Provide a position—where do you stand? And provide a rationale—why is your focus important?

This is a traditional literary analysis essay, though slightly longer and requiring you to consult scholarship. For this paper, you should come up with a thesis and evidence from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut to write an analytical argument. You can base this argument on anything you have found especially compelling in the reading.

For your critical analysis paper, you will advance an “interpretive focus,” which means you will assert a specific “reading” or meaning of the text (i.e. In her poem “Fireflies in the Wheat,” Spofford suggests that women’s socially repressed desires underlie nineteenth-century America’s culture of patriarchal propriety, even threatening to explode contemporary notions of women as sexless “Angels of the House.”)

Avoid a focus that is simply descriptive (“this character’s plight makes the reader feel sympathy with him”) or evaluative (“the author does an excellent job with…”).

For an interpretive focus, you’ll want a specific organizing idea, the more specific the better for this paper length. Additionally, Provide a position—where do you stand? And provide a rationale—why is your focus important?

Each body paragraph should have a clear topic sentence that 1) explains the content the paragraph will cover and 2) gestures to the paragraph’s connection to the paper’s overall argument. Also, when providing evidence to support a claim you make in a paragraph, quote directly from the text but do so by interweaving “partial” quotes or key phrases from the text into your own prose. Avoid dropping big block quotes into your paper, and never present a quote and leave it without properly dealing with it.

As with the thesis paragraph, you should present specific language and concrete details from the text in the body paragraphs that support your argument. If the paper is too general or lacks support, then you’re probably not offering anything new or interesting. However, you have all practiced finding patterns and making connections in the text throughout the semester, so you should feel confident in close reading.

Very often conclusions in papers tend to summarize, but what may work better is to offer new questions that you can advance now that you have oriented your reader to a new level of understanding. Where might we go next now that we understand the text in this way?