Literary Analysis - Outlining & Drafting Notes


Your thesis statement gives your interpretation of the story you are writing about.  (See your PowerPt notes.)  It comes out of your reading and thinking about the story (Planning - Freewriting and/or Questioning).  Your thesis statement can articulate an assertion/main point about a theme, characterization, plot, or point of view.

Example Thesis:  Although running is a sport that emphasizes individuality, Squeaky comes to realize that coaching her brother Raymond to help him become a runner could be as satisfying as her own running victories because . . . .

[Focuses on character, although connects to theme too.  Also, it is assumed here the introduction makes it clear that the story is "Raymond's Run" and indicates the issue at stake that the essay will address: why Squeaky decides to give up running to coach Raymond.

 You can, though, mention the story in the thesis:  "The Thrill of the Grass" reveals how baseball helps us maintain the important connection between tradition and baseball because . . . .

Notice that in both thesis statements, completing the "because" clause makes the thesis specifc and clear.  The thesis statement also suggests an organization for the essay.

Formal Outline

Organization:  Follow the ideas in the thesis.  Begin with main reasons: I, II, etc.  A formal outline should use complete sentences (which is not done here). Main reasons I and II come from the first subordinate clause of the example thesis.  Main reasons III and IV come from the main (second) clause of the example thesis.  V reemphasizes the thesis and looks at sport as a mirror/microcosm of society.  After these main reasons, fill in supporting ideas: explanations, specific examples, and quotations:  A and B, 1 and 2.  Remember, an outline should not indicate what you plan to say; it should indicate what you will say.

Note: "I." does not necessarily correspond to a paragraph.  Think of this as a section of your essay. "I." could be one paragraph since it is an introduction.  But section III (below), for example, might be several paragraphs, depending on the ideas you are developing.  Again, a formal sentence outline must use complete sentences.

Essay's Title

I. Introduction: Running as an individual sport in "Raymond's Run"--competition and winning

    B.  Thesis: Although running is a sport that emphasizes individuality, Squeaky comes to realize that coaching her brother Raymond to help him become a runner could be as satisfying as her own running victories because . . . .   

II. Squeaky's running/her individuality.


III. Raymond runs with Squeaky to express his individuality.

        2. Quotation from pg 205. (Briefly describe: do not write out full quotation.)

IV. Squeaky's race/realization about Raymond as as runner----satisfaction coaching with Gretchen.
       1. Quotation from pg 210.  (Briefly describe: do not write out full quotation.)

V. Conclusion:  Reemphasize thesis ("R'sR"). Meaning in sports in addtion to competition and winning (sport as a microcosm of life).


See formal outline in RW, 12-14; TSGW, 430-31.  Have your outlined completed before you begin drafting.  Then continue to revise/adjust your outline as you draft.  Work the outline, audience sheet, and draft together.


Organization:  Follow ideas in your thesis but also rely on your reading of the story. You do not need to have a plot summary paragraph after the introduction; however, this can work as long as it is not too long.  Perhaps summarize the story when needed as you provide evidence. Think about our good class discussions of the stories.  We focused on key ideas, not plot. We briefly recalled the plot when we needed context.  Couldn't you assume most/many/some readers will have a basic knowledge of the story's plot if they read your essay?  Consult your audience sheet.


Evidence---Use of quotations.  (Note in your outline where you are putting quotations.)  Quotations let readers experience the story directly and help to support your ideas.  They do not make your points for you.  Choose quotations that express key ideas and show readers key thoughts, language, and/or images.  Interpret quotations to help readers understand what they mean and how they support your argument (thesis), just as you did nicely in our class discussions.

There is no magic number of quotations you should use.  Use quotations when you feel they will strengthen and clarify your argument.  For a four-page essay, maybe 4-6 as a ballpark number, depending on their length and content.  You can also quote words or phrases. 

Avoid long "block" quotations that run over four sentences unless they are really needed.  See RW for using the ellipsis mark to eliminate some parts of a quotation you may want to use.  Use parenthetical or in-text citations after quotations.  Take page numbers from the story, e.g., (Bambara 205) or (Kaplan 385). Note:  Since you are only writing about one story, you do not need to include the author's name if you prefer not to.  Also, you do not need a works cited page for this essay since we are all using the same stories.  However, normally you would. 

See PowerPt Notes for RW references concerning integrating quotations.  Also see TSGW: pp 549-55.


Not for Fall 2022 Semester

For this essay, you will not need a works cited page unless you are using outside sources (e.g., sports quotation book, an essay from a periodical, or website).  If this is the case, then include a works cited page, including the story you are writing about.

To cite a story from SL, see pg 491, #35 in RW (8th ed.) (a selection from an anthology).
To cite a website or book, see RW:  MLA works cited section.

Essay I shared in class:  Ross, Murray.  "Football Red and Baseball Green."
Chicago Review
Jan.-Feb. (1971): 99-107.  Print.  (Note:  I had to adapt the page numbers since I was using a reproduction.)

Punctuation for quotations:  See PowerPt Notes for RW references.

Using present tense: RW, pgs 249-50.

Note: Remember Assign 1 (sports poetry analysis).  You are doing similar things here.  Intro/Thesis:  Instead of your interpretation of a poem, you are giving readers your interpretation of a short story.