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ENGL 1102 - Comp II - THOMPSON: Tips for writing literary analysis/literary criticism

Constructing a Thesis

Click on the links, below for help in constructing an effective thesis.

Writing a Literary Analysis

Tips for writing using literary criticism
1. Some ideas to consider when thinking about a topic
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Dialogue
  • Imagery
  • Figures of speech
  • Tone
  • Rhyme/Rhythm
  • Point of View
  • Metaphor
  • Historical, political, geographical context
  • Critical lens/Literary theory (feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic,etc.)


2. Make sure your topic has sufficient supporting evidence within the text.


3. Make sure you are analyzing something that is debatable/arguable (meaning it is not immediately obvious within the text), so that your analysis will provide the evidence to support your point.

For more information, you may want to check out the Purdue OWL's page on Writing About Literature



Thinking babay

Developing a topic

Try these steps for developing your topic:
Source: Bucks County Community College Tutoring Center:
To write an effective thesis statement, start with a general idea and then sharpen your focus. 
Step 1: Choose a topic, e.g., the poem “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes
Step 2: Focus the topic, e.g., biographical influences in “Theme for English B,”
especially the poet’s race, and how literary critics assess such influences on this
Step 3: Narrow the topic further by posing it as a question. 
E.g., How do critics classify Hughes’s poems, especially those that are related to race?  How did Hughes’s experience as an African American man affect his poetry? What elements in the poem reflect Hughes’s experience as an African American man? 
Step 4: Answer the question.  The answer is your thesis statement. 
E.g., Critics classify Langston Hughes’s work into poems of social and “racial protest” and poems of racial affirmation” (DiYanni 522-523).  “Theme for English B,” however, does not nestle neatly within either category, as it exudes a more complicated tone of both pride and frustration.
**Notice that this thesis statement proposes an argument and specifies particular literary elements that will be analyzed to help substantiate or prove the argument. 
Your thesis statement should be clear and direct and should entice your audience to read further.  Each subsequent paragraph in the body of your paper should support your thesis statement and prove your claim.