Tips on Writing a Literary Analysis

Tips on Writing a Literary Analysis
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Although some people underestimate the importance of literary analysis, this task can help you train crucial thinking skills and also improve your writing. A literary analysis allows you to learn how to express your thoughts more objectively. In this article, College Writers share their tips on writing a perfect literary analysis.

No matter whether you have to write a short analytical paragraph or an entire essay on critical analysis, your main goal is to provide the author’s perspective. You should focus on symbolism and explain to your readers how the characters from the book act, and why they act like this. Any book has its deep meaning and the most important message that you should describe and explain.

Every time you need to write a critical analysis or to read a book, focus on the following things:

1. Who are the characters? You should explain who they are, what are their values, and what motivates them to act in a certain way. Authors often use certain literary devices in order to tell readers more about their characters and things they experience.

2. What is the underlying message? Think of the primary concept the author was trying to create and the message he or she was trying to send.

3. Analyze literary devices. Writers use specific literary devices to teach their audience something and to better illustrate certain themes. Think of the important features of characters, plot twists, and details of the setting

Don’t forget that analysis is different from a summary. While the summary describes events, the analysis has a more investigative nature.

Literary Analysis: What Is It?

A literary analysis considers some book in detail, evaluating ideas, examining and analyzing character traits, and trying to provide insight into the author’s intentions and messages.

The methods of textual analysis remain relatively similar when you have to analyze different kinds of work. Most often, the analysis implies breaking down the book into parts, getting a better understanding of the piece of writing by analyzing its details.

For example, if you have to analyze a piece of poetry, you may need to focus on different types of imagery used by the author and to determine how the chosen literary form is related to the content. When analyzing a play, you may explain the connection between the main plot and subplots. In this case, you may also analyze the personal traits of the characters.

The analysis of a short story or novel is often a more interesting task because you get more material to work with. You may explore a certain narrow theme (for example, the influence of a tragic childhood on a character’s relationships) or focus on the author’s point of view regarding the plot and actions of the main characters.

The definition of literary analysis is a process or practice that examines different sections of writing work in relation to each other and the work as a whole. A well-structured literary analysis focuses mostly on the characters, theme, setting, and plot, taking into account other literary devices used by the author to create the general meaning of the book.

Literary Analysis Outline

The format of literary analysis, as well as a critical analysis, resembles the format of any other essay, containing an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Here are some useful tips that will help you create a proper structure for your analysis essay.


  • Don’t forget to include the full title of the analyzed book, along with the full name of the author, and any information that will support your thesis statement and your main claims.
  • Clearly articulate your thematic statement. This is the main idea of your literary analysis and the main concept you focus on. It should reflect the purpose of your writing.
  • Your introduction should end with the thesis statement. It should answer such questions as what, who, and why: You should indicate what questions you are going to answer in the analysis.

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As you can see, the introduction should include the underlying questions of your piece of writing:

  • Who? The author, their full name and other important information.
  • What? Your response to the question.
  • How? The way in which you’re going to respond.
  • Why? The purpose of your analysis.


The body of your literary analysis should consist of two paragraphs or more.

  • Begin each paragraph with a short argument that refers back to your thesis statement.
  • Every paragraph should focus on a particular point of view.
  • Prove the validity of your argument by including quotes from the book. These quotes should answer the question “how?
  • You should use both dialogue and narrative quotes.
  • Don’t simply describe some literary technique used by the author, illustrating them with evidence. Instead, focus on the relationship between the used technique and your question.
  • End each paragraph with a statement that summarizes everything said above.
  • You may also mention the theme in the body of your literary analysis, however, make sure you stick with the question that needs to be answered.


  • Start with your thesis. Keep in mind that you should rewrite it, instead of copying it word-for-word from the introduction.
  • Explain how things described in the body illustrate the topic. Your conclusion should also address the author’s main message and remind important examples from your analysis.

Types of Literary Analysis

Although different types of literary analysis have much in common, you will need to choose a certain type depending on your assignment and its requirements. Here are the most common types of literary analysis and some helpful information about them.

Theoretical. Theoretical papers are aimed to present a certain theory or practice, as well as in order to compare two different theories. Quite often, these essays require the writer to use several theories and to study the text within a framework related to the author’s argument.

Close Reading. This type of essays is most focused on minor details, including gestures and words of a particular character and specific scenes described by the author for a certain purpose. When writing a close reading analysis, you should pay particular attention to the literary devices, providing an in-depth insight into the author’s work.

Contextual or Historical. A literary analysis of this kind should focus on the historical and societal context of the work. This sort of literary analysis requires you to not only use the close reading method but also to conduct additional research that will be used as a source of evidence to support your thesis statement. However, such papers also have something in common with other types of essays, since in this case, your thesis statement is still of crucial importance. The main purpose of your research is to come up with a strong thesis that will clearly explain how the context impacted the author and his or her work.

Synergistic or Comparative. As the name suggests, essays of this kind compare different elements of the book. You may illustrate the similarities between this book and other books that you’ve studied previously. You may also compare multiple works written by the same author or works from the same genre.

Applied. The difference between an applied literary analysis and other types is that this kind of papers is less formal. However, it’s no less critical than other types of analysis. It requires you to provide an in-depth analysis of a certain piece of writing in relation to your personal experiences.

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