An essay is a piece of writing that is typically from an author’s personal point of view. Essays are most often non-fiction, or based on real information. They inform the reader of a topic or issue, and can be objective—not influenced by the author’s personal feelings or opinions—or they can be subjective, which means the ideas presented are based on the author’s personal opinions.

In college you may have to analyze someone else’s essay, or analysis, of a topic or issue. This can be challenging as you go beyond simply reading the author’s point of view to carefully examining the who, what, when,where, why and how of what the person wrote. Analyzing an essay will push you to dig deeper, but it will also help you develop critical thinking skills, which many employers look for in job candidates.

Don’t know how to begin your analysis? Grab a highlighter and follow these six simple steps to thoroughly read, understand and analyze any essay:

  1. With highlighter in hand, read the essay over quickly looking for the author’s main ideas. Circle any words you don’t understand.
  2. After you have read the essay once, check the definitions of any new words and write them at the bottom of the page where the word first appears.
  3. Now, read the essay again and really focus on finding the main idea or thesis. Often, an essayist will state his/her thesis at the beginning of the essay and the following paragraphs support it, or the author will lead up to the thesis and state it at the end.
  4. Once you think you have found the thesis, highlight it and rewrite it in your own words. If you think you found more than one thesis, you will see as you read more closely that they all fit together in some way to form one solid point.
  5. Now reread the essay for structure. Highlight the most important sentence in each paragraph (usually the first sentence). You may find paragraphs that do not seem to contribute significantly to the thesis – these may be illustrations or examples. They are only important as “filler” in an exam.
  6. You now have the skeleton of the author’s argument. In outline form, write out a thesis statement and below it, all of the supporting arguments. You should now really understand the essay and be able to write your own essay analyzing it.

*Can include example essay and outline to write analysis*

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