Understanding the Analytical Essay Definition

Analytical essays come up often as writing assignments and term papers. Unfortunately many students find them difficult or intimidating, and don't perform their best when writing one. Of course some people just find that style of writing difficult, but often the problem is simply not understanding exactly what's required. It can help to understand the definition of an analytical essay, because then you have a better idea of what the markers will be looking for.

An analytical essay is a type of academic writing which separates out facts so the reader can understand them more easily, and discusses what these facts mean. It usually reaches a conclusion based on the discussion of the facts, and tries to persuade the reader to agree with that conclusion.

Understanding this definition properly needs another definition; academic writing. Academic writing is a style of writing that is used to pass on information in a reliable way. It should not include unsupported opinions, but should be based on facts. There are often strict rules about providing references so that readers can check you have used reliable sources and not misquoted them. You can give your opinion in your conclusion but you need to make clear that it is your opinion and it has to be supported by referenced information.

An analytical essay is a special kind of academic writing. Other types of essays can just pass on information, but to count as an analytical essay you need to add value by discussing what the information means. If you're just listing facts you're not doing it right, so look at how you can add analysis.

A good analytical essay has to follow a few basic principles. Here they are:

  • Simplicity. The aim of the essay is to get information across. If it's too complex or filled with jargon it won't be accessible enough.
  • Concision. The essay has to be concise - no longer than necessary. It shouldn't be padded with extra words to make it look more impressive.
  • Direct. Euphemisms should never be used. Don't say "socially challenging" when you mean "criminal" and don't say "take a comfort break" when you mean "urinate." This is an adult style of writing and must be clear and unambiguous.
  • Objectivity. If the essay is pushing your personal opinion it's not academic writing, so it's not an analytical essay. Only go where the facts lead.
  • Verifiability. Don't include any facts that you can't support with a reference.

If you follow these principles and include good discussions and conclusions you're writing an analytical essay - in other words you've got it right!

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11 2016

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