Ten components of an effective literary insight paper
ENGLISH 1127/1129/1130 WHAT A LITERARY INSIGHT PAPER LOOKS LIKE
Here are the ten components of an effective literary insight paper:
- Author, title, abstract topic Introduction (2-4 sentences)
- Evidence preview
- Link to theme
- Thesis statement
- Claim Body Paragraphs (8-10 sentences each)
- Summary Conclusion (3-5 sentences)
- Acknowledgement of limitation
- Suggestion for further study
Here are the specific jobs of each component (examples are taken from Paul Headrick’s text A Method for Writing Essays about Literature, 3rd ed.; these examples are from an essay about a story called “The Guest” by Albert Camus):
- Author, title, abstract topic: tell your reader what your thesis statement will be about
E.g., Albert Camus’s philosophically complex story “The Guest” is about individual freedom and personal attachments.
- Evidence preview: briefly mention what the evidence in your body paragraphs will be about
E.g., Through the main character’s geographic circumstances, his conflicted emotions as he eats with the prisoner, the prisoner’s decision to turn himself despite the consequences for Daru, and Daru’s new perspective on the landscape at the story’s resolution, …
- Link to theme: tell your reader that the evidence you’ll discuss is important to understanding the theme of the text
E.g., Through the main character’s geographic circumstances, his conflicted emotions as he eats with the prisoner, the prisoner’s decision to turn himself despite the consequences for Daru, and Daru’s new perspective on the landscape at the story’s resolution, the story makes an important commentary on the limitations of freedom.
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- Thesis statement: tell your reader your specific argument
E.g., Ultimately, “The Guest” insists that although individuals might conceive of themselves as free, they are inescapably connected to the people around them and must accept and foster these attachments.
- Claim: explain what the evidence in your body paragraph means specifically
E.g., Daru’s physical surroundings create an impression of unlimited freedom and detachment.
E.g., Daru’s interaction during his meal with the prisoner and his decision to set the man free suggests that he is experiencing a conflict between individual freedom and attachment.
E.g., Through both the prisoner’s decision to turn himself in and his family’s threat to Daru, the story suggests that personal attachments are powerful and inescapable.
- Evidence: provide a quotation or paraphrase a passage from the text
E.g., Before Daru and the prisoner go to sleep, the prisoner asks Daru if he will be accompanying him to Tinguit; when Daru says he does not know, the prisoner says, “Come with us” (6).
- Analysis: explain, in depth, the meaning of the evidence above
E.g., The urgency of his request, phrased as an invitation or command, suggests that he feels an attachment to Daru …
- Summary: briefly reiterate your argument
E.g., Ultimately, “The Guest” challenges the modern ideal of individual freedom. Through its bleak ending, it reminds us that detaching ourselves from relationships with others is not only impossible but also dangerous …
- Acknowledgement of limitation: let your reader know that this essay has limitations
E.g., This essay is limited in scope.
E.g., A further study might analyse the story in the context of …
- Suggestion for further study: provide a topic for a second essay about the text
E.g., A further study might analyse the story in the context of the French colonial experience in Algeria and consider how its comment on individuals could be applied to global politics.
Here are the steps to writing an effective essay:
Step 1: Establish the topic of the story (during our in-class discussion of the story).
Step 2: Find evidence you’d like to discuss and underline it (during our in-class discussion of the story).
Step 3: Break this evidence into groups (draw lines, circles, etc. to connect these different pieces of evidence any time before the exam or during the exam).
Step 4: Write a “working thesis statement” about the topic you chose in Step 1 (before or during the exam).
Step 5: Write a claim for each body paragraph; make sure each claim refers explicitly (and only) to the evidence in that paragraph.
Step 6: Be sure your final claim addresses the resolution of the story and paraphrases your working thesis statement.
Step 7: Write your body paragraphs.
Step 8: Write an introduction.
Step 9: Write a conclusion (three components).
Step 10: Write a title.
Step 11: Revise (polish your thesis statement, make sure you’ve quoted properly, make sure your claims are in a logical sequence, etc.)