Writing a Literature Essay – The Basics by gof81448


									                Writing a Literature Essay – The Basics
           GCSE, A Level, Intermediate, Higher, Advanced Higher

Understanding the Question
In order to answer an essay task correctly, you need to understand the question and
make sure that you know precisely what it is asking you to do. Look at the example

Choose a poem which either communicates very strong feelings or creates a
mood of reflection.

By close analysis of the language of the poem show how this has been achieved.

In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to at least two of: tone,
theme, structure, rhyme and rhythm or any other appropriate feature.

There are three parts to the question:

The first part of the question shows that your essay needs to focus on a poem which
communicates strong feelings or creates a mood of reflection. If you know a poem
well which fits into this idea, you know you can tackle the question.

The second part of the question is the most important: it explains exactly what you
need to do. In this case, you need to closely analyse the language to show how the
mood or strong feelings have been created.

The third part of the question instructs you to refer closely to the text and the writer’s
techniques. You need to refer to specific examples from the text and be aware of the
different techniques being employed by the poet.

Sometimes it is tempting to get straight into writing your essay, particularly when you
are against the clock in an exam. However, you are more likely to produce a good
essay if you take a bit of time to plan properly.

After you have broken down the question and worked out exactly what you have to
do, start brainstorming relevant ideas from the text that you might cover. From there,
try to work out your main points: there is likely to be between 3 and 6 of these. For
each one, decide on the quotation you will use to help explain the point and, ideally,
jot down your topic sentence. Then, decide on a logical order to deal with your
points: think about how they will link to form a coherent line of thought throughout the

Topic Sentences and Linkage
You need to have lots of ideas to help you to answer the task and these ideas must
be linked together effectively. Always remember what you are trying to do – deal
with the task you have set for yourself.

•   Each paragraph you write must start with a topic sentence: a sentence which
    introduces what you will deal with in that paragraph and that makes some
    reference back to the task as well as linking your ideas. These keep the structure
    of your work more organised and keep you more focused on answering the task.

•   You should try to link ideas that follow on from each other naturally. Again, you
    should have decided which ideas can be linked together most appropriately in
    your plan.
                           Writing a Literature Essay – The Basics
                      GCSE, A Level, Intermediate, Higher, Advanced Higher
           •   The best way to link ideas is by using various linking words and phrases – you
               should be very familiar with these already. Here are a few examples: Another
               example . . ., Furthermore. . ., In addition to this . . ., As well as this . . .,
               Similarly . . ., On the other hand . . ., It can also be argued that . . ., However
               . . ., As well as this . . . etc. Do not just pick these at random! Think
               carefully about which ones will be best for each of your paragraphs.

           •   Remember – the best way to check that you are linking your ideas effectively is to
               read over only your topic sentences when you finish writing your essay. If you
               can follow your line of thought and the nature of your task is clear – great! If not,
               rethink your topic sentences!

           Using the “Statement, Evidence, Analysis” Framework

           •  After you have written your topic sentence for an idea you want to put forward,
              explain your point clearly (Statement).
           • Then, back up your idea with a direct quotation from the text (Evidence).
           • After that, make a comment about how the quotation helps to back up your
              personal idea (Analysis).
           Look at this example – it deals with a simple point that might be made for the
           example question above, referring to Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Valentine”:
               Carol Ann Duffy continues to communicate strong feelings of love throughout
               the poem by her use of simple, direct statements. These statements and                  Statement
               commands, which can be seen as unusual in the context of a love poem,
Topic          show that the speaker is almost challenging the person she is talking to,
Sentence       keeping the emotion controlled yet strongly connected with love:
                        “I give you an onion.”
                        “Take it.”                                                                     Evidence
               Duffy’s use of the first person narrative helps to communicate strong feelings
               to the reader, as the reader can imagine a real person speaking and offering
               the gift of love – of an onion – to a lover. The short, direct statements show
               the speaker’s insistence, indicating that she is desperate for the lover to
               accept the gift and understand the appropriate nature of it. The short                  Analysis
               command of “Take it” again challenges the lover and shows the insistent
               nature of the speaker’s emotions. This allows the reader to feel the genuinely
               strong emotion throughout the poem.

           Remember –your analysis of the quotation should focus directly on the language /
           techniques used in the quotation and should always be focused clearly on your task.
           You should use the “Statement, Evidence, Analysis” framework throughout the whole
           of your essay.

           Introducing and Using Quotations Effectively

           •   Quotations should be used to back up what you think. They should support your
               ideas. Your writing is not there simply to connect quotations!

           •   Always comment on the quotations you use fully, saying exactly how they back
               up the point you have put forward. You should refer to the language / techniques
               used in them.

           •   Make sure that you are using suitable quotations – ask yourself whether they fully
               refer to the point you are making in your statement.
                Writing a Literature Essay – The Basics
           GCSE, A Level, Intermediate, Higher, Advanced Higher
•   You don’t need to have very long quotations – choose ones that accurately refer
    to the point that you want to make succinctly.

•   Always set your quotations out correctly – separate from the main body of the
    text (on a new line and, preferably, indented) and introduced by the use of a
    colon or, where appropriate, a comma (see the example above).

Sticking to the Task

•   Make sure that each point you decided to make in your plan will help you deal
    with your task and is fully relevant.

•   DO NOT give a “guided tour” of the poem. Of course you are going to make
    references to what the poem is about, but this is to help you answer the task, not
    to give your reader a step-by-step account of the poem.

•   You are not simply writing a textual review! You are dealing only with the task
    you have set yourself and your personal response to it.

•   Effective use of Topic Sentences and analysis should keep you clearly focused
    on the task you are answering.

•   Once you have written your essay, read it over imagining that you do not know
    what the task is. Can you clearly understand what the task is? If not, you may
    find that you have not stuck to the task properly.

Showing Personal Response

•   Before you even start writing, think honestly about your opinions of the text and
    the aspects you want to consider – this should be done in your plan.

•   Don’t be reluctant to use phrases such as “I think”, “I feel”, “It seems to me”, “My
    personal opinion is” etc.

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