Step-by-step guide to literary analysis

Literary analysis is a careful study of the text, interpretation of its meanings, and study of why the author made a choice. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other literary form.

An essay on literary analysis is not a rhetorical analysis, nor is it a plot or a review of a specific scientific question. Rather, it is a type of reasoned essay where you need to analyze elements such as the perspective and structure of the project, explaining how the author uses literature to create effects and convey a variety of scientific ideas related to the topic of the essay.

An important part of the essay is the introduction to 1-2 pages. It confirms the relevance of the chosen topic, assesses the state of research of the scientific problem, formulates the purpose and tasks of the essay, provides a brief overview of the available literature and sources used. It is desirable that the beginning was clear and problematic, which will immediately attract the reader’s attention.

The justification for the relevance of the chosen topic is first of all the answer to the question: “Why did I choose this topic of the essay that interested me in this?” Moreover, it is important to connect this with modern learning problems.

Assessing the state of research on a scientific problem, it is necessary to briefly discuss several known to the author scientific ideas that have developed on this topic. It should be noted that there are many scientific theories about the mechanisms of development of the essay topic and it is important to note other details.

Reading text and identifying literature

You can offer two options for formulating the goal with the help of literature analysis:

Option 1. Formulation of the goal with the help of verbs: research, research, definition, justification, analysis, systematization, emphasis, consideration, generalization, etc.

Option 2. Formulate the goal with the help of questions.

Work tasks are specific stages (stages) of achieving the goal.

During a brief review of the literature and sources with which the author worked, you should evaluate their usefulness, accessibility, and express their attitude to the content.

Requirements of literary analysis when writing the content of the main part of the essay

The content of the essay can be an analytical review of the history of research (introduced by the researcher) or its current state, a critical analysis of scientific discussion (comparison of different approaches to solving a scientific problem), as well as a detailed review of specific scientific work.

The content of the essay in the literary analysis should correspond to the topic, purpose, and objectives. Consistently reveal all the issues provided for in the plan, justify, explain the main provisions, support them with specific examples and facts, formulate opinions, simply, correctly, and unambiguously (so that you understand it), try to logically structure the text. Always remember that someone will read your essay and try to bypass it to quickly find answers to interesting questions. To begin the analysis, there are several key areas to focus on. Analyzing all aspects of the text, try to think about your thoughts on a scientific topic. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of key passages and quotes.

Choose a language style

When conducting a literary analysis, you need to express your approach to what you are studying. All considerations must be substantiated. You should strive to make the presentation clear and literary to avoid repetition and vanity. Also, the following general rules should be followed:

  • in scientific texts, it is not recommended to speak singularly in the first person (it is better to express judgments in the impersonal form);
  • when mentioning a name in the text, it must be preceded by initials;
  • Start each section (position) on a new page;
  • when presenting different views and scientific positions, quotations, excerpts from the literature, you should refer to the source used.

Ask yourself:

Who tells the story?

How do they say that?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in this story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from afar?

Consider the perspective of the narrator. Is the narrator omniscient (where he knows everything about all the characters and events) or does he have only partial knowledge? The authors often suggest that their narrator may present us with a distorted or unjust version of events.

Structure of the essay with a literary analysis

Think about the structure of the text and how it relates to the story being told.

Texts are often divided into chapters and parts. Plays are divided into scenes and actions.

Less formal structural elements should also be considered. Does the story unfold in chronological order or do you miss something in time? Does the plot reach a clearly defined climax?

In the case of poetry, think about how the rhyme and signatures of time shape your understanding of the text and your impression of tone. Try reading the verse aloud to understand this.

You can also reflect on how the relationships between the characters are built in different scenes and how the environment relates to the action. Beware of dramatic irony when viewers know some details that the characters do not know, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

Essay development with literary analysis

Your thesis in an essay on literary analysis is a question you want to raise about the text. This is the main argument that gives direction to your essay and prevents it from being just a collection of random observations of the text. Sometimes you are free to choose your topic; in this case, you will have to put forward an original thesis. Think about what you stand out in the text; Ask yourself questions about the subjects you are interested in and think about how you can answer them. Rules for establishing links with a scientific source when conducting a literary analysis

In the essay, information about the source (bibliographic information) is given after citation in square brackets: first, indicate the source number from the list of references, and then with a comma – a page in the original text.

The content of the essay should not simply be repeated in the conclusions. They should cover the following aspects:

  • Assess the degree of achievement of the goal and the task;
  • List and briefly describe the known scientific approaches to the research problem, as well as identify new aspects and discussion issues for further study;
  • Identify what is valuable in an essay that requires further analysis and explanation, and what is questionable.

Your thesis must be contradictory – that is, what you think is true in the text, but it is not a simple fact. It must be complex enough to evolve from the evidence and arguments that will be revealed throughout the essay.

Search for text evidence

In support of your thesis, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence – specific parts of the text that reflect your scientific point of view on the problem (topic) of the essay. This evidence is quoted and analyzed in the essay to explain and present your arguments to the reader.

Before you start writing, it is recommended to review the text to find relevant theses on the topic of academic work. You may not use everything you find, and you may have to go back to the text to get more evidence while writing the text itself, but gathering textual evidence from the beginning will help you organize your arguments if they are convincing.

Professional editors review and edit essays on literary analysis, focusing on the following interesting and extremely important scientific points:

  • Academic style;
  • Unintelligible sentences;
  • Grammar;
  • Style sequence.

Writing a title and submitting an essay on literary analysis

To successfully start the process of conducting a literary analysis, you need two things: the most interesting and exciting title and the most informative introduction.


The title should indicate what the literary analysis of the academic project will focus on. Try to make the title as concise and impressive as possible for the reader.

A typical approach to the title is to use an appropriate quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of the title.

If you find it difficult to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry – the next time you start writing an essay, you will better understand your arguments, it will be easier.


The introduction to the essay provides a brief overview of where your scientific argument is going, your scientific point of view on the scientific problem, the topic of your essay. The introduction to the essay should contain a statement of all scientific material and a summary of the structure of the academic project.

A typical introductory structure begins with a general statement about the text and the author, using them as an introduction to academic work. You can turn to the generally accepted idea of ​​the subject of the project and show how your work reveals the problems of the work and provides readers with the opportunity to focus on the disclosure of the subject of scientific research.

Write essay content

The content of your essay is all between the introduction and the conclusion. It contains your arguments and their confirmation in the form of text.

Paragraph structure

The typical structure of an essay with a literary analysis consists of five paragraphs: three paragraphs of content, introduction, and conclusion.

Each paragraph of the main section should focus on the topics and issues of research conducted in a particular research project. Try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all related to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to stretch the text – just do a detailed analysis that drives your arguments.

Key sentences to be used in an academic project

To focus on the points, it is important to put a thematic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good idea of ​​the topic allows the reader to immediately see what the paragraph is about. He can enter a new argument and combine it or compare it with the previous paragraph. Transition words such as “however” or “optional” is useful for creating smooth transitions. The thematic sentence indicates that this paragraph will refer to the issue raised in the essay.

Use of textual evidence

A key part of the literature analysis is the confirmation of the arguments by the relevant textual evidence. To do this, enter quotes from the text and explain their key meaning.

In such cases, it is better to paraphrase or summarize fragments of text – that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words.

Writing conclusions

When concluding a literature analysis, do not introduce any new quotations or arguments – instead, write brief conclusions about the essay. Here you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their importance to the reader.