This is a “write what you know” type of essay. You might be asked to give your personal response to a certain class reading or to describe your experiences related to a specific writing prompt. The style tends to be informal, but reflective writing still requires some attention to organization. Although you probably will not need an argumentative thesis, it is beneficial to have a central idea, theme, or insight that brings your observations into focus. As long as you keep coming back to your theme, a narrative or stream-of-consciousness style is appropriate. Be creative and have fun with the topic! The writing will be more interesting if you are engaged.
In liberal studies and humanities courses, many writing assignments will ask you to analyze particular sources and topics. You can analyze any “text,” including literature, music, theater, art, television, film, and other media.
To analyze means to examine in a methodical way, resulting in an interpretation of the text (or texts) and the integration of any other sources you read to gain a better understanding. Analytical essays should have an introduction (containing a thesis), a body, and a conclusion.
1. Use present tense. A text is a living thing, not a historical event. It is as if the author or artist is communicating to you every time you read or view their work. Example: Hemingway shows the mundane realities of the elite in the early 20th century. (Not showed).
2. Avoid first person (“I” or “we”). This shows the reader your aim is objectivity. Example: The prose style paired with the chaotic thoughts of the narrator evoke a sense of disorientation for the reader. (Instead of “I felt disoriented by the prose style and chaotic thoughts of the narrator.”)
3. Be creative with your title. Do not simply use the title of the text, or a generic title like “Analytical Paper 1.” Create a title that reflects your point of view regarding the text.
4. Create a narrative. Show your reader the way you experience the text. When you are analyzing visual art, imagine that you are telling the story of viewing this piece for the first time. Where is the eye drawn? Use rich adjectives to describe the colors, shapes, figures, and textures. You can discuss the feelings that you think a certain image evokes for viewers.
5. Describe the text fully. For example, when analyzing music, describe the rhythm, melody, and vocal qualities as well as interpreting the lyrics. People tend to fixate on lyrics, but music creates a mood that affects the listener’s interpretation.
6. Think about organization. As you analyze a text, pick an organizational scheme. Maybe chronological order is the easiest way to walk a reader through the text you are analyzing. Or perhaps a thematic organization will make more sense. For visual mediums, consider describing the work spatially. Viewers tend to either focus on the center and move outwards or move their eye as if they were reading (for English speakers, typically from top left corner to right bottom corner).
7. Do not write a book report. Only summarize the parts of the plot that you are using as evidence of your claims; there is no need to summarize the whole text.
8. Be critical. You do not have to praise the text just because it was assigned reading. Your instructors will want you to critically engage with the text, meaning that you are thoughtful about what the text contributes to the world and where it falls short. It is not about whether you personally like or dislike it.
Annotated bibliographies are a great prep tool for any research project/paper. When you break it down, a bibliography is a list of resources (i.e. books, journal articles, websites, etc.) given in the proper citation format. Not only do your readers need to easily find the source, but you also need to be able to find the source again when you write the actual research paper. An annotation is a short summary or evaluation of a source, usually only 1-3 paragraphs in length.
Therefore, when you put it together, an annotated bibliography is a list of resources with short summaries after each citation. The format of an annotated bibliography can vary depending on its purpose.
As for length of the annotations, it varies. If you are just writing summaries of your sources, you might keep it to one short paragraph. However, it can be helpful to analyze and evaluate your source in the annotation: How does this source relate to your topic? What does the source contribute? How is your analysis or viewpoint different from the author’s? How credible is this source? Evaluating your source will make your life a lot easier if you will be writing a literature review and/or paper on the same topic.
The purpose of a literature review is to create an overview of sources that you have used while researching a particular topic. Additionally, this writing allows you to demonstrate to your readers how your research may fit within a greater realm of a topic.
There are multiple types of literature reviews that you may be asked to write. The following are some examples of these potential reviews.
Evaluate research in order to support or debate an argument, assumption, or problem that is already known.
Collecting literature on a topic so that you may create new perspectives or ideas about said topic.
Examining research that was conducted over a period of time. In particular, this type of literature review typically starts with discussing when your topic first became prevalent and then traces its evolution to present day.
Once you have settled on a topic and gathered your literature to review, how do you actually go about putting all of this information together? Keep some of the following tips in the back of your head:
Anytime you conduct a study or experiment, you will need to know the format for reports. Picture it:
You must complete an experiment for one of your science classes. You did a lot of research for background information about what you are studying, you designed and completed an effective experiment, got a lot of useful data, and are now ready to draw conclusions about what you have discovered. How do you put this into writing?
Basically, your readers will have two goals in mind when reading your report:
Experimental reports use the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion).
The purpose of the introduction is for you to state your hypothesis—what is the purpose of your research? Why should the reader be interested in your paper? Do not just rely on telling your audience your hypothesis; show your readers what led you to research this topic. Make sure to include your background information on what you already know about this topic, and then explain what you hope to gain from this experiment. Show that you know your topic!
When writing your hypothesis, try to be as specific as you can about the relationship between the different factors you are studying. For example:
Less Clear hypothesis: It was hypothesized that there is a significant relationship between the amount of hours a student spent studying for an exam and their final grade in a class.
Clearer Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that as students spent increased time studying for an exam, their chances of receiving an A at the end of the semester would increase as well.
The methods section is a where you, as the writer, show your readers how you plan to test your hypothesis. This is your opportunity to explain to your readers why you chose the process you chose.
As you are writing up your methods section, try to be as precise as possible in your descriptions. Think about if a fellow student, a professor, or another reader were trying to replicate your work—they should be able to replicate your experiment based on how you describe your work in your paper. Consider asking yourself some of the following questions:
How much detail is too much detail? Is this factor important for someone to know if they were to replicate my experiment? Did this impact my ability to complete my experiment?
Results…time to show what you found in your experiment! This section is typically the shortest of your paper, however, it is also the most important. This is not the place to draw conclusions (save that for the next section of your paper). Instead, show your readers what you were able to find that is relevant to your hypothesis.
PRO TIP: Get creative with how you display your results. Results can be displayed as a table, graph, chart, etc., whatever you find to be the clearest way to display your data.
The discussion section…the very end! This section is for you to explain your results to your reader for them to understand. If your reader is not a data person, the discussion section is where they are able to grasp if your research supported your hypothesis. Here you can explain any limitations you may have had when completing your experiment for others to consider if they would like to replicate your research. Besides explaining if your research supported your hypothesis, make sure you explain anything regarding the following in this section:
An abstract is the first section of a report and can be tricky to write. It is called a “summary” in some papers. The purpose of an abstract is for a reader to be able to get enough information about your study to decide if they want to read your entire report. In some cases, an abstract may be only 250 words long.
When writing an abstract, consider organizing it based on the IMRAD format (scaling it down to as little as two or three sentences per section).
Remember, the main point of an abstract is to be brief. Keep it short and sweet!