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Analytical essays

Analytical essays are used to (surprise, surprise) analyse something! You write an analytical essay to make sense of something. That ‘something’ can be:

  • an historical event,

  • a scientific discovery,

  • a book, movie, piece of art, poem, or

  • anything else that can be taken apart (not literally) and analysed.

Quite often, analytical essays are written about other pieces of writing, such as another essay. In this situation, the purpose of an analytical essay is to take apart someone else’s essay and identify the important bits and how they fit together. How you write an analytical essay depends on two things:

  • the type of essay you’re analysing, and

  • the audience you expect to read your essay.

It can be a bit confusing talking about analytical essays because there are two essays involved - your essay and the essay you’re analysing. Make sure you don’t get the two confused.

When you write an analytical essay you’re not just rewriting what someone said. You have to think about each of the things they discuss and work out the relative importance of each part. By picking apart their essay and discussing it yourself, your aim is to emphasise the important bits in it and also make it easier for your readers to understand what is being said in the essay you are analysing.

This means that you always have to have your intended audience in mind when you’re writing an analytical essay. The most important thing in the essay you’re analysing might change depending on your intended audience. For instance, say you are analysing an essay written about World War II. If the intended audience for your analytical is political students, then you’d probably focus on these aspects of the essay:

  • the political state of each of the countries involved, and

  • alliance treaties.

However, if the people who are going to read your essay are military school students, you might focus on the technical stuff discussed in the essay:

  • infantryman training, ability and equipment,

  • naval ships, and

  • aeroplanes and aviation technology.

Now, you are not just picking bits out and rehashing them. You’re picking bits out and analysing the point the author is trying to get across.