Instructions for Literary Essay

Prewriting: As you read, find quotes and write down page numbers, so you have them handy when you write the paper.  Don’t wait until you have finished the novel to start. 


Introduction: The introduction paragraph is the most important paragraph in the essay.  The beginning should introduce the book and your opinion of it.   Follow the ANT pattern for the introduction.


Attention-getter: The attention-getter should be general and interesting.  It should draw the reader in.  It should also connect thematically to the thesis

Strategies & Examples

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

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

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

Necessary information:

In an essay about a single story or poem, the title and the name of the author or poet is necessary information.

A brief summary of the subject, the problem or the story or poem


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


If you have been given a question or prompt, the thesis MUST answer it!

Strategies & Examples

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. 



Body Paragraphs:

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

If, in the introduction, the writer stated that “Oliver Stone’s Platoon far exceeds any film he directed,” the middle portion must now compare specific qualities of Platoon to Stone’s other films—Nixon, JFK, etc. 


If the essay is required to provide four examples, it will need to have four body paragraphs. 


Follow the TIQA pattern:

Topic Sentence:

This should have the topic of perspective taking and the limiting idea of whatever example you are providing in the paragraph.

Introduce an example or quote.

You may not just drop a quote in unannounced.  Provide a context.  You need to say something such as When Scout stands on the Radley’s porch, she says, “Blah, blah, blah…

Quote or example. 

You can quote from dialogue or narration.  If the quote is thirty nine words or less, simply include it in your paragraph using quotation marks.  If the quote is forty words or more, indent it and do not use quotation marks. Either way, you must put the page number—for example, (10). 

Analyze the quote or example. 

After you have provided the example or quote, you must spend a few sentences explaining how the example or quote supports the topic sentence, which probably says that the character you are talking about has experience perspective taking.  Then you need to explain what the character has learned.  Provide examples that support that the character is better off.  Or that good came from perspective taking.


Normally, you can repeat TIQA twice per paragraph.  The second time, the T stands for transition.



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.


Post-Draft Work:

Your title must be original – it cannot simply be the title of the book, poem, or movie.  See How to Make a Great Title

Check that you’ve correctly written the title of your book, play or story – is it in Italics or in “quotation marks”?    

Re-read to make sure your sentences make sense. 

Use your Cntrl-F worksheet to proofread your paper. 

Absolutely do not turn in your paper with the word “you” unless it appears in a quote. 

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.