Essential writing rules on how to write a literary analysis essay

The literary analysis is an important piece of writing which requires you to review all of the related literature to your topic. Your purpose in doing so is to analyze what literature exists to date related to your topic or your theme and determine where there are any gaps or if one author makes a more valid claim substantiated by evidence than another. It is an opportunity as a student to expose yourself to the work that professionals in your field have completed and to review it critically. It is also a chance for you to learn valuable research and note-taking skills.

Once you know what you should be looking for when you begin researching and reading. Facts and theories which provide an answer to your question are perfect, while opinions given without fact are not. If the opinion is whether a specific answer or solution is viable or not, and it comes from an expert in the field, is perfectly fine though.

As you write your notes, it is important that you avoid writing too much. So often students run into issues with plagiarism, or simply lack adequate unique ideas in their work because they write too much down in their notes. When it comes time to produce a paper, the essay becomes a patchwork of ideas borrowed from other writers and not an expression of unique thinking. Therefore, your time spent researching should be a collective effort to understand the sources and to integrate the sources into personal knowledge and thinking. It should not be a time to merely copy entire paragraphs and weave together an essay from the remarks of others alone. Note cards should record ideas which are relevant to a topic and they should summarize information more often than quoting it.

Remember these tips while taking notes:

  • Only write exact words copied from a text if the ideas are surprisingly expressed or the phrasing is memorable; these can be used as actual quotes in the final essay.
  • Compress ideas using your words. Paraphrasing something word for word is wasteful of your time. Instead, take the most important ideas and use them as a heading or label and then fill in some sub-points below.
  • Avoid underlining and highlighting as your only source of note taking. This is a good resource and method of studying to be sure, but when researching for a paper it would behoove you to write your own words in a sticky note or in the margin.