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How to Study English Literature

Last Updated: June 24, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed. . Alexander Ruiz is an Educational Consultant and the Educational Director of Link Educational Institute, a tutoring business based in Claremont, California that provides customizable educational plans, subject and test prep tutoring, and college application consulting. With over a decade and a half of experience in the education industry, Alexander coaches students to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence while achieving skills and the goal of achieving skills and higher education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Education from Georgia Southern University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 408,848 times.

English Literature is a complex subject, and many students end up having to study it at some point. With so many things to keep track of, it can feel overwhelming to even decide where to start. Whether you’re studying for a test, an AP exam, or a college course, you can take some steps to help you achieve your goals.

Laying the Groundwork

Step 1 Start early.

  • A stanza is a poetic division of lines and is equivalent to the paragraph in prose writing. Usually, stanzas are at least three lines long; groups of two lines are usually called “couplets.” [1] X Research source
  • Irony at its basic level says one thing but means another, which is almost always the opposite of what is actually said. For example, a character who meets someone in a raging blizzard might say “Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?” This is ironic because the reader can see that it is clearly not lovely weather. William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens are famous for their use of irony. [2] X Research source Do not confuse irony with misfortune, which Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” is culpable of: “a black fly in your chardonnay” is definitely unfortunate, but it’s not ironic.
  • Dramatic irony occurs when the reader or audience knows important information that a character does not, such as the fact that Oedipus killed his father and will marry his mother. [3] X Research source
  • Alliteration is a technique used most often in poetry and plays; it is the repetition of the same initial consonants in multiple words within a short space. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is an example of alliteration.
  • A speaker usually refers to the person from whose point of view a poem is given, although it may also be used to refer to a novel’s narrator. Keeping the speaker separate from the author is important, especially in poetic dramatic monologues such as Robert Browning’s "My Last Duchess," in which a maniacal duke admits to having murdered his first wife. Obviously, it is the speaker, not Browning, who is saying these things.
  • Figurative language is discussed in more length in Part 2 of this article, but it is the opposite of “literal” language. Figurative language uses techniques such as metaphor, simile, personification, and hyperbole to make a point more vividly. For example, in Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra describes Mark Antony this way: “His legs bestride the ocean. His reared arm / Crested the world.” This is hyperbolic language: obviously Antony’s legs didn’t literally straddle the ocean, but it powerfully conveys Cleopatra’s high opinion of him and his power.

Step 4 Look at sample questions, if you can.

Re-reading Your Texts

Step 1 Re-read your text.

  • Metaphors make direct comparisons between two seemingly dissimilar things. They are stronger than similes. For example, the last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is a famous metaphor comparing human lives to boats trying to make progress against a strong current: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” [4] X Research source
  • Similes also make comparisons, but they don’t directly state that “x” is “y”. For example, Margaret Mitchell uses a simile to describe Scarlett O’Hara’s interest in Ashley Wilkes with a simile in her novel Gone With the Wind : “The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key.” [5] X Research source
  • Personification occurs when a non-human animal or object is given human characteristics in order to express an idea more powerfully. For example, Emily Dickinson frequently uses personification in her poems, as in this poem about a snake: “A narrow fellow in the grass / occasionally rides; / You may have met him, -- did you not, / His notice sudden is.” [6] X Research source Here, the snake is a “narrow fellow” who “rides” in the grass, which makes it seem almost like a dashing Victorian gentleman, rather than a reptile.

Step 3 Consider the structure of your text.

  • If you’re reading fiction, think about the order in which the events are recounted. Are there flashbacks or places in the narrative that cycle back in time? Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo begins close to the end of the actual “story” and switches between various times and places in order to emphasize how complicated family histories are.
  • If you’re reading poetry, think about the form of the poetry. What type of poem is it? Is it something formally structured, like a sonnet or sestina? Is it free verse, which makes use of elements such as rhythm and alliteration but doesn’t have a set rhyme scheme? The way the poem is written will often offer clues as to the mood the poet wanted to convey.

Step 4 Think about character archetypes.

  • The Hero is a character who embodies good and often fights against evil in a struggle to bring justice or restore order. Beowulf and Captain America are perfect examples of the Hero archetype.
  • The Innocent Youth is a character who is usually inexperienced, but whom others like because of the faith s/he has in other people. For example, Pip in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations is an Innocent Youth, as is Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. Often, these archetypes will experience some sort of “coming of age” in later parts of the story.
  • The Mentor is tasked with caring for or protecting the main character through wise advice and assistance. Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is an excellent example of a Mentor archetype, as is Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars movies.
  • The Doppelganger is a character who doubles for the main character in order to represent the “dark side” of the hero or heroine. Common examples of doppelgangers include Frankenstein and his Creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Robert Louis Stevenson's' novel of the same name.
  • The Villain is a character with evil plans whom the hero must oppose. The villain will usually do anything to defeat the hero and is often, though not always, clever. Good examples include Shere Khan from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book , Smaug the Dragon from The Hobbit , and the Joker from the Batman comics and films.

Step 5 Think about situational archetypes.

  • The Journey. This is an incredibly common archetype and is referenced in everything from stories of King Arthur to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver’s Travels to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings . In this archetype, the main character undertakes a journey -- physical or emotional, literal or figurative -- to understand something about herself/himself or the world around her/him, or to achieve an important goal. Often, the journey is very important to the plot, as with the Fellowship’s quest to destroy Sauron’s One Ring in the Lord of the Rings.
  • The Initiation . This archetype has similarities with the Journey, but the focus is more on the hero/heroine’s developing maturity through their experiences. This type of story may also be called a ‘’bildungsroman.’’ Henry Fielding's Tom Jones is an excellent example of this, as are the origins of most comic book heroes (for example, Peter Parkers lessons about how to handle “great power and great responsibility” as he becomes Spiderman).
  • The Fall. This is another very common archetype. In this archetype, the main character experiences a fall from grace as the consequence of her/his own action. Examples of this archetype are all over classic literature, including King Lear from Shakespeare’s play King Lear, Ahab from Melville's novel Moby-Dick, and Satan from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.

Step 6 Consider how action develops from conflict.

  • For example, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth hears a prophecy from a trio of witches that says he will become King of Scotland. While he has never wanted to be king until this moment, the prophecy sets him on a path of ambition and murder that eventually leads in his downfall.
  • As another example, in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, a group of young girls face a conflict: they’ve been caught doing naughty things in the woods and face punishment. To try to cover up their actions, they accuse their fellow villagers of witchcraft. This action incites the rest of the play’s story, which follows these accusations as they spin out of control.

Making Useful Notes for Fiction and Drama

Step 1 Summarize each chapter or act in bullet points after you read through the text for the second time.

  • Don’t get too bogged down in summary. You don’t have to summarize every little thing that happens in a chapter or act. Aim to note the main action of each one, as well as any important character or thematic moments.

Step 2 Make out character profiles for each main character.

  • For plays, you may want to note any speeches that seem particularly important, such as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech or the “attention must be paid” speech from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Step 3 Outline any problems the characters face.

  • For example, Shakespeare’s Hamlet has several problems he needs to solve: 1) Is the ghost of his father urging him to seek revenge trustworthy? 2) How can he take revenge on his uncle in a court full of people who are watching his every move? 3) How can he overcome his natural tendency to overthink things to work up the courage to take the revenge he wants?

Step 4 Determine whether these problems are solved.

  • For example, if you’re studying Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice , remembering that Mr. Darcy admits to meddling in Elizabeth’s family affairs will be useful in explaining why they are so angry with each other early in the book (i.e., he is too proud to admit that meddling really was wrong, and she is too prejudiced to admit he might have had motivations that made sense).

Step 6 Make more detailed notes, including main themes in the text and how each character is important in the text.

  • Write down particularly vivid moments from the text. Not only can these help you remember what happened in a chapter, they will give you evidence to use when you make claims about the text in your exam.
  • For example, consider this quotation from Chapter 41 of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, when Ahab has finally caught up with the White Whale: “He [Ahab] piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.” [10] X Research source This is far more evocative than simply saying “Ahab attacked the whale.” This passage emphasizes that Ahab is after the whale not just for taking his leg, but because he’s come to embody every single horrible thing that has happened to humans since time began in this whale, and he is willing to destroy himself -- it’s as if his chest is a cannon, remember, with a cannonball exploding from it -- to take the whale down.

Step 7 Write down any symbols in the text and where they appear.

  • For example, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, the “A” that Hester Prynne must wear in punishment of her adultery is an obvious symbol, but her daughter Pearl also serves as a symbol. Like the “A,” Pearl is a reminder of her adultery, a “token of her shame.” Hester often dresses Pearl in beautiful gold and red dresses, physically linking her to the letter and to Hester’s crime.

Step 8 Look up contemporary connections.

  • For example, if you are studying Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," it’s important to be able to speak about the condition of women in the late 19th century. Gilman was a very important feminist writer who wrote against the traditional social structure of her time, which insisted that a woman’s only place was as a wife and mother. Importantly, her arguments usually insisted that this structure harmed men as well as women -- something that is very useful to bring up in a discussion of her fiction, and something you might not know if you were only acting on “common knowledge” of the era.

Making Useful Notes for Poetry

Step 1 Note what type of poem you’re dealing with.

  • For example, Edna St. Vincent Millay tackles how difficult it is to write poetry in her poem “I Will Put Chaos into Fourteen Lines.” Knowing that this poem is a sonnet about writing sonnets helps explain part of what the poem’s goal is: putting a little modern “chaos” into a very old and established poetic form. Recognizing that Millay uses a classic Petrarchan rhyme scheme and that many of the lines are in iambic pentameter (meaning they sound like “ta-TUM ta-TUM ta-TUM ta-TUM ta-TUM”) will help you identify the poem as a sonnet.
  • Many modern poets write in free verse, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t also paying close attention to the form of their poetry. Look for elements such as alliteration, assonance, repetition, enjambment (the breaking of poetic lines), and rhythm in free verse poetry just as you would in more formally structured poetry.

Step 2 Identify the speaker and the audience of the poem, when possible.

  • Identifying the speaker can be trickier in lyric poetry, such as the type written by poets like Wordsworth or John Keats, because these poems are often written in first-person but don’t make a clear distinction between the speaker and the poet. Nevertheless, even in poems that are written using first-person pronouns like “I”, always refer to the speaker as the speaker, not the poet.

Step 3 Write down any symbols in the poem and where they appear.

  • For example, in William Wordsworth’s poem “Tintern Abbey,” the eye is an important symbol that represents many things, including the poet’s imagination. Wordsworth will often play on the similarity of sound between I and eye , further relating the two concepts.
  • Symbolism is all over the place in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf. One key symbol is the hall of Heorot, King Hrothgar’s great golden mead-hall. Heorot symbolizes community, bravery, warmth, safety, wealth, and civilization, so when Grendel invades Heorot and murders warriors in their sleep there, he’s violating everything about the Scyldings’ lives.

Step 4 Remember that you don’t have to memorize poems you’re studying.

  • It can sometimes be helpful to memorize a key line or two from a poem so that you can use it as evidence. For example, if you’re studying Walt Whitman’s huge poem Leaves of Grass, you might want to memorize the short phrase “dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem.” This short quotation encapsulates much of the meaning from the larger text, and being able to drop it into an exam will help you support your claims.

Step 5 Look up context for your poems.

  • Contextual information can also be useful in keeping you from making incorrect statements about poems. For example, it’s important to know that Shakespeare’s sonnets are not all written to female lovers, even though that was the standard for sonnets of the era. In fact, most of them are written to a “fair youth,” a wealthy young man to whom the poet has some sort of deep, possibly romantic, attraction.

Handling Difficult Texts

Step 1 Re-read passages you don’t understand.

  • Look for footnotes and other aids. Often in books edited for a student audience, the editors will include explanatory footnotes, word definitions, and other aids that can help you grasp what’s going on. Don’t ignore these! They can really help clear up confusing passages.
  • Try listening to the audio version of the text, as this can help you retain the information in a new and fun way.

Step 2 Avoid skimming material.

  • Flash cards are especially helpful for memorizing things such as literary terms and character names. They may be less helpful for remembering more complex information.

Shakespeare Terms Guide

how to study for a literature essay

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Use a highlighter to highlight key parts so they stand out when you read them. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Read the text as many times as you possibly can. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Put your notes in the form of spider diagrams or mind maps, as these can help you remember essential notes much easier. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0

how to study for a literature essay

  • Do not just learn the storyline off by heart. You need to be able to analyze the storyline. Thanks Helpful 55 Not Helpful 5
  • Do not just read a summary of the book or the blurb. Read the whole text. Thanks Helpful 104 Not Helpful 15

You Might Also Like

Become an English Literature Professor

  • ↑ http://literarydevices.net/stanza/
  • ↑ http://literarydevices.net/irony/
  • ↑ http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/classroom/terms.htm
  • ↑ https://bookriot.com/the-last-line-of-the-great-gatsby-so-we-beat-on/
  • ↑ https://kidskonnect.com/language/simile-examples/
  • ↑ http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/115/the-poems-of-emily-dickinson-series-two/4460/nature-poem-24-the-snake/
  • ↑ http://literarydevices.net/archetype/
  • ↑ http://narrativefirst.com/articles/plot-points-and-the-inciting-incident
  • ↑ http://americanliterature.com/author/herman-melville/book/moby-dick-or-the-whale/chapter-41-moby-dick
  • ↑ https://www.vox.com/2014/6/24/5824192/study-smarter-learn-better-8-tips-from-memory-researchers

About This Article

Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed.

To study English literature, always take notes as you read, which will make it easier to recognize themes and connect the dots in the text. Also, highlight important passages that you can use as evidence when you make claims about the story. It's also helpful to make profiles for each main character as you read so you can analyze their character arc after you finish the story. If you think something a character says is important, add it to their profile. For more tips, like how to look for figurative language in English literature, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Interesting Literature

How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

How do you write a good English Literature essay? Although to an extent this depends on the particular subject you’re writing about, and on the nature of the question your essay is attempting to answer, there are a few general guidelines for how to write a convincing essay – just as there are a few guidelines for writing well in any field.

We at Interesting Literature  call them ‘guidelines’ because we hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, which seems too programmatic. And as the writing habits of successful authors demonstrate, there is no  one way to become a good writer – of essays, novels, poems, or whatever it is you’re setting out to write. The French writer Colette liked to begin her writing day by picking the fleas off her cat.

Edith Sitwell, by all accounts, liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing. Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write. (For most student essay-writers, such an aroma is probably allowed to arise in the writing-room more organically, over time.)

We will address our suggestions for successful essay-writing to the average student of English Literature, whether at university or school level. There are many ways to approach the task of essay-writing, and these are just a few pointers for how to write a better English essay – and some of these pointers may also work for other disciplines and subjects, too.

Of course, these guidelines are designed to be of interest to the non-essay-writer too – people who have an interest in the craft of writing in general. If this describes you, we hope you enjoy the list as well. Remember, though, everyone can find writing difficult: as Thomas Mann memorably put it, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ Nora Ephron was briefer: ‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’ So, the guidelines for successful essay-writing:

1. Planning is important, but don’t spend too long perfecting a structure that might end up changing.

This may seem like odd advice to kick off with, but the truth is that different approaches work for different students and essayists. You need to find out which method works best for you.

It’s not a bad idea, regardless of whether you’re a big planner or not, to sketch out perhaps a few points on a sheet of paper before you start, but don’t be surprised if you end up moving away from it slightly – or considerably – when you start to write.

Often the most extensively planned essays are the most mechanistic and dull in execution, precisely because the writer has drawn up a plan and refused to deviate from it. What  is a more valuable skill is to be able to sense when your argument may be starting to go off-topic, or your point is getting out of hand,  as you write . (For help on this, see point 5 below.)

We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay,  practising  is more important than planning.

2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts.

Whilst it’s true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring and most sophisticated essays tend to zoom in on the text and examine its language and imagery closely in the course of the argument. (Close reading of literary texts arises from theology and the analysis of holy scripture, but really became a ‘thing’ in literary criticism in the early twentieth century, when T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Empson, and other influential essayists started to subject the poem or novel to close scrutiny.)

Close reading has two distinct advantages: it increases the specificity of your argument (so you can’t be so easily accused of generalising a point), and it improves your chances of pointing up something about the text which none of the other essays your marker is reading will have said. For instance, take In Memoriam  (1850), which is a long Victorian poem by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about his grief following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, in the early 1830s.

When answering a question about the representation of religious faith in Tennyson’s poem  In Memoriam  (1850), how might you write a particularly brilliant essay about this theme? Anyone can make a general point about the poet’s crisis of faith; but to look closely at the language used gives you the chance to show  how the poet portrays this.

For instance, consider this stanza, which conveys the poet’s doubt:

A solid and perfectly competent essay might cite this stanza in support of the claim that Tennyson is finding it increasingly difficult to have faith in God (following the untimely and senseless death of his friend, Arthur Hallam). But there are several ways of then doing something more with it. For instance, you might get close to the poem’s imagery, and show how Tennyson conveys this idea, through the image of the ‘altar-stairs’ associated with religious worship and the idea of the stairs leading ‘thro’ darkness’ towards God.

In other words, Tennyson sees faith as a matter of groping through the darkness, trusting in God without having evidence that he is there. If you like, it’s a matter of ‘blind faith’. That would be a good reading. Now, here’s how to make a good English essay on this subject even better: one might look at how the word ‘falter’ – which encapsulates Tennyson’s stumbling faith – disperses into ‘falling’ and ‘altar’ in the succeeding lines. The word ‘falter’, we might say, itself falters or falls apart.

That is doing more than just interpreting the words: it’s being a highly careful reader of the poetry and showing how attentive to the language of the poetry you can be – all the while answering the question, about how the poem portrays the idea of faith. So, read and then reread the text you’re writing about – and be sensitive to such nuances of language and style.

The best way to  become attuned to such nuances is revealed in point 5. We might summarise this point as follows: when it comes to knowing how to write a persuasive English Literature essay, it’s one thing to have a broad and overarching argument, but don’t be afraid to use the  microscope as well as the telescope.

3. Provide several pieces of evidence where possible.

Many essays have a point to make and make it, tacking on a single piece of evidence from the text (or from beyond the text, e.g. a critical, historical, or biographical source) in the hope that this will be enough to make the point convincing.

‘State, quote, explain’ is the Holy Trinity of the Paragraph for many. What’s wrong with it? For one thing, this approach is too formulaic and basic for many arguments. Is one quotation enough to support a point? It’s often a matter of degree, and although one piece of evidence is better than none, two or three pieces will be even more persuasive.

After all, in a court of law a single eyewitness account won’t be enough to convict the accused of the crime, and even a confession from the accused would carry more weight if it comes supported by other, objective evidence (e.g. DNA, fingerprints, and so on).

Let’s go back to the example about Tennyson’s faith in his poem  In Memoriam  mentioned above. Perhaps you don’t find the end of the poem convincing – when the poet claims to have rediscovered his Christian faith and to have overcome his grief at the loss of his friend.

You can find examples from the end of the poem to suggest your reading of the poet’s insincerity may have validity, but looking at sources beyond the poem – e.g. a good edition of the text, which will contain biographical and critical information – may help you to find a clinching piece of evidence to support your reading.

And, sure enough, Tennyson is reported to have said of  In Memoriam : ‘It’s too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself.’ And there we have it: much more convincing than simply positing your reading of the poem with a few ambiguous quotations from the poem itself.

Of course, this rule also works in reverse: if you want to argue, for instance, that T. S. Eliot’s  The Waste Land is overwhelmingly inspired by the poet’s unhappy marriage to his first wife, then using a decent biographical source makes sense – but if you didn’t show evidence for this idea from the poem itself (see point 2), all you’ve got is a vague, general link between the poet’s life and his work.

Show  how the poet’s marriage is reflected in the work, e.g. through men and women’s relationships throughout the poem being shown as empty, soulless, and unhappy. In other words, when setting out to write a good English essay about any text, don’t be afraid to  pile on  the evidence – though be sensible, a handful of quotations or examples should be more than enough to make your point convincing.

4. Avoid tentative or speculative phrasing.

Many essays tend to suffer from the above problem of a lack of evidence, so the point fails to convince. This has a knock-on effect: often the student making the point doesn’t sound especially convinced by it either. This leaks out in the telling use of, and reliance on, certain uncertain  phrases: ‘Tennyson might have’ or ‘perhaps Harper Lee wrote this to portray’ or ‘it can be argued that’.

An English university professor used to write in the margins of an essay which used this last phrase, ‘What  can’t be argued?’

This is a fair criticism: anything can be argued (badly), but it depends on what evidence you can bring to bear on it (point 3) as to whether it will be a persuasive argument. (Arguing that the plays of Shakespeare were written by a Martian who came down to Earth and ingratiated himself with the world of Elizabethan theatre is a theory that can be argued, though few would take it seriously. We wish we could say ‘none’, but that’s a story for another day.)

Many essay-writers, because they’re aware that texts are often open-ended and invite multiple interpretations (as almost all great works of literature invariably do), think that writing ‘it can be argued’ acknowledges the text’s rich layering of meaning and is therefore valid.

Whilst this is certainly a fact – texts are open-ended and can be read in wildly different ways – the phrase ‘it can be argued’ is best used sparingly if at all. It should be taken as true that your interpretation is, at bottom, probably unprovable. What would it mean to ‘prove’ a reading as correct, anyway? Because you found evidence that the author intended the same thing as you’ve argued of their text? Tennyson wrote in a letter, ‘I wrote In Memoriam  because…’?

But the author might have lied about it (e.g. in an attempt to dissuade people from looking too much into their private life), or they might have changed their mind (to go back to the example of  The Waste Land : T. S. Eliot championed the idea of poetic impersonality in an essay of 1919, but years later he described  The Waste Land as ‘only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life’ – hardly impersonal, then).

Texts – and their writers – can often be contradictory, or cagey about their meaning. But we as critics have to act responsibly when writing about literary texts in any good English essay or exam answer. We need to argue honestly, and sincerely – and not use what Wikipedia calls ‘weasel words’ or hedging expressions.

So, if nothing is utterly provable, all that remains is to make the strongest possible case you can with the evidence available. You do this, not only through marshalling the evidence in an effective way, but by writing in a confident voice when making your case. Fundamentally, ‘There is evidence to suggest that’ says more or less the same thing as ‘It can be argued’, but it foregrounds the  evidence rather than the argument, so is preferable as a phrase.

This point might be summarised by saying: the best way to write a good English Literature essay is to be honest about the reading you’re putting forward, so you can be confident in your interpretation and use clear, bold language. (‘Bold’ is good, but don’t get too cocky, of course…)

5. Read the work of other critics.

This might be viewed as the Holy Grail of good essay-writing tips, since it is perhaps the single most effective way to improve your own writing. Even if you’re writing an essay as part of school coursework rather than a university degree, and don’t need to research other critics for your essay, it’s worth finding a good writer of literary criticism and reading their work. Why is this worth doing?

Published criticism has at least one thing in its favour, at least if it’s published by an academic press or has appeared in an academic journal, and that is that it’s most probably been peer-reviewed, meaning that other academics have read it, closely studied its argument, checked it for errors or inaccuracies, and helped to ensure that it is expressed in a fluent, clear, and effective way.

If you’re serious about finding out how to write a better English essay, then you need to study how successful writers in the genre do it. And essay-writing is a genre, the same as novel-writing or poetry. But why will reading criticism help you? Because the critics you read can show you how to do all of the above: how to present a close reading of a poem, how to advance an argument that is not speculative or tentative yet not over-confident, how to use evidence from the text to make your argument more persuasive.

And, the more you read of other critics – a page a night, say, over a few months – the better you’ll get. It’s like textual osmosis: a little bit of their style will rub off on you, and every writer learns by the examples of other writers.

As T. S. Eliot himself said, ‘The poem which is absolutely original is absolutely bad.’ Don’t get precious about your own distinctive writing style and become afraid you’ll lose it. You can’t  gain a truly original style before you’ve looked at other people’s and worked out what you like and what you can ‘steal’ for your own ends.

We say ‘steal’, but this is not the same as saying that plagiarism is okay, of course. But consider this example. You read an accessible book on Shakespeare’s language and the author makes a point about rhymes in Shakespeare. When you’re working on your essay on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, you notice a similar use of rhyme, and remember the point made by the Shakespeare critic.

This is not plagiarising a point but applying it independently to another writer. It shows independent interpretive skills and an ability to understand and apply what you have read. This is another of the advantages of reading critics, so this would be our final piece of advice for learning how to write a good English essay: find a critic whose style you like, and study their craft.

If you’re looking for suggestions, we can recommend a few favourites: Christopher Ricks, whose  The Force of Poetry is a tour de force; Jonathan Bate, whose  The Genius of Shakespeare , although written for a general rather than academic audience, is written by a leading Shakespeare scholar and academic; and Helen Gardner, whose  The Art of T. S. Eliot , whilst dated (it came out in 1949), is a wonderfully lucid and articulate analysis of Eliot’s poetry.

James Wood’s How Fiction Works  is also a fine example of lucid prose and how to close-read literary texts. Doubtless readers of  Interesting Literature will have their own favourites to suggest in the comments, so do check those out, as these are just three personal favourites. What’s your favourite work of literary scholarship/criticism? Suggestions please.

Much of all this may strike you as common sense, but even the most commonsensical advice can go out of your mind when you have a piece of coursework to write, or an exam to revise for. We hope these suggestions help to remind you of some of the key tenets of good essay-writing practice – though remember, these aren’t so much commandments as recommendations. No one can ‘tell’ you how to write a good English Literature essay as such.

But it can be learned. And remember, be interesting – find the things in the poems or plays or novels which really ignite your enthusiasm. As John Mortimer said, ‘The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.’

Finally, good luck – and happy writing!

And if you enjoyed these tips for how to write a persuasive English essay, check out our advice for how to remember things for exams  and our tips for becoming a better close reader of poetry .

30 thoughts on “How to Write a Good English Literature Essay”

You must have taken AP Literature. I’m always saying these same points to my students.

I also think a crucial part of excellent essay writing that too many students do not realize is that not every point or interpretation needs to be addressed. When offered the chance to write your interpretation of a work of literature, it is important to note that there of course are many but your essay should choose one and focus evidence on this one view rather than attempting to include all views and evidence to back up each view.

Reblogged this on SocioTech'nowledge .

Not a bad effort…not at all! (Did you intend “subject” instead of “object” in numbered paragraph two, line seven?”

Oops! I did indeed – many thanks for spotting. Duly corrected ;)

That’s what comes of writing about philosophy and the subject/object for another post at the same time!

Reblogged this on Scribing English .

  • Pingback: Recommended Resource: Interesting Literature.com & how to write an essay | Write Out Loud

Great post on essay writing! I’ve shared a post about this and about the blog site in general which you can look at here: http://writeoutloudblog.com/2015/01/13/recommended-resource-interesting-literature-com-how-to-write-an-essay/

All of these are very good points – especially I like 2 and 5. I’d like to read the essay on the Martian who wrote Shakespeare’s plays).

Reblogged this on Uniqely Mustered and commented: Dedicate this to all upcoming writers and lovers of Writing!

I shall take this as my New Year boost in Writing Essays. Please try to visit often for corrections,advise and criticisms.

Reblogged this on Blue Banana Bread .

Reblogged this on worldsinthenet .

All very good points, but numbers 2 and 4 are especially interesting.

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Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay http://www.essay-profy.com/blog/how-to-write-an-essay-writing-an-argumentative-essay/

Reblogged this on DISTINCT CHARACTER and commented: Good Tips

Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented: This could be applied to novel or short story writing as well.

Reblogged this on rosetech67 and commented: Useful, albeit maybe a bit late for me :-)

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AP® English Literature

The ultimate list of ap® english literature tips.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

the_ultimate_list_of AP® English literature tips

Managing to score a 5 on the AP® English Literature and Composition exam is no easy task. In 2020, for example, only 12.5% of students earned a 5 on the test. But don’t let that statistic scare you! While such a number may make you want to throw in the towel, it is possible to ace this exam through hard work, preparation, and determination. In this post, we’ll break down tons of AP® English Literature tips for you to tackle your exam.

The AP® English Literature and Composition exam is designed to test your ability to think critically and analyze literary excerpts. The test is three hours long and consists of a multiple-choice portion (worth 45% of your grade) and a free response portion (worth 55% of your grade).

The best way to score a 5 on the AP® English Literature exam is to practice, practice, practice. And we’re here to help. Below, we’ve compiled an ultimate list of AP® English Literature practice tests, study guides, AP® Lit prose essay examples, test-taking strategies, and more. Think of this page as the ultimate AP® English Literature review.

If you’re looking for online solutions, use Albert . If you’re looking for old school review books, read this for the best AP® English Literature review books .

What We Review

Overall How To Study for AP® English Literature: 9 Tips for 4s and 5s

1. complete any and all summer work assigned.

AP® English Literature, as its title indicates, requires a lot of reading. Chances are, your teacher will provide you with a reading list and expect the required titles to be read when you walk into your first day of class. In some cases, you may even be assigned a report or project to be completed before you begin the class.

These summer assignments serve as crucial moments in the long and difficult process of developing yourself into a budding literary critic. If you take it seriously and complete a proficient assignment, it will show your teacher that you are in the course to learn. This attitude will make the school year a lot more bearable for both you and your instructor.

2. Read Thomas Foster’s How To Read Literature Like a Professor

Foster’s book offers an accessible and entertaining gateway into the complex and often confusing world of literary criticism. Chapters include explanations and reviews of subjects like symbolism, theme, irony, context, and more.

It is an excellent way to begin getting yourself to think deeply about literature, and it offers clear examples of close- and critical reading. It also discusses a wide variety of classic literary works which will help familiarize you with what academics call the “canon.” (More on this in the next tip.) It’s very readable too. Buy it, read it, mark it up, and keep it by your side throughout the class.

3. Become familiar with the Western Canon

Often referred to simply as “The Canon,” the Western Canon is the body of high-culture literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that is highly valued in the West, i.e. the poems, prose passages, and drama selections that you will mostly see on the AP® Lit exam.

Cultivating a basic understanding of these texts and their authors will not only familiarize you with the history and development of the English tradition but also strengthen your understanding of the “conversation of literature,” the innumerable and complex ways that authors and their works speak to each other and interact. We recommend reading at least the first chapter of Harold Bloom’s book on the subject to get a basic understanding.

We also insist that you familiarize yourself with the various problems that the upholding of such a canon produces. During the 80’s and 90’s, a canon war of sorts took place among English departments, with progressives aiming to dismantle the canon on the grounds that it neglects many African-American, female, queer, and impoverished writers in favor of spotlighting “dead white males.” Understanding this friction will deeply enrich your understanding of literature and increase your chances of scoring a 5 on the exam.

4. Learn how to analyze text

Learn how to analyze text - AP® Lit Tips

Analyzing literary text comprises an incredibly large portion of the AP® English Literature course and exam. It’s important that you learn how to examine the text both as a whole and as a part. Analyze the setting, characters, and plot of the piece. However, it’s also imperative that you understand how to look deeper within the details. Deconstruct the text and examine its theme, look for literary devices, and motives. Do not merely summarize. Foster’s book from tip #2 is a great place to start developing your critical reading skills.

5. Develop a daily reading habit

This is literature! Therefore, you should become accustomed to reading…a lot! However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to aim to read an outrageous number of books or anything. You just need to at least make an attempt to read every day.

Get a subscription to a major publication like The New Yorker or The New York Times , or you can check out our comprehensive AP® English Literature Reading List for a list of essential works. As you read, try to dissect the depth of the text. After a few days of this, you’ll be surprised at how easy analysis can come to you once you train your mind to question everything.

6. Ask questions to seek clarity

Your teacher is there to help; it’s their job. If there’s anything you don’t understand, be sure to ask your instructor even if you feel embarrassed or shy. Understanding a concept you previously had trouble with is sure to be a huge weight off of your shoulders. Asking questions and literature go hand-in-hand. Some go-to’s include: 

  • “How did the author create that tone?”
  • “How do you properly weave evidence into your argument?
  • “What is the meaning of this word?”

7. Form a study group and meet either weekly or bi-weekly

Studying with other people provides opportunities to approach subject matter from different angles, and analyzing literature is all about understanding and engaging with various perspectives.

Everyone brings their own experience to the text, and what better way to learn about new perspectives than through a study group? Meet weekly or bi-weekly at a coffee shop or friend’s house, and maintain a focused but casual tone. Also, create a checklist of what to review with your group prior to meeting to provide structure to the meeting.

8 . Make flashcards of literary devices, terms, concepts, works, and more

The AP® English Literature exam consists of tons of questions involving literary devices, authorial intention, works and authors, and more, so it is imperative that you develop a strong understanding of the literary lexicon.

The easiest way to strengthen your vocabulary is to make yourself some flashcards with the most common literary devices, authors, works, and rhetorical techniques, and carve out at least 30 minutes per day to review. If you’d prefer to use an online resource, make some flashcards over at Quizlet !

9. Experiment with different study styles

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to studying. Maybe you’re a visual learner. Perhaps you like to listen to the material to really understand it. The best way to find out what form of studying helps you best is to experiment. Use flashcards one day, read and summarize material the next, take a practice exam after that, and then try a study group. Variety is key!

Now that you have a grasp on how to get through the actual coursework of your AP® English Literature and Composition class, it’s time to learn how to study for the exam at the end of the year.

First, we’ll take a look at some tips that are sure to help you ace the first portion of the AP® Literature exam: the multiple-choice section. This portion is worth 45% of your total score and it consists of several passages to read and 55 questions to answer, which you have exactly one hour to complete.

Let’s get started.

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AP® English Literature Multiple-Choice Review: 11 Tips

AP® English Literature Multiple-Choice

1. Choose a multiple-choice strategy: read the passages first or read the questions first

Most people are familiar with the classic shortcut when it comes to taking multiple choice tests—read the questions first, then scan the passages to look for the answers. This method of approaching the AP® English Literature exam can work. It can give you a more focused, determined approach on what to look for when reading the passage. But it can also be distracting to some.

On the other hand, you can read the passages first and then answer the questions. This is the more straightforward, perhaps more traditional way of approaching the multiple-choice section, and it works best for people who like to do things in logical, sequential ways. Work through a few practice exams, and then decide which works best for you and stick with it. 

2. Look deep within the text for implications and subtleties

Analyze the passages within the exam very carefully. There will undoubtedly be questions covering the tone of the passage, or the author’s purpose for writing it. Was it to inform or persuade the audience? To create a specific mood or tone? Perhaps the author used some literary devices like allusions or irony. Closely read the passages and you will have no problem identifying the answers to questions that are specific to the literature side of AP® English. Avoid interpreting the text at face-value.

3. Carefully read the questions and mark them up

If you don’t understand what the question is asking, you can’t possibly expect to know the answer. Take a deep breath and calmly read the questions, dissecting them completely by marking them up with underlines, circles, and more. If you’d like you could create your own system, where underlining represents, say, imagery, and circles represent irony, etc.

Sometimes, the writers of the test will throw in certain words or phrases that lead the question in a different direction. For example, the words “ EXCEPT ” and “ NOT ” are often used at the end of questions, and this can confuse you. Underline these keywords to force yourself to pay attention to them. 

4. Eliminate answer choices that are obviously incorrect

Ever since you were young, you’ve likely heard the helpful suggestion of deducing answers. If you’re familiar with the subject matter of the question, it should be easy to rule out at least one of the choices that you have determined not to be correct.

Physically mark out the answers you believe are wrong by crossing or exxing them out. It will help you to visually see which answers couldn’t possibly be correct, and it will make the multiple-choice questions much more manageable.

5. Reread parts of the passage that are pertinent to the AP® English Literature questions

If a certain question throws you slightly off, return to the passage to clear up your confusion. Most of the time, the answer can be found either directly inside the text or just outside of it through implication and metaphor.

You may even want to put a star, dash, or some other marking beside portions of the text that contain answers or key phrases or moments. That way, if you have extra time at the end of the test, you can go back and check your answers quickly.

6. Pay attention to time

Pay attention to time - AP® Lit tips

This is a timed exam. You have 60 minutes to complete 55 questions. This allows for an average of less than a minute per question when you account for time spent reading passages. You have absolutely no time to sit at your desk staring blankly at questions you don’t quite understand.

Luckily, there is no penalty for answers marked wrong—or answers not marked at all—on the AP® English Literature exam. This means you should definitely skip the questions you’re unsure of. Mark them in some sort of way so that it is noticeable that you haven’t answered them yet. Then, if you have some time at the end of the test, you can go back and see if you can come up with the answer. Alternatively, if you can’t seem to find an answer: guess!

7. Formulate summaries of the passages in the margins

If you are a fast worker, this tip may prove extremely helpful for you. A few of the multiple-choice questions may test your overall comprehension of the passages you read. In the margins of the page beside the passage, jot down a few bullet points outlining the plot progression as you read. This way you can refer back to your notes when answering questions rather than searching the entire text. Think of this strategy as you are creating a treasure map of the passage, drawing up a guide which will lead you to the hidden treasure.

8. Be wary of “All of the above” and “None of the above.”

There will be a few times where “all of the above” and “none of the above” appear as answer choices on the AP® English Language exam. These can be tricky. Remember that “all of the above” means that every single provided answer choice is correct, so if you are somewhat unsure of a single answer then be weary of “all of the above.” The same goes for “none of the above.” Be confident that all choices are either correct or incorrect.

9. Create a daily study routine and stick to it

You will not be able to score a 5 if you decide to cram the night or even week before the exam. Therefore, you must develop a daily study schedule as soon as the year begins. One way to do this is to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to study. Moreover, take the flashcards you’ve made with you wherever you go. Keep them in your wallet, in your purse, or even in your car. Whenever you have a moment of free time, instead of scrolling through Twitter or Facebook on your phone, run through a review of your terms. Ultimately, create your own AP® English Literature study guide. It’ll stick better in your memory and help your AP® Literature exam score in the long run.

10. Work through multiple practice exams

The most helpful and effective way to prepare for the multiple-choice portion of the AP® English Literature exam is by testing yourself. Prepare early in the semester for the test by taking practice exams. We offer tons of practice assessments with our AP® English Literature course and so does College Board , but if you’re more of a pen and paper person, you can use the recommended AP® Lit books here .

Shoot for one practice exam per month, and be sure to time yourself when working through the practice exams. This will help familiarize you with the ins and outs of the exam itself while simultaneously strengthening your test-taking skills. We can’t stress this tip enough. 

11. Don’t let your stress and anxiety overwhelm you

Sure, the AP® English Literature exam is a difficult and important test. And yes, it affects the amount of college credit you receive coming out of high school. But at the end of the day, it’s just a test. Anxiety and stress can severely affect your ability to function and think correctly. Take a deep breath periodically throughout the test. It’ll help calm your body and soothe your mind so you can concentrate better.

Now that you have some tips on how to tackle the multiple-choice portion of the AP® English Literature exam, it’s time to focus on the most challenging part: the free response portion. In this portion, you have two hours to complete three essays. This section tests your ability to analyze passages and dissect them to form logical interpretations to be illustrated in your essays.

Here are some tips for nailing the free response portion of the AP® English Literature and Composition exam:

AP® English Literature Free-Response Review: 13 Tips

AP® English Literature Free-Response Tips

1. Critically read and mark-up the question

The first step towards writing an awesome essay on the AP® Literature exam is reading (and understanding) the question. What are the authors of the test asking for specifically? As you read the question, underline, highlight, or circle key words and phrases. Think critically about what the question is asking of you. The scorers of the free response portion want essays that are clear and to the point. Simply restating the prompt will result in a huge deduction of points. Regurgitating the question will show the reader that you may not be confident in your ability to dissect passages. Avoid this by spending time with the question and marking the AP® English Literature prompts up.

AP® Literature FRQ

Here, the key words and phrases to underline are “analyze” and “portrayal” as they point you toward what you are to do and where you are to focus. Additionally, the prompt includes further areas to highlight including, “imagery, selection of detail, and tone.”

2. Develop a strong, well-developed AP® English Literature thesis statement

A well-written thesis is the basis of all successful essays. As mentioned previously, do NOT restate the question. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes students made in the 2019 exam involved moving from commentary (point by point observations) to more cohesive claims. In other words, students had difficulty strengthening their observations into arguments. Many times, this error stems from having a weak thesis statement. Think of your thesis as your essay’s central claim, its expression of its argument. Crafting a perfect thesis statement is indeed difficult, so if you find yourself totally lost, check out AP’s very own video lecture on the subject .

Here are examples of good and bad thesis statements over an essay concerning free speech: 

  • Bad Thesis: “This paper will consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain restrictions on free speech.” 
  • Good Thesis: “Even though there may be considerable advantages to restricting hate speech, the possibility of chilling open dialogue on crucial racial issues is too great and too high a price to pay.”

3. Structure the essay with a cohesive mode of organization

Organization is key to writing a great essay. If your analysis moves all over the place in a discursive manner, the reader will get angry, and you don’t want to make the reader angry. You should be greatly familiar with the basic five paragraph essay outline before taking the exam. While this outline isn’t necessarily set in stone (it can be adjusted, expanded, shortened, etc.), it does serve as a tried and true method of organization.

After you dissect the question, prepare an outline within the first few minutes of writing your essay. Perhaps even use a diagram, if you’re a visual learner. A clear and precise outline can help prevent rambling when answering the question in your essay.

4. Use high-level, academic vocabulary

Since this is an exam for an Advanced Placement English course, it is imperative that you use a vocabulary that reflects a higher level of education. Avoid slang, colloquialism, and vague language like, “sort of,” “kind of,” and “very.” These lower the professional and academic tone of your essay, and they will obfuscate your writing with ambiguity.

On the other hand, don’t go overboard with smarty-pants language that you don’t have control of. This will render your essay pretentious and unclear. To strengthen your academic vocabulary, you should make flashcards on Quizlet and develop a daily study habit. Check out our 15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms for AP® English Literature page , too.

5. Mark-up the passage and refer back to it

On the first two essays, you will be asked to read a passage and analyze it according to the instructions given in the question. Use the passage to your advantage. As you read mark it up by circling, highlighting, or underlining key words or phrases. One common misconception that occurred in the 2019 exam was students relying on plot summary instead of focusing more specifically on details or elements and explaining how these illustrate their points. To avoid this, frequently refer back to specific parts of the text.

6. Develop familiarity with many literary works to ace the third FRQ

The third free response question on the AP® Literature exam is more open-ended than the first two. AP® describes the FRQ as this: “An analysis that examines a specific concept, issue, or element in a work of literary merit selected by the student.” Essentially, you will respond to an open-ended prompt by selecting your own work of literary merit to analyze. Therefore, you must become familiar with a wide variety of texts that could help you answer the question. It’s important that you keep this particular essay question in mind as you work throughout the semester. Check out our Ultimate AP® English Literature Reading List!

7. Practice frequently using previous exams and consulting rubrics

As they say, practice really does make perfect. A good option for practicing free response questions involves searching the Internet for old exam rubrics. These show you exactly what the scorers are looking for in an essay. The AP® Literature section of AP® Central has several practice exams for your use. Take advantage of this and practice writing essays using different prompts from previous exams. We also offer practice exams filled with free response prompts that can help you develop your writing skills. 

8. Use a good writing utensil

Use a good writing utensil - AP® Lit Tips

Nothing is worse than getting halfway through an essay and having your pen run out of ink, or your pencil getting smudged. Often, readers prefer the look and clarity of black ink to colored ink or the graphite of pencil. Take that into mind when going into the free response portion of the exam, and have a handful of backup writing utensils at hand when you take the test. The Ticonderoga pencil is a tried and tested stalwart, and we recommend it. 

9. Pace yourself throughout the test

Before the free response portion begins, work out how much time you need to spend on each question. It may even be helpful to bring a watch to time yourself on each essay. Remember: there are three essay questions total: one literary analysis of a poem, one of a passage of prose fiction, and one analysis of a specific concept, issue, or element in a work of literary merit. You have a total of two hours, so we recommend that you spend 40 minutes per question. However, you also need to be sure that you are not rushing through the questions and leaving vital information out of your essays. Time yourself when you take practice exams, and go from there.

10. Write legibly

When facing the pressure of taking difficult tests, you might find yourself rushing through the essay questions because of time constraints. This often leads to messy handwriting that will give your scorer a headache. The clarity of your writing is necessary for a good score on your essay. If the reader cannot decipher your chicken scratch, how can they possibly score it? In order to perfect this skill before the exam, practice writing legibly under pressure during practice exams and other essays. 

11. Don’t leave any question blank

Although this may be acceptable for the multiple-choice portion of the exam, it is absolutely inexcusable for your essays. You only get three chances to prove your competency in the free response portion, and the section at large counts for 55% of your overall score. Some might say that the FRQ section is the most important portion of the exam because of its weight. Write, write, and write even if you are totally stumped by the prompt. Take advantage of this opportunity to show the readers how much you’ve learned from taking this AP® course.

12. Understand what the AP® readers are looking for

As we said earlier, rubrics are a great resource to use when preparing for the AP® English Literature exam. They reflect exactly how your essay will be scored. It’s vital to understand exactly what the readers are looking for in a good essay. This includes:

a) Thesis: This requirement emphasizes the importance of crafting an effective thesis statement. Students must respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible interpretation of the poem.

b) Evidence and commentary: This section assesses your ability to cite and analyze textual evidence. It stresses that you provide specific evidence to support all claims in a line of reasoning, and consistently explain how the evidence supports that line of reasoning. Additionally, you must explain how multiple literary elements or techniques in the poem contribute to its meaning.

c) Sophistication: This component of the rubric is tough because sophistication is not something you can simply check off. Ultimately, the scorer wants your essay to demonstrate sophistication of thought and/or develops a complex literary argument.

13. Listen to your teacher

This is perhaps the most important of all the AP® Lit free response tips. Over the course of the semester, your teacher will provide you with ample advice for the exam. Pay close attention to your teacher’s guidance, and frequently meet with them to discuss your progress.

Seriously, meet with your teachers and continue asking how you can improve, what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing so well, etc. If the information your teacher gives you wasn’t relevant, they wouldn’t waste their time giving it to you. Your instructor knows the exam; it’s only logical to follow their advice.

In the event that you have a bad teacher, consult online resources like us, and perhaps begin formulating relationships with other teachers who are known to be excellent. Moreover, meet with students who excel in the course, and try to form study groups with them.

The AP® English Literature and Composition exam is all about analysis of different literary works. Hopefully, these tips will help you tackle this massive exam with ease.

Study Tips from AP® English Literature Teachers

Tips Submitted by AP® English Literature Teachers

We asked a number of AP® English Literature teachers to share their favorite AP® Lit tips and have compiled them here for you to review.

AP® English Literature Multiple Choice Tips:

1. Debate the questions

Get students to debate the answers to AP® multiple choice questions without your help. After they “quiz” on a passage and the questions for it, ask them how they think they did. The answer is always mixed, so give them an option: Keep the score they currently have OR discuss the answers in a large group without teacher’s help and take that community grade. 

They always pick the latter. Participating in the discussion helps students practice justifying their answers (tell them you will keep track to make sure that everyone participates at least ___ time(s).) As you observe their process, you will gain all kinds of insight into students’ thinking process, they will learn from the ways their classmates explain their choices, and their scores are almost always 100! Thanks for the tip from Wendy R. from Weslaco East High School.

2. Brush up on your vocabulary

If you don’t understand the vocabulary used in the questions and/or answers, you will not be able to find the correct answer. There are many words with multiple meanings/nuances of meaning that will bring you to the wrong conclusion. Pay attention to the wording of the questions and answers! Thanks for the tip from Susan R. from Palm Beach Gardens High.

3. Consider Audience, Occasion & Purpose

Whether you’re speaking, reading or writing, you’re thinking: Audience, Occasion & Purpose. Who is the audience? What is the occasion? And what is the purpose of the author’s writing? Breaking down writing and literature into these three components can make the exam much easier and more digestible. Thanks for the tip from Mike L. at Tilton School.

AP® English Literature Free Response Tips:

1. Always remember to consider the author’s purpose

 Retelling what happened in the story is not an analysis. You must understand and relay why the author wrote it the way he/she did and what he/she is trying to tell readers! That’s crucial! Thanks for the tip from Kim F. from Tavares High.

2. Strive for originality

Think about the fact that the AP® readers have been looking at essays on the same topics for three days. What will you do to be original and stand out that will surprise the reader at 4:30 pm on day three? Brainstorm what everyone else will say before writing. Then, don’t write on those topics. Originality will hook your reader. Thanks for the tip from Mike G. from MPS.

3. Don’t just summarize the author’s devices or techniques

Focused writing on two or three aspects of the text (characterization, use of devices, etc) accompanied with analysis will generate a higher score than lightly touching on five to ten aspects. As a reader, we are happy that you can identify techniques, but what we are looking for is analysis. And, we also know that analysis is tough to achieve. Think deep about the text. What was the author trying to say about the human condition with this scene, with that image? Thanks for the tip from Matt U. at Liberty High.

4. Always answer the question: “So what?”

Yes, the writer used an extended metaphor, so what? Why did they choose that metaphor? How does that choice reflect the author’s intent? What effect does it create within the text and within the reader? Provide the reader with the “so what” to help drive your analysis deeper. Thanks for the second tip from Matt U. at Liberty High.

5. Students who read widely and regularly are far more prepared to write and communicate clearly with a deeper understanding than students who do not read

Reading expands knowledge, vocabulary usage, and comprehension, and it enables students to make connections within and between content areas which have real-world applications. Reading widely across genres will broaden your perspective, too. Thanks for the tip from Elizabeth B. from Harrison High.

6. Use something you’ve read in AP® Lit for the third question

While you may be tempted to analyze a novel you’ve read on your own for the third FRQ, you should stick to what you’ve read in class. You will have spent more time and analytical energy on those books and plays than you did on your own.. Prepare for Question 3 before the exam by reviewing everything you’ve read in AP® English Literature. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

7. Turn your words into pictures and your pictures into words

Meaning: If you have an idea, anchor it to something concrete. If you have something concrete, associate it with an idea. Be able to move back and forth between the abstract and the literal. Most if not all deep literature involves this sort of mental navigation, so it’s best that you become familiar with it. Thanks for the tip from Jeff T. at Lynden Christian High School.

8. Never be unacceptably brief

Even if the selection is difficult or slim, there’ll be something in it that all students can latch onto and dissect. Sometimes, even the smallest moments in literature are actually the biggest through moments of metaphor, symbolism, and more. So if you find yourself writing 1-2 sentence paragraphs, return to the smaller moments and think BIG!Thanks for the third tip from Bill O. from El Molino High.

9. Do not merely skim to point out literary devices

Zoom deep into the text to identify the device, explain in detail how the device is functioning and then zoom out to explain how it works to support the passage as a whole and how it connects to the universal human condition. Focus on two primary ideas (literary devices, elements of composition, etc…) for each essay in order to go deeper in analysis of each. This means the difference between writing a college level paper and writing a high school level paper. Thanks for the tip from Jodi G. from Saugus High. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

10. Deconstruct the prompt

Make sure you understand exactly what the prompt is asking you to do. Then use it as a focus for your annotation of the text on Q1 and Q2 and as a launching point for your notes and thesis for Q3. Spend a lot of time marking up and breaking down the prompt before you attempt the essays. Look for key words, phrases, action verbs, etc. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

11. Find a good literary timeline to conceptualize what you read in terms of the art movement and historical time period

Since the AP® Literature Exam is a test over, well, literature, knowing the historical progression of literature is vital. This is where a literary timeline comes in handy. Check out this one on Pinterest for a general idea. These can provide insight into the texts as well as help you remember what you have read. Thanks for the tip from Paul H. at Walled Lake Central High.

Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate List of AP® English Literature Tips

Scoring a 5 on the AP® English Literature exam is a difficult feat to accomplish. However, with proper preparation, some hard work, and consistent practice, you can ace the exam. Remember that the AP® English Literature and Composition exam is designed to test your ability to read critically and deeply analyze literature. The test is three hours long and consists of a multiple-choice portion (worth 45% of your grade) and a free response portion (worth 55% of your grade).

To adequately prepare, you must develop an effective study routine. Make flashcards of common literary concepts and terms using Quizlet. Take practice exams either through Albert , and be sure to time yourself each time you take one of the tests. Finally, cultivate a daily reading schedule which incorporates literature (fiction or poetry, preferably for this exam). This will familiarize you with the wide and complex world of literature and sharpen your literary skills. We also offer tons of practice on various novels and essential works that can be super helpful, too.

After taking a few practice exams, identify which section of the test you are better or worse at. Do you ace the multiple choice but flunk the free-response questions? Whichever it is, be sure to practice and develop your weaker skills. Focusing on the components of the test that you consistently ace—though it may be tempting—will make your score lopsided. Again, we must reiterate: practice, practice, practice. 

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4 thoughts on “the ultimate list of ap® english literature tips”.

Ahhh….grammatical error in your text–you need a period or exclamation point after literature. (See below)

5. Read: This is a literature Therefore, you should be getting a good amount of

Thank you for catching that. We have fixed it!

These tips will be very helpful for me during this year of AP® Lit. I found tip 23 most important because I always take to much time on things like the intro that I don’t realize I’m wasting much of my time.

Thanks for sharing what you found most helpful, Antonio!

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Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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Home » Resources » Study Tips for Literature

Study Tips for Literature

  • By Sheila A.
  • March 25, 2014

how to study for a literature essay

As a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature, I’ve probably had to do more reading than the average student. When there’s so much to read and so little time, certain reading and studying habits make my life easier and help me retain important details about each text I read. Here are a few of them:

  • Read actively!  That means you have to keep your brain awake as you read. The best way to do this is to ask yourself certain questions as you go (pausing after every a page or two to check your understanding of the text): What is going on? What is probably going to happen next? Who is speaking, and what do I know about the speaker? How do I know it? What motivates the characters, narrator, and author (especially if it is non-fiction text)?
  • Take notes.  Jot down notes in the margin (only if you own the book) or in a notebook while you read to keep track of the plot, the characters, and any other elements you find interesting or confusing. Also, record your feelings and reactions to these elements.
  • Pay attention to problem spots.  These are points at which you don’t understand the narrative, something surprising happened, or the language confuses you. These are often good sections to analyze in papers, so note down what specifically confuses you (and page numbers).
  • Review your notes periodically and transfer them  to Word, Google Docs, Evernote, or OneNote. Create an ongoing outline for each text, organizing your notes as you enter them. Putting these on your computer makes them searchable, and that’s going to be key for when you need to study, write a response paper, or clear up some later confusion in the text.
  • In your notes document,  list other texts—even music or art—that somehow remind you of this particular text.  Consider how they are similar and how they are different.
  • In your notes document,  write a description of the text’s structure.  Does it weave between interconnected stories? Does it flow chronologically, or are there multiple flashbacks or flash-forwards?
  • Discuss what you’re reading with classmates and friends,  especially those problem spots! Try reading aloud to someone (even to yourself), too, as this can really help clarify what’s going on in a story.
  • When you really run into trouble understanding part of a text,  don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for help.

  At first, this may seem like a lot to do just for one text. If you’re not a career literature student, you may not initially realize how much time, effort, energy, and emotion goes into actually reading a text well. However, if you practice reading in this way, it will become second nature over time and you’ll become a lot more adept at responding to questions and writing papers on your texts.

Struggling on a reading assignment or having a hard time studying for a literature test? Contact us and we’ll get you the help you need.

Sheila A.

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beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

how to study for a literature essay

Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

how to study for a literature essay

Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

how to study for a literature essay

Anthony Cockerill

Anthony Cockerill

| Writing | The written word | Teaching English |

How to write great English literature essays at university

Essential advice on how to craft a great english literature essay at university – and how to avoid rookie mistakes..

If you’ve just begun to study English literature at university, the prospect of writing that first essay can be daunting. Tutors will likely offer little in the way of assistance in the process of planning and writing, as it’s assumed that students know how to do this already. At A-level, teachers are usually very clear with students about the Assessment Objectives for examination components and centre-assessed work, but it can feel like there’s far less clarity around how essays are marked at university. Furthermore, the process of learning how to properly reference an essay can be a steep learning curve.

But essentially, there are five things you’re being asked to do: show your understanding of the text and its key themes, explore the writer’s methods, consider the influence of contextual factors that might influence the writing and reading of the text, read published critical work about the text and incorporate this discourse into your essay, and finally, write a coherent argument in response to the task.

With advice from English teachers, HE tutors and other people who’ve been there and done it, here are the most crucial things to remember when planning and writing an essay.

Read around the subject and let your argument evolve.

‘One of the big step-ups from A-level, where students might only have had to deal with critical material as part of their coursework, is the move toward engaging with the critical debate around a text.’

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Reading around the task and making notes is all important. Get familiar with the reading list. Become adept at searching for critical material in books and articles that’s not on the reading list. Talk with the librarian. Make sure you can find your way around the stacks. Get log-ins for the various databases of online criticism, such as the MLA International Bibliography .

‘Tutors are looking for flair… for students to be nuanced and creative with their ideas as opposed to reproducing the same criticism that others already have.’

When reading, keep notes, make summaries and write down useful quotations. Make sure you keep track of what you’ve read as you go. Note the publication details (author, publisher, year and place of publication). If you write down a quotation, note the page number. This will make dealing with citations and writing your bibliography much easier later on, as there’s nothing more annoying than getting to the end of the first draft of your essay and realising you’ve no idea which book or article a quote came from or which page it was on.

‘The more I read, the sharper my own writing style became because I developed an opinion of the writing style I liked and I had a clear sense of the subject matter that I was discussing.’
‘Don’t wing the reading. Or the thinking. Crap writing emerges from style over substance.’

Get to grips with the question and plan a response.

‘Brain dump at the start in the form of a mind map. This will help you focus and relax. You can add to it as go along and can shape it into a brief plan.’

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Before writing a single word, brainstorm. Do some free-thinking. Get your ideas down on paper or sticky notes. Cross things out; refine. Allow your planning to be led by ideas that support your argument.

Use different colour-coded sticky notes for your planning. In the example below, the student has used yellow sticky notes for ideas, blue for language, structure and methods, purple for context and green for literary criticism, which makes planning the sequence of the essay much easier.

Structure and sequence your ideas

‘Make your argument clear in your opening paragraph, and then ensure that every subsequent paragraph is clearly addressing your thesis.’

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Plan the essay by working out a sequence of your ideas that you believe to be the most compelling. Allow your ideas to serve as structural signposts. Augment these with relevant criticism, context and focus on language and style.

‘Read wide and look at different pieces of criticism of a particular work and weave that in with your own interpretation of said work.’

Sequencing Ideas

Write a great introduction.

‘By the end of the first paragraph, make sure you have established a very clear thesis statement that outlines the main thrust of the essay.’

Your introduction should make your argument very clear. It’s also a chance to establish working definitions of any problematic terms and to engage with key aspects of the wider critical debate.

Essay Introduction

Get to grips with academic style and draft the essay

‘[Write with] an ‘exploratory’ tone rather than ‘dogmatic’ one.’

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Academic writing is characterised by argument, analysis and evaluation. In an earlier post , I explored how students in high school might improve their analytical writing by adopting three maxims. These maxims are just as helpful for undergraduates. Firstly, aim for precise, cogent expression. Secondly, deliver an individual response supported by your reading – and citing – of published literary criticism. Thirdly, work on your personal voice. In formal analytical writing such as the university essay, your personal voice might be constrained rather more than it would be in a blog or a review, but it must nonetheless be exploratory in tone. Tentativity can be an asset as it suggests appreciation of nuances and alternative ways of thinking.

how to study for a literature essay

‘I got to grips with what was being asked of me by reading lots of literary criticism and becoming more familiar with academic writing conventions.’

Avoid unnecessary or clunky sign-post phrases such as ‘in this essay, I am going to…’ or ‘a further thing…’ A transition devices that can work really well is the explicit paragraph link, in which a motif or phrase in the last sentence of a paragraph is repeated in the first sentence of the next paragraph.

Paragraph Transitions

Write a killer conclusion

‘There is more emphasis on finding your own voice at university, something which in many ways is inhibited by Assessment Objectives at A-Level. I don’t think ‘good’ academic writing is necessarily taught very well in schools — at least from my experience.’

The conclusion is a really important part of your essay. It’s a chance to restate your thesis and to draw conclusions. You might achieve closure or instead, allude to interesting questions or ideas the essay has perhaps raised but not answered. You might synthesise your argument by exploring the key issue. You could zoom-out and explore the issue as part of a bigger picture.

Conclusion

Be meticulous in your referencing.

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Having supported your argument with quotations from published critics, it’s important to be meticulous about how you reference these, otherwise you could be accused of plagiarism – passing someone else’s work off as your own. There are three broad ways of referencing: author-date, footnote and endnote. However, within each of these three approaches, there are specific named protocols. Most English literature faculties use either the MLA (Modern Languages Association of America) style or the Harvard style (variants of the author-date approach). It’s important to check what your faculty or department uses, learn how to use it (faculties invariably publish guidance, but ask if you’re unsure) and apply the rules meticulously.

‘Read your work aloud, slowly, sentence by sentence. It’s the best way to spot typos, and it allows you to hear what is awkward and/or ungrammatical. Then read the essay aloud again.’

Write with precision. Use a thesaurus to help you find the right word, but make sure you use it properly and in the right context. Read sentences back and prune unnecessary phrases or redundant words. Similarly, avoid words or phrases which might sound self-important or pompous.

Like those structural signposts that don’t really add anything, some phrases need to be omited, such as ‘many people have argued that…’ or ‘futher to the previous paragraph…’.

Finally, make sure the essay is formatted correctly. University departments are usually clear about their expectations, but font, size, and line spacing are usually stipulated along with any other information you’re expected to include in the essay’s header or footer. And don’t expect the proofing tool to pick up every mistake.

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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how to study for a literature essay

To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.

Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?

There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.

A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.

Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.

What are the parts of a lit review?

Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.

Introduction:

  • An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
  • A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
  • Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
  • Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.

Conclusion:

  • Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
  • Connect it back to your primary research question

How should I organize my lit review?

Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:

  • Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
  • Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
  • Qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
  • Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.

What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?

Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .

As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.

Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:

  • It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
  • Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
  • Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
  • Read more about synthesis here.

The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.

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International Baccalaureate (IB)

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Are you taking IB English and need some help with your studying? No need to reread all the books and poems you covered in class! This study guide is for IB English A students (students in IB English A: literature SL/HL, IB English A: language and literature SL/HL, or IB English literature and performance SL ) who are looking for additional guidance on writing their commentaries or essays.

I've compiled this IB English study guide using the best free materials available for this class. Use it to supplement your classwork and help you prepare for exams throughout the school year.

What's Tested on the IB English Exams?

The IB English courses are unique from other IB classes in that they don't have a very rigid curriculum with exact topics to cover. Instead, your class (or most likely your teacher) is given the freedom to choose what works (from a list of prescribed authors and a list of prescribed literature in translation from IBO) to teach. The exams reflect that freedom.

On the exam for all English A courses, you're asked to write essays that incorporate examples from novels, poems, plays, and other texts you've read. You're also asked to interpret a text that you've read for the first time the day of the exam.

The exact number of questions you'll have to answer varies by the course , but the types of questions asked on each all fall into the two categories listed above.

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What's Offered in This Guide?

In this guide, I have compiled materials to help teach you how to interpret poetry and how to structure your essay/commentary. I've also provided notes on several books typically taught in IB English SL/HL.

This should be most of the material you need to study for your IB exam and to study for your in-class exams.

How to Interpret Poetry Guides

Many people struggle the most with the poetry material, and if you're one of those people, we have some resources specifically for making poetry questions easier.

Here is a full explanation of how to interpret poetry for the IB exam with term definitions, descriptions of types of poems, and examples. We also have tons of poetry resources on our blog that range from explaining specific terms all the way to complete, expert analyses of poems you should know.

Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Imagery defined
  • Everything you need to know about Point of View 
  • The 20 poetic devices you should know 
  • Understanding allusion 
  • A crash course on Romantic poetry 
  • Understanding personification 
  • Famous sonnets, explained
  • An expert guide to understanding rhyme and meter, including iambic pentameter
  • The eight types of sonnets 
  • Expert analysis of "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas

This is another great resource with poetry terms defined on "flashcards" , and you can test yourself on the site by clicking "play."

How to Write Your Essay Guide

If you're not sure how to write your essay, here's a guide to what your essay should look like for the IB English SL/HL papers. This guide gives advice on how you should structure your essay and what you should include in it. It also contains a few sample questions so you can get a better idea of the types of prompts you can expect to see.

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IB English Book Notes

Based on the list of prescribed authors and literature from IBO, I picked some of the most popular books to teach and provided links to notes on those works. What's important to remember from these books is key moments, themes, motifs, and symbols, so you can discuss them on your in-class tests and the IB papers.

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Animal Farm
  • All the Pretty Horses
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Anna Karenina
  • As I Lay Dying
  • Brave New World
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Death of a Salesman
  • A Doll's House
  • Don Quixote
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Frankenstein
  • Great Expectations
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Love Medicine
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Awakening
  • The Bluest Eye
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • The Stranger
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • Waiting for Godot

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The Best Study Practices for IB English

Hopefully, this guide will be an asset to you throughout the school year for in-class quizzes as well as at the end of the year for the IB exam. Taking practice tests is also important, and you should also look at our other article for access to FREE IB English past papers to help you familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked by the IBO (and I'm sure your teacher will ask similar questions on your quizzes).

Make sure you're reading all of the novels and poetry assigned to you in class, and take detailed notes on them. This will help you remember key themes and plot points so you don't find yourself needing to reread a pile of books right before the exam.

Finally, keep up with the material you learn in class, and don't fall behind. Reading several novels the week before the IB exam won't be much help. You need to have time and let the material sink in over the course of the class, so you're able to remember it easily on the day of the IB exam.

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What's Next?

Want some more study materials for IB English? Our guide to IB English past papers has links to every free and official past IB English paper available!

Are you hoping to squeeze in some extra IB classes ? Learn about the IB courses offered online by reading our guide.

Not sure where you want to go to college? Check out our guide to finding your target school. Also, figure out your target SAT score or target ACT score .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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How To Write A Literature Essay

Table of Contents

Content of this article

  • How to write a literature essay
  • Structure elements
  • Topic choice

1. How To Write A Literature Essay

Literature is pleasurable and at the same time entertaining. Literature analysis, therefore, gives you the chance to escape from the real world and venture into a zone that is free of stress and sadness. Literature essay writing provokes the thoughts of the readers and turns them intellectually. Experiences are imparted to the readers through literature analysis. An excellent way how to write a literature essay is by focusing on the elements that are fundamental to the topic of the essay . Literature essay writing also needs to be unique so as to stand out. There are various types of literature essays.

They include:

  • Novel essay: this kind of genre deals with the analysis of novels. The primary purpose of the novel essay is to evaluate as well as examine the elements used. Such elements include symbolism, characterization, and theme. Analysis of a novel gives a writer a good understanding of the novel being discussed.
  • Drama Essay: drama essay deals with plays and anything that is aimed at being performed. This kind of literature essay writing helps in giving a detailed understanding of the play to the reader.
  • Poetry Essay: this is the literary genre that is most common. The poetry essays are short compared to other types and use devices such as hyperbole, simile, alliteration, and onomatopoeia among other figurative languages.

The world is going digital, and anything can be accessed on the internet. If writing proves difficult, you can turn to the internet and search for a literature essay tutorial that will give you a detailed guideline on how to go about writing the article.

2. Literature Essay Structure

The structure of a literature essay will give you clear instructions on how to go about writing the literature essay.  The literature essay structure can be divided into the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The literature essay draft should go in line with the topic which the writer has chosen. The literature essay outline is as illustrated below:

Outline sample

  • The introduction

The literature essay introduction is the most crucial part of the article, as it will determine whether the readers will want to read more about the piece or not read it. The introduction for a literature essay should illustrate what is being argued in the essay. For an introduction to be successful, the contents need to be brief and accurate. Another professional way how to start a literature essay introduction is by including the names of the authors, the texts, the performance, and publications as well as the explanations of the contents. You can also highlight the book or piece that you intend to deal with.

Literature essay thesis

The thesis should be structured in a succinct and brief style. The original idea of writing the thesis is to provide the reader with a summary that is general and at the same time engaging. Introduce the main ideas you want to discuss and highlight in the organization as well. The thesis writing for a literature essay needs to be refined so as to support the introduction of the article. The core purpose of the thesis is to give the reader a trailer of the literary piece.

A literature thesis example:

Through the contrasting shore and river scene, Twain of Huckleberry and Finn proposes that to find the American ideals, you need to abandon the civilized society and return to nature.
  • The body paragraphs

The body is the main part of the literature essay. The body covers most of the article. A common way how to write a literature essay body is by using at least three paragraphs.

  • The literature essay ideas need to be relevant to the thesis and topic being discussed.
  • The points should also give assertion to the reader.
  • Highlight the theme and setting as well. Elaborate on how the elements have been used to support the theme in the literature essay.
  • For effective literature essay writing, discuss each point in its paragraph. This technique will give you the chance of exhausting the points.
  • Use transition words to make the points flow in the essay without losing the meaning.
  • Ensure the language used can be comprehended by everyone. It should not be for only a few.

Literature essay conclusion

The conclusion of the essay should be firm and sum up the whole article. The conclusion is a formal way how to end a literature essay. The conclusion restates the points for emphasis and makes the final argument clear. This section also gives you the chance of drawing connections between the context and the genre. The conclusion for a literature essay also gives room for you to show your engagement with the literature on a personal ground.

The structure of a literature essay can, therefore, be summarized as:

  • The conclusion

3. Finalizing literature essay

Do a revision once the article writing is complete. Revising gives you the chance of identifying spelling and grammatical errors that can be avoided. There is nothing as bad as spelling mistakes and errors. Proofreading, therefore, gives you the chance to go through the work and correct mistakes left behind. Such errors can make ‘literature essay writing look unprofessional. You can also give the article to another person to go through the work. A friend will identify the areas that don’t rhyme and can assist in making the piece exemplary.  Revision gives you the chance to check if the article is in line with the literature essay writing guide assigned.

4. Topic choice

The topic of an article determines the points that will be used. This, therefore, means the ideas for a literature essay are dependent on the topic selected. Ensure that you fully understand what the topic expects of you and create a literature essay checklist that will assist you in preparing an excellent piece. If the topic selection becomes difficult, you can create a literature essay topic list that will assist in settling on the most suitable topic to tackle.

Below is a list of good literature essay topics that can be used:

  • Select any modern novel dealing with children’s literature and illustrate all the various elements that make it different from past stories.
  • Can the concerns of the young generation be connected to the violence in the stories of Hunger Games and the Divergent series?
  • Identify and illustrate a symbol used in a novel that you like and show the relevance to the theme.
  • Identify two books that major in current politics and relate them to the contemporary world.
  • Choose a character that depicts supernatural associations and elaborates on the elements used.
  • Discuss the transformation of a character in a novel that you have read exhaustively.
  • Carefully identify the most common themes depicted in books in this new century.

how to study for a literature essay

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  • A-Level English Literature

How to Write an A-Level English Literature Essay

A young woman is immersed in writing an A-level English Literature essay in a quiet café.A young woman is immersed in writing an A-level English Literature essay in a quiet café.

Writing an A-level English Literature essay is like creating a masterpiece. It’s a skill that can make a big difference in your academic adventure. 

In this article, we will explore the world of literary analysis in an easy-to-follow way. We’ll show you how to organise your thoughts, analyse texts, and make strong arguments. 

The Basics of Crafting A-Level English Literature Essays

Essay notes on a desk for 'How to Write A-Level English Literature Essays.'

Understanding the Assignment: Decoding Essay Prompts

Writing begins with understanding. When faced with an essay prompt, dissect it carefully. Identify keywords and phrases to grasp what’s expected. Pay attention to verbs like “analyse,” “discuss,” or “evaluate.” These guide your approach. For instance, if asked to analyse, delve into the how and why of a literary element.

Essay Structure: Building a Solid Foundation

The structure is the backbone of a great essay. Start with a clear introduction that introduces your topic and thesis. The body paragraphs should each focus on a specific aspect, supporting your thesis. Don’t forget topic sentences—they guide readers. Finally, wrap it up with a concise conclusion that reinforces your main points.

Thesis Statements: Crafting Clear and Powerful Arguments

Your thesis is your essay’s compass. Craft a brief statement conveying your main argument. It should be specific, not vague. Use it as a roadmap for your essay, ensuring every paragraph aligns with and supports it. A strong thesis sets the tone for an impactful essay, giving your reader a clear sense of what to expect.

Exploring PEDAL for Better A-Level English Essays

Going beyond PEE to PEDAL ensures a holistic approach, hitting the additional elements crucial for A-Level success. This structure delves into close analysis, explains both the device and the quote, and concludes with a contextual link. 

Below are some examples to illustrate how PEDAL can enhance your essay:

Clearly state your main idea.

Example: “In this paragraph, we explore the central theme of love in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.'”

Pull relevant quotes from the text.

Example: “Citing Juliet’s line, ‘My only love sprung from my only hate,’ highlights the conflict between love and family loyalty.”

Identify a literary technique in the evidence.

Example: “Analysing the metaphor of ‘love sprung from hate,’ we unveil Shakespeare’s use of contrast to emphasise the intensity of emotions.”

Break down the meaning of the evidence.

Example: “Zooming in on the words ‘love’ and ‘hate,’ we dissect their individual meanings, emphasising the emotional complexity of the characters.”

Link to Context:

Connect your point to broader contexts.

Example: “Linking this theme to the societal norms of the Elizabethan era adds depth, revealing how Shakespeare challenges prevailing beliefs about love and family.”

Navigating the World of Literary Analysis

Top view of bookmarked books arranged neatly, symbolising literary exploration and analysis.

Breaking Down Literary Elements: Characters, Plot, and Themes

Literary analysis is about dissecting a text’s components. Characters, plot, and themes are key players. Explore how characters develop, influence the narrative, and represent broader ideas. Map out the plot’s structure—introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution. Themes, the underlying messages, offer insight into the author’s intent. Pinpointing these elements enriches your analysis.

Effective Text Analysis: Uncovering Hidden Meanings

Go beyond the surface. Effective analysis uncovers hidden layers. Consider symbolism, metaphors, and imagery. Ask questions: What does a symbol represent? How does a metaphor enhance meaning? Why was a particular image chosen? Context is crucial. Connect these literary devices to the broader narrative, revealing the author’s nuanced intentions.

Incorporating Critical Perspectives: Adding Depth to Your Essays

Elevate your analysis by considering various perspectives. Literary criticism opens new doors. Explore historical, cultural, or feminist viewpoints. Delve into how different critics interpret the text. This depth showcases a nuanced understanding, demonstrating your engagement with broader conversations in the literary realm. Incorporating these perspectives enriches your analysis, setting your essay apart.

LNAT tutor

Secrets to Compelling Essays

Structuring your ideas: creating coherent and flowing essays.

Structure is the roadmap readers follow. Start with a captivating introduction that sets the stage. Each paragraph should have a clear focus, connected by smooth transitions. Use topic sentences to guide readers through your ideas. Aim for coherence—each sentence should logically follow the previous one. This ensures your essay flows seamlessly, making it engaging and easy to follow.

Presenting Compelling Arguments: Backing Up Your Points

Compelling arguments rest on solid evidence. Support your ideas with examples from the text. Quote relevant passages to reinforce your points. Be specific—show how the evidence directly relates to your argument. Avoid generalisations. Strong arguments convince the reader of your perspective, making your essay persuasive and impactful.

The Power of Language: Writing with Clarity and Precision

Clarity is key in essay writing. Choose words carefully to convey your ideas precisely. Avoid unnecessary complexity—simple language is often more effective. Proofread to eliminate ambiguity and ensure clarity. Precision in language enhances the reader’s understanding and allows your ideas to shine. Crafting your essay with care elevates the overall quality, leaving a lasting impression.

Mastering A-level English Literature essays unlocks academic success. Armed with a solid structure, nuanced literary analysis, and compelling arguments, your essays will stand out. Transform your writing from good to exceptional. 

For personalised guidance, join Study Mind’s A-Level English Literature tutors . Elevate your understanding and excel in your literary pursuits. Enrich your learning journey today!

How long should my A-level English Literature essay be, and does word count matter?

While word count can vary, aim for quality over quantity. Typically, essays range from 1,200 to 1,500 words. Focus on expressing your ideas coherently rather than meeting a specific word count. Ensure each word contributes meaningfully to your analysis for a concise and impactful essay.

Is it acceptable to include personal opinions in my literature essay?

While it’s essential to express your viewpoint, prioritise textual evidence over personal opinions. Support your arguments with examples from the text to maintain objectivity. Balance your insights with the author’s intent, ensuring a nuanced and well-supported analysis.

Can I use quotes from literary critics in my essay, and how do I integrate them effectively?

Yes, incorporating quotes from critics can add depth. Introduce the critic’s perspective and relate it to your argument. Analyse the quote’s relevance and discuss its impact on your interpretation. This demonstrates a broader engagement with literary conversations.

How do I avoid sounding repetitive in my essay?

Vary your language and sentence structure. Instead of repeating phrases, use synonyms and explore different ways to express the same idea. Ensure each paragraph introduces new insights, contributing to the overall development of your analysis. This keeps your essay engaging and avoids monotony.

Is it necessary to memorise quotes, or can I refer to the text during exams?

While memorising key quotes is beneficial for a closed text exam, you can refer to the text during open text exams. However, it’s crucial to be selective. Memorise quotes that align with common themes and characters, allowing you to recall them quickly and use them effectively in your essay under time constraints.

How can I improve my essay writing under time pressure during exams?

Practise timed writing regularly to enhance your speed and efficiency. Prioritise planning—allocate a few minutes to outline your essay before starting. Focus on concise yet impactful analysis. Develop a systematic approach to time management to ensure each section of your essay receives adequate attention within the given timeframe.

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  6. How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

    We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay, practising is more important than planning. 2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts. Whilst it's true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring ...

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    A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.. Short videos to support your essay writing skills. There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing ...

  11. How to Structure an Essay

    Chronological structure. The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go. A chronological approach can be useful when ...

  12. Study Tips for Literature

    Take notes. Jot down notes in the margin (only if you own the book) or in a notebook while you read to keep track of the plot, the characters, and any other elements you find interesting or confusing. Also, record your feelings and reactions to these elements. Pay attention to problem spots. These are points at which you don't understand the ...

  13. Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis

    Step 1: Read the Text Thoroughly. Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand.

  14. How to write great English literature essays at university

    Structure and sequence your ideas. 'Make your argument clear in your opening paragraph, and then ensure that every subsequent paragraph is clearly addressing your thesis.'. Plan the essay by working out a sequence of your ideas that you believe to be the most compelling.

  15. PDF Study Tips: Literature

    practice essays. If you predict a question correctly, you'll have a huge advantage during the exam. If you don't, you've still done some excellent exam preparation— writing those practice answers got you thinking about the literature analytically. You've exercised your critical thinking. Study Tips: Literature

  16. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  17. Writing a Literature Review

    A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis).The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays).

  18. The Best IB English Study Guide and Notes for SL/HL

    This study guide is for IB English A students (students in IB English A: literature SL/HL, IB English A: language and literature SL/HL, or IB English literature and performance SL) who are looking for additional guidance on writing their commentaries or essays. I've compiled this IB English study guide using the best free materials available ...

  19. PDF A Step-By-Step Guide On Writing The Literature Essay

    When the quoted material is part of your own sentence, but you need to include a parenthetical reference to page or line numbers, place the periods and commas after the reference. Example: The narrator of "The Secret Lion" says that the change was "like a lion" (Rios 41). The period is. when writing your essay.

  20. PDF Writing an Effective Literature Review

    and write about it. You will be asked to do this as a student when you write essays, dissertations and theses. Later, whenever you write an academic paper, there will usually be some element of literature review in the introduction. And if you have to write a grant application, you will be expected to review the work that has already

  21. How To Write A Literature Essay, with Outline Sample

    A friend will identify the areas that don't rhyme and can assist in making the piece exemplary. Revision gives you the chance to check if the article is in line with the literature essay writing guide assigned. 4. Topic choice. The topic of an article determines the points that will be used.

  22. PDF English Literature Writing Guide

    University level essays should be written in a formal style and demonstrate your understanding of the codes of academic discourse as they relate to the study of English Literature. While there are variations between different disciplines, there are three main characteristics that are common to all academic essays. These are:

  23. How to Write an A-Level English Literature Essay

    Writing begins with understanding. When faced with an essay prompt, dissect it carefully. Identify keywords and phrases to grasp what's expected. Pay attention to verbs like "analyse," "discuss," or "evaluate.". These guide your approach. For instance, if asked to analyse, delve into the how and why of a literary element.

  24. Essay on the impact of setting on narratives (docx)

    Essay on the impact of setting on narratives Title: The Impact of Setting on Narratives Introduction Setting is a fundamental component of any narrative, whether it be in literature, film, or any other medium. The environment in which a story unfolds provides a backdrop that shapes characters, influences plot developments, and imparts meaning to the narrative as a whole.

  25. Predicting IMF-Supported Programs: A Machine Learning Approach

    This study applies state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) techniques to forecast IMF-supported programs, analyzes the ML prediction results relative to traditional econometric approaches, explores non-linear relationships among predictors indicative of IMF-supported programs, and evaluates model robustness with regard to different feature sets and time periods.