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Judith Ortiz Cofer

Spotlight on the work of Judith Ortiz Cofer

Researching and writing about authors and their works

Literary analysis essays

Check the criteria given by your instructor and read over any assignment prompts first. Always defer to the directions from your instructor if they conflict with this guide.

Generally, literary analysis essays express an idea about the author and the text. This is usually the answer to a "what" or why" question. For example, why does the author chose certain symbols, language or topics? What Is the author trying to convey? Students can use those questions to form a defensible topic sentence.

  • Remember that the text (short story, poem, etc.) is your main source material.
  • Create a topic sentence that is defensible from your source material.
  • Use databases and other resources to find articles and other sources to support and supplement your argument. (Don't attempt to find an article that makes your argument for you.)
  • Be prepared to draw comparisons to different authors and works.
  • Be prepared to adjust your position if new material causes you to see the text differently.

See the related guide for Multicultural American Literature (left column).

For guidance on setting up a database search strategy, see the strategy page of the Research Basics guide



Reference sources can help you better understand cultures, and the symbols and motifs related to cultures.They can also help you to understand the author, and their relationship to a time period or a location.

See Related Guides box (left column)

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