Instructions for Writing an Essay

Paragraph 1: The Introduction (What you believe)



Ask a question – Is it fair to force people to conform?

Use a factAmerica’s automobile industry has suffered enormous drops in sales last year. 

Use a quote – John Wooden once stated, “It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  

 Use a statistic – According to Tiger Beat, 4 out of 10 teens between the ages of 14 and 16 have ditched school at least once. 

Use an anecdote retell a very short story that relates to your topic.


Necessary Information

An essay about a story, poem, or move:

Necessary information includes the title and the name of the author or poet.  Also include a brief summary of the story. 

An opinion essay about an issue:

Necessary information includes what the argument is about and what both sides believe. 



The last sentence of your introduction MUST be your thesis!

The thesis must state the writer’s answer to the question, the writer’s side of the issue, or the writer’s opinion.


Underline the Thesis!

For an essay about an Issue:

Tell what you believe about the issue – take a side. 

For an essay about a book, poem, or movie:

You must have an opinion about this book —you may not just tell what happened. 

Your opinion must be more in-depth than I liked it / I didn’t like it / it’s great / it stinks. 

Think about the outlook of world presented by the author.  Why did he or she have this opinion of the world?  What message was it trying to give the reader?   Does it address any important issues in a person’s life or in our society? 


Although over twenty years old, The Breakfast Club still demonstrates the difficulties and classifications teenagers face today. 

Douglas Grath’s version of Emma offers viewers of romance films a bonus—a character that gets the guy and learns a valuable lesson about life. 

Although clever and entertaining, Judd Apatow’s film The Forty-Year Old Virgin is disturbing in its portrayal of someone who doesn’t have sex as bizarrely different. 


After capturing the viewer’s hearts with a poignant life-and-death family story, Nick Cassavete’s film John Q disappoints audiences by turning into a political commercial.   

Oliver Stone’s Platoon far exceeds any film he directed before or after. 

Rocky III shows that when a person gets soft, they lose the goal of their dreams because there will always be someone who wants it more. 

Sense and Sensibility, as directed by Ang Lee, demonstrates the two ways women can handle emotionally difficult situations. 

Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4: The Body (The Reasons You Believe it)

After the writer introduces the idea in the introduction, the bulk of the literary analysis paper becomes a place to prove that point. 



Declare a Topic Sentence:

It should be one solid reason that you believe what you said in the thesis.  If, in the introduction, the writer stated that “Oliver Stone’s Platoon far exceeds any other film he directed,” the middle portion must now compare specific qualities of Platoon to Stone’s other films—Nixon, JFK, etc. 


Give One or two Specific Examples

The examples must be SPECIFIC!  Avoid any example that refers to:

s   someone

s   anyone 

s   everyone

s   people

s   “they”

s   stuff

s   Things


s   always

s   everywhere

s   all the time


Explain how the example supports the thesis.

After you have provided the example or reason, you must spend a few sentences explaining how the example or quote supports the topic sentence. 





Paragraph 5: The Conclusion

DO NOT start your conclusion paragraph with “In conclusion” or “To summarize” or any other overused phrase.  Just write the conclusion. 

Restate your thesis.  RESTATE, not rewrite.  Say your thesis again, but differently.

Summarize your main points.  Do NOT introduce any new material. 

Clincher—Round off—your last impression to the reader should relate back to the attention-getter.





Check Five things Before You Turn it In:

  1. Re-read to make sure your sentences make sense. 
  2. Absolutely do not turn in your paper with the word “you” unless it appears in a quote. 
  3. Absolutely do not turn in your paper with the words “I”, “me”, or “my”.  Do not use “I think,” “In my opinion,” and so on. 
  4. Your title must be original – it cannot simply be the title of the book, poem, or movie.  See How to Make a Great Title
  5. Check that you’ve correctly written the title of your book, play, or story – should it be in Italics or in “quotation marks”?