Although upon entering college, most students are already familiar with essay writing in general and literature essay writing in particular, many of them don’t realize that what is understood under this term on this academic level is quite different from those informal, fairly freeform texts they wrote in high school. The requirements and practices commonly used here are quite different from what you might have been used to.
First of all, there isn’t such a thing as a clearly defined literary essay – it is subdivided into many different subtypes, the most important of them being:
However, all of them are similar enough for you to be able to learn how to write one of them and get a fairly good idea of how to deal with all the rest. In this literature essay writing guide, we will cover tactics and practices that will help you write literary essays of any types.
Students are given varying degrees of freedom when writing literature essays. Sometimes you may be assigned a literary work to write about, but are otherwise free to do anything you like with it. Sometimes you are given a rigid topic you cannot alter at all. Sometimes you are given a completely free rein, and can choose whatever you want to write about. However, no matter what your situation is, you should remember two points:
So how does one approach the choice of a topic?
In the end, you should get a topic that you are comfortable with, that is at least somewhat different from the majority of papers dealing with the text in question and that has enough information sources to build your thesis on. Here are some examples you may use:
When writing a literature essay of any type you are going to work with two general types of sources:
An outline is basically just a plan of your essay. It may be more or less detailed depending on your preferences and writing style, but the idea remains the same. You write down:
Usually after writing an introduction and thesis statement, you use one reference to the primary text that supports your main point and then support it with a few references to the secondary sources.
Your thesis statement is the gist of your paper reduced to one, possibly two sentences. In short, it is the main thought behind your essay – quite often, it is your interpretation of the text you work on. A thesis statement is usually located at the end of the introduction: after you’ve already grasped the attention of your reader but before you started discussing the text in earnest.
It is important to understand that a thesis statement and a topic are two different things. The topic is the general subject area you are discussing in your essay, e.g., “The Theme of Poverty in the Creative Work of Charles Dickens”. The thesis statement is exactly what it says on the tin – a statement you make concerning the topic, it is the result of your research or just your opinion. For example, “Charles Dickens’ descriptions of poverty in his creative work stem from his personal experiences as a young man” would be a thesis statement.
The body of your essay is reserved for the development of your central idea. A good rule of a thumb to follow is to have no less than three body paragraph for a 500-700 word essay, each covering a single point supporting your primary argument.
Each paragraph of the essay’s body should contain a topic sentence followed by explanations and textual evidence.
A topic sentence (normally the first sentence of a paragraph) states one of the topics connected with your thesis and how exactly this topic supports the central idea of your essay.
Evidence should come either from the primary text or secondary sources, with the former being the more important one. It comes in four types:
Write a thesis statement first and leave the rest of the introduction for later. The most often advised approach is to write it last of all, even after the conclusion – this way you will already know what is present in your essay and won’t have to remake anything to meet the requirements that changed along with the contents of your paper. Start with a hook to catch the attention of the reader. It may be:
After that, provide some background information and smoothly go on to your thesis statement.
Traditionally, literature essays are written in MLA format; you may find the most important instructions for writing in it here. If you want a more in-depth guide, look for a paper copy of a style guide in a library. Unless stated otherwise, most literature essays are written in 12pt, Times New Roman font.
If you can afford it, there should be an interval between when you finish writing per se and start proofreading your essay. Trying to make corrections immediately after finishing writing is ineffective – the impression is still too fresh, and you are too much inclined to jump over the familiar sentences, missing mistakes and stylistic flaws.
When proofreading a literature essay you should pay attention not just to actual errors in grammar, spelling and syntax, but to style as well. Stylistic requirements here are less rigid than in, let’s say, psychology essays, but they are still present:
We hope that these literature essay tips will turn writing your next literature essay into an enjoyable and easy experience – when you know what you are doing, no task ever appears to be too hard!