Writing Terms Glossary
A statement usally made at the end of an introduction that the writer will support throughout the analysis. The thesis is the idea that the writer focuses on and re-enforces in each paragraph and evidence. Depending on the prompt, the thesis should include the author’s name and a theme/thematic term.
The first sentence of a body paragraph that develops a single idea. The topic sentence clearly supports the thesis and is then broken down through reasoning, evidence, and explication throughout the paragraph. Strong topic sentences help keep the organization of an analysis clear and the writer on track.
The first paragraph of an essay or literary analysis. Introductions are commonly started with a broad idea and then get narrowed down. They generally give background info to help the reader understand your argument. Oftentimes, the writer will provide a short summary of the literary work and a brief definition of the theme. The last sentence of an introduction is usually the thesis statement.
The body paragraphs of your essay are the areas where you will support your thesis, and proving your point. The body paragraphs should illustrate close reading, and a firm understanding of the text. Evidence and interpretation belong in the body paragraphs.
· Evidence- the quotes that support the claim made in the thesis. Evidence is commonly illustrated through direct quotes. Evidence should not be too long but should be purposeful.
· Interpretation- the breakdown of evidence. Interpretation follows the evidence, but does not simply summarize it. This is where the writers the text and explain how the evidence operates to support the writers' interpretation. It reflects their own thoughts appropriately.
where ideas from throughout the essay are unified. The conclusion is not simply a summary of the entire analysis, but the paragraph that will leave the reader in a state of enlightenment. The conclusion should reinforce the thesis in different words.
In our website, we also refer to the concept of pre-writing as “inventing.” Pre-writing is the process one takes before beginning formally drafting an essay, or other written work, to help generate ideas. This process is critical as you begin to work on a paper because it allows writers to make a game-plan, so to speak, of how they’ll accomplish their task. Some forms of pre-writing could include practices like free writing, creating thought webs or Venn diagrams, or composing an outline of key ideas. For literary analysis, this often involves comparing your prompt with the piece of literature you’re analyzing, and brainstorming ideas on what you can draw from the text to fulfill the assignment’s expectations. For more information on what it means to pre-write, click here to discover the “inventing” section of our website.
Making pre-writing work for you is all about understanding what you personally need to get a good start on your writing process. This doesn’t mean that you have to complete a specific regimen, or follow particular steps, but it does mean that you use strategies that will beneficial for your personally, and for that specific writing assignment, to get started. For me, many times this means that I’m just making an outline of key ideas to discuss, or maybe listing some of the most important concepts from the piece I might want delve into more deeply. Depending on the nature of my assignment, that format will change. If I’m doing a comparative piece, I may make a Venn diagram to get the basic ideas onto paper, and then later maybe outline them. For understanding how certain literary elements contribute to theme, I may list each important element I find in the text, and then categorize particular examples under each type in a list-format. This would help me later to find my supporting evidence for my argument. Understanding the kind of work you’re doing, and then working to make that process as simple, and as effective as possible is the basis of figuring out how to pre-write effectively. Once you understand the information you need, it should be easier to gather examples from the text that support that.
For some literary analysis assignments, it can be helpful to journal as you work to both collect your thoughts, and to set goals for your writing process. For literary analysis, completing double entry journals while you read can be hugely beneficial once you start writing. In this process, you include a quotation that you find intriguing (whether for diction, characterization, theme, or other factors you may write about later) on one side of the page, and a short analysis of that quote on the other. This will help you later when you’re beginning to draft and collect evidence to support your argument. Gathering this information as you read rather than after the fact can help make the writing process much smoother and less painful. You can also journal to log your process on a particular assignment to track your habits as a writer, and keep up with your progress toward specific goals.
Analysis can be a tricky concept for some students because it describes not only the type of work you’re writing, but also a specific process within the writing that lends itself to critical consideration of the text. Literary analysis is carefully considering the text both to discern meaning, and to understand the function of a given literary device used in the text. Analysis of a specific quotation from a text can entail looking closely at the writer’s word choice, tone, and looking for specific literary devices like simile, metaphor, personification, and others. While these parts of the text are important, true analysis is discussing how and why the author included those pieces in the text as a whole. Overall, as literary critics and analyzers, we are interested in the function and the “so what?” aspect of the quotation. To craft a quality literary analysis, we have to look past the obvious, and think critically to explore the reasoning for its existence in the first place.
You truly can’t write any sort of paper, whether it’s a persuasive piece, an analysis, or even creative work, without having some form of supporting evidence to give your argument, or your idea, legs. In terms of writing about literature, supporting evidence is usually direct quotations or paraphrase from within the passage you’re working with. Supporting evidence is how you back yourself up, and show your reader you know what you’re talking about. For example, if I wanted to write a paper on why I think cats are the greatest pets in the world, my readers, especially my dog-loving ones, wouldn’t be satisfied simply with that statement. They expect me to give some sort of valid reasoning to support the claim I made. Even though this example seems silly and trivial, it translates directly into writing about literature. You can’t just write “Harper Lee, in her acclaimed novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, uses foreshadowing and imagery to illustrate the theme that prejudice and racism can create grievous consequences for those who practice them,” without giving some sort of textual evidence to back you up. In a thesis statement like that one, you would need to have several examples of both imagery and foreshadowing that demonstrated this connection to the theme you’ve decided to touch on. Without these examples, it just seems to readers that you’re pulling opinions out of thin air. The evidence helps you solidify your points as factual and fact-based.
One of the hardest parts of finding evidence for a particular writing prompt is going back and looking after the fact, especially if you haven’t annotated as you read. To prevent difficulties and issues in this process, make sure to practice good note-taking practices, through things like journaling, or just plain annotating, as you go.
Free-writing is a part of the brainstorming/pre-paper-writing process that can help you feel more on-track and ready to begin drafting. Free-writing is just the part of the process when the writer sits down and puts words and ideas on a page with very little specific organization. The goal here is to simply generate ideas, and provide yourself with the raw material for moving forward and starting to outline or even draft your paper. For some people, this can be very neat and structured, with ideas carefully arranged into categories; for others though, this part of the process is just a good ol’ word vomit onto either a blank piece of paper, or onto a clean word document. Essentially, the only rule is that you should come out of this period with more ideas and more physical material than you started with. This is a great way to figure out what specific ideas of a text you’re most interested in working with or researching, or even understanding what you may already know the most about. The best thing about this process is that you, as the writer, can make it whatever you want or need it to be for your own routine. In this phase of the process, just do you!
Revising is a critical part of the paper-writing process for writers at all levels. Following peer-review, or even a one-on-one conference with your teacher or professor, you will probably have some notes about content to add, remove, or reorganize so that your paper flows more nicely. Making these important content changes, as well as those you may identify through your own reviewing, is the process of revising. As you work to correct and change key content pieces of your work, like bulking up a quotation analysis, or choosing new supporting evidence (quotations, paraphrase, or summary) from your text, you ultimately get your paper closer to your final copy. Taking time to review your work and go through this process is the best way for writers to ensure that their papers are both organized, and focused. Going through revisions allows writers to revisit tricky points, and to even catch errors you may not have noticed while writing. Before submitting any paper, always make sure to at least look over your work yourself so you can smooth these things over.
Sometimes, revisions can happen on the computer screen before you print your first big draft, but it can often be helpful, once you have a completed draft, to print it off and scan with a bright-colored ink pen. I find that reading on paper after staring at a screen for hours at a time can help me think about my work more critically, and more carefully. For more in-depth explanations of how to carry out the revision process on your own paper, and to get more tips on completing this process effectively, click here.
Conferencing is an extremely valuable tool for writers as in the process of polishing their work for submission. This process involves bringing your paper, in whatever state it’s in, to a meeting between you as the writer, and your teacher or professor for discussion. Since conferencing can occur at different stages of the writing process, what happens at the meeting depends on what you need at that moment. For example, I’ve scheduled conferences with my professors before when I had very little work done on my paper outside of a rough outline. At this stage, conferencing can be helpful for gaining ideas on how to move forward in your work; it could be about finding supporting evidence for your claims, figuring out what to do with the evidence you’ve accumulated, or building a quality thesis statement. In later stages of the process, such as drafting, conferencing is beneficial for getting feedback on what you’ve already written (before you have to turn it in for a grade), and to make sure you’re on the right track. This is important, especially if you have questions or confusions about the assignment because your teacher can help provide important clarifications for what they want you to include moving forward. Conferencing at the final stage of the writing process can bring writers a level of direction for revising and editing—a professor or teacher may notice small, harder to identify errors, like those of organization or flow, which you as the writer may not. Having an extremely experienced set of eyes on your work at this point can help with the polishing and perfecting process.
While conferencing can be a great tool for writers, it does require you to do a little extra leg-work to make it the most of both yours, and your professor’s time. To make the most of the experience, make sure to come into the meeting with specific questions or points of concern about your paper. If you’re vague in your questions, or unsure of what you need help with, your professor can’t help you as well. Providing them with an idea of where you feel you’re struggling can give them a sense of direction as they’re reading and reviewing, and can help them give you useful advice. You should also make sure you have copies of your work (at whatever stage it’s in) for both you and your professor. While you could send it in electronically if you’re professor/teacher agrees, I recommend having a paper copy. This can help you both see things you may miss on the computer screen, and is a great note-taking tool for you as you go back and revise and edit after the conference.
Like conferencing, peer-review is all about meeting up with someone else, who has fresh eyes about the work, to get feedback. In this case, however, you would meet with a classmate, student tutor, or other peer to get guidance for moving forward in the writing process.
Peer-review can take place at any stage of writing, and is a discussion about what you may need at that point. If you’re in the planning stage, and maybe just have a general idea, or an outline of your tentative plan, peer-review can be a time to bounce ideas off of each other, or textual evidence to support your claims, or even work toward building a strong thesis statement. Later on, once you have an outline, or even a draft, peer review can be a time to assess the level of the analysis you’ve already completed, and make sure you’re on the right track for moving forward.
Once the draft is mostly completed, peer-review is a great way to get revisions and edits for your paper—your peer can help you work through the nitty-gritty of establishing good organization and clear flow, and even help correct small, grammatical or typing errors throughout the work. Overall, peer-review can be helpful because it allows you the opportunity to talk through your ideas and thoughts about the paper with someone who 1) is not grading you, and therefore, is free of pressure, and 2) to get the perspective and opinion of someone who is a little removed from the process.
After working hard on writing your paper, you may not be in the place to comb over your work again and again to catch small errors. Someone who has not had these ideas on their mind for several days at a time will be better able to help you sift through the small stuff.
After reading an essay prompt, or maybe a rubric, you may have noticed a section titled “organization,” and felt confused about what that means. Thankfully, the concept of organization in a paper-writing standpoint is quite straight-forward: for a paper to be organized, it’s sentences, paragraphs, and ultimately, the work as a whole fit together, and are ordered in a way that makes sense for the reader, and helps them to get from point A to point B effectively.
To ensure you’re creating a well-organized paper, you should start your writing process by creating an outline, and framing the rest of your work under sections of the outline where they seem to fit best. This structure creates the general backbone of your work, and helps give you a format to follow. Once you’ve broken your ideas into sections, or eventual paragraphs, on the outline form, you’ll want to construct a thesis statement that presents your ideas in the same order that they appear on the outline. Building a thesis around these ideas helps your readers know what to expect as they begin to read your paper, and thus, increase your organization.
Once you’ve built your thesis statement and know what each paragraph to follow will be about, organization has to happen within those paragraphs to continue the flow you’ve established. Within paragraphs, creating clear, explicit topic sentences, following them with supporting evidence from the text, analysis of that evidence, and then a clear concluding sentence that ties back to the topic sentence will help to achieve that. You’ll follow this pattern for all of your paragraphs, and conclude the paper by tying all the ideas back together, and back to your thesis. By always making sure to connect each smaller part to the larger ideas you present in your thesis, you’ll create an argument that is effectively organized, and structured in a way that will improve your argument.
Audience, in writing literary analysis, can mean two things: 1) the author of the literature’s audience, or 2) your audience as a writer of analysis. It’s important to consider the author’s audience because that can determine both the words the author uses, and the message they’re trying to convey. For example, the meaning of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” drastically changes if you as a reader understand Swift’s audience—the piece is a satire discussing how to effectively combat famine and malnourishment in Ireland: by eating babies. Not understanding his target demographic at the time, the English people who don’t seem to care, readers may think he’s completely serious, and seriously disturbed. This is not the case, though, because he uses his audience and their beliefs, and crafts a satire around that to shift their perspective on the issue he raises. Identifying and understanding the audience, with literature, can take a little bit of research and investigative work on your part—however, it’s worth it for understanding all of the author’s nuances and ideas within the piece.
You can also approach audience from the standpoint of you as a writer, doing literary analysis. In any paper you write, whether you realize it or not, you consider audience. You wouldn’t use informal, slang-filled language in writing a literary analysis because you realize that your professor or teacher wouldn’t like that very much. Deciding who you’re trying to target, and what you’re trying to accomplish in targeting them is the key to deciding what sort of tone to take, what words to use, and how to structure and frame your argument. If I was writing a literary analysis, I would make sure to create a structured, well-organized argument that uses professional, formal language and strong diction. However, if I was writing a personal essay or an informal letter, I may soften up, and use less rigid language and form. Knowing who you’re talking to, and what they would be more receptive of based on the circumstances, is a key part of addressing your audience effectively in any piece of writing.
If organization is all about structuring your paper in a way that makes everything fit together nicely, unity is the result of that. Though unity can mean several things, you’ll encounter it most often in your writing in terms of how your individual sentences, and then paragraphs fit together. A good, unified paragraph has a specific topic sentence, and then all subsequent sentences work to prove that point. In a unified paragraph, there would be no extra, stray sentences without a home. They all fit together to prove your point. In ensuring you build unity in your paragraphs, you can model your paragraphs around your supporting evidence. When I write a paper, I decide on a key idea, make that into a topic sentence, and then choose textual evidence to back those ideas up. Then, once I have those pieces, I add the analysis, which creates the “so what” of my argument. To finish up the paragraph and make sure it’s polished, go back and add transitional phrases to make sure the ideas flow together in a way that makes sense, and add a conclusion sentence that wraps everything up nicely. Writing your entire paper, then, follows this same procedure, just on a larger scale.
Think of your intro paragraph as one big topic sentence, and then your body paragraphs as three opportunities to support those ideas. Then, you tie it all up with a bow in the conclusion, and remind your audience how it all comes together. Incorporating strong topic sentences and a strong thesis, and then tapering through this process in each paragraph helps to establish unity, and helps make sure every sentence in every paragraph is always supporting the same goal: to prove your thesis.
These bare-bones and ideas are critical in creating a unified argument, but to put the finishing touches on the paper, you’ll also need to make sure to add in transitions and concluding statements (whether sentences, or a paragraph, depending on the context). These features help create a flow in your argument, and make sure everything connects effectively.
Purpose is applicable both to your writing, and to the works you’re reading. An author’s purpose when writing is, essentially, the goals they hope to accomplish through their work. No matter what you read, whether its literature, an advertisement, or even your favorite internet meme, everything has a purpose. For advertisements, the goal may be to get you to buy a specific product, or to believe in a certain idea. In the case of memes and other similar media, the author’s purpose may have been not only to entertain, but also to make the readers/viewers think about a social issue, or other big-picture idea.
Though you could probably pick any text and decide whether the author’s purpose was to inform, entertain, or question readers on a given idea, it’s more important to get to the bigger goal. What specifically was the author hoping to achieve, and what features and devices did they use to communicate that? For example, with the novel The Great Gatsby, I could assume that it’s just a story meant to entertain me with tales about riches and romance. However, more than that, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s larger purpose in Gatsby could be to explore the realm of the rich and successful from an outsider’s perspective, and offer insights to explain the lives of those who live within it.
Knowing how to talk about purpose is important for understanding what your teachers might want as you begin the preliminary process of analyzing a text. Understanding the message, or messages, they’re trying to convey through their work can change your perspective on the reading, and enhance your understanding overall. In your own writing, your purpose is essentially to prove your thesis throughout the paper. Think of the thesis statement as a purpose statement, and work throughout your paper, with textual evidence and analysis, to support your claims as plausible and valid.
Making your Writing Process Work for You
"Personally, I find the hardest part of writing is knowing how and where to start. Using this glossary, I hope you'll gain a better understanding, not only of the mechanics of these concepts, but of how to make them effective for you in your own writing. Sitting down and getting a draft started doesn't have to be scary or painful--using these techniques, and incorporating them effectively into your practice, you'll be able to breeze through every part of the writing process from start to finish." -Allie