3.1 The Analytical Essay

10. The Analytical Essay

Your analytical essays should be made up of analytical sentences – three or four to a paragraph, twenty or so to an essay.

An analytical sentence is made up of the following components:

Quotation        +      Technical Term      +      Analysis


As follows:


As well as dazzling us with facts, the author uses such evaluative adjectives as “poor” and “dismal”, adjectives which are also quite emotive, in order to nudge us towards the opinion that modern schools really are not fit for purpose. 


An analytical essay will be made up of five or six paragraphs. Each paragraph will have one clear focus, and each paragraph will also be a step in your overall argument about the text, an overall opinion established in your first paragraph.

So it is essential that you plan:


Para 1 – My Opinion – e.g. that the author is genuinely unhappy with her current career. Also – the purposes and target audiences of the text

Para 2 – The use of humour in an attempt to make light of her concerns

Para 3 – All of her anecdotes having an essentially negative tone

Para 4 – The author’s foregrounding of negative aspects in most of her sentences

Para 5 – Her grudging acceptance towards the end of the piece of the advantages of her chosen career


It really is quite hard to plan a coherent and well structured analytical essay. Some time is needed. After you read through a text for the first time you should be thinking of what your overall opinion of the text is. As you read through it again, circling the twenty or so words, phrases and clauses you wish to refer to in your essay, you should be considering what each of your paragraphs can focus on, namely, the different strategies employed in the text, the different purposes of the text and the varying ways in which the text is effective.


Now, when we are looking at a text with a view to answering the question:

What is the text trying to represent in a particular way?

            …another problem is being introduced.

If we are, say, considering a text for how it represents men, some thought is required before we put pen to paper.

  1. How, in general, are men represented in this text?


  1. Is it the intention of the author to represent men in this way?


  1. How does the text represent its writer or producer and convey their attitudes and values


  1. Who is the “ideal target audience”? How has the text’s author taken into account the needs and knowledge and experiences of this audience – “where they are at”? Has it been pitched correctly? Does it tap into the social context of this audience? Will it be successful in modifying the views of the “ideal target audience” in any way?


…your first paragraph is going to have to deal with all of these issues. You will have to establish your opinion on how this text represents men overall.

  1. Within this general representation, how are men represented specifically?


…e.g. if it is that men are represented as hopeless and pathetic in general, are they represented as failed macho types in part of the text and as pale shadows of women in another?

  1. What strategies is the author employing to put across their representation effectively?


…i.e. does the author use self-deprecating humour, or does he focus on only negative aspects, or does he undermine seemingly positive attributes…

  1. Each paragraph must have one clear focus as well as function as a clear step in the argument you set out in your opening paragraph

…the question you have to ask yourself is: have you convinced your reader of your point of view?

  1. Your concluding paragraph should clearly link back to your opening paragraph, showing how you have succeeded.


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