How to Do a Close Reading: Analysis, Technique, and Essay Writing

how to write a close reading essay

If you’ve ever attended English or literature classes, you know how important the analysis of a text can be. It can serve two purposes. The first is to analyze the information in the article and evaluate its validity and usefulness for studying. The second type of analysis, also known as literary criticism, is aimed at a deeper understanding of a writer’s style, ideas, and symbolism.

Close reading is a technique that focuses both on the text’s form and meaning. Readers use this method to develop a precise understanding of a specific passage. However, you may also learn how to close read a novel, article, or any other piece of writing.

In the guide below, we’ll cover the following:

  • How to do a close reading of a text
  • How to craft text-dependent questions
  • How to write a close reading essay

How to do a close reading of a passage or text

Close reading is a specific technique, and it requires a high level of preparation and focus. On the other hand, this approach guarantees a deep understanding of the text, ideas of the writer, and his or her patterns. Students who practice close reading develop their vocabulary, verbal memory, and writing skills. The process of close reading is complicated and includes several stages. After reading the instruction below, you’ll learn how to close read an article, novel, or an excerpt of a text.

1. Pick an appropriate text or passage
A text for close reading has to be rich with ideas, vocabulary, and thought-provoking messages. You’ll have to dedicate a few days to it so don’t pick anything too simple. And, of course, it should be interesting.

2. Focus on the main details and ideas
The first reading is about defining key details and ideas. After the first reading, you should be able to answer the text-dependent questions of the first category (see below).

3. Choose several passages for deeper analysis
If you learn how to close read a novel, pick a few excerpts. You won’t be able to get a precise understanding of the whole novel in a few days.

4. Define the author’s patterns
Find similarities and repetitions in the passage, as they may hide a deeper meaning. Highlight historical and cultural references. Define the most important structural elements and rhetorical features.

5. Make marks and take notes
Don’t think that your memory is able to hold on to all the essential information. Pick up a pencil and take notes! Afterward, this step will help you to answer text-dependent questions and write a close reading essay.

6. Compose or answer a text-dependent question
Text dependent questions are a crucial element of close reading. They can be offered by the teacher, as well as composed by students. You’ll learn more about them from the next part of the article on how to do a close reading.

7. Synthesize information from two or more sources
The third reading is aimed at comparing and discussing two or more sources about the same topic. This stage develops a deeper understanding of the author’s message and point of view.

How to craft text-dependent questions: guide and common types

  • What are text-dependent questions?

Text-dependent questions are an indispensable part of the close reading process. The answers to these questions can only be found in the text – they don’t require background knowledge or experience. As a rule, teachers craft text-dependent questions. You can try to make a list of questions by yourself to understand this technique and be prepared for similar assignments.

  • What is the purpose of text-dependent questions?

Thanks to text-dependent questions, students learn how to support their point of view with textual evidence. They make readers go back to the text and find the details that they didn’t notice before. Tasks of this type are frequently used for literature and language tests. They allow evaluations not only for the vocabulary of a student but also his or her overall perception of language.

  • Ideas for text-dependent questions

There are three categories of text-dependent questions: after the first reading, after the second/third reading, and for synthesizing/interpreting the knowledge. They require different levels of understanding. There are some ideas for each category:

1. Main ideas and details (the first reading)

  • What are the key ideas in the passage?
  • What is the main theme?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What is the main conflict of the story?
  • What is the author’s message?
  • What is the moral lesson of the story?
  • How does the main character show his/her feelings/beliefs?

2. Style and patterns (the second/further readings)

  • What does the symbol of … mean?
  • Describe the composition of the text.
  • Define the genre of a passage.
  • From what perspective is this story told?
  • Who is the narrator?
  • What does the word … mean?

3. Interpreting of knowledge

  • Describe the character using specific examples.
  • What’s the author’s point of view on the topic?
  • What connections does the writer use in the text?
  • What is the tone of the passage?
  • Compare two texts on the same topic.
  • Write a summary of two texts.

How to write a close reading essay

A close reading essay is a specific type of academic paper. It requires more time and energy than a standard college essay. Along with the habitual stages of the writing process, you’ll also have to pass a close reading itself and answer text-dependent questions. However, a close reading essay doesn’t require additional research, as it’s based on one source.

1. Do a close reading of a text
We’ve described this process in detail in the first part of our article. Don’t miss important steps!

2. Make annotations
Although the close reading process includes taking notes, you need to make annotations of another kind if you want to write a close reading essay. Write down ideas and arguments that come to your mind during the reading or right after. You may also compose an outline to structure them properly.

3. Analyze the passage with the help of text-dependent questions
These questions will help you to find an unexpected perspective and provide an original essay. They will also point out text pieces of evidences that are necessary for a good essay.

4. Develop a thesis statement
Pick an idea or detail that grabs your attention and interest in the text. Compose a compelling thesis statement that will reflect your viewpoint on this topic.

5. Provide your arguments
Write body paragraphs that will include your main arguments and illustrations from the text. Each paragraph includes one idea. Don’t forget about the logical connection between elements of your essay!

6. Compose an introduction
If you wonder how to start a close reading essay, don’t worry. From this point of view, it’s similar to a standard essay. Begin with a hook, then move on to the transition, and, finally, present your thesis statement.

7. Draw a conclusion
You don’t have to learn how to conclude a close reading essay. You already know how to do it! A conclusion for a close reading essay is the same as for any other type of essay. Paraphrase your thesis statement, briefly restate your main arguments, and add recommendations for further studies if necessary.

Now, you know everything you need about how to write a close reading essay. This genre isn’t frequently assigned to students, but you should know how to do it to get a high grade.

Close reading is a helpful technique, and it helps to understand a complex text and memorize the information from it. In case you don’t have much time for a close reading essay, the BuyEssay team is ready to help. Buy essay at any time and get expert help from our writers!

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