Tips for Your Analytical Essay
1. Your essay must address and respond to the assignment description. Most students fail or get low grades because they fail to read the entire assignment, including the grading criteria.
2. Make sure you develop an argumentative analytical essay (i.e., your essay must include an arguable THESIS at the end of your introduction, which you should later develop in the body of your essay through an ANALYSIS of the selected work of art and illustrate with SPECIFIC EVIDENCE). Consider the following formula to help you develop a working thesis for your essay: “In [title of art piece], the author challenges/reinforces traditional notions of gender/female sexuality/standards of masculinity/etc. by [doing blah, blah, blah].”
3. Your essay must contain INTRODUCTION + BODY + CONCLUSION + WORKS CITED. Forget about the 5-paragraph essay; those only worked in high school, when the essays were shorter and less complex.
4. All your paragraphs should be fully developed and include transitions. The paragraphs in the body of your essay should contain a topic sentence introducing the topic to be discussed and relating back to the thesis.
5. Avoid “lab talk” (e.g., “In this paper I will prove…”) and phrases like “I believe that” or “In my opinion.” Your reader assumes that everything you write that you do not attribute to another author is your opinion. See Dr. Easton’s handout for more information.
6. Do not abuse plot summaries and/or unnecessary long descriptions. Remember that your argument is based on an analysis; you’re not writing a book report, but an argument. Consider including a brief summary of your work of art (in the case of novels, plays, movies, and the like) or a brief description of it (in the case of paintings and sculptures, for instance) in the introduction. Later, as Celia Easton points out, “Your job is to remind your audience of passages in the text that provide evidence for the argument you want to create about your text, not to describe the plot to someone who has never read the text.”
7. Select lines, quotes, passages, or specific details to discuss to make a claim about the whole work.
8. Make sure your essay follows a logical structure and organization. It is not necessary to imitate the chronology of the literary work you are analyzing.
9. Avoid generalizations and oversimplifications, such as “all men think…” or “since the beginning of times.”
10. Remember you need to incorporate at least oneacademic (non-fictional) sourceto develop your argument. Check our website for more information about what counts as an academic source.
11. Don’t let your secondary sources dominate your essay. In order to avoid this problem, use a yellow marker and highlight every sentence in your essay stating ideas that are not your own (quotes, paraphrases, and summaries of other people’s works). If you see too much yellow in your paper, chances are your voice and ideas have not been fully develop.
12. Quote only passages that would lose their effectiveness if they were paraphrased. Never use a quotation to substitute for your own prose. Always include a tag line on any quotation in order to introduce it (e.g., “According to author X, …” or “As author Y points out, …”)
13. Cite your sources properly in MLA style. When in doubt, ask.
14. Make sure your essay meets the length requirement: 4-5 pages, including “Works Cited” (at least 4 FULL pages).
15. Read Celia Easton’s “Conventions of Writing Papers about Literature.”
16. Check the links included in the online version of the grading criteria for the assignment.
17. Consider coming to my office hours and/or going to the Writing Center for help with your writing. Note: I will only address questions about your essays by e-mail only if it takes me a couple of lines to answer. Don’t e-mail me your drafts.
This prompt is only required for applicants interested in receiving a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and those who mark it as one of their possible degrees of study on their application.
Given the word limit and subject matter, a strong approach to this essay is to perhaps begin with a short anecdote or a few sentences that interestingly convey to the reader your interest in engineering, and perhaps what ignited your curiosity.
After that, you should discuss practical experiences in the field and how they shaped your interests. When discussing your exposure to engineering, it can be easy to fall into the trap of simply going through your resume and listing experiences or activities. Instead, you should make sure that your discussion of your experiences with engineering have a cohesive flow to them, as opposed to simply being unlinked events in conjunction.
Finally, they give you a chance to speak to “why Princeton Engineering,” specifically, what programs, organizations, opportunities, classes, research projects, etc. pique your interest. This is a chance for you to convince the admissions committee and Engineering department that not only would you thrive in Princeton’s Engineering department and take advantage of their resources, but also that you would be an asset to the field.
This section of your essay can be enhanced by discussing opportunities that are highly specialized to your interests and experiences; perhaps there is a professor who is conducting research in a highly specific area that suits your interests. On the other hand, discussing very common engineering opportunities (such as the ACM club) could be detrimental to the entire essay, as it fails to demonstrate why Princeton, specifically, is a strong fit for you.
Overall, this is likely intended to be less of a creative essay, and more of a prompt designed to simply tell Princeton why you are particularly interested in engineering, and why Princeton’s departments are suited for these interests.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you feel much more confident and prepared to craft a compelling supplemental application to Princeton University that will distinguish you from your peers.
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