random order and explain what he had for dinner. Honestly, you would think that your friend had lost his mind.
By placing your thoughts into a logical and structured order, you can avoid what has happened to your dysfunctional friend (and your analysis will be stronger).
So focus on this:
Every essay, including analytical papers or any other written discourse, has three standard parts:
- An introduction, which introduces your essay and
- A body that presents the facts, arguments, and insights of your essay. This section is the majority of an essay by far. (In the case of your analytical research paper, this should be where all the interesting stuff happens.)
- A conclusion that sums up your essay.
(This format can be used for all styles of writing papers!)
Writers often consider an introduction and conclusion like the slices of bread in a sandwich for two reasons. First, the introduction and conclusion should never be the majority of your essay! (The best sandwiches are not mostly bread.) Second, the introduction and conclusion should resemble each other. (Imagine a sandwich with mismatched slices of bread; this would be another pathetic sandwich.)
In case you missed it:
The introduction and conclusion should be very, very similar. The introduction should state the main purpose of your analysis paper, while the conclusion should remind the reader of the main purpose.
This structure works for essays and all research paper types, so it is best to make a habit of using and developing a writing process for this structure. (On a related note, seek out reliable online writing resources that include writing sample and then bookmark the best ones.)
Top tips for better analysis papers
You’ve made it this far, so either you still don’t know how to write an analysis paper or you have found so many useful tidbits that you cannot stop reading. These last few essay tips are as good as gold.
- Write, rewrite, and rewrite some more.
You’re not Hemmingway. You’re not Shakespeare. Heck, even Hemmingway wasn’t Shakespeare, or vice versa. Look, the point is that your writing will never be perfect on the first try. By writing down your thoughts first and then editing your thoughts repeatedly, you can get pretty darn close to these masters. Remember that the best writers have a strong revision process.
- Get feedback early and often.
Are you afraid your essay is missing something important, but you’re not sure what? Then ask a friend to read your rough draft. Even professional writers rely on their friends and family to make sure that their writing is on the mark. Similarly, read your friends’ writing; your brightest friends’ essays may provide the best analytical samples, and they can even explain them to you.
- Never, ever, ever plagiarize!
In an analytical research paper, it is more important than ever to correctly attribute all ideas to their originators, but it is even more important to always cite quotes correctly.
- Be concise.
Many authors live by this rule. MacArthur Foundation “genius” award-winning writer Colson Whitehead lists “Never use three words when one will do” as Rule 4 in his brilliant How to Write. Similarly, sci-fi writer Kurt Vonnegut’s first rule of writing is often paraphrased as, “Don’t waste the reader’s time.” (And for very obvious reasons, there is no need to elaborate on this point, which is a great rule for all written discourse.)
Now put these tips to work in your essay!
If you get stuck of or if you’re in over your head on your assignment, don’t forget the professional writing services offered by Custom Writing. You can get research and writing help from a top-notch team of writing experts (with PhDs, MBAs, and other advanced degrees) that offer first-class assistance on every subject imaginable.