Composing an analysis essay outline

A popular type of writing assignment is the analysis essay. This aims to analyse a topic in a structured and academic way, and to draw conclusions from it. The topic is often a piece of writing but can also be a film, a philosophy, a political or religious doctrine or even something like an advertisement.

What an analysis essay aims to display is your understanding of whatever is being analysed, so it's important that it's clearly laid out. Of course this applies to all essays, but it's especially important for an analysis one. Otherwise your analysis will get lost and your grade will suffer, which would definitely be a shame!

There are some simple rules on how to structure an essay. In almost all cases it will be divided into four sections, as follows:

  1. Introduction - This is a brief paragraph that explains what the essay will be about, how it will look at the subject and, in one sentence, gives a quick outline of your conclusions. It should be interesting and engaging enough that the reader will want to know more.
  2. Thesis - This states what the essay is trying to decide. It's usually in the form of a statement that you will be aiming to confirm or disprove, or a question that you will try to answer.
  3. Body - This is the main part of the essay, and it's where you present your evidence and discuss it.
  4. Conclusion - Here you explain what you have decided about the thesis.

For an analysis essay the thesis is vital. Very often your thesis will be in the form of a question, such as "How did Remarque portray war in All Quiet on the Western Front?" You need to choose a thesis you're confident of being able to answer, or your discussion will be disjointed and your conclusions weak.

The scientific method requires that you start with a hypothesis, devise a way to test it, carry out those tests and then reach a conclusion. You're not doing science here, though; you're writing an essay.

Start by studying the topic - if it's a book, for example, read it carefully - then think about your opinions of it. If you believe that Tom Sharpe's Wilt books are a satire on middle-class British society, for example, find themes in the books that support this conclusion. If you can't find enough, this is the time to choose something else! If you can, though, you have a valid idea. The last step is to find a thesis that leads into this idea. In the example above you could try "Are Tom Sharpe's Wilt books straight comedy or are they a satire on middle-class British culture?" It seems like a backwards way of doing things, but it'll make it easy for you to write a good essay based on the four-step outline given here.