Writing Literary Analysis (Genre) Paper

A literary analysis essay is where you offer your observations about a poem, short story, novel or play. You must be critical in your evaluation of the literary work and support your observations with evidence from the selection(s).

Often your instructor will give you a list of topics to choose from which, in turn, will guide your essay’s these. For the first two genre papers (short story and poetry) you will be left on your own to make connections to a literary work (one that we have not discussed in class)

. For the final research paper on the play, topics will be provided.

Literary Analysis Paper Form

A literary analysis paper follows the same basic format as a standard essay:

introduction, body, and conclusion. It differs slight, however, in the fact that it is organized to include specific information in specific places. The following is a guide to follow in setting up this kind of paper:

Introductory Paragraph

Sentence # 1: Give the name of the author and work you will be discussing in this opening sentence. If you are writing a comparison/contrast paper, you must mention both works and thus both authors.

Sentences # 2 and # 3: Summary statements. Summarize the work(s) in two sentences. (Obviously you may need to allot four sentences for this in a comparison/contrast paper).

Sentence # 4: Central idea. State exactly what you are going to prove in one sentence.

Sentences # 5 and # 6: Thesis Statements. In two sentences mention all the proofs you will be using in the body of the paper to support your central idea. (see section on practicing thesis statements)


Write at least one paragraph for each of the proofs mentioned in sentence # 5 and # 6. Deal with each in the order in which they are mentioned. Remember you may write as many paragraphs as you wish to on each. Keep in mind the required length of the entire paper (3-4 pages). Remember to use transitional words and phrases to connect sentences and paragraphs smoothly.


This is the final paragraph. You must conclude only on the central idea from paragraph one, sentence # 4. You may mention further proofs that could be explored at another time.

Works Cited

Meyer, Michael, editor. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 11th ed.,

Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

Guidelines for Using Quotations in Literary Analysis

Use quotations to support your assertions, not to pad the paper. Quote at length only when necessary to your argument.

When you use a quotation, specify how it relates to your idea. Introduce the quotation. Sometimes comment after the quotation.

Reproduce spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and all other features exactly as they appear in the source.

Don’t let quotations just lie there on the page inertly; make use of it, put it to work. Point to specific features or details or words in it; say what you see, and what you want the reader to know.

Accuracy in quoting is crucially important! Change nothing from you source: not spelling, not punctuation, not capitalization, etc.

Quoting lines within the body of your paper is called: In-text Citation.

Example: “Then I wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother” (p.382)
Example: “I know that He exists” (line 1).

Document your sources.

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