How to Effectively Outline Literary Essays

A literary analysis essay is a staple writing assignment in high schools and colleges. It requires an in-depth understanding of the text and the ability to synthesize it for the reader. This can be difficult, but with a good outline of a literary analysis essay, you will find it easier to get started.

Essay outlines are an essential part of the planning process for writing an essay. And in this article, we’ll guide you on how to outline your literary analysis essay effectively.

Not a lot of people realize how important an essay outline is. But if you take the time to establish your outline, you’ll save a lot more time when writing. This will also help keep your essay coherent and on track!

A pair of reading glasses placed on the pages of a thick book.
Photo by Jackson Films on Unsplash

What Is a Literary Analysis Essay?

A literary analysis essay is a type of writing in which the writer analyzes an existing text with a critical perspective. This involves:

  • Studying the text thoroughly
  • Evaluating the plot
  • Examining characters and their backstories
  • Determining the literary devices used by the author

Your essay can be based on a novel, tale, poem, play, or other literature. You can also explore the piece’s text forms, style, perspective, and characters. An excellent literary analysis essay shows that you have taken different perspectives on the events described in the literary piece.

Outline of a Literary Analysis Essay

One of the best ways to organize your materials and structure a literary analysis paper is to create an outline. Your outline will describe your research on all the aspects of the author’s work.

Like most types of essays, the literary analysis essay comprises three main parts: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Let’s take a deeper look the each of these parts to understand how they work together to form your literary analysis paper.


Your introduction is the first part of your essay, and as such, it needs to make a good impression. This has the role of briefly introducing all of your essay’s main points to the reader. The introduction has three essential components:

  • Hook: It is necessary to use a hook that makes readers wonder what happens next. Hooks are usually exciting facts or a question to which readers can only find the answer if they read on.
  • Background Information: For your background information, you can talk about the author or what the literary piece you analyzed is about.
  • Thesis Statement: This is usually placed at the end of your introduction. The thesis statement is the central message of your essay. It needs to reflect the topic of your paper or your position on the issue. 

Body Text

All your statements, arguments, and essential details will appear in the body text. Usually, this section includes three paragraphs, but you can extend it depending on the requirements set by your professor.

Use columns or bullet points to list the main ideas for an outline of your body text. This will help you identify the necessary details you need to include.


The conclusion of your essay will summarize what you’ve discussed and drive your point home. Here, the audience gets an overall impression of your analysis and decides whether or not you are right or wrong.

Your conclusion should be tied back to your thesis statement but not a direct copy of it. Describe the author’s idea or its impact in a sentence or two.

Key Tips for Making a Literary Analysis

Making a literary analysis essay requires time, patience, and careful attention. When you read a piece, write down everything related to the characters, plot, and author’s style. Pay attention to the essential elements at play.

Here are some other tips that can help analyze a literary piece better.

1. Read it thoroughly

Sometimes it’s not enough to read the piece just once. Try to read it twice or thrice until you’ve fully grasped the idea that the author wants to convey.

The more you understand the piece, the easier it will be for you to understand and write about it. You should choose a cozy location for reading and somewhere no one can disturb you.

2. Take notes

What are the special characteristics of the characters? Is there anything distinct from the writer’s style? Keep a record of all the interesting details you notice. You can use this information to make a comprehensive literary analysis essay.

3. Determine literary devices used

Writers can use different literary devices to deliver a message to their audience. This also helps set their work apart from others. Some of the literary devices they might apply to their work are:

  • Allegory: A fictional narrative that conveys a meaning that is not explicitly stated in the narrative.
  • Metaphor: Transfer of meaning from one object, idea, or action to another.
  • Allusion: An indirect or passing reference that is intended to call something to mind without explicitly mentioning it
  • Euphemism: Substituting an offensive word for one that is less offensive somehow.
  • Personification: Giving a nonhuman being human characteristics and attributes.
  • Epigraph: A short quotation applied at the beginning of the book to give the audience some insight into the main character.
  • Imagery: Describing a scene or image using descriptive words to make the reader see or feel it.

4. Consider language style

The length of sentences, descriptions and the use of metaphors can be telling of an author’s language style.

Does the author make simple descriptions, or do they take the poetic route? Is the text easily understandable? Do they use slang or conventional terms?

The writer’s style reveals much more about the piece than you can imagine. This helps readers understand the personality of both the author and the characters in their work. When you want to analyze the characters, taking notes about language style is necessary.

5. Determine the narrator

A story can be told from various perspectives. Does the author narrate it? Or is it told by a character in the story?

The narrator’s role is essential. What is their connection to other characters? Do they play a role in the development of the story? 

If a character tells the story, it’s likely that they have some hidden information or don’t know much about other events. The details may not become apparent until the end of the story.


A thorough analysis of the main components, such as the author’s style, the characters’ qualities, and the theme, is critical in your writing process.

This will allow you to get to the heart of the work’s purpose and help you effectively convey it to your audience. With the help of an outline of a literary analysis essay, you can create a more coherent and robust work.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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