What Is an Analytical Essay? A Writing Guide With Examples

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Analysis is one of those ubiquitous words that can mean anything. You can analyze a piece of literature, or you can analyze a beautiful puppy’s eyes as it smiles directly at you. An analytical essay might not be as cute as that, but it can potentially be as fun or elucidating, as long as you know what you’re looking for.

What Is an Analytical Essay?

An analytical essay is a type of essay that involves looking at a subject of interest and explaining what it is saying.

Analysis can mean a lot of things here, but analyzing something usually involves dissecting it into its discrete parts and interpreting what each of those parts means, individually and as a whole.

For example, your analytical essay may involve a close-reading of a poem where you break it down line by line and discuss the metaphors, word choice, and other language elements that the text is working with.

Analytical essays are common in school, but they also appear in magazines, newspapers, and scholarly periodicals. These essays can cover a broad range of subjects, from pieces of art and media to historical events and scientific theories.

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The Difference Between Analytical Essays and Critical Analysis Essays

Students and educators alike tend to confuse analytical essays and critical analysis essays, and for good reason. There’s a lot of overlap in that both require you to analyze something. Like an analytical essay, a critical analysis essay will involve breaking down a text.

One big difference is objectivity. Analytical essays are objective in nature, so you’re not really writing about your own opinions. While it’s generally fine to state a thought of your own in an analytical essay, any larger opinions or arguments about the text should come from the subject or the author of the subject.

Essentially, it comes down to taking that next step. With an analytical essay, it’s “Let’s analyze what this text is saying.” With a critical analysis essay, it’s “Let’s analyze what this text is saying, and here’s what I think about what it’s trying to say.”

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General Structure and Format of an Analytical Essay

Analytical essays can come in a few different forms with their own structures. Cause and effect essays are a type of analytical essay that looks at the cause of one thing and its effect on other things. Compare and contrast essays are a type of analytical essay that looks at the similarities and differences between two pieces (or elements within a single piece).

A “straightforward” analytical essay will generally include the main parts of an essay:

  • An introduction to grab the reader’s attention, provide some basic context, and state a thesis describing what you plan to analyze
  • Body paragraphs that go into the actual analysis as stated by the thesis
  • A conclusion that briefly restates your thesis and looks forward or beyond what you discussed in your paper, like with a call to action or rhetorical question
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Analytical Essay Example

As much as we appreciate you, we can’t write your essay for you, but it’s only because we want to help you exercise your analytical abilities (and we don’t advocate cheating). However, along with all the information and tips for writing an analytical essay, seeing a simple example of one might help you figure out how to build out an essay of your own.

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Analytical Essay Introduction Example

Like nearly every other essay form, you want your analytical essay introduction to be captivating in some way, without diverging too far from the actual topic at hand. No matter how great your analysis, you want to give people a reason to even start reading your essay in the first place.

Unlike other essays, the thesis statement in your introduction doesn’t have to really be an argument. It is much more about stating what you intend to interpret in a text or work, as opposed to stating an opinion about it (even if it might seem like an opinion).

No one can truly understand the sensation of jumping directly onto a turtle, but this is just one of many characteristics bestowed upon the main character in the book Super Plumber Guy. The book depicts a brightly lit world of wonder, fungi, and amphibians in varying biomes. While the main character, Mr. Plumber, is depicted as an everyman, his distinct look, style, and behaviors as described in the book show that he is anything but.

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Analytical Essay Body Paragraph Example

You’ll want to spend most of your time on the body paragraphs. This is where you’ll really dive into the content and dissect the topic. Unlike other essays, an analytical essay typically doesn’t require outside texts or sources to support your argument — specifically because you’re not arguing anything. Your sole focus is the text at hand, so don’t be afraid to really get in there.

Mr. Plumber was originally written as something of an everyday character that the reader could embody. He has no true personality, nor does he have a voice, often allowing secondary characters around him to fill in the gaps. The reader does know that he wears a brightly colored hat, jumps high, and enjoys mushrooms. These are humble characteristics that bring out the humanity of the character. Most people are not a list of unique characteristics but a mosaic of smaller idiosyncrasies.

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Analytical Essay Conclusion Example

It can be really easy to overthink a conclusion. Don’t worry about saying something profound or summing up the entirety of human existence by way of your analysis. Instead, consider further questions or things that you might be wondering.

Super Plumber Guy remains a popular read containing a human character that many might consider boring or free of personality. However, Mr. Plumber is an exceedingly human character who acts as a blank slate for the reader. Diving deeper into other characters and their interactions with him may glean further insight into Mr. Plumber’s motivations and inner psychology.