All throughout college, you will encounter the task of writing a critical analysis paper. Unfortunately, most of your professors will not teach you how to do that. They simply assume that you have learned how to write an analysis paper when you were in high school. While some of you may be lucky to have learned how to write an analysis essay before being sent off to college, a lot of students enroll in a class only to be dumbfounded when their professors ask for an analysis essay.
What is an analysis essay, anyway? Simply put, an analysis essay is an essay whose purpose is to analyze the arguments presented in a book, movie, play, essay or other forms of literary work. It involves breaking down material into small, manageable chunks and taking a look at these individual chunks in order to understand how the whole works.
Points for Analysis
Being able to read critically is a prerequisite for academic paper writing, especially analysis papers. You may have to read the material several times; the first time to get the overall idea of the author and the subsequent readings for you to scrutinize the material. Have a pen and a piece of paper ready or open your word processor so you can jot down important notes about your reading. If you manage to collect all the important details in your notes, you can easily organize them later on into an essay outline.
The following describe the various stages of the critical reading process.
1. Identify the author’s main point.
The main point of a written material is usually found in a thesis statement, which is sometimes placed at the beginning of the work. However, there are times when an author decides to place his main point near the end of the material or somewhere in the middle. In lengthier pieces, the main point is not straightforwardly stated at all. You will have to examine the various patterns and themes presented by the author and arrive at the main point on your own. Moreover, longer works often present several main ideas that lead to one, ultimate point.
2. Identify the supporting ideas and evaluate their effectiveness.
For every single main point offered by the author, there should be several supporting ideas that serve as evidence to strengthen the main point. Identify these supporting ideas and determine how they are related to the idea they are trying to advance. Decide whether the supporting ideas provided are objective arguments that are based on facts or biased or exaggerated claims that are no more than the author’s personal opinions. Thresh out these arguments and figure out if the author committed any logical fallacies in creating them. Also, find out if the author takes into account contrary evidences that might weaken his argument and if he offers ways of counteracting these evidences.
3. Create a summary of the material.
See how well you understand the material by creating a summary of the text. There are different ways to do this. If you are analyzing a narrative, such as a book or a movie, you can write a plot summary, or a sequence of events that happened in the story. You can also make a comprehensive summary by starting with the story’s main action and identifying the important events leading to that action and happening because of it. To summarize an essay, paraphrase the main point and follow up with all the supporting ideas. Be sure to treat supporting ideas with equal importance as they were treated in the original work.
4. Determine the purpose of the material.
Writers usually write for one of these three reasons, or all: 1.) to inform, 2.) to persuade or 3.) to entertain. Ask yourself what the author wishes to accomplish with his piece and if his objectives were met. If they were, identify the factors that led to his success. And if they were not, think of ways that the author could have done to improve his chances of accomplishing his purposes.
5. Delve into the author’s background.
An author’s own experiences will affect the way he writes. Take a look at the author’s professional and personal background to see if any sliver of his personal experiences has slipped into his professional work. Several eminent pieces of literary work are inspired by their author’s personal lives.
6. Define the implications.
Take the analysis out of the paper and bring it out into the real world. Are there lasting effects that the material has brought upon society? And if so, identify them and evaluate whether these effects are beneficial to the people who are affected the most.