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Organizing A Literary Essay: Suggestions From A Professional


A literary essay is designed to discuss a particular novel or short story. The student must figure out a thesis and write an argument that supports their case. Before the student can write a literary essay, they need to first find literature to write about. Often, the best selection is a novel that the student is personally interested in. By being interested in the novel, the student will have a more enjoyable time writing their paper.

  • Finding a Title
  • One of the first steps is to create a title. The title should reflect the subject of the essay, and it should be creative. Some title examples include: A Character Analysis of Notes from Underground, Morality in Little Women or Victorian England According to Charles Dickens.

  • The Introduction
  • The next step in organizing a literary essay is to build an introduction. This portion of the document should include the name of the document and a brief summary of the text. In general, the writer will want to include the title of the text as well as the name of the author. Toward the middle or the end of the introduction, the student needs to include their thesis statement.

  • Body Paragraphs
  • The body of the literary essay will be made up of miniature thesis statements. Known as topic sentences, these statements support the main thesis statement and further the argument. After writing out the topic sentence, the student should use arguments, quotes, ideas and examples that support their idea. The last sentence in each paragraph should naturally lead into the next topic sentence.

  • Conclusion
  • At the end of the literary essay, the student needs to conclude their writing. They should restate the thesis statement and summarize the argument of their paper. By this portion of the document, the reader should have a clear idea of the student's argument.

  • Using Quotations
  • To support their argument, the student will need to use quotes from the text. The student should make sure that they frame all of the quotes in quotation marks and cite it properly. If the quote is not cited, it is technically considered plagiarism. In addition, the quotation must be cited correctly. The student must figure out the type of writing style used for the assignment and cite their quotes according to the writing style. If the student is unfamiliar with a particular citation style, they can always look it up in a writer's manual or look up examples of the writing style online.