We could say that analytical essays analyze something; which isn’t helpful at all. Instead, let’s say that an analytical essay is an attempt to understand why and how something is the way it is.
More Than a Summary
Although offering a summary of an event or idea is part of an analytical paper, it is also much more than that. A middle school book report is a summary - it only tells the reader what happened in the book.
Analytical essays go further by trying to understand why the characters did what they did, why the author used specific language, and how the book was received by the public. A good analytical essay should look at a small part of your topic to reveal something about your whole topic.
Tip: If your supporting evidence only states what happened then you aren’t offering an analysis. Everything you write should relate back to your thesis or main point.
Introduction & Thesis
The introduction of an analytical essay should contain a hook and a thesis, like other papers. It should also explain how you will prove your thesis.
First, your thesis should be the conclusion that your analysis led you to.
For instance, “The secluded nature of many Bigfoot witnesses suggests that their testimony is not a reliable source to prove Bigfoot’s existence.” This thesis is the outcome of my extensive analysis of individuals who believe in Bigfoot.
In addition to a conclusive thesis, my introduction should briefly describe how my analysis (the body of the paper) will demonstrate this point. This means that your thesis may be a little earlier in your introduction than normal or that your introduction may be longer than other papers.
You don’t have to offer every step of your analysis. Only include the broadest strokes of what your paper will cover.
In argumentative, persuasive, and expository writing the structure of the paper’s body is often fairly clear by the time you start writing. There are only so many ways that the research can make sense when put together.
Analytical essays offer much more freedom and creativity in their structure.
You can order your analysis chronologically. This can be helpful for literary or historical topics. You can explore each instance or event from start to finish to show a common theme.
Some analytical papers are best ordered by the scope of their analysis. This can either be done by looking at the big picture first then digging into more specific instances or by building a grander picture through individual items.
No matter how you organize your paper, make sure that it makes sense - not only when you write it but also after a good night’s sleep!