Tips for Writing the Critical Analysis

General points to remember: please follow them rigorously to do a good job and avoid tragic misunderstandings.

1. The title should be interesting and provocative - not something vague, not the title of the literary work, not "Critical Analysis." Do not underline it or put it in quotation marks. Do, however, observe the rules for titles of works you include in your own title (see MLA) as well as in the essay. Basically, short story and short poem titles go in quotation marks; novel and play titles are underlined or italicized. For others, check MLA.

2. Follow MLA for format of headings, headers, and pagination (see Ch. 3 and pp. 292-93 for format).

3. Type in 12-pt. font, double spaced on one side of the page only and leave one inch margins (see MLA and the syllabus). Use left justification only. The length of a critical analysis must be a minimum of 2 FULL pages, and the research paper must be a minimum of 7 FULL pages. ALL PAPERS MUST MEET THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS.

4. Identify the author(s) and title(s) of the work(s) you are studying in the opening paragraph. Use the author's full name the first time you refer to him/her, then just use the last name. Do not use a title like Miss or Mr. - and do not refer to the author by just his/her first name.

5. Write about literature in the present tense. The only reason to use past tense is when you are making a historical or biographical allusion or when you are bringing in an area you have previously discussed in your paper.

6. Do not under any circumstances write a plot summary or a biography of the author. Assume your reader has read the work you are analyzing. If you fin yourself using words like "then" or "next" a lot, you might be writing a plot summary and need to check yourself. You don't want to tell the reader what happened, you want to tell the reader understand WHY something happened, the purpose of the author, how it was accomplished in the work. You see something in the story, play, novel, or poem that other readers may not have. Narrow your focus to that aspect, stay on it, and give the argumentative thesis; then defend it with logic and energy. You are looking for the "universal truth" of the story as you see it and as the author presents it.



7. Remember that you are writing about the work and not yourself. You do not need to use "I" (as in "I think") or "you" (as in "you know"). Use the third person (he/she/they). Express your conviction about the literary work, then give your reasons, examples, illustration, quotes, etc. from the literary work.

8. Do not define literary terms in the text. The reader knows them already.

9. In your Critical Analysis, if you borrow from any secondary critics, be sure to quote them using MLA format. Watch your quotation marks around direct quotations…make sure not to plagiarize, even accidentally! In the research paper, you must quote from all sources listed in your "Works Cited".

10. The literary work should support your observations and impressions. Use appropriate details, examples, quotations, and paraphrases from the text itself - and remember to document as instructed in class and in MLA. Critical analyses must include at least THREE incorporated, documented, and analyzed quotations from the PRIMARY source. Quotations must be incorporated into your text. Never use them as topic sentences or string them back-to-back. You can only use one block quotation, and then only in your research paper.


REMEMBER: All your essays must focus on the texts. I must approve all thesis statements the week before the paper is due. PLEASE proofread and edit papers.


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