Shmoop Writing Guide

Type: Analysis Essay
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Type: Analysis Essay

What's the Point?: Here's a quick look at what analysis essays try to accomplish.

Imagine one of those old ship-in-a-bottle decorations. How exactly did they get that boat in there? How did the bow, mast, sails, and pristine miniature crow’s nest fit through the tiny bottleneck? To puzzle out the problem, you have to stop thinking about how the whole thing fits and start thinking about how each individual part was placed into the bottle to create the overall effect. That’s the idea behind analysis. Looking at any whole—a written source, an image, an idea, a policy—analysis asks what the parts of it are and how they come together to accomplish their purpose. Analysis closely examines individual words, sentences, aspects, origins, intentions, and angles in order to understand the meaning or significance of the whole.

Sample Prompts: These are a few typical analysis essay prompts. Do any of them look familiar?

  • Analyze the state of the union address to determine how aspects of its oratory style affect its meaning and its impact on the listener.
  • Do reality TV shows perpetuate negative racial stereotypes? Consider a specific example. For example, you could analyze the representation of the Italian-Americans of New Jersey in Jersey Shore to determine whether it promotes negative stereotypes or represents Italian Americans in a fair and nuanced fashion. Bonus points if you just read that last sentence without spitting up any of your soda.
  • Analyze an advertising campaign. You might choose, for example, Axe’s Dark Temptation campaign and write about how it uses the stereotypical relationship between women and chocolate to sell cologne to men through images and taglines. What? We didn’t even notice. We were concentrating too much on the product.

Key Words: If one of these words has been used a lot in the essay assignment or your class discussion, you might be working on an analysis essay.

  • Examine
  • Critique
  • Deconstruct
  • Decode
  • Interpret
  • Explain