What Is an Analytical Essay?

Marlene de Wilde

An analytical essay is one in which the writer examines a theme and interprets the strengths and weaknesses of various claims, assumptions and opinions surrounding it. It is a reasoned response to a question rather than a giving of opinion or description. The main purpose of the essay is to assist the reader in gaining a better understanding of the subject matter.

A successful analytical essay will be planned and written with a specific audience in mind.
A successful analytical essay will be planned and written with a specific audience in mind.

A well-developed analytical essay centers around a logical argument that develops throughout the essay. There should be evidence of logic and analysis and on many occasions, before a sound analysis can be made, research should have been carried out. A strong analytical essay begins with a thesis statement which is a sentence or two explaining the central argument in the first paragraph, after a more general introduction of the topic.

In order to be of interest to the reader, the argument needs to be made in such a way that makes it obvious that the subject is one that needs to be explored. The rest of the essay, or body, follows in a logical progression from the introduction. Paragraphs in the body of an analytical essay should contain a topic sentence, usually but not always in the opening sentence, which states clearly how the paragraph relates to the main argument stated in the introduction. The remainder of the paragraph justifies, gives examples or reasons and supports the argument according to the topic paragraph.

The conclusion of an analytical essay is just as important as the introduction. There should be a reiteration of the thesis statement given in the introduction; not merely a repetition of it but a rewording that strengthens the original thesis but does not offer anything new to the argument. The conclusion should also summarize the text in a sentence or two. The more interesting the final sentences of an essay are, the more impact the words will have on the reader.

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A successful analytical essay will be planned and written with a specific audience in mind. Different styles are needed for readers who are still at school and readers who work in an academic setting or business. Due to the fact that the argument needs to be logical and well thought out, the style most suitable for this kind of essay is formal and impersonal but this depends on who the readers will be. However, as a rule, essays are generally formal as they are written in response to a specific question for a specific audience.

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