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What is a literary analysis and how to write it properly

June 19, 2020

Any literary analysis is related to the precise review of a literary work, its theme, plot, sections, applied tools, characters. The goal of this analysis is to discover the main author’s messages that he/she intended to deliver.

Writing Your Literary Analysis Easily: Top Tips and Rules

Shortly, such analysis is an essay by nature. It describes the plot of a literary work and its main twists, characters of this literary work, their positive and negative traits, events, etc. 

Your main goal is to understand the essence of this literary work and the principal author’s messages. This should be made not from the emotional, but from the analytical perspective. For this type of assignment, imagine that you are a literary critic and pay attention to the following points:

  • style of this literary work;
  • its subject and the main topic;
  • its form and content (relations between such);
  • the main plot and its subplot (relations between them);
  • flaws and strengths of its storyline;
  • strengths and weaknesses of characters.

During this analysis, you should pay attention to the following key points:

1. What is the author’s principal message? 

To answer this question, think about the main concept or topic such author wanted to develop. Pay attention to your reflections and thoughts concerning this work. Try to formulate and write down on a separate paper your considerations about the main author’s messages that you notice. 

2. Who are the main characters of the analyzed literary work?

For this purpose, think thoroughly about the plot of this literary work itself, about the main features of these characters, the environment for their life and actions, their main values, strong and weak sides. Again, write down your considerations on the separate paper.

3. What are the main author’s reasons for choosing the exact literary tools?

Try to investigate the plot of your literary work and look for the specific tools that the author has used. Consider such from the point how they can help to understand the overall theme and messages of this work. Write down all your considerations again on the same separate paper. 

To make this analysis, you should split your work into separate parts and consider the next things:

  • for a novel or a short story, you should identify and expand its topic, the development of this novel/story, and make its outline;
  • for poetry, it is better to emphasize the used imagery along with the relation between the form and content of this poem;
  • for a play, emphasize the connections between the primary plot and its subplot, distinctive features of characters, and how they are explored at the different stages of this play.

Types of literary analysis?

Taking into account the requirements you may have, there are several types of literary analysis:

Theoretical analysis requires characterizing a text by using any specific theory as a sample or by comparing two or more theories. For this type of analysis, you need to develop a framework that aligns with the statements made by an author. 

Historical or context analysis requires paying your attention to the historical background or context of the analyzed literary work. For this type of analysis, you need to conduct additional research and read this literary work thoroughly. This will help you to develop and strengthen a thesis statement. So, your primary goal is to investigate precisely and understand the historical and societal context of events described in this literary work. 

Close reading analysis requires thorough reading and emphasizing all details. For instance, while reading, pay your attention to the words used by the characters, their gestures, reactions, etc. To form a more thorough understanding of the entire work, emphasize the imagery and tools used by an author.

Synergetic or comparative analysis needs your comparison of several pieces of writing or elements. You need to explore the similarities between:

  • two pieces of the same work:
  • multiple works prepared by the same author;
  • works of a similar genre.

Your main goal at this point is to see and describe the main connections between such works and formulate your conclusions.

Applied analysis should be critical but less formal. During this analysis, you should explore the relations between the issues described in a certain piece of writing and your own experience. 

Structure of your literary analysis essay 

Structuring is very important for your essay. If you develop a proper structure, you increase the chances to sound more clearly and persuade your readers. 

Basically, any essay of this kind has its introduction, the main body, and its conclusion. Each part should include the following:


In this part of your essay, form the context for your analysis. First of all, indicate the author’s name and the title of a literary work you are going to analyze. Include in this part any supporting information for your thesis statements, but make it short. 

Also, briefly describe in this part the main points you are going to state in the main body of your essay. To make your future readers interested from the first lines, add some catching and interesting statement (a quote, statistics data, and similar interesting statements). Write all sentences in an explanatory manner to facilitate the perception of your readers. 

At the end of your introduction, place your thesis statement and formulate it in a concise and explicit manner. When you work on this thesis statement, think about the following questions:

  • What are you intend to prove?
  • What arguments do you have?
  • What is the best order for arranging your arguments to sound more persuasive?

If you have developed a clear thesis statement, it will be easier for you to write the rest of your essay. To make your text flowing, place after your thesis statement some smooth transition to the next paragraph.

Main body

This part of your essay should contain at least two paragraphs. Start each of them with your argument that develops your thesis statement. Make sure you devote each paragraph to one point of view and include sufficient evidence to support it. For instance, you may include quotes and your explanations concerning such points of view.

The main body of your essay may vary depending on the type of literary work and your arguments. In any case, finalize each paragraph of your essay with your short conclusion summarizing your argument and explanations.


Your future readers will remember this part of your literary analysis, most of all. So, make it strong and convincing. You should indicate here the revised thesis statement and your summarized arguments. In the end, your conclusion should be well-rounded to make your readers sure that your opinion is clear and proven. 

For your convenience, here are some quick tips for structuring your essay:

  • Describe your background in the introduction briefly. Include the name of an author, the title of a literary work, and any information that will help you to make the transition to your thesis statement and all related findings.
  • Finalize your introduction with a thesis statement. It is designated to explain:
    • Who did some things, and why?
    • What is the principal question you are going to answer?
  • Each paragraph of the main body should contain the supplementary statements relevant to your main thesis statement.
  • Make sure that each paragraph has strong arguments, preferably in the end.
  • Reaffirm that you answer all important questions in your text (Who? What? Why?).
  • Paraphrase your main thesis statement in your conclusion as a proven statement and outline briefly your supporting arguments that prove such a statement. 
  • Check your essay for plagiarism and mistakes by using respective online services. 

How to write your literary analysis 

Your overall writing process should include the following stages:

Planning and preparation

First of all, you should understand the main purpose of your analysis, its format, and the author’s style. If required, read about the history and background of the analyzed literary work. 

Plan your work properly to cope with your assignment on time. Divide your time into separate periods for the preparatory, analytical, writing, and editing work. 

It is also necessary to search for the facts about your literary work, expressions, and other evidence. Collect as much information as you need to form your clear view of this work and your well-grounded conclusions. Also, make some notes during your research to facilitate this process. 

Analyze the literary work itself

Identify the place and time of the main event of your literary work, its details. Pay special attention to the characters of this work, their strong and weak sides, behavior, and other things important from your perspective. You should also emphasize all possible stereotypes of this literary work. 

During your analysis, pay your attention to the most remarkable places of this literary work and tools used by its author. Address some controversial points too. When you develop any statement concerning this work, think about the supporting arguments and counterarguments. 

Make your outline

To make sure that your future analysis will contain all required statements, make an outline for it. This tool will help you to arrange all ideas, find the right places for them, and avoid missing anything important. 

While making your outline, think about your thesis statement also. Write it in a concise and catching manner. You may finalize this statement after the development of your arguments or the completion of your analysis. The important thing, in this case, is to write your thesis statement in the present tense. 


Relying on the prepared outline, expand each statement concisely. Treat this writing as your opportunity to clarify some issues to people who are not familiar with your topic and were not interested in it before. So, your writing should be clear and interesting.

When you write your first draft, it is better to include all things that come to your mind. Afterward, start to condense sentences with similar content. 


Set aside your analysis for a couple of days and look through it with your fresh view. Try to evaluate it from the point of how to make it better. In this case, identify any weak points and eliminate such by enhancing your statements. For instance, you may clarify some problematic points, eliminate ambiguities, or add evidence. 

If you have such an opportunity, pass your paper to somebody for review and feedback. This will help you to make your analysis better.

Main writing tips

During your writing, consider the following points:

  1. Write your text in a concise manner.
  2. Formulate clearly your thesis statement by means of which you answer the main question(s) of this analysis.
  3. Connect your thesis and all arguments logically. 
  4. Write most of your statements in the present tense.
  5. Don’t use “you” and “I” in your text. Instead, write from the third-person perspective.
  6. Choose literary terms to make your analysis in a professional manner.
  7. Prefer primary resources, but use secondary also (dictionaries, manuals, articles, reviews, etc.).

Things to avoid:

  1. Don’t use the same words frequently. 
  2. Don’t summarize the analyzed text only. Form your essay based on the results of your analysis.
  3. Avoid plagiarism. Instead, develop your own considerations.
  4. Don’t intermingle your opinions and the phrases of characters. Your future readers should explicitly see your own words and citations.

Final words 

Making an analysis of any literary work requires your preliminary research, through analysis, and your concise writing. Identify the main topic of the analyzed literary work, important points, and developments of its plot, the main features, negative and positive sides of its characters, and other important things. Write about these things in a concise manner to make your analysis clear, even for a non-qualified reader. 

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