how to write a close reading essay

A Guide on How to Write a Close Reading Essay

Wondering how to write a close reading essay? That's not surprising, because students need to write close reading essays quite often. Besides, the essay writing process often involves close reading during the preparation stage. When writing a close reading essay, you should analyze a certain fragment of text. Sometimes, you may also add something from your personal experiences. Most often, academic essays require students to conduct close reading of academic books and articles. When studying language and literature, you may also write close reading essays about novels.

The ultimate goal of close reading is to analyze a certain passage or the whole text in detail, paying attention to the key facts and the author’s writing approaches. You should point out and analyze the most interesting features of the text and the paper itself. For example, you may consider the author’s rhetorical devices, the overall logical structure of content, cultural references, etc. Depending on the topic of your essay, you may also need to familiarize yourself with other sources, consider opposite opinions, and draw parallels with some historical facts.

In this guide, we’re going to tell you how to write a close reading essay and what can make your essay successful.

Definition of a Close Reading

The process of close reading is based on analyzing minor details and themes of a story or a passage from a literary work. While most papers focus on the major themes and consider the overall message and style, close reading essays revolve around less obvious things. The importance of thorough literary analysis makes close reading essays more challenging than many other essay types. It’s easy to notice the general themes because they are often mentioned repeatedly throughout the text, and the author may consider these themes from different angles. However, it’s not enough to consider such obvious things when writing close reading essays.

The whole point of writing a close reading essay is to tell readers about the aspects of writing that only become apparent as a result of a detailed examination. The more specific and detailed the essay, the better. If you search for a close reading essay example on the internet, you will notice that students often analyze the author’s word choice and the way the author uses language in different situations. On the one hand, you must pay attention to minor details. On the other hand, you should also illustrate and explain the connection between these details and the main theme.

Although major topics of a book are not the main focus of a close reading essay, the analysis of literary devices and other details is aimed to help readers better understand the more general themes addressed by the author and provide them with insights into the author’s process or present the author’s message in a more detailed manner. Things that you consider in a close reading essay can help readers better understand the author’s work, taking into account all the nuances and using insights from details to get a better understanding of the overall meaning and context.

If you want to write a good close reading essay, you should do your best to make it as informative as possible to provide your readers with a comprehensive picture. You should not only determine the aspects of writing that are worth considering in more detail but also understand how you’re going to connect these aspects in your essay. If you search for a close reading essay sample on the internet, you will notice that many close reading essays are somewhat provocative. A successful essay should not only provide readers with information but also be thought-provoking.

The Close Reading Essay Format

Now that you know the answer to the question “what is a close reading essay,” let’s consider it in more detail. Generally, the format of a close reading essay is no different from that of other essay types. First of all, your essay should have an introduction where you explain the topic, provide the necessary background information, and present your thesis statement. After this, you should write the body paragraphs, with every paragraph being dedicated to a particular aspect of the book.

Your essay should also end with a meaningful conclusion where you must quickly summarize your main points and rewrite your thesis statement, considering it from a slightly different angle. A close reading essay conclusion is somewhat similar to the introduction because it’s also short, and it should also feature the thesis statement. The introduction performs more functions and is more difficult to write because it must motivate your readers to read the text from the beginning to the end. However, the conclusion also influences your readers’ impression of your essay because this is the last thing they read. Therefore, we recommend that you make your conclusion as meaningful as possible, leaving your readers with something to think about.

The body is the most important part of your essay so you must make sure to choose the right things that you’ll address in this section. You should also present your thoughts in a logically structured way. Therefore, you should prepare for the writing process and clearly define the scope of your work. When writing a close reading essay on a poem or short story, you may consider the entire work, without focusing on its specific part. However, when dealing with novels and other longer pieces of text, you should choose the part that you’re going to consider.

How to Write a Close Reading Essay


Choose the passage

First of all, choose the passage that you will consider in your essay. You may get the topic and passage assigned by a teacher, but sometimes, you may also have an opportunity to choose the passage yourself. Don’t choose too short or too long passages. We recommend that you select one or two paragraphs so that you’ll have some space for ideas.

However, when writing about poems, you may choose just a few lines. If you need to write a short paper based on a short text, a couple of lines might be sufficient. For instance, poems are often quite complex and dense so even a couple of lines may give you enough material for a detailed analysis. When choosing a passage for your essay, pay attention to the passages that provide important information about the key characters or contain important keywords.


Read the passage carefully

Jot down the key points of the text and focus on things that are actually interesting for you. If you don’t know what exactly the writer wanted to say, do the necessary research and try to better understand the overall meaning. Focus on the way the author used the language and the arguments they were trying to make. Write down as many useful and relevant details as you can. Some students think that this step isn’t necessary but the success of your close reading essay directly depends on the quality of the reading process itself.


Analyze the passage

Once you’ve selected the passage and written down all the details that might be useful for your paper, analyze the passage. Start answering relevant questions about the writer’s methods, literary devices, references, etc. You may encounter some unfamiliar words. In this case, make sure to clarify the meaning of these words and think of why the author decided to use them. Traditional and modern writers used different vocabulary, and you must be able to evaluate the author’s word choice.

Many words can change their meaning depending on the context. Besides, different words work well with different styles of writing. There might be a reason why the author decided to choose a certain word instead of one of many synonyms. We also recommend that you pay attention to the author’s overall tone because it can be especially valuable for literary analysis.


Write a descriptive thesis

Once you’ve analyzed all the details of the language and the author’s writing methods, you can come up with a thesis statement. A thesis statement should be short yet meaningful so this part is often quite challenging for students. You need to summarize your observations in a logical way and turn them into a single strong argument. For example, your thesis statement may be about the author’s repetitive use of a certain word that might help emphasize one of the key themes of the book. Include your thesis statement at the end of your close reading essay introduction.


Write an outline

When you have a strong thesis statement, you can develop your main arguments and think of how you’re going to present them in your essay. We recommend that you always write a close reading essay outline before writing the paper itself. Start with the weakest arguments and then present the strongest ones. Support all of your arguments with evidence from the chosen passage, and make sure to include properly formatted references.

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve written the outline, the whole writing process will be much easier. Don’t submit your first draft. We recommend that you read the text a few times and make sure to fix any grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Be sure to remove the redundant words and phrases and reconsider the word choice if some sentences sound odd. No matter how interesting your paper is, it may receive a low grade simply because of poor grammar, that's why reading it a few times before submitting it is crucial. We hope that our guide will help you write a great close reading essay that will impress your readers.

Join the discussion