Writing About Literature

When writing a literary analysis, many students focus heavily on their chosen interpretation of the literary work(s), their unique thesis, and/or finding and using appropriate sources to support their arguments. And that is absolutely what they should be doing.

However, because those are big tasks and students are almost always taking at least one other course and working at the same time (some are even raising children, working full time, running businesses, or dealing with big family or personal health concerns), it’s very easy to overlook the tiny details that professors expect into a college-level literary essay. Here’s a quick list that will help you stay in the grade range your argument deserves rather than lose you points due to the “important small stuff.”

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Transitional Language

Transitions and students don’t often get along well. And that’s because transitioning from paragraph to paragraph, from signal phrase to source/citation, or from one concept to the next is a bit of an art form that takes practice and planning. You just heard “blah blah blah” in your head, right? I know…

Here are a few transitional language resources that could help:

  1. My favorite link to transitional words or phrases.
  2. Another more complex list of transitional words broken up by category such as additive, causal, sequential, or contrasting.
  3. A thesaurus list of commonly used verbs to reference sources that can be used to transition between a signal phrase and a direct or paraphrase/summary citation. The dark orange list is the best.
  4. A one page, printable PDF of verbs used in MLA or APA signal phrases.