Steps to writing an excellent analytical essay

Last Updated: 24 August 2023

how to write an analytical essay

You have probably encountered the process of essay writing and can agree that writing an essay is no mean feat. However, an analytical essay can be the reason you either get happy or stressfully persevere through college.

You only get happy if you know how to write an analytical essay. The converse is true if you are still struggling to master analytical writing skills. Well, that's why we are here anyway, so you should not worry about anything – we will have everything fixed by the end of this article.

Writing an analytical essay that impresses your instructor or professor means putting in the effort. Most top students will agree that it requires a comprehensive analysis of the assigned topic.

Let's assume you have been assigned to write an analytical essay about the use of propaganda during World War II; what would or should you do?

Let us show you how to plan, structure, and write your analytical paper for the best grade. Of course, we want you to write it as though it has been your routine throughout your academic life. But just before anything, let's define an analytical essay so that we are clear about what we are dealing with.

What is an analytical essay?

An analytical essay is one of the most common assignments you will encounter in college. It is an essay where you comprehensively and carefully analyze, criticize, evaluate, and interpret a specific topic ranging from controversial subjects, current events, movies, books, news articles, historical era, or anything that requires an in-depth analysis for clarification and understanding. It can also be about art, literary works, comics, films, scientific research, political occurrences, philosophy, technology, and almost every aspect affecting man and society. In an analytical essay, you develop a core argument and analyze it using a range of claims. You should support your claims using scholarly and empirical evidence. This calls for exploring the negative and positive sides of your topic thoroughly.

Unlike persuasive essays that appeal to emotions or narrative essays that use personal anecdotes, analytical essays present analytical arguments using facts and logic.

Instead of analyzing one side of an issue and convincing your readers on why it is the best, as with persuasive essays, you are required to evaluate either side of the issue in an analytical essay.

An excellently written analytical essay should contextualize and explain basic information to the extent that the reader understands the concepts and issues in the topic.

Analytical essays are assigned to assess and boost your writing, analytical, inquiry, and problem-solving skills. You hone your comprehension skills and develop a critical eye to every aspect you encounter by writing one. Analytical essays also help readers make sense of different topics, social issues, or controversial subjects.

Types of Analytical Essays

There are 5 main types of analytical essays that you have probably encountered. Every analytical essay has its unique approach in presenting ideas, purpose or goals, and writing style. Let us have a look at the different types:

1. Comparison and Contrast essays

You can analyze a topic by comparing and contrasting it with another. For instance, you can compare the experiences of cruise ship tourists and camping tourists. You can also compare Barack Obama and Donald Trump's presidency.

A standard analytical essay is not a compare and contrast essay. However, the latter is an example of the former. When writing a compare and contrast essay, you analyze two subjects head-to-head. You will be exploring similarities and differences between the two events, phenomena, places, things, animals, plants, experiences, or people.

2. Classification essays

A classification essay is a widespread type of an analytical essay in college and university given its universal role of classifying subjects, events, people, characters, or things into categories, groups, or units based on similarities. Doing so requires substantial analysis and presentation of evidence, which is what analytical writing entails.

3. Process essays

When writing this type of analytical essay, your aim is to guide your audience through a process. You analyze a process that takes time, focusing on its critical aspects. For example, you could analyze the process of producing alcohol, dental surgery, producing steel, making mega-structures, reclaiming land, etc.

4. Definition essays

When writing a definition essay, you are bringing in your A-game in analytical writing in the sense that you critically define subjects or events. Then, as you present the attributes, qualities, character, and different aspects of these things, you need to explain and paint a clear picture in the minds of your readers.

5. Cause and effect essays

Also known as the reason and result essay, the cause-and-effect essays are yet another analytical essay example. It is an essay where you discuss a phenomenon from the perspective of its reason of occurrence and the consequences of its occurrence. 

Check our article on cause-and-effect topics.

Other examples of analytical essays include rhetorical essays, visual analysis essays, and expository essays.

Steps to take to write an excellent analytical Essay

The analytical essays that score the best marks and grades have a succinct point of view, well-supported claims, a well-advanced thesis, address the counterarguments, and demonstrate the use of both primary and secondary sources.

To build a solid analytical argument, which is your stance on a given topic or subject, there are steps you need to follow. In terms of characteristics, analytical essay writing entails in-depth research, comprehensive analysis, reasoning, and evaluation, supporting your chosen thesis, and structuring your writing for adequate flow.

Here is a three-stage step-by-step guide to ace your analytical essay task easily. We have divided the writing process into three stages: pre-writing, writing, and post-writing stage, each having its significant steps.

Pre-Writing Stage

Analyzing the aspect of analytical essays implies analyzing the arguments you have come up with regarding a topic using a range of claims supported by evidence (facts).

1. Choose a good analytical essay topic

Before everything else, you should begin the analytical writing process by reading the essay prompt. Usually, the prompt outlines the formatting, length, deadline, and every other aspect critical to writing your analytical essay.

The prompt usually have topics suggested by your professor, teacher, or instructor. In some cases, it also states whether you need to choose an excellent analytical topic on your own. If you are allowed to select a topic, jump on the section of this article that explains how to choose a topic.

If you have a prompt, all you need to do is come up with the right title and go to the second step.

2. Choose a focus for your essay

With the topic in mind, you need to consider a lens of analysis that your paper will demonstrate. And to do this, you need to determine the focus of your paper. Finally, decide, at these early stages, what you will be writing about.

Make known to yourself the facts that you will be focusing on. It is best to come up with these ideas as you brainstorm and conduct your preliminary research.

When reading the task brief, you will develop an angle of analysis, which is vital in this step. In addition, this step is integral to developing your preliminary thesis statement.

3. Select your preliminary thesis statement

A thesis is the controlling idea of your essay. The thesis statement often appears at the end of the introduction paragraph of your analytical research paper or essay. Presenting a thesis statement helps your readers have a clear understanding of what your work is about. It explains the topic of your paper, what you are analyzing, and the specific points you have focused on in your analysis.

A good thesis statement introduces the subject and claims that you are analyzing. It is also direct and specific and has a precise claim.


For example, suppose you analyze the role of propaganda during World War II. In that case, a good thesis could be: "Propaganda was the key driving force that knitted together the armies of different nations, steamed the battles, and encouraged citizens to contribute to the war efforts."

If you are writing about an aspect of a book such as Animal Farm, a good thesis would be "Animal Farm is an allegorical novel that clearly demonstrates how the use of language and rhetoric can help maintain social control compared to physical might."

Once you have written your thesis statement, consider if it aligns with your already chosen angle of analysis. Also, check whether there are adequate primary and secondary scholarly sources to support the claims and arguments. The thesis needs to be arguable.

4. Research for your main ideas of analysis

You have a sound topic, a great title, and a strong thesis statement, important recipes for your research process. As you research, the goal is to identify your main points for your analytical essay.

When brainstorming initially, at the topic conception step, you had likely developed ideas relating to your topic. You can brainstorm a second time and make a list of ideas that come to mind. Consider aspects such as alliteration, metaphors, repetition, allusion, foreshadowing, personification, sarcasm, etc.

With the seed ideas, research widely to understand how you are analyzing portrays your ideas. Then, pick 3-4 strong points and use them as ideas in your essay. These are the ideas that will be the center stage of your analytical essay. Finally, you will use them to develop body paragraphs, with each idea forming its paragraph.

5. Outline your analysis essay

Like other essay outlines, an analytical essay outline is a roadmap that guides your entire writing process. As part of the preparation process, you must structure your analytical essay to envision what should fall, depending on the impact you want to achieve. In some cases, your professor might demand that you complete an analytical essay outline worksheet before beginning to write.

We have an analytical essay outline template within this guide, which can help you formulate an outline and define the structure of your upcoming essay assignment. If you are writing an analytical research paper, use the normal research paper outline template.

The essay outline must be clear and understandable. You should highlight the information in the three core parts of your analytical essay. With the outline finally done and approved (as is with some cases), it is now time to take the much-deserved rest before delving into the writing process.

Writing Stage

In the writing stage, most students make the mistake of being a perfectionist. Instead, you should focus on writing and writing alone. Do not bother yourself with the minor details because you will have a chance to correct them in the third/final stage of your writing process. This step will compose your analytical essay sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph.

6. Begin with the body paragraphs

If you are wondering how to start your analytical essay, we advise you to write the body paragraphs.

Even though conventional writing rules argue that writing the introduction first should be the norm, we find a better approach to beginning with the body paragraphs. Mainly, the approach ensures that the body of your essay is in sync with the introduction when you finally write it. Furthermore, instead of refining the body paragraphs to fit the thesis, you will be doing it the other way round and tweaking your preliminary thesis without confusion or struggle.

The general structure of an analytical essay is that each paragraph consists of a topic or main sentence, the analysis, the facts, examples, and evidence from the text or literature, and the concluding sentence that also transitions you to the next paragraph. Check out our paragraph structure guide.

In the body paragraph, you should provide evidence to show your reader that your findings are valid. Therefore, as you organize each body paragraph, ensure that it bears a topic sentence that envisions the content of the paragraph.

Also, ensure that each body paragraph focuses on a single idea. This means that, by extension, each of the body paragraphs must highlight pieces of evidence that back up the thesis.

To successfully execute your writing process, ensure that you organize the body paragraphs to build an argument from different claims and points of view while maintaining some good flow. In addition, ensure that every argument is easy to comprehend.

For a convincing analytical essay, ensure that you use evidence effectively. For example, use statistics, facts, theories, common knowledge, and other importance facts, but cite them appropriately.

Finally, if there are contrasting opinions or ideas, use them in your essay because it shows your maturity in writing essays. Besides, you also build strong arguments.

7. Write the introduction

With the body paragraphs ready, writing the introduction should be a walk in the park. Your introduction is the anchor of your entire essay. It offers the direction for any piece of writing.

When writing the introduction of your analytical essay, ensure that you have an essay hook or attention grabber. Having an engaging hook sentence will impress your readers and sweep them off their feet. It is your first bullet to charm your readers. You can state a fact, statistic, joke, anecdote, or rhetorical or provocative question.

You must also include relevant or background information on your subject or topic. This can be a way of contextualizing the topic in your essay. Let the readers know why the topic is important and why they should care to read your essay. Inform your audience about the subject you chose for the analytical paper.

You should then have a powerful thesis statement highlighting your essay's central stance or idea. It is the sole reason for your writing. The thesis statement expounds on the topic, introduces the subject and claim, and entices your readers further.

Finally, in one sentence, you can write a brief explanation of how you prove your thesis in the essay (a kind of a road map or game plan). For example, if you are writing an analytical essay on a book, focus on the literary aspects that the author utilizes, then interpret and expound on them in the essay's body.

8. Write the conclusion last

A typical analytical essay has a conclusion as to its last paragraph. A strong conclusion always wins and sometimes saves the day. The conclusion is how you end your analytical essay, and it should be with a bang.

Take time to go through some examples of analytical essays written online and learn how to conclude an analytical essay properly.

Mainly, your conclusion should summarize your analysis and not have any fresh ideas. Instead, it should have a rephrased thesis statement to remind the readers of the entire purpose of the essay. It should equally have your final thoughts on the issue at hand or under discussion. The final thoughts could be a recommendation, explanation, extrapolation, or a hook sentence to tie loose ends. And although they are yours, avoid writing in the first person. Instead, be as objective as you can be.

Suppose you wonder how to write a perfect conclusion for an analytical essay. In that case, the steps we have outlined above are pretty much what you should do.

Post-Writing Stage

As the final stage of your essay, the post-writing step deals with making everything right. After writing, we recommend taking a break to develop an objective mind. Here is where you edit and proofread your paper.

9. Edit and proofread your essay

You should begin by checking for any grammatical and spelling mistakes in your essay. An analytical essay with minimal to no errors always scores the best marks. Then, as you check the grammar and spelling, search and replace any complex sentences and check whether the punctuation marks are rightfully used and placed. Finally, pass your essay through a plagiarism checker to ensure that it does not have any plagiarism. As we state in our guide on avoiding plagiarism, it can help you if your essay has some similarities.

If possible, read the analytical essay aloud to help you spot ambiguous sentences and correct any errors you had not spotted. Finally, assess whether the examples you have given hold any water.

Besides, check if every fact from any source is well acknowledged through in-text citations and a full bibliography list. Also, countercheck to ensure that you have used appropriate names, places, locations, and any other aspect that might be confusing in the heat of writing your essay.

You can hire a proofreader to do everything for you for your analytical essay. We have the best proofreaders in case you are interested.

How to present evidence in an analytical essay

Regardless of your chosen topic and whether your focus is on a film, book, or poem, you must support your analysis with credible evidence, relatable and relevant examples, and scholarly facts.

The evidence helps fortify your arguments, which allows you to express your ideas effectively. This means that you need to ensure that you use evidence as you should. Only select the pieces of evidence or facts that are directly linked to your thesis.

In terms of integration evidence, there are many approaches, as we outline below:

  1. Summarizing. You can summarize the facts from scholarly articles and books to support your analysis. However, only limit yourself to relevant information to help your audience perceive your thoughts and ideas.
  2. Direct quotation. You can also use quotations to strengthen your analysis. However, ensure that the quote is well cited in APA or MLA formats.
  3. Paraphrasing. You can also support your analysis by paraphrasing the critical information from the sources. This helps you develop cogent paragraphs. It is also an effective strategy when using an inconvenient quote, such as when it is too long. As you paraphrase, ensure that you interpret the main ideas in your own words and relate them to your claims and arguments in the analytical essay.

You can also focus on the specific details about the work you are analyzing to make a personal connection with your audience.

Analytical Essay Format

You should consider the formatting guidelines prescribed by your teacher. The best way to do this is by reading the prompt – usually the "requirements or paper formatting" sections.

In terms of general formatting, an analytical essay should be written on a word document with:

Outline for an Analytical Essay

As indicated in the steps for writing an analytical essay above, you should draft an outline. Considering that the essay is usually between 500 words and 2000 words, you can easily plan your introduction, body, and conclusion sections.

An outline is necessary to help you plan your essay and to visualize the structure of the final draft. Besides, it also streamlines the writing process, making it easy to fix the different parts. That way, you visualize the flow of your essay ideas right from the start.

Although many students ignore writing an outline for their analytical essay, planning the essay helps in the research and writing process. It could be the sole reason why top students will always score better.

A typical analytical essay follows the five-paragraph essay structure. In a nutshell, let us highlight the different parts of an analytical essay.

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook
    2. Background information
    3. Thesis statement
  2. Body Paragraphs

(Each body paragraph must have its central point or idea supported by facts. It must also flow to the next paragraph)

  1. Body Paragraph 1
    • Topic sentence
    • Supporting evidence for the first point
    • Concluding sentence
    • Transition to the second body paragraph
  2. Body Paragraph 2
    • Topic sentence
    • Supporting evidence for the first point
    • Concluding sentence
    • Transition to the third body paragraph
  3. Body Paragraph 3
    • Topic sentence
    • Supporting evidence for the first point
    • Concluding sentence
    • Transition to the second concluding paragraph
  4. Conclusion
    1. Summary of the key points in the essay
    2. Rephrase your thesis
    3. Major takeaways from your essay

How to choose a good topic for your analytical essay

You have the freedom of analyzing literary everything, which gives you a wide variety of fields, areas, or issues to choose your analytical essay topic. The only constraint with this, despite the freedom, is that you might be confused as there are so many options, making it challenging to settle on one.

Assuming your instructor or professor has assigned you a list of analytical essay topics, you only need to go over the list and pick something interesting to you. However, if you are allowed the liberty of choosing a topic on your own, you have to struggle and arrive at a great topic. You can take a few steps to choose a great topic if none is provided.

1. Brainstorm for analytical essay topic ideas

Pen and paper are not dead. You can simply write down your thoughts about specific issues to get topic ideas for your analytical essay. Brainstorming is critical when finding the right topic for an essay or research paper. In the process of brainstorming, you open your mind to a world of opportunities and possibilities. Writing every thought that comes to mind helps you consolidate the ideas and develop seed ideas that can give you the best topics to choose from.

2. Research widely for good topic ideas

With a rough idea of the direction you want to take, you should search the internet for more information on the topic ideas you have developed. Then, as you research, ensure that you keep track of the resources you access for later use when doing the proper research and writing your paper.

3. Analyze the options

You may have a list of the potential topics and the resources by now. To narrow down your topics further, consider the quality of sources that you might use to support a topic. If most of the sources are scholarly, include the topic in your final list. This step helps you determine the analytical essay topic that can be covered better, given the quality of evidence available.

4. Evaluate your choices

You may have a final list where you need to narrow down further and select the most outstanding topic. In this step, your main aim is to explore the subject or idea you find interesting and spend hours researching without getting bored.

Think of something you have experience in, something you have always been interested in, or something you find pleasure exploring; it should be the one you go for. At the same time, consider class concepts, theories, and teachings.

If the topic you are inclined to choose does not relate to the current class, you can ask your instructor or professor for directions. In all you do, ensure that the issue you are analyzing is practical, relevant, and researchable.

5. Eliminate from the list

With everything in place, eliminate from your list the topics that, although are great, are not the best for you to write about for that assignment. A good topic should have adequate scholarly content that forms evidence that backs your claims. It should also be relevant to your current field of study or at least be something you are interested in.

6. Consult your instructor or professor

A good topic is one that has been approved by your writer as well. So, select the one topic that stands out for you and meets the above aspects in this step.

If you doubt your choice or are confused, you can consult your teacher to help further you narrow down the list of topics to the best analytical topic.

7. Write a great title

After settling on a specific analytical essay topic, ensure that you follow it with an eye-catching, original, and short title. Titling an essay well is an invitation for your instructor to read your essay to the end. If you combine titling, essay hook, and a good thesis, you are definitely meant for the top grades from a professor.