The Analytical Paragraph – The 7 Basic Components


Analytical paragraphs respond to analytical issues.  You would not write an analytical response to a descriptive question such as What is the plot of the novel Animal Farm?, but you would for an interpretive question such as How does the author represent the pigs' abuse of power in Animal Farm? The analytical paragraph supports your thesis (claim) by providing specific text evidence (quote or paraphrase) and explaining precisely how that text and its literary features contribute to the impact of the work.  Each analytical paragraph should include the following:


1.  Topic Sentence This tells the reader what aspect of your claim is developed in this paragraph.  It is usually the first sentence.  If you are writing a multi-paragraph essay, the topic sentence will directly connect to the thesis of your essay.  Your topic sentence cannot be a factual statement.  It must be something that can be argued for or against.  


2.  Introduce the Evidence – Introduce the quote/paraphrase by briefly identifying its context, relative value, and/or the aspect you wish to emphasize. One to two sentences will suffice.  Do not simply restate or summarize the evidence;  use this opportunity to focus your reader's attention on the aspect/s most germane to your argument.


3. Identify the Speaker Specify the speaker of the quote and/or the source of the evidence (author, narrator, character, outside source, etc.).   Cite using parenthetical documentation (MLA style) AND include bibliography entries at the end!

     Bart says, “Cool! I love detentions!” (19) or Matt Groening writes, “Bart ran away”(2). Attributions such as “Bart says” help establish your stance as analytic rather than  readerly.

            A more sophisticated form of the quote introduction blends the text into your own writing   In this form the context and the quote become one.

     On his way to school, Bart does not hesitate to “pull out his slingshot and launch a rock through the window”(15).


4. The Evidence This is the text itself.  Include ONLY what is absolutely necessary, so your reader is not distracted by extraneous material and your teacher does not suspect you of "padding" your word count. Your evidence must specifically support your claim, and in a moment you will show the reader exactly how it does so.  Quotes must be copied directly, word for word from the text, inside double quotations.  When dialogue is involved, still put the entire passage inside double quotes, but change the original doubles to single quotes.   Paraphrases use no quotes and are sometimes indicated by "that," but still require citation. Fitzgerald tells us that the Gatsby mansion looked new(Fitzgerald 9).


5.  Citation MLA style requires (Author page), .  In an informal paragraph with only one source you may simply use (page):  no p. or pp., just the numeral. Bart complains, “I hate peas” (18) .


6. Analysis / Discussion  Discussion explicitly links precise aspects of evidence with literary features and effect (meaning/significance), in a logical argument that supports your claim and subclaim. Break the quote down.  Refer to specific words, phrases, or ideas from your evidence. Identify their significant literary features and show how they do what they do (form + content).  It is NOT enough to write a subclaim, stick in some text evidence, and assume the reader  will make the same connections you do. Analysis ≠ paraphrase!  Discussion is where you lead the reader through your line of thinking, connecting TEXT and FEATURES to EFFECT and SIGNIFICANCE.  We want to know not only what and how, but why this matters. 


7. Concluding or Transition Sentence If you are writing just one analytical paragraph, this sentence serves as your conclusion.  It answers the question “what’s your point?” or "what is significant?" It should tie back to the topic sentence and therefore the central claim.  If you are writing a multi-paragraph essay, then this sentence is used as a transition from the idea you have just finished writing about to the idea you will write about in your next body paragraph.



Analytical Paragraph:  Example


1.  Topic Sentence  



2.  Introduce the Evidence



3. Identify the Speaker



4. The Evidence



5.  Citation



6. Analysis / Discussion



7. Concluding or Transition Sentence