An analytical essay requires that the writer go beyond simply describing or reporting on something. For example, an analytical essay on the Great Depression might look at the main underlying reasons for the economic collapse, might examine its social ramifications or might discuss how it influenced the entry of the United States into World War II. Unlike an argumentative essay, an analytical essay usually remains unbiased in its presentation of information. Because of the complexity of an analytical essay, the writer may want to do some planning before sitting down to write.
Generating a Topic
An analytical essay may be found in a number of disciplines including those as disparate as art, the sciences or business. If the topic is not assigned, some brainstorming exercises may help in coming up with ideas for the essay. One such technique is known as clustering and is particularly appropriate for generating material for an analytical essay because it emphasizes the relationship between ideas. In clustering, the writer writes the topic in a circle in the middle of a page and then the ideas that arise from that topic, putting the new ideas in circles connected with a line to the original topic. Further ideas may emerge from the new ideas. After ten or fifteen minutes, the writer who began with the topic of the Great Depression in the center of the paper should have a number of promising ideas for an analytical essay.
Narrowing the Topic
Being overwhelmed by the scope of the topic is a danger with the analytical essay. After the initial brainstorming, the ideas generated should be considered and weighed in terms of their relevance to the main topic and how much they can be developed. Some ideas may lack complexity or may not hold up to scrutiny. Depending on the projected length of the paper, it’s best to focus on a few ideas or even just one.
Most analytical papers will require some research, and the writer should take careful notes and be sure to follow guidelines for the citation style assigned in order to avoid plagiarism. Research for an analytical essay may have two stages. The first stage may be part of narrowing the topic. In this stage, the writer will explore what has been written about some of the ideas generated during the brainstorming session. Once the writer has identified the main points of the paper, a second stage of research will focus only on those main ideas.
Outlining may be another useful tool in writing a paper with the complexity of an analytical essay. Some writers may find it more helpful to outline before they begin writing while others may find a reverse outline works better for them. A reverse outline is simply an outline that is done after a draft has been written. For the outline, the writer should briefly jot down the main idea of each paragraph and make sure that the paragraphs written follow that outline. In a reverse outline, a writer may discover paragraphs that lose their focus and then be able to revise them.
In addition to an outline, transitions ensure that a paper flows smoothly. The first five words of this paragraph, “in addition to an outline,” help this paragraph to transition from the previous paragraph by referring to the outline and connecting it to this new idea of transitions. Ideas in an analysis paper should be similarly connected. Writers can also use transition words and phrases that show connections between ideas such as “consequently,” which indicates a cause and effect relationship, and “in contrast,” which suggests an opposing idea.
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