Literary Analysis Step-by-Step Guide and Help Source

Students are often asked to write a literary analysis because this type of task makes you think how and why a short story, a poem, a novel or a play was written. While writing, you have to keep in mind that author always makes certain choices in his work for a reason. You have to point them out and try to explain these choices, but at the same time, you have to know how to analyze a piece of text from your own perspective. In this post, I will tell you more about how to write a literary analysis so stay tuned.


Literary analysis is a practice of looking closely at small parts to understand how they affect the whole, as well as examining and sometimes evaluating a piece of literature. It focuses on how the author uses characters, plot and structure, setting and a lot of other techniques to create a meaning. You have to remember that the point of literary analysis is not about getting to the end of the essay quickly, but rather about the process that makes you understand the work of art as a whole and appreciate it more.

How to write a Literary Analysis?

Before you start writing, take a few moment to read the task very carefully. Usually, teachers will point out certain aspects that you have to pay attention to, like specific characters, figurative speech and a subject of discussion. While reading a text, take a pen and make small annotations to analyze what you are reading right away. This will help you to remember everything you think about while reading so you don’t have to read the text once again. Make bullet points of the most important events, place of action, characters, antagonist, protagonist, subject, figurative language and system of images. Also, you can add the number of pages to find your annotations fast.

How to start a Literary Analysis?

  • Look through your notes once again before you finish working with the material.
  • Make sure you know what you have to write about. Sometimes, a teacher can ask you to analyze the text in general forms, sometimes – make an analysis of the certain aspect of the text.
  • Decide on the topics that you want to discuss in the analysis.
  1. Analyze the narrative and style of writing. If you analyze a scientific essay, you can analyze the author’s style.
  2. Discuss the setting. Determine the time and place of the event, the geographical location and other details that are given to the reader for the better understanding of the work.
  3. Discuss the author’s writing style. You can refer to the same audience as the author did himself. It will be more reliable.
  4. Discuss the characters of the work; the presence of a protagonist and antagonist. Think about whether they are imitating other literary characters, how stereotyped they are and their dynamics along the way.
  5. Select several topics or a thesis statement for discussion. Pick some quotes to insert into your analysis.
  6. Add counter-arguments. Discuss the controversial aspects of the work.
  7. Determine the relationship between the work and the readership.
  • Formulate a thesis statement. This sentence (or sentences) reveal the main ideas of your essay and answers the question or questions posed in your work. To write the correct thesis, think about these things:
  1. What am I trying to prove?
  2. What arguments do I have?
  3. How to arrange my arguments/evidence?

Literary Analysis Outline.


  1. Hook, or attention-catcher. A question, quote or statement that will grab reader’s attention.
  2. Include the name of the author, title of the book/text you are analyzing, and any other information that you think is important.
  3. Background information. Tell why the prompts are relevant or important.
  4. Context. Here you need to write about how the essay prompt relates to the piece of literature you are reading.
  5. Claim. This is the answer to the question that is being asked in your essay.

Body Paragraphs (usually at least 2):

  1. Topic Sentence . In each paragraph identify reasons why your claim is true.
  2. Support it with a two or three quotes that will be presented as evidence from the text.
  3. Add your own commentary to each quote, which will explain how the text supports your topic sentence.
  4. Each paragraph should have a conclusion, which will sum up your argument and explain how it connects back to the thesis.


  1. Restate your thesis using different words. It must convey all the main statements you made in the previous parts of your literary analysis, but also touch on the implied provisions of your arguments.
  2. Do not repeat what you have already said.
  3. Suggest the next step.
  4. Draw parallels between genre and context. Why do you think what you’ve read is important today?

General recommendations.

  • Choose a catchy, interesting name. You should not do this in the beginning of your writing. You can wait until your essay is fully written and the argument is formed and clear.
  • Write in the present tense. Even if the text is written in different time.
  • Write in the third person. Avoid pronouns “I” or “you”. Although, sometimes teachers allow students the use of the first or second person. In this case, you can discuss the characteristics of the text that most impressed you, or the reasons why the actions of the main characters seem plausible to you or not.
  • Use literary terms. With their help, your work will look well-prepared, balanced and thoughtful. Here are some examples: allusion – indirect or superficial references to famous characters or events; irony – a contradiction in a person, a situation or circumstances that are not really what they seem; metaphor – a kind of figurative language that states that a certain thing is something else, something that, in fact, is not.
  • Use secondary sources. But keep in mind that they are called secondary for a reason. This is your work and it should not consist of some other person’s thoughts. Just use them as a support for your arguments. Some of them you can find here: MLA International Bibliography, Dictionary of Literary Biography, or ask your teacher.

What NOT to do.

  • Do not summarize. Your work should be an analysis, not a summary of the text.
  • Do not confuse the words of the characters with the author’s position. These are two mutually exclusive things – your statements should concern only one of them.
  • Stay away from plagiarism . Plagiarizing somebody else’s work will be a complete fail of the task. Use your own head.


  1. Be concise and make sure you have connected all your arguments and everything you have written with a thesis proposal.
  2. Make sure you understand the essay correctly before you start writing the analysis. Your first priority is to follow the instructions and recommendations of your teacher.
  3. Before submitting your essay you’d better carefully and slowly review your work to make sure that you do not inadvertently use other people’s thoughts. In other words, check for plagiarism.
  4. Stay away from using the same words and statements over and over again. Because it will seem like you do not have much to say and your argument will seem weak.

Literary Analysis FAQ

  • What should my paper’s title be?

It depends on what you are writing about, but it is definitely not supposed to be a title of the book you are writing about or “English Paper”. It should represent the idea of your essay to the reader.

  • How much plot should I include?

Almost none. Imagine that everyone knows what the book is about but does not know its meaning.

  • How many quotations should I use in my paper?

Use one or two quotations in each body paragraph.

Essay Help.

I know that you might still be confused and lost in all these outlines, plans and lots of words. So, here is my last piece of advice for you – some useful resources:

  • Essay Topic Generator. The name says for itself. If you are struggling with picking a topic for your essay, this site is a real lifesaver. Just enter your essay keywords and a category and voila – here is your topic. You can edit it a bit if you like.
  • Essay Examples. If choosing a topic is not a problem for you, but you do not know how to structure your essay and make it look good and right. This link is just for you. Go ahead and look through some examples just to get the idea, make sure not to rewrite from there, plagiarism is never a good thing.
  • Essay Checker. Your essay is done but you still have doubts? Check it for plagiarism, readability level, the relevance of what you have written to the question you asked and fix the style if needed.
  • Essay Editing Service. And the last but not least, if you doubts do not leave your head, just use this editing service to make sure everything is in its best form and sleep tight.
  • Essay Writing Service. It works well if you writings yourself is not your priority or you take interest in a certain subject. Talk to our professional writers and pick the one that fits your writing style.

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