05 14

How to write a literary analysis paper on theme

how to write a literary analysis paper on theme

How to Write a Literary Analysis - Gordon State College


Method 1 Developing Your Thesis

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 1


    Formulate a thesis. This is a sentence (or sentences) that expresses the main ideas of your paper and answers the question or questions posed by your paper. To form a solid thesis, think about the following:
    • What am I arguing?
    • What is my reasoning?
    • How should I organize my reasons/evidence?
  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 2


    Construct a concise thesis statement. A good thesis should:
    • Allude to the 3 main points you wish to address in the main body of the essay.
    • Touch on the organization of your argument
    • Explain what significance your argument has.
    • Appear in the first paragraph, as it serves as an introduction to your approach to the literary work. Generally, a thesis appears at the end of the first paragraph -- letting the reader know what to expect for the body of the work.
  3. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 3


    Refine your thesis. Often, as the paper evolves, the thesis evolves with it. Don't hesitate to revamp your thesis to accurately summarize your paper, after you've written it.

Method 2 Supporting Your Argument: Introductory Paragraph

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 4


    Build a strong, intriguing introduction. This is where your paper starts -- the first impression needs to be assertive, interesting, and encourage the reader to continue on. A few ideas to start with:
    • A relevant quotation or anecdote. This could be lines or dialogue, depending on the text you're analyzing
    • An interesting fact or question.
    • An acknowledgment of the counterargument.
    • Irony, paradox, or analogy
  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 5


    End your introduction with your thesis statement. It should seem to usher in the rest of the paper.

Method 3 Supporting Your Argument: Body Paragraphs

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 6


    Develop convincing body paragraphs. This will be where you give evidence for your argument. A standard body has three paragraphs, though a longer essay might require more.
    • In answering questions posed, think about what evidence you have to make your assertion. How does it relate to the overall theme? Are you leaving anything out?
    • Perform a close reading and analyze multiple factors in your literary analysis. You might discuss a character's development -- how the individual changes from the beginning to the end of the work. You could focus on a character's fatal flaw and examine the person's mistakes.
    • Consider focusing on the setting and theme of the literary work you're analyzing. Emphasize the ways in which these elements contribute to the overall quality of the work.
    • A paper fails when the writer chooses to ignore elements that don't fit his or her thesis. Make sure your argument doesn't pick and choose which parts of the text to address and which parts to ignore.
    • Emphasize one major point per paragraph in this section. No need to rush all of your evidence into one idea.
  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 7


    Consider context. If your author writes heavily in symbolism and other literary devices, obscuring the true intent of their work, research his/her experiences. What was going on in the world or in his/her life? Does your argument fit these circumstances?
    • This should advance a specific point of view about the text. You could argue that a given story is the product of the culture and time period from which it sprang. To follow up, provide details about the historical aspects of the literary work within the text and outside of it.
    • Don't hesitate to use secondary sources (texts from other authors).
      • A book or article discussing the same text
      • A book or article discussing a theory related to the text
      • A book or article discussing the historical or social context of the text [1]

Method 4 Supporting Your Argument: Conclusion

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 8


    End with a firm conclusion. Sum up your overall paper in the last paragraph. It should drive home all the major points you have made in the foregoing elements of your literary analysis, but also touch on the implications of your argument.
    • Do not reiterate points repetitively
    • Suggest the next step
    • Draw connections between genre and context

Method 5 General Guidelines

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 9


    Pick a captivating title. You may want to hold this off till the end, when your paper is fully formed and your argument is clear.

  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 10


    Write in the present tense. Regardless of the time your text was written, voice it in present-day terms: "The orange peels float away in the water, along with his innocence."

  3. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 11


    Write in the third person. Avoid using "I" or "you".
    • Some professors may allow first or second person. If so, you can express the level of enjoyment you experienced while reading the text (if this is within the scope of your assignment and your professor will allow it). You can discuss the qualities of the text that most impressed you or the reasons you found or did not find the main characters believable.
  4. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 12


    Use literary terms.[2] They will make your paper sound well-informed, balanced, and thought out. A few examples include:
    • Allusion: Indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events.
    • Hyperbole: Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally, used for emphasis or effect.
    • Irony: A reference to how a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is not as it would actually seem.
    • Metaphor: A type of figurative language in which a statement is made that says that one thing is something else but, literally, it is not.
    • Simile: A comparison in which one thing is likened to another.
  5. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 13


    Use secondary sources. They can be great for supporting your argument. Keep in mind, though, that secondary sources should be secondary. It is your paper -- use other authors' opinions as padding for your argument -- not doing the work for you. They can be found a number of ways:
    • MLA International Bibliography [3]
    • Dictionary of Literary Biography [4]
    • Ask your instructor.

Method 6 What to Avoid

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 14


    Do not summarize the plot. Your paper is for analysis, not summarization.

  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 15


    Do not confuse a character's words with an author's viewpoint. These are two mutually exclusive things -- make sure your argument addresses only one.

  3. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 16


    Do not plagiarize. This will result in an automatic fail.

Method 7 Editing and Polishing

  1. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 17


    Check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Spell-check is useful, but never 100% accurate.

  2. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 18


    Have someone else review your work. After reading the same thing over and over, our eyes become oblivious to errors and flow. Have a friend check for grammar, content, and clarity.

  3. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 19


    Check you meet all formatting guidelines. Each professor is different -- make sure you know their preferences before you turn your paper in:
    • Margins
    • Page numbering
    • Sourcing
  4. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 20


    Review your introduction. Does it:
    • Get the reader's attention?
    • Vary in sentence structure (for fluidity)?
    • Move from general to specific?
    • End with your thesis statement?
  5. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 21


    Review your body paragraphs. Do they:
    • Have topic sentences?
    • Transition well?
    • Have effective, well-embedded quotes?
    • Have closure at the end of each paragraph?
  6. Image titled Write a Literary Analysis Step 22


    Review your conclusion. Does it:
    • Begin with a reworded thesis?
    • Suggest the next step?
    • Draw connections?
    • Tie up all loose ends?

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • How long should I write for one paragraph?

    wikiHow Contributor

    There's no perfect formula for writing. What you need to look at is how much you're covering. You want to get your points across as clearly and concisely as possible.

Ask a Question

If this question (or a similar one) is answered twice in this section, please click here to let us know.


  • Be sure you have a clear understanding of the essay assignment before writing your analysis. The first order of business is always to follow the teacher's instructions and guidelines.
  • Be concise and make sure you link everything in the analysis to the thesis statement.
  • Take the time to evaluate your work prior to submission to ensure you haven't inadvertently used the words of others to further your own paper. In other words, check to ensure you didn't plagiarize.


  1. Vokaraciqelat

    A /floppy hat/? {I gasp dramatically, giggling and running over, pouncing on him and tackling backward onto the mattress, --

  2. Hozurosu

    His motive was to get even with for his stinking miserable life. A lethal spoiled spic on .

  3. Dokoyojoge

    I needed to prove that I am more: on growing up a refugee, confronting shame sensationalism.

  4. Qoxusinaroboqi

    Exploring a new literary world opens the door of new ideas, subjects and situations that can get you thinking on trying new experiences.

  5. Corafaburagiwe

    A home on the rolling deep: Epes Sargent"s most famous poem A Life on the Ocean Wave was published May 19, 1839 --

  6. Wefixegew

    Literary Agents - how important is it for y"all to know an author has several projects she"s working on in addition to what she"s querying?

  7. Moqomojel

    What a life. Now we all scared of fellaini not making the final squad. Two seasons ago we literary wanted his head served on a plate.

  8. Kesubelucovaro

    --on my bedside lamp so we"re not standing in darkness before I speak quietly} I don"t want you to give up your parties. {I tell him, --

  9. Tifemabafom

    With distance comes complacency. on first-person LGBTQ narratives.

  10. Rawuvulebus

    They list the literary agent on their charts???!

  11. Fetikojeke

    10.To sir with love We can only give thanks For nurturing our literary minds Putting our reading on a higher plank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>