How to write a literary essay

How to write a literary essay
How to write a literary essay

When you do literature in high school or college, you will need to write essays. This exercise may seem extremely difficult to you, but it doesn't have to be. If you set aside enough time to organize and develop your work well, you won't have to worry!


Part 1 of 4: Prepare

Write an English Essay Step 1

Step 1. Take your time

Allow enough time to write. You cannot compose a good literary essay in 10 min. Give yourself plenty of time to write the text and reread it. Also, try to take breaks between different versions or parts. However, if you have a deadline or a limited time, you will need to optimize the time you have.

Write an English Essay Step 2

Step 2. Write

It is important to prepare yourself for the writing job, but at some point you will be required to start writing your ideas. Remember that you can always make changes afterwards and that is part of the exercise.

Write an English Essay Step 3

Step 3. Find a problem

This is one of the most important elements in an essay. The issue summarizes the main argument or point of view in the essay in one sentence (usually in the form of a question). It lets the reader know what you will try to demonstrate or explain through your work. Everything in the essay should have a clear link to the issue.

  • Your teacher will expect to see a well-articulated issue early on in the essay. Place it near the end of the intro.
  • If you don't know how to formulate a problem, ask your teacher for help. This is an important element that you will need to include in many school and university assignments.
Write an English Essay Step 4

Step 4. Write the introduction

Once you have a good idea, use it to structure the rest of the introduction. If you don't know how to go about it yet, you can wait until you have written the main paragraphs of the essay. The best introductions appeal to the reader in such a way that they want to read on. Here are some helpful tips for composing an effective introduction.

  • Tell a personal anecdote.
  • Present a surprising fact or statistic.
  • Challenge a common misconception.
  • Encourage the reader to think about their own misconceptions.
Write an English Essay Step 5

Step 5. Make a plan

Determine the basic structure that you will give to your essay. This can help keep you from getting lost when composing your drafts. Proofread your notes and writing exercises and think about how you can sort all of this information in a coherent way. Determine which items should appear first, second, third, etc.

  • You can make a numbered outline in word processing software or just write it by hand on paper.
  • Don't try to jot down too much detail in the plan. For now, just write down your main ideas.

Part 2 of 4: make a draft

Write an English Essay Step 6

Step 1. Gather your notes

Before you begin writing, gather all of your notes along with the books and other documents you need to consult to compose an effective essay. It is essential to have sources to write a good literary essay. Don't try to write without any reference. If you have time, reread your notes before you start.

Also make sure you have your plan on hand. You will be able to develop each of the big ideas in it in the order you chose to write the essay content

Write an English Essay Step 7

Step 2. Introduce paragraphs

Open each new part with an introductory sentence to let the reader know what the argument will be. It is important to start each paragraph in this way so that your teacher sees that your ideas follow a clear and direct progression.

  • See the introductory sentence as a way to tell the reader what you are going to talk about in the paragraph. There is no need to summarize the entire paragraph. Simply present the main idea that you are going to develop there.
  • For example, in a paragraph dealing with Julien Sorel's social journey in Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir, you can start by writing: “Julien comes from a very modest family, but manages to find his place in the world of the bourgeoisie thanks to its studies and its intellectual qualities. "
Write an English Essay Step 8

Step 3. Develop your ideas

Explore them to the fullest. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible in your essay. Don't just beef up your copy with meaningless text or unnecessarily long sentences. This is a very bad approach, because your teacher will notice it right away. He has undoubtedly read hundreds of copies in the course of his career and he will be able to recognize very well a full essay without relevant information. Choose useful and relevant details to compose your work. If you're running out of ideas, the following tips may help.

  • Come back to the inventive step.

    Do exercises such as free writing, writing lists, or forming idea groups. You can also reread your notes or books to see if there are any items you forgot.

  • Get help.

    You can find help groups at your school or university to help you improve your writing at any stage of the writing process.

  • Consult your teacher.

    Talk to him at the end of a class or make an appointment to ask him how you can improve your essay before handing it in.

Write an English Essay Step 9

Step 4. Cite your sources

Present them in the right way. If you cite sources in your work, you should respect the format desired by your teacher. For this, we most often follow the ISO 690 standard in France. It is therefore important to familiarize yourself with this format. Provide a detailed bibliography at the end (if requested) as well as citations within the text.

  • Write the bibliography on a separate page at the end of the essay. Introduce each source you cited or used. You must indicate all the information making it possible to find the cited work easily.
  • When making citations within the essay, you should include the author's name, the title of the work, and the page number. Whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize someone else's words, it is imperative that you provide your source. After the citation, write the name of the author, the title of the work and the page where the cited information is located.
Write an English Essay Step 10

Step 5. Go to the conclusion

Generally, the information in an essay follows one another, going from the most general to the most specific. You can represent this organization as a triangle with the point down. When you come to the conclusion, the information you present there should seem inevitable. This paragraph mainly serves to summarize everything you tried to demonstrate in the essay. However, you can also use it for something else. The conclusion can allow you to:

  • clarify or complicate the information in your work;
  • suggest further research needed;
  • make assumptions about how the future will change the present situation.

Part 3 of 4: proofread the essay

Write an English Essay Step 11

Step 1. Allow enough time

It is not advisable to start the essay at the last moment. Try to set aside at least 2-3 days to review your work. It's important to leave it on for a day or two after you've finished writing. This way you will have a new look when you read yourself again.

Write an English Essay Step 12

Step 2. Improve the content

Do it first. Some people focus on grammar and punctuation when reviewing an essay, but that's less important than polishing the content. Try to answer the problem in as much detail as possible. Review the essay topic and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Have I answered the subject's question in a way that I am satisfied with?
  • Have I presented my problem clearly? Is it at the heart of my work?
  • Have I provided sufficient examples to support my arguments? Is there anything I can add?
  • Does my essay make sense? Do the ideas follow one another in a coherent way? If not, how can I improve the consistency of the whole?
Write an English Essay Step 13

Step 3. Get proofread

Have a friend or classmate read your essay. This can be very helpful, as it's possible that someone else will spot simple errors or notice something that you forgot because you focused too much on the document.

  • Try to trade with someone in your class. Each will be able to read and comment on the other's essay so that you both can make sure you did the best job possible.
  • Exchange your essays at least a day before you have to turn them in so you have enough time to correct any mistakes your classmate spots.
Write a Speech Introducing Yourself Step 10

Step 4. Read the text aloud

This can help you spot simple mistakes that you might not have noticed otherwise. Slowly read your essay aloud. Keep a pencil on hand or get ready to make changes in your word processing software.

As you read on, correct any mistakes you notice and write down anything you think you can improve. For example, you may need to add details or clarify the language

Part 4 of 4: Organize the essay

Write an English Essay Step 15

Step 1. Analyze the subject

Take the time to read the question or instruction that serves as the essay topic and ask yourself what you are being asked to do. Underline key words like "describe", "compare", "contrast", "explain", "argue" or "suggest." Also underline any major themes or ideas you need to explore, such as freedom, family, love, failure, etc.

If you don't understand the topic, don't hesitate to ask your teacher to explain it. It is important that you have a clear idea of ​​what to do before you get down to business

Write an English Essay Step 16

Step 2. Consider your readership

Your teacher will be the primary reader of your essay. It will therefore be important to think about your needs and expectations before you start. He will want to find some basic elements in your work, such as:

  • a detailed response that correctly responds to the problem;
  • clear, direct writing that is easy to follow;
  • a work well presented without small errors like typos or spelling mistakes.
Write an English Essay Step 17

Step 3. Think about what information to provide

After thinking about your teacher's expectations, take the time to think about how you can achieve the overall goal. Think about what you will need to include in the essay.

  • For example, if you have to write about a character in a novel, you will need to provide a lot of details about them. For that, it will undoubtedly be necessary to reread certain passages of the work and to review the notes which you took in class.
  • To make sure your work is easy to follow, you need to check that there is a logical order in the progression of ideas. For that, make a plan and make sure that the organization is coherent.
  • Start early so you have plenty of time to correct yourself. Try to complete the first draft about a week before you are due to hand in the essay.
Write an English Essay Step 18

Step 4. Develop your ideas

Invention exercises can help you bring out details you already know, which can be very helpful in starting the essay. Here are some useful invention exercises.

  • Free writing: write as much as you can without stopping. If you can't think of anything, write “I can't find anything to write about” until something occurs to you. When you are finished, read everything you have written and underline any information that you can use in the essay.
  • The lists: Make a list of all the details and information relevant to the topic of the essay. When you have written down everything you can think of, read the list and circle the most important ideas.
  • Ideas groups: Write the essay topic in the center of a page. Write down other ideas related to this topic all around. Circle them and connect them to the central idea with lines. Continue until you can't think of any more.
Write an English Essay Step 19

Step 5. Do some research

If you have been asked to do research for your essay, do so before you start working on your ideas. Use the resources in your CDI or university library and other sources to find the best information possible for your job.

  • Books, academic articles, articles from trusted sources such as national newspapers, and government or university websites are good sources for literary dissertations.
  • Many teachers rate the quality of the research. If you cite unreliable sources, such as blogs, then you may lose points.
  • If you doubt the quality of a source, ask your teacher or a librarian if it is serious.

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