Guided Brainstorming for
Literary Analysis #1
First, re-read/skim Chapter 5 in Digging into Literature (at least through page 109. It will
serve both as a brainstorming guide and hopefully help you decide which story you want
to write about. Chapter 5 briefly details many of the aspects of texts that will help you
uncover meaning as you prepare to write the essay. Pages 108-109 summarize the
aspects and questions for you.
Choose the story you want to write about.
If you haven’t already, choose the story you want to write about. Any of the stories
you’ve read so far are fair game. Re-read the story at least two more times. Notice
what you notice each time, and make additional notes. You might even want to
make a photocopy so you can mark it up without abandon.
Set a timer for 15 minutes if writing by hand, or 10 minutes if typing (assuming you
type faster) and freewrite any and all reactions and thoughts about the story after
You might also choose to freewrite after each re-reading for about five minutes
each time. Freewriting is simply writing without self-censoring—just letting ideas
come out, even if they seem silly (no one has to read it). Generate ideas without
Look for the arguments and interpretations
• Read over your freewrite, and look for arguments or interpretations of any kind. List them.
• Evaluate the claims (arguments) in your list. Decide which are worth pursuing further, and which
should be abandoned. Consider which claims seem to have a lot of textual evidence, or might
need a little more digging. List these, or circle/highlight those that are promising.
• Consider if one or more of the claims in this list is a candidate for a thesis statement—or a main
interpretation of the work’s meaning. (If not, go back to the text and/or freewriting steps).
• If you’re happy with these claims, play around with how the claims might be sequenced to build
an argument. Consider revising the list into an outline that reflects a logical order.
Draft a thesis
• Go back to pages 48-50 in Digging into Literature. These pages give examples of how
to word interpretive claims that you can use as templates, along with common verbs.
Try out some of the claims you came up with to see if the language of the templates
will work to help make them interpretive. These may or may not be “big” enough for a
thesis statement, but they should help you move closer to one.
Template example from page 48 (feel free to steal this wording):
• In (name of text), (quote/summarize/paraphrase from text that demonstrates surface
meaning) (suggests/other verb from p. 49) (your deeper interpretation).
Post the draft to the DB for feedback
• By Sunday night, go to the DB for a working thesis statement for Essay #1 and
post the working draft of your thesis for peer feedback.
• If you are undecided, you’re welcome to post more than one thesis, and your
classmates can help you decide which one has the most potential.