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How to Analyze a Short Story

By Laila Khalil

Goals of Analyzing a Short Story:

 Demonstrate an understanding of the form of literary criticism you have


 Write a unified term paper with an assertive thesis in one sentence

 Use relevant quotes from the story (at least two) to support your

 If you consulted literary criticism (optional) to develop your interpretation,

credit the source by According to MLA or APA format

Outline That Illustrates How to Analyze a Short Story

An Example for the outline structure for Analyzing a Short Story:

1. Introduction

a. Hook- Grab reader’s attention

b. Name your chosen story & background information (author,


c. Briefly describe the setting

d. Use two good transition sentences to move smoothly into

your thesis statement

e. State thesis fully in one assertive sentence that forecasts the

plan of your essay

2. Body paragraphs 2-3

a. plot summary (assume your reader has not read the story)

b. Character description

c. Introduce the first assertion of your thesis (provide evidence

to support your point – this can be done in form of
appropriateness of setting and exposition)

3. Body Paragraph #4-5

a. Describe the major conflicts in the story (use quotes – are the
conflict(s) authentic, original, or artificial?)

b. Introduce the second assertion of your thesis (provide evidence

to support your point)

4. Body Paragraph # 6 - 8
a. Describe other elements that may be relevant such as
narration/point of view tone, theme, imagery, symbolism,
motifs, irony, and form or storytelling technique. If you choose
to include the more difficult elements, be sure to define the
elements for your readers. Make sure to mention and criticize
their relevance to the story

5. Body Paragraphs # 9

a. Discuss how the above elements of fiction work together to

allow the reader to experience the theme emotionally (and
intellectually if relevant). Be sure to label the theme as
explicitly as possible. Use quotes from the story as needed to
support your view of theme.

b. Introduce the final assertion of your thesis (provide evidence

to support your point)

6. Conclusion # 10

a. Re-state your thesis

b. Conclude with a personal appeal of the story (consider

reconnecting with the hook)

About Analysis and Research Papers

About Your Thesis

You must begin setting up your research paper with a good thesis. Here is an
example of good thesis:
“The Story of an Hour” uses a middle-class setting, static and dynamic characters,
an ironic plot and typical conflicts to demonstrate that some marital relationships
may not be what they seem. Please be sure that your thesis is a declarative
statement, not a question, and discover more precisely what main point you want to
make about the story.

A Note on Content

Remember that academic writing is typically done in the third person (he, she, it,
and they). Please avoid addressing the reader directly (using “you”) and the use of
first person (I, my) in your term paper. Be sure that your thesis is underlined and
at the end of your introductory paragraph.

Format Guidelines for Analyzing a Short Story

 Your analysis research paper should follow the general term paper format.

 It should also have a discernible beginning, middle and end.

 Documentation of quotes is always necessary; use quotation marks and make

sure the reference is clear to the reader by identifying who does or says

 If literary criticism is used, introduce the quote by saying “ According

to…(name of critic and title of article)”

 Adopt either the MLA style or the APA style. If you are using references,
use in-text citation and references according to the chosen format