How to Structure an English Literature Essay
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Writing assignment series
Essays in Literature Classes
Brainstorm the question/assignment:
- Restate key words
in the assignment with synonyms or
in your own words;
- Use these equivalent terms
throughout your paper to
- Write down everything
you can think of that is
related to the assignment;
- Generate two or three specific sentences
that answer a question posed by the assignment;
- Write your introduction last,
after you’ve had a
chance to work your way to a conclusion;
Often it helps to take your conclusion, use what you’ve
and then write the introduction in the next draft.
Refine your focus:
- After writing your initial “guiding sentence”
(thesis statement), write a draft, then go back to the thesis
and perhaps re-write it;
- Include in each paragraph an explicit reference
to the language you use in your thesis. If the paragraphs are
not an extension of something in your thesis, either re-write your
thesis statement, edit the paragraph, or cut it. Often you can
revise the paragraph by adding words that more explicitly make the
Make sure that your essay is developed
out of your close
analysis of selected passages found in the readings:
- Choose one or two short passages
from the text(s) to help focus your paper;
- If using a quote, elaborate
on its meaning using
words from it. Don’t leave it up to the reader to figure out how
to interpret the language quoted.
Think about how to organize your paragraphs
to create an
- Is there a “scheme”
you can use to organize your
thoughts to help structure your paper?
- How will your examples
“build” upon each other?
Think of logical possibilities:
less important to more
important, or vice versa;
similar ideas versus contrasting
- Is there a central concept
or metaphor you can weave
throughout your paper to add coherence?
For short papers, start fast.
- Provide an immediate, specific answer
to a question posed by the assignment.
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