analytical writing

It's what we DO!

Many of us are trained to write by those who don't write themselves, or who mistakenly communicate the bad idea that writing is a task to dispose of quickly so that we can go on to do something else more interesting or fulfilling.  We learn to list and summarize and state the obvious.

This is the proverbial recipe for disaster.  Instead, we should be interested in what we're writing, or at least create the impression that we're engaged are so that our audience will listen to us. It is better to analyze so that we can explain the significance of what we see or read and to provide personal, peculiar insight.  Detail is key here.

Even in a tiny paper, a writer must strive for coherence and interesting analysis, avoiding needless plot summary and gigantic quotations that fill space.  Paragraphs should have clear topic sentences and focus on a single topic with ideas presented in a logical order, aided by germane literary quotations.  Always

a) Analyze your quotations.  Find words, phrases, or general ideas in your citations that you can discuss and relate to your premises;

b) avoid the simple paraphrase of an author's words into your own, unless the actual meaning of a passage is in question and at issue; and, most crucial, hardest to master, 

c) cite only as much as you are prepared to discuss thoroughly, and no more.  Keep those quotations SHORT. 

What kinds of things could one notice and include in a paragraph as evidence to analyze? This will always be specific to your thesis or main point, obviously, but there are some questions to ask oneself.

a) Why have I chosen this quotation?

b) How little of it can I get away with quoting?

c) What words or phrases really make my point?

d) What is odd or unusual about it to me?  How can I convey this peculiarity to my reader?  How can I make it seem important, interesting, something that will teach my reader, get him or her to look at the text in a new way?

Jan van Eyck St. Barbara
Jan van Eyck St. Barbara