Explain Me This: How to Write a Literary Essay

2019-01-20

Writing Literary Essay


An Introduction (IBHL/SL /A-Level English language/Literature)

 

Analyzing a literary text and writing an essay can be quite daunting, especially when you don't know how to start or to structure your thoughts! Here are some tips on how to start, structure, and synthesize your ideas when you're analyzing a text.


 

Step 1: Read, annotate, and repeat.

 

Begin first by reading your text. What type of text is it? Is it poetry, prose, or a play? Be aware of the type of text you're working with, as each type of text has a different function and audience.

 

You may scan the text first to figure out what it's generally about, then read it again in detail, highlighting literary devices, interesting words and phrases, and perhaps, parts of the text that is difficult to understand so you know you can go back to it later when you have time. Take some notes on the margins- it's important because it will help you begin to formulate your thoughts and also save time for you later when you're structuring your paragraphs.

 

After you are done annotating and taking notes, scan the text quickly again to see if you've missed anything. This step should be shorter- but it will familiarize you with the text, and you might find that you end up having new ideas rereading the text again.

 


Step 2: Structuring your paragraphs following the PETER technique (point, evidence, technique, effect, reflect) 

 

While some teachers prefer teaching PEE paragraphs (point, evidence, explanation), I personally find it not as detailed and specific, which is why I like to use the PETER technique:

 

P (Point) : Develop an insightful point about the text.

 

E.g. In this extract, the narrator feels...

 

E (Evidence): Give evidence (or more than one piece of evidence) to support your point. Use quotes from the text. I would suggest shorter and more precise quotes instead of longer ones to make your ideas clearer.

 

T (Technique): Identify the techniques that are used in the examples you gave. 

 

E.g. The writer uses repetition...

 

E (Effect): Identify the effects of the technique. 

 

E.g. The repetition used creates a ______ effect, which shows that...

 

R (Reflect): develop and link your ideas back to your main point. Think about how the reader may feel. You may also analyze how effective the techniques are and other possible interpretations. You can also add contextual information about the writer to further develop your point.

 


Step 3: Conclusion

 

After you are done with your paragraphs, write a conclusion. In your conclusion, identify your main points and arguments, and further develop them. Think about the values of the texts and you may also add your own personal opinion!

 


Step 4: Proofread

 

After you are done, make sure to proofread your essay for potential grammar and spelling mistakes. You might also find that you want to add some new ideas and if time permits, feel free to make those changes!

 

 Happy writing!


If you liked this article, check out the tutor who wrote it below:

Rebecca

King's College London, Master's degree in Comparative Literature

NYU, Bachelor's degree in History and German

Rebecca is an English and History tutor who has more than two years of experience teaching IB English Language and Literature and IB History. Her teaching style is focused on catering to students' strengths and weaknesses, whether it's understanding and retaining information, essay planning or writing. She will help you harness your strengths and improve other areas that need work.

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