• Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write an Essay

I. What is an Essay?

An essay is a form of writing in paragraph form that uses informal language, although it can be written formally. Essays may be written in first-person point of view (I, ours, mine), but third-person (people, he, she) is preferable in most academic essays. Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper.

When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion. Sixth and seventh graders may start out with three paragraph essays in order to learn the concepts. However, essays may be longer than five paragraphs. Essays are easier and quicker to read than books, so are a preferred way to express ideas and concepts when bringing them to public attention.

II. Examples of Essays

Many of our most famous Americans have written essays. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson wrote essays about being good citizens and concepts to build the new United States. In the pre-Civil War days of the 1800s, people such as:

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (an author) wrote essays on self-improvement
  • Susan B. Anthony wrote on women’s right to vote
  • Frederick Douglass wrote on the issue of African Americans’ future in the U.S.

Through each era of American history, well-known figures in areas such as politics, literature, the arts, business, etc., voiced their opinions through short and long essays.

The ultimate persuasive essay that most students learn about and read in social studies is the “Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Other founding fathers edited and critiqued it, but he drafted the first version. He builds a strong argument by stating his premise (claim) then proceeds to give the evidence in a straightforward manner before coming to his logical conclusion.

III. Types of Essays

A. expository.

Essays written to explore and explain ideas are called expository essays (they expose truths). These will be more formal types of essays usually written in third person, to be more objective. There are many forms, each one having its own organizational pattern.  Cause/Effect essays explain the reason (cause) for something that happens after (effect). Definition essays define an idea or concept. Compare/ Contrast essays will look at two items and show how they are similar (compare) and different (contrast).

b. Persuasive

An argumentative paper presents an idea or concept with the intention of attempting to change a reader’s mind or actions . These may be written in second person, using “you” in order to speak to the reader. This is called a persuasive essay. There will be a premise (claim) followed by evidence to show why you should believe the claim.

c. Narrative

Narrative means story, so narrative essays will illustrate and describe an event of some kind to tell a story. Most times, they will be written in first person. The writer will use descriptive terms, and may have paragraphs that tell a beginning, middle, and end in place of the five paragraphs with introduction, body, and conclusion. However, if there is a lesson to be learned, a five-paragraph may be used to ensure the lesson is shown.

d. Descriptive

The goal of a descriptive essay is to vividly describe an event, item, place, memory, etc. This essay may be written in any point of view, depending on what’s being described. There is a lot of freedom of language in descriptive essays, which can include figurative language, as well.

IV. The Importance of Essays

Essays are an important piece of literature that can be used in a variety of situations. They’re a flexible type of writing, which makes them useful in many settings . History can be traced and understood through essays from theorists, leaders, artists of various arts, and regular citizens of countries throughout the world and time. For students, learning to write essays is also important because as they leave school and enter college and/or the work force, it is vital for them to be able to express themselves well.

V. Examples of Essays in Literature

Sir Francis Bacon was a leading philosopher who influenced the colonies in the 1600s. Many of America’s founding fathers also favored his philosophies toward government. Bacon wrote an essay titled “Of Nobility” in 1601 , in which he defines the concept of nobility in relation to people and government. The following is the introduction of his definition essay. Note the use of “we” for his point of view, which includes his readers while still sounding rather formal.

 “We will speak of nobility, first as a portion of an estate, then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people, somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men’s eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business’ sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion, and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects. The united provinces of the Low Countries, in their government, excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes, more cheerful. A great and potent nobility, addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well, when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them, before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty, and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity, that many of the nobility fall, in time, to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion, between honor and means.”

A popular modern day essayist is Barbara Kingsolver. Her book, “Small Wonders,” is full of essays describing her thoughts and experiences both at home and around the world. Her intention with her essays is to make her readers think about various social issues, mainly concerning the environment and how people treat each other. The link below is to an essay in which a child in an Iranian village she visited had disappeared. The boy was found three days later in a bear’s cave, alive and well, protected by a mother bear. She uses a narrative essay to tell her story.

VI. Examples of Essays in Pop Culture

Many rap songs are basically mini essays, expressing outrage and sorrow over social issues today, just as the 1960s had a lot of anti-war and peace songs that told stories and described social problems of that time. Any good song writer will pay attention to current events and express ideas in a creative way.

A well-known essay written in 1997 by Mary Schmich, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, was made into a popular video on MTV by Baz Luhrmann. Schmich’s thesis is to wear sunscreen, but she adds strong advice with supporting details throughout the body of her essay, reverting to her thesis in the conclusion.

Baz Luhrmann - Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen

VII. Related Terms

Research paper.

Research papers follow the same basic format of an essay. They have an introductory paragraph, the body, and a conclusion. However, research papers have strict guidelines regarding a title page, header, sub-headers within the paper, citations throughout and in a bibliography page, the size and type of font, and margins. The purpose of a research paper is to explore an area by looking at previous research. Some research papers may include additional studies by the author, which would then be compared to previous research. The point of view is an objective third-person. No opinion is allowed. Any claims must be backed up with research.

VIII. Conclusion

Students dread hearing that they are going to write an essay, but essays are one of the easiest and most relaxed types of writing they will learn. Mastering the essay will make research papers much easier, since they have the same basic structure. Many historical events can be better understood through essays written by people involved in those times. The continuation of essays in today’s times will allow future historians to understand how our new world of technology and information impacted us.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, definition of essay.

An essay is a short piece writing, either formal or informal, which expresses the author’s argument about a particular subject. A formal essay has a serious purpose and highly structured organization, while an informal essay may contain humor, personal recollections and anecdotes, and any sort of organization or form which the author wants. Note that while a formal essay has a more detached tone, it can also represent the author’s personal opinions and be written from the author’s point of view . Essays are shorter than a thesis or dissertation, and thus deal with the matter at hand in a limited way. Essays can deal with many different themes, such as analysis of a text, political opinions, scientific ideas, abstract concepts, fragments of autobiography, and so on.

The word essay comes from the French word essayer , which means “to try” or “to attempt.” A sixteenth-century Frenchman named Michel de Montaigne was the first to create the modern-day definition of essay when he called his writing exercises essays, meaning that he was simply “trying” to get his thoughts on paper.

Common Examples of Essay

Essays are a mainstay of many educational systems around the world. Most essays include some form of analysis and argument, and thus develop a student’s critical thinking skills. Essays require a student to understand what he or she has read or learned well enough to write about it, and thus they are a good tool for ensuring that students have internalized the material. Tests such as the SATs and GREs include a very important essay section. Essays also can be important for admission to university programs and even to be hired for certain jobs.

There are many popular magazines which feature intellectual essays as a core part of their offerings, such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harper’s Magazine .

Significance of Essay in Literature

Many famous writers and thinkers have also written numerous examples of essays. For instance, the treatises of the philosophers Plutarch, Cicero, and Seneca are all early forms of essay writing. Essay writing might seem dull to school children, but in fact the form has become extremely popular, often converging with a type of writing called “creative non-fiction.” Authors are able to explore complex concepts through anecdote , evidence , and exploration. An author may want to persuade his or her audience to accept a central idea, or simply describe what he or she has experienced. Below you will find examples of essays from famous writers.

Examples of Essay in Literature

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

(“Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist and poet who was a part of the Transcendentalist movement and who believed strongly in the importance of individualism and self-reliance. The above essay example, in fact, is titled “Self-Reliance,” and encourages human beings to trust themselves and strike out on their own.

Yet, because he was so small, and so simple a form of the energy that was rolling in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings, there was something marvelous as well as pathetic about him. It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life. Thus displayed one could not get over the strangeness of it. One is apt to forget all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered so that it has to move with the greatest circumspection and dignity. Again, the thought of all that life might have been had he been born in any other shape caused one to view his simple activities with a kind of pity.

(“The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf)

Virginia Woolf’s essay “The Death of the Moth” describes the simplest of experiences—her watching a moth die. And yet, due to her great descriptive powers, Woolf makes the experience seem nontrivial.

Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

(“Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell)

George Orwell’s marvelous essay “Shooting an Elephant” tells the story of when he was a police officer in Lower Burma and was asked to deal with an elephant wandering through a market. Orwell brilliantly extrapolates his role in shooting and killing the animal to the effects of Imperialism and the British Empire.

Not that it’s profound, but I’m struck, amid the pig’s screams and wheezes, by the fact that these agricultural pros do not see their stock as pets or friends. They are just in the agribusiness of weight and meat. They are unconnected, even at the fair’s self-consciously special occasion of connection. And why not?—even at the fair their products continue to drool and smell and scream, and the work goes on. I can imagine what they think of us, cooing at the swine: we fairgoers don’t have to deal with the business of breeding and feeding our meat; our meat simply materializes at the corn-dog stand, allowing us to separate our healthy appetites from fur and screams and rolling eyes. We tourists get to indulge our tender animal-rights feelings with our tummies full of bacon. I don’t know how keen these sullen farmers’ sense of irony is, but mine’s been honed East Coast keen, and I feel like a bit of an ass in the Swine Barn.

(“Ticket to the Fair” by David Foster Wallace)

David Foster Wallace wrote many famous essays as well as novels; he often looks at modern life with a heightened attention to detail and different perspectives. In the essay “Ticket to the Fair,” he visits a fair and describes what he sees and feels, including the excerpt above where he considers the different way he and the farmers at the fair feel about animals.

Test Your Knowledge of Essay

1. Which of the following statements is the best essay definition? A. A research project of many tens of thousands of words concerning a particular argument. B. A short piece of writing that expresses the author’s opinion or perspective on a subject. C. A strict and highly organized piece of writing that doesn’t contain the author’s own opinion.

2. Which of the following is not likely to be featured in an example of essay? A. A political opinion B. An anecdote C. A fable

3. Which of the following statements is true? A. Essays are found in many intellectual magazines. B. Essays are only used in school settings. C. Essays are always boring.

The Essay: History and Definition

Attempts at Defining Slippery Literary Form

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

"One damned thing after another" is how Aldous Huxley described the essay: "a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything."

As definitions go, Huxley's is no more or less exact than Francis Bacon's "dispersed meditations," Samuel Johnson's "loose sally of the mind" or Edward Hoagland's "greased pig."

Since Montaigne adopted the term "essay" in the 16th century to describe his "attempts" at self-portrayal in prose , this slippery form has resisted any sort of precise, universal definition. But that won't an attempt to define the term in this brief article.

In the broadest sense, the term "essay" can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction  -- an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier.

One way to start is to draw a distinction between articles , which are read primarily for the information they contain, and essays, in which the pleasure of reading takes precedence over the information in the text . Although handy, this loose division points chiefly to kinds of reading rather than to kinds of texts. So here are some other ways that the essay might be defined.

Standard definitions often stress the loose structure or apparent shapelessness of the essay. Johnson, for example, called the essay "an irregular, indigested piece, not a regular and orderly performance."

True, the writings of several well-known essayists ( William Hazlitt and Ralph Waldo Emerson , for instance, after the fashion of Montaigne) can be recognized by the casual nature of their explorations -- or "ramblings." But that's not to say that anything goes. Each of these essayists follows certain organizing principles of his own.

Oddly enough, critics haven't paid much attention to the principles of design actually employed by successful essayists. These principles are rarely formal patterns of organization , that is, the "modes of exposition" found in many composition textbooks. Instead, they might be described as patterns of thought -- progressions of a mind working out an idea.

Unfortunately, the customary divisions of the essay into opposing types --  formal and informal, impersonal and familiar  -- are also troublesome. Consider this suspiciously neat dividing line drawn by Michele Richman:

Post-Montaigne, the essay split into two distinct modalities: One remained informal, personal, intimate, relaxed, conversational and often humorous; the other, dogmatic, impersonal, systematic and expository .

The terms used here to qualify the term "essay" are convenient as a kind of critical shorthand, but they're imprecise at best and potentially contradictory. Informal can describe either the shape or the tone of the work -- or both. Personal refers to the stance of the essayist, conversational to the language of the piece, and expository to its content and aim. When the writings of particular essayists are studied carefully, Richman's "distinct modalities" grow increasingly vague.

But as fuzzy as these terms might be, the qualities of shape and personality, form and voice, are clearly integral to an understanding of the essay as an artful literary kind. 

Many of the terms used to characterize the essay -- personal, familiar, intimate, subjective, friendly, conversational -- represent efforts to identify the genre's most powerful organizing force: the rhetorical voice or projected character (or persona ) of the essayist.

In his study of Charles Lamb , Fred Randel observes that the "principal declared allegiance" of the essay is to "the experience of the essayistic voice." Similarly, British author Virginia Woolf has described this textual quality of personality or voice as "the essayist's most proper but most dangerous and delicate tool."

Similarly, at the beginning of "Walden, "  Henry David Thoreau reminds the reader that "it is ... always the first person that is speaking." Whether expressed directly or not, there's always an "I" in the essay -- a voice shaping the text and fashioning a role for the reader.

Fictional Qualities

The terms "voice" and "persona" are often used interchangeably to suggest the rhetorical nature of the essayist himself on the page. At times an author may consciously strike a pose or play a role. He can, as E.B. White confirms in his preface to "The Essays," "be any sort of person, according to his mood or his subject matter." 

In "What I Think, What I Am," essayist Edward Hoagland points out that "the artful 'I' of an essay can be as chameleon as any narrator in fiction." Similar considerations of voice and persona lead Carl H. Klaus to conclude that the essay is "profoundly fictive":

It seems to convey the sense of human presence that is indisputably related to its author's deepest sense of self, but that is also a complex illusion of that self -- an enactment of it as if it were both in the process of thought and in the process of sharing the outcome of that thought with others.

But to acknowledge the fictional qualities of the essay isn't to deny its special status as nonfiction.

Reader's Role

A basic aspect of the relationship between a writer (or a writer's persona) and a reader (the implied audience ) is the presumption that what the essayist says is literally true. The difference between a short story, say, and an autobiographical essay  lies less in the narrative structure or the nature of the material than in the narrator's implied contract with the reader about the kind of truth being offered.

Under the terms of this contract, the essayist presents experience as it actually occurred -- as it occurred, that is, in the version by the essayist. The narrator of an essay, the editor George Dillon says, "attempts to convince the reader that its model of experience of the world is valid." 

In other words, the reader of an essay is called on to join in the making of meaning. And it's up to the reader to decide whether to play along. Viewed in this way, the drama of an essay might lie in the conflict between the conceptions of self and world that the reader brings to a text and the conceptions that the essayist tries to arouse.

At Last, a Definition—of Sorts

With these thoughts in mind, the essay might be defined as a short work of nonfiction, often artfully disordered and highly polished, in which an authorial voice invites an implied reader to accept as authentic a certain textual mode of experience.

Sure. But it's still a greased pig.

Sometimes the best way to learn exactly what an essay is -- is to read some great ones. You'll find more than 300 of them in this collection of  Classic British and American Essays and Speeches .

  • What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
  • Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples
  • What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?
  • The Writer's Voice in Literature and Rhetoric
  • Point of View in Grammar and Composition
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech
  • What is a Familiar Essay in Composition?
  • Writers on Writing: The Art of Paragraphing
  • Topical Organization Essay
  • What Does "Persona" Mean?
  • Mood in Composition and Literature
  • Compose a Narrative Essay or Personal Statement

Definition of Essay Essay is derived from the French phrase essayer, which means “to attempt,” or “to try.” An essay is a quick form of literary composition based on a unmarried subject matter, and frequently offers the non-public opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, “a literary device for saying almost the whole lot about almost anything.” The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “a quick piece of writing on a particular problem.” In easy words, we are able to define it as a scholarly work in writing that presents the author’s private argument. Types of Essay There are two forms of essay: literary and non-literary. Literary essays are of 4 types: Expository Essay – In an expository essay, the writer offers a proof of an idea, theme, or difficulty to the target market by giving his private opinions. This essay is presented via examples, definitions, comparisons, and contrast. Descriptive Essay – As it sounds, this type of essay offers an outline about a specific topic, or describes the traits and characteristics of something or a person in detail. It allows artistic freedom, and creates pix inside the minds of readers through the usage of the 5 senses. Narrative Essay – Narrative essay is non-fiction, however describes a tale with sensory descriptions. The creator now not only tells a tale, but additionally makes a factor by means of giving reasons. Persuasive Essay – In this sort of essay, the writer tries to convince his readers to adopt his function or point of view on an problem, after he presents them strong reasoning on this connection. It requires a lot of research to claim and shield an idea. It is additionally referred to as an argumentative essay. Non-literary essays may also be of the same types but they can be written in any format. Examples of Essay in Literature Example #1: The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo (By Jeffrey Tayler) “As I passed thru the gates I heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man got here out from behind the trees — the caretaker. He labored a toothbrush-sized stick round in his mouth, digging into the crevices among algae’d stubs of teeth. He turned into barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt called a buba, baggy pink trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me across the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the outcomes of his stick work and set off down the trail.” This is an instance of a descriptive essay, as the writer has used descriptive language to color a dramatic picture for his readers of an encounter with a stranger. Example #2: Of Love (By Francis Francis Bacon) “It is impossible to love, and be wise … Love is a child of folly. … Love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt. You may study that among all the wonderful and worth persons…there isn't always one that hath been transported to the mad diploma of love: which suggests that extraordinary spirits and incredible enterprise do hold out this susceptible passion…That he had preferred Helena, quitted the presents of Juno and Pallas. For whosoever esteemeth an excessive amount of of amorous affection quitted both riches and wisdom.” In this excerpt, 1st Baron Beaverbrook attempts to steer readers that human beings who need to achieve success in this global must by no means fall in love. By giving an example of famous humans like Paris, who chose Helen as his beloved but misplaced his wealth and wisdom, the writer attempts to convince the target audience that they can lose their mental stability by way of falling in love. Example #3: The Autobiography of a Kettle (By John Russell) “I am afraid I do no longer appeal to attention, and yet there isn't always a single domestic wherein I could completed without. I am best a small, black kettle however I have plenty to interest me, for something new occurs to me each day. The kitchen isn't always continually a cheerful region wherein to live, but nonetheless I find plenty of excitement there, and I am quite satisfied and contented with my lot …” In this example, the author is telling an autobiography of a kettle, and describes the whole story in chronological order. The author has described the kettle as a human being, and permits readers to feel, as he has felt. Function of Essay The feature of an essay depends upon the situation matter, whether the author desires to inform, persuade, explain, or entertain. In fact, the essay increases the analytical and intellectual skills of the writer in addition to readers. It evaluates and exams the writing abilties of a author, and organizes his or her wondering to respond personally or critically to an issue. Through an essay, a writer affords his argument in a more sophisticated manner. In addition, it encourages students to develop standards and skills, together with analysis, contrast and contrast, clarity, exposition, conciseness, and persuasion.

  • Alliteration
  • Anachronism
  • Antimetabole
  • Aposiopesis
  • Characterization
  • Colloquialism
  • Connotation
  • Deus Ex Machina
  • Didacticism
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Flash Forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Internal Rhyme
  • Juxtaposition
  • Non Sequitur
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Poetic Justice
  • Point of View
  • Portmanteau
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Superlative
  • Synesthesia
  • Tragicomedy
  • Tragic Flaw
  • Verisimilitude

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Definition of essay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

  • composition

attempt , try , endeavor , essay , strive mean to make an effort to accomplish an end.

attempt stresses the initiation or beginning of an effort.

try is often close to attempt but may stress effort or experiment made in the hope of testing or proving something.

endeavor heightens the implications of exertion and difficulty.

essay implies difficulty but also suggests tentative trying or experimenting.

strive implies great exertion against great difficulty and specifically suggests persistent effort.

Examples of essay in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle French essai , ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing, from Latin ex- + agere to drive — more at agent

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Phrases Containing essay

  • essay question
  • photo - essay

Articles Related to essay

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To 'Essay' or 'Assay'?

You'll know the difference if you give it the old college essay

Dictionary Entries Near essay

Cite this entry.

“Essay.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/essay. Accessed 10 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of essay.

Kids Definition of essay  (Entry 2 of 2)

More from Merriam-Webster on essay

Nglish: Translation of essay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essay for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about essay

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  • How to structure an essay: Templates and tips

How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

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Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.

Alternating

In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

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Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

Transitions

Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved April 9, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/essay-structure/

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a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.

anything resembling such a composition: a picture essay.

an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.

Philately . a design for a proposed stamp differing in any way from the design of the stamp as issued.

Obsolete . a tentative effort; trial; assay.

to try; attempt.

to put to the test; make trial of.

Origin of essay

Other words from essay.

  • es·say·er, noun
  • pre·es·say, verb (used without object)
  • un·es·sayed, adjective
  • well-es·sayed, adjective

Words that may be confused with essay

  • assay , essay

Words Nearby essay

  • essay question

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use essay in a sentence

As several of my colleagues commented, the result is good enough that it could pass for an essay written by a first-year undergraduate, and even get a pretty decent grade.

GPT-3 also raises concerns about the future of essay writing in the education system.

This little essay helps focus on self-knowledge in what you’re best at, and how you should prioritize your time.

As Steven Feldstein argues in the opening essay , technonationalism plays a part in the strengthening of other autocracies too.

He’s written a collection of essays on civil engineering life titled Bridginess, and to this day he and Lauren go on “bridge dates,” where they enjoy a meal and admire the view of a nearby span.

I think a certain kind of compelling essay has a piece of that.

The current attack on the Jews,” he wrote in a 1937 essay , “targets not just this people of 15 million but mankind as such.

The impulse to interpret seems to me what makes personal essay writing compelling.

To be honest, I think a lot of good essay writing comes out of that.

Someone recently sent me an old Joan Didion essay on self-respect that appeared in Vogue.

There is more of the uplifted forefinger and the reiterated point than I should have allowed myself in an essay .

Consequently he was able to turn in a clear essay upon the subject, which, upon examination, the king found to be free from error.

It is no part of the present essay to attempt to detail the particulars of a code of social legislation.

But angels and ministers of grace defend us from ministers of religion who essay art criticism!

It is fit that the imagination, which is free to go through all things, should essay such excursions.

British Dictionary definitions for essay

a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively

an attempt or endeavour; effort

a test or trial

to attempt or endeavour; try

to test or try out

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for essay

A short piece of writing on one subject, usually presenting the author's own views. Michel de Montaigne , Francis Bacon (see also Bacon ), and Ralph Waldo Emerson are celebrated for their essays.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Definition of Essay

Essay is derived from the French word essayer , which means “ to attempt ,” or “ to try .” An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything. ” The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “ a short piece of writing on a particular subject. ” In simple words, we can define it as a scholarly work in writing that provides the author’s personal argument .

Types of Essay

There are two forms of essay: literary and non-literary. Literary essays are of four types:

  • Expository Essay – In an expository essay , the writer gives an explanation of an idea, theme , or issue to the audience by giving his personal opinions. This essay is presented through examples, definitions, comparisons, and contrast .
  • Descriptive Essay – As it sounds, this type of essay gives a description about a particular topic, or describes the traits and characteristics of something or a person in detail. It allows artistic freedom, and creates images in the minds of readers through the use of the five senses.
  • Narrative Essay – Narrative essay is non- fiction , but describes a story with sensory descriptions. The writer not only tells a story, but also makes a point by giving reasons.
  • Persuasive Essay – In this type of essay, the writer tries to convince his readers to adopt his position or point of view on an issue, after he provides them solid reasoning in this connection. It requires a lot of research to claim and defend an idea. It is also called an argumentative essay .

Non-literary essays could also be of the same types but they could be written in any format.

Examples of Essay in Literature

Example #1: the sacred grove of oshogbo (by jeffrey tayler).

“As I passed through the gates I heard a squeaky voice . A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees — the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae’d stubs of teeth. He was barefoot; he wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. I asked him if he would show me around the shrine. Motioning me to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.”

This is an example of a descriptive essay, as the author has used descriptive language to paint a dramatic picture for his readers of an encounter with a stranger.

Example #2: Of Love (By Francis Bacon)

“It is impossible to love, and be wise … Love is a child of folly. … Love is ever rewarded either with the reciprocal, or with an inward and secret contempt. You may observe that amongst all the great and worthy persons…there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love: which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion…That he had preferred Helena, quitted the gifts of Juno and Pallas. For whosoever esteemeth too much of amorous affection quitted both riches and wisdom.”

In this excerpt, Bacon attempts to persuade readers that people who want to be successful in this world must never fall in love. By giving an example of famous people like Paris, who chose Helen as his beloved but lost his wealth and wisdom, the author attempts to convince the audience that they can lose their mental balance by falling in love.

Example #3: The Autobiography of a Kettle (By John Russell)

“I am afraid I do not attract attention, and yet there is not a single home in which I could done without. I am only a small, black kettle but I have much to interest me, for something new happens to me every day. The kitchen is not always a cheerful place in which to live, but still I find plenty of excitement there, and I am quite happy and contented with my lot …”

In this example, the author is telling an autobiography of a kettle, and describes the whole story in chronological order. The author has described the kettle as a human being, and allows readers to feel, as he has felt.

Function of Essay

The function of an essay depends upon the subject matter, whether the writer wants to inform, persuade, explain, or entertain. In fact, the essay increases the analytical and intellectual abilities of the writer as well as readers. It evaluates and tests the writing skills of a writer, and organizes his or her thinking to respond personally or critically to an issue. Through an essay, a writer presents his argument in a more sophisticated manner. In addition, it encourages students to develop concepts and skills, such as analysis, comparison and contrast , clarity, exposition , conciseness, and persuasion .

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Example sentences literary essay

The literary essay has long been a marginalized form in the publishing arena.
He cultivates all narrative forms, poetry, and literary essay .
Most of the literary essays in this volume take the analogical route.
The volumes also contained additional material in the form of literary essays, tangential to true crime, thus awarding the crime writer a certain importance in the culture of his time.
It consists of elegantly packaged bits and bobs, mainly book reviews (only two items are new and specially written), mostly musical, with a block of literary essays and five 'think-pieces'.

Definition of 'essay' essay

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Definition of 'literary' literary

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Argumentative Essay

Definition of argumentative essay.

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. It could be that both sides are presented equally balanced, or it could be that one side is presented more forcefully than the other. It all depends on the writer, and what side he supports the most. The general structure of an argumentative essay follows this format:

  • Introduction : Attention Grabber/ hook , Background Information , Thesis Statement
  • Body : Three body paragraphs (three major arguments)
  • Counterargument : An argument to refute earlier arguments and give weight to the actual position
  • Conclusion : Rephrasing the thesis statement , major points, call to attention, or concluding remarks .

Models for Argumentative Essays

There are two major models besides this structure given above, which is called a classical model. Two other models are the Toulmin and Rogerian models.

Toulmin model is comprised of an introduction with a claim or thesis, followed by the presentation of data to support the claim. Warrants are then listed for the reasons to support the claim with backing and rebuttals. However, the Rogerian model asks to weigh two options, lists the strengths and weaknesses of both options, and gives a recommendation after an analysis.

Five Types of Argument Claims in Essay Writing  

There are five major types of argument claims as given below.

  • A claim of definition
  • A claim about values
  • A claim about the reason
  • A claim about comparison
  • A claim about policy or position

A writer makes a claim about these issues and answers the relevant questions about it with relevant data and evidence to support the claim.

Three Major Types of Argument and How to Apply Them

Classical argument.

This model of applying argument is also called the Aristotelian model developed by Aristotle. This type of essay introduces the claim, with the opinion of the writer about the claim, its both perspectives, supported by evidence, and provides a conclusion about the better perspective . This essay includes an introduction, a body having the argument and support, a counter-argument with support, and a conclusion.

Toulmin Argument

This model developed by Stephen Toulmin is based on the claim followed by grounds, warrant, backing, qualifier, and rebuttal . Its structure comprises, an introduction having the main claim, a body with facts and evidence, while its rebuttal comprises counter-arguments and a conclusion.

Rogerian Argument

The third model by Carl Rogers has different perspectives having proof to support and a conclusion based on all the available perspectives. Its structure comprises an introduction with a thesis, the opposite point of view and claim, a middle-ground for both or more perspectives, and a conclusion.

Four Steps to Outline and Argumentative Essay

There are four major steps to outlining an argumentative essay.

  • Introduction with background, claim, and thesis.
  • Body with facts, definition, claim, cause and effect, or policy.
  • The opposing point of view with pieces of evidence.

Examples of Argumentative Essay in Literature

Example #1: put a little science in your life by brian greene.

“When we consider the ubiquity of cellphones, iPods, personal computers and the Internet, it’s easy to see how science (and the technology to which it leads) is woven into the fabric of our day-to-day activities . When we benefit from CT scanners, M.R.I. devices, pacemakers and arterial stents, we can immediately appreciate how science affects the quality of our lives. When we assess the state of the world, and identify looming challenges like climate change, global pandemics, security threats and diminishing resources, we don’t hesitate in turning to science to gauge the problems and find solutions. And when we look at the wealth of opportunities hovering on the horizon—stem cells, genomic sequencing, personalized medicine, longevity research, nanoscience, brain-machine interface, quantum computers, space technology—we realize how crucial it is to cultivate a general public that can engage with scientific issues; there’s simply no other way that as a society we will be prepared to make informed decisions on a range of issues that will shape the future.”

These two paragraphs present an argument about two scientific fields — digital products and biotechnology. It has also given full supporting details with names.

Example #2: Boys Here, Girls There: Sure, If Equality’s the Goal by Karen Stabiner

“The first objections last week came from the National Organization for Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union, both of which opposed the opening of TYWLS in the fall of 1996. The two groups continue to insist—as though it were 1896 and they were arguing Plessy v. Ferguson—that separate can never be equal. I appreciate NOW ’s wariness of the Bush administration’s endorsement of single-sex public schools, since I am of the generation that still considers the label “feminist” to be a compliment—and many feminists still fear that any public acknowledgment of differences between the sexes will hinder their fight for equality .”

This paragraph by Karen Stabiner presents an objection to the argument of separation between public schools. It has been fully supported with evidence of the court case.

Example #3: The Flight from Conversation by Sherry Turkle

“We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “ alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.”

This is an argument by Sherry Turkle, who beautifully presented it in the first person plural dialogues . However, it is clear that this is part of a greater argument instead of the essay.

Function of Argumentative Essay

An argumentative essay presents both sides of an issue. However, it presents one side more positively or meticulously than the other one, so that readers could be swayed to the one the author intends. The major function of this type of essay is to present a case before the readers in a convincing manner, showing them the complete picture.

Synonyms of Argumentative Essay

Argumentative Essay synonyms are as follows: persuasive essays, research essays, analytical essays, or even some personal essays.

Related posts:

  • Elements of an Essay
  • Narrative Essay
  • Definition Essay
  • Descriptive Essay
  • Types of Essay
  • Analytical Essay
  • Cause and Effect Essay
  • Critical Essay
  • Expository Essay
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  • Process Essay
  • Explicatory Essay
  • An Essay on Man: Epistle I
  • Comparison and Contrast Essay

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3.9: Structure in Literary Essays

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Literary Analysis – Definition & Step-by-Step Guide

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Literary-analysis-Definition

Literary analysis involves the process of closely examining, interpreting, and critiquing various aspects of a literary work. It delves into themes, symbols, characters, settings, plot structures, and stylistic devices, among other elements, to reveal the deeper meanings and implications conveyed by the author. Furthermore, literary analysis enables us to bridge the gap between personal interpretation and a broader, shared understanding of literature’s richness and diversity.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Literary Analysis – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Literary analysis
  • 3 How to write a literary analysis step-by-step
  • 4 Literary analysis: Example

Literary Analysis – In a Nutshell

  • A literary analysis evaluates and interprets literature to express the writer’s perspective.
  • To create a literary analysis, the writer needs to read the text, develop a working thesis, make, and interpret an extended list of evidence, and interpret the evidence to write an academic essay .
  • Avoid writing a plot summary and instead, use literary analysis.

Definition: Literary analysis

Literary analysis, sometimes referred to as literary criticism , is the argumentative analysis of academic writing is a method of critical examination where various elements of a literary work are closely studied and interpreted. Although a summary is needed within the argument, the objective is not to write a report on the text, but to discuss the writer’s examination of it. Ultimately, the aim of literary analysis is to illuminate the work’s intrinsic value, convey its societal and philosophical implications, and foster a profound understanding of the author’s intentions and the broader cultural or historical context.

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How to write a literary analysis step-by-step

Below is an in-depth guide on how to write a literary analysis.

Step 1: Reading the text

The first step in conducting a literary analysis is to read the text carefully and take initial notes. As you read, focus on the ideas being presented.

Pay attention to the author’s writing technique, the character’s development , and the literary devices used.

Some of the literary devices a writer should consider when reading through the text for a literary analysis include:

Step 2: Creating a thesis

A literary analysis thesis is what substantiates the writer’s view and allows it to be debated.

While a thesis states the writer’s opinion, it should also allow any readers to come to their conclusions .

Pride and prejudice is a story about the efforts of Elizabeth Bennet in overcoming her pride and her bias towards Mr. Darcy, and how her family is affected by their preconceptions of the surrounding society.

Step 3: Title and introduction

The opening statements of the literary analysis should expose the reader to the intentions and context of the critique . A common structure for the introduction is to start with a general statement about the text and the author, and then finish with a brief indication of what’s coming in the main body.

The title of a literary analysis usually contains the name of the text and the author you are analyzing. It should be as engaging as possible and clearly indicate what the analysis will focus on. A common method in coming up with a title is using a relevant quote from the text , then a colon followed by the rest of the title.

Approaching “the edge of knowing”: Anne Caston’s “Anatomy.”

Step 4: Body of the essay

Everything between the introduction and the conclusion in literary analysis is the body . Its main goal is to answer the writer’s questions about the work and the supporting textual evidence.

To keep your points focused, start each paragraph with a topic sentence that allows the reader to see what the paragraph is about quickly. A topic sentence can introduce a new argument or contrast it with the argument in the previous paragraph.

A main part of the body is giving textual evidence that backs up your arguments. You can do this using quotes from the text. If you use quotes, ensure you contextualize and explain why you are using them instead of treating them as self-explanatory.

Step 5: Conclusion

The conclusion of the literary analysis is about wrapping up the essay and should not introduce any new arguments or quotations. A good structure for the analysis would be to summarize the primary arguments, emphasize the conclusion they’ve led you to, and highlight the new perspective.

Literary analysis: Example

Below is an example of a literary analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s novella, “The Old Man and the Sea”

Literary-analysis-example-title-and-introduction

The introduction starts with basic facts about the author and transitions into a concise and debatable thesis statement.

Literary-analysis-example-first-body-paragraph-and-example

The writer transitions to the first paragraph in the body by introducing the first element of style that contributes to the discussion of the theme.

Literary-analysis-example-conclusion

The conclusion emphasizes the thesis statement and summarizes the arguments.

Why is literary analysis important?

Examining and analyzing literature gives writers the opportunity to think critically about a text.

Not only does this help demonstrate the author’s intentions, but it also enhances critical thinking skills that are useful in other disciplines.

What is a literary analysis thesis statement?

A literary analysis thesis statement summarizes the analytical argument the writer intends to make and prove in the paper.

What are the key features of literary analysis?

The analyzed elements of literary analysis include:

  • Narrative voice

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beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

essay literary def

Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

essay literary def

Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

essay literary def

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COMMENTS

  1. Essay

    essay. , an. analytic. , interpretative, or critical literary. composition. usually much shorter and less systematic and formal than a dissertation or thesis and usually dealing with its subject from a limited and often personal point of view. Some early treatises—such as those of Cicero on the pleasantness of old age or on the art of ...

  2. Essay: Definition and Examples

    Essays do not require research as most academic reports and papers do; however, they should cite any literary works that are used within the paper. When thinking of essays, we normally think of the five-paragraph essay: Paragraph 1 is the introduction, paragraphs 2-4 are the body covering three main ideas, and paragraph 5 is the conclusion.

  3. Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn't inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

  4. Essay

    Definition of Essay. Essay is derived from the French word essayer, which means "to attempt," or "to try."An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, "a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.

  5. Essay Examples and Definition

    Definition of Essay. An essay is a short piece writing, either formal or informal, which expresses the author's argument about a particular subject. A formal essay has a serious purpose and highly structured organization, while an informal essay may contain humor, personal recollections and anecdotes, and any sort of organization or form which the author wants.

  6. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  7. Essay

    He notes that "the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything", and adds that "by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece". Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference".

  8. The Essay: History and Definition

    Meaning. In the broadest sense, the term "essay" can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction -- an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier. One way to start is to draw a distinction between articles, which are read primarily for the ...

  9. Essay

    Essay Definition of Essay Essay is derived from the French phrase essayer, which means "to attempt," or "to try." An essay is a quick form of literary composition based on a unmarried subject matter, and frequently offers the non-public opinion of the author.

  10. Types of Essay

    Definition of Types of Essay. An essay is a short academic composition. The word "essay" is derived from a French word "essai" or "essayer," which mean "trail." In composition, however, an essay is a piece of non-fiction writing that talks or discusses a specific topic.Presently, essay is part of every degree program.

  11. What is an essay?

    An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates. In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills. Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative: you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence ...

  12. Essay Definition & Meaning

    The meaning of ESSAY is an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view. How to use essay in a sentence. ... Share the Definition of essay on Twitter Twitter. Kids Definition. essay. 1 of 2 verb. es· say e-ˈsā ˈes-ˌā : attempt entry 1 sense 1, try. again essayed ...

  13. How to Write Literary Analysis

    Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects. A literary essay isn't a book review: you're not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you'd ...

  14. How to Structure an Essay

    The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body. This article provides useful templates and tips to help you outline your essay, make decisions about your structure, and ...

  15. ESSAY Definition & Meaning

    Essay definition: a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative. See examples of ESSAY used in a sentence.

  16. Persuasive Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Persuasive Essay Definition. A persuasive essay (purr-SWEY-siv ESS-ey) is a composition in which the essayist's goal is to persuade the reader to agree with their personal views on a debatable topic. A persuasive essay generally follows a five-paragraph model with a thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and it offers evidential support using research and other persuasive techniques.

  17. Essay definition and example literary device

    Essay is derived from the French word essayer, which means " to attempt ," or " to try .". An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. A famous English essayist, Aldous Huxley defines essays as, "a literary device for saying almost everything ...

  18. LITERARY ESSAY definition in American English

    Most of the literary essays in this volume take the analogical route. The Times Literary Supplement The volumes also contained additional material in the form of literary essays, tangential to true crime, thus awarding the crime writer a certain importance in the culture of his time.

  19. Argumentative Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Argumentative Essay Definition. An argumentative essay [ahr-gyuh-MEN-tuh-tiv ess-ay] is an essay in which the writer uses thorough research to defend their position on a disputable topic.An argumentative essay contains a thesis, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The body can also include a counterargument.

  20. Examples and Definition of Argumentative Essay

    Definition of Argumentative Essay. An argumentative essay is a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. It could be that both sides are presented equally balanced, or it could be that one side is presented more forcefully than the other. It all depends on the writer, and what side he supports the most.

  21. 3.9: Structure in Literary Essays

    Book: Introduction to Literature (Lumen) 3: Module 3- Writing About Literature 3.9: Structure in Literary Essays

  22. Literary Analysis ~ Definition & Step-by-Step Guide

    Definition: Literary analysis. Literary analysis, sometimes referred to as literary criticism, is the argumentative analysis of academic writing is a method of critical examination where various elements of a literary work are closely studied and interpreted. Although a summary is needed within the argument, the objective is not to write a report on the text, but to discuss the writer's ...

  23. Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis

    Step 1: Read the Text Thoroughly. Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand.

  24. Expos 20

    This research guide has been designed for students in Problems of Meaning, a Spring 2024 Expos course taught by Rob Willison.. The resources and strategies described on this page are specifically targeted: they represent our first best guesses at where you might find the information you'll need to execute Essay 3 successfully.. Remember that good research is often about following up on hunches ...