How to Write an Analytical Essay in Religious Studies

Writing guide
Posted on September 13, 2019

What is an analytical essay? The type of academic assignment is a piece of writing that you, as the author, use to critique, analyze, and interpret a particular work of art, event, person, or situation. In general, the analytical essay is a tool that you use to cut up the topic into several ingredients (subtopics) that you later analyze in order to synthesize information and draw up the right conclusions.

Academic assignment in Religious Studies can be difficult to implement due to the unique nature of the subject. In addition to the interdisciplinary status of the discipline, the academic study of religion requires one to have more than just knowledge of the existing beliefs, texts, and practices. Besides, you’re required to juggle various terms in Sociology, History, Hermeneutics, Linguistics, and Anthropology. For that reason, you’re expected to familiarize yourself with a great variety of different theories and practices that you will employ in your text later. Once you’re well-versed in using all the existing historical, ethnographic, comparative, sociological, textual, and hermeneutical approaches, you’ll see that Religious Studies are actually both highly challenging and fascinating at the same time.

Step 1. Getting Ready to Write an Analytical Essay

It is important to decide on the core of your analytical essay. As a rule, this type of academic projects includes a thorough analysis or is based on a solid opinion. Usually, college students are required to analyze a certain religious event or literary work; however, you may be asked to write an analytical essay on a problem or issue. So, at this point, your task is to decide what you’re going to write about.

If you write an analytical essay for a college Religion class, the tutor usually provides you with a topic to analyze. Make sure to read the task attentively. If it’s the case when you’re given a chance to choose your own topic, you may start working on your essay with the thoughts like ‘How do I start this paper?’ As an option, you can discuss a historical event from the perspective of Religion. If that’s your topic, analyze the driving forces that influenced the events. For instance, if you decide to write on the Hundred Years’ War in France, make sure to write your essay from the perspective of Jeanne d’Arc and analyze why The Maid of Orleans was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

Step 2. Come up with a Good Question

When beginning to think about your analytical essay topic in Religious Studies, one of the first things that you should do is to set up a good question. Once you do that, you will have to use every sentence to answer the question sufficiently. For example, a nice question for an analytical essay in Religion might sound as follows, ‘On the basis of a close reading of A Life Path of Martin Luther, analyze Luther’s ways of thinking theologically about the sale of indulgences, the penitential system, and the afterlife. In what way do scriptural influences fuel up Luther’s conflict with papal authority?’

Keep in mind that a good question for an analytical essay in Religious Studies asks ‘why’ or ‘how’ instead of ‘what.’

  • For example: ‘How does Luther’s theological conviction that God alone rules creation and liberates people from sin and death contribute to his critique of power and view of social systems?’
  • For example: ‘Why should one choose to believe in scriptural authority?’
  • Not: ‘Is it true that Martin Luther interpreted the Bible individualistically and subjectively?’ (resulting essay: ‘yes’)
  • Not: ‘What does Martin Luther say about how the spiritual message of the gospel is related to the political realities of his day?’

Step 3. Choose the Topic

As has already been stated, Religious Studies are closely interconnected with many other fields of study. The most important thing for you when picking the right topic is to make sure that no matter what issue you choose to analyze, you’ll be able to do it with due respect to the religious views of your readers.

Here is our special list of topics that you can either write an analytical essay on or use for inspiration to come up with your own topic:

  • Roots of Originality of Christian Religion;
  • The Impact of Feminist Pastoral Counseling on Female Christians’ Self-Esteem;
  • Religious Studies as an Optional Subject at High Schools in the United States;
  • John Knox: The Origin of Reformation in Scotland;
  • Church of England Based on The ‘Book Of Common Prayer’;
  • Should Religious Leaders Be Involved in Politics?
  • Racial Profiling and Alternative Ways to Control Them;
  • Sexual Regulation and the Existing Limits of Religious Tolerance;
  • Relationship Between Religion and Modern Literature;
  • Polygamous Marriages in Islam Countries;
  • Religious Affiliation and Its Place in Modern World;
  • Comparing and Analyzing Zoroastrian Perception of Good and Evil;
  • The Concept of the Balance of Yin and Yang in Taoism;
  • Analysis of Two Sacred Stories;
  • Gordon Clark and the Influence of His Ideas of Scripturalism on Modern Christianity;
  • Having a Single God vs. Having Many Gods;
  • The Place of Women and Girls in Classical Greek Religion;
  • Teen Marriages: Should the Church Ban Them?
  • Should There Be Some Laws to Protect Holy and Religious Places all over the Globe?
  • World Religions and Different Opinions about Abortion and Same-Sex Marriages

Step 4. Outline

Finding the right question is a superb place to start, but that’s just the beginning. What is the next step to take? In point of fact, there are two basic techniques that most professional writers recommend – freewriting and outlining. While freewriting enables you to turn off that critical voice in your head and write down every single idea that pops up, outlining is about created a ‘map.’ Provide different sections of your analytical essay and insert the main points that you’re going to make in each.

It’s a well-known fact that freewriting is a technique that provides you with the finest ideas, but when you have loads of pages of freewriting, you will face the necessity to choose the best pieces of information, as well as recognize them into a clear and coherent form.

Step 5. Write Your Thesis

In college, every other writing assignment includes a strong thesis that is like the core of the project, its very essence. In the case with the analytical essay, a solid thesis statement must comply with three main criteria: it should be original, debatable, and interesting.

When we say that you have to write an original thesis statement, we mean that you are the one who has to produce it. The point here is that you can’t borrow or steal your thesis from the source you’ve been reading. Basically, your thesis statement is your own answer to the questions that you’re asking of the essay text or other evidence.

Apart from being original, the thesis statement of your analytical essay must be debatable and arguable. In other words, there must be solid and real-life evidence for your thesis. The point is that there are many theses that are attention-grabbing but not supportable without checking dozens of libraries, books, websites, and all the other information resources. Here are two examples of the theses that you’ll definitely fail to argue due to the fact that they require tons of data and facts:

Example 1: ‘Kierkegaard argued that the historical Socrates used his irony to ease the birth of subjectivity in his interlocutors that influenced other traditions.’ (The problem here is that in order to prove this statement you will have to do a complex investigation and comparison, with data and facts taken from many different traditions. The task is next to impossible.)

Example 2: ‘The Great Awakening in the United States was among the weighty moments in the history of religion.’ (Again, you see the scope that is too general. Telling this means demonstrating that all the other moments weren’t that weighty.)

Step 6: Composing an Analytical Essay

  • Write an introduction. The key goal of this section is to provide your target audience with basic information about your topic. Stay creative and exert every effort to make the opening section hooking, but ensure you don’t overact. Try not to summarize statements, facts, and events in the opening paragraph and do not provide your personal points of view. As an alternative, make sure to concentrate on initial points in order to stress on to hook the readers’ attention. Keep away from being dramatic using exclamations and question marks in the introduction – leave them for later.
  • Write the main part. If you stick to the general formula, provide every body paragraph with the following: the topic sentence, the analysis, and the evidence that supports your thesis stamen and an analysis. Use a topic sentence to tell your audience what this or that body paragraph is going to be about. The analysis part is where you have to make your argument. Finally, the evidence that you have backs up your argument. Keep in mind that every claim that the author makes in an analytical essay should support their thesis.
  • Insert quotes where necessary. When the question is about citation, it means that some passage of the text is quoted and put into the text. The point here is that a quote is crucial when the author wants to apprehend the essay essence, as well as support their argument. Ensure to use the proper style that your tutor requires: Chicago, Turabian, APA, or MLA.
  • Draw your own conclusions. In the concluding section, the author of the analytical essay should remind the target audience of all proves that s/he has given in the process of analysis and argumentation. It is recommended to rephrase your thesis statement, but make sure you don’t repeat your introduction word-for-word. Some college tutors want their students to build a link between issues in conclusion. For that reason, your task is to show how the fact and your proof are interconnected with the main idea of the essay, and in what way your analysis can affect the audience’s assessment.

Checklist for Analytical Essay in Religious Studies

When writing an analytical essay in Religious Studies, make sure you:

  • Examine the essay question to find the clues about what thesis statement the assignment requires;
  • Come up with a hooking question you’re going to analyze in your essay;
  • Carefully select evidentiary quotes and present them to your audience in the body of the essay;
  • Provide all points that follow logically from the preceding ones, as well as lead to the following ones, and support your thesis statement;
  • Connect your conclusion to the thesis statement and the rest of the points in the essay;
  • Think about potential objections to your argument.

In addition to everything mentioned above, make sure you don’t:

  • Try to write without a meticulous analysis that you have performed;
  • Choose an argument that restates something that is obvious;
  • Quote the comments that your tutor gave during the lecture;
  • Ignore some part of the essay question;
  • Provide an introduction that involves no thesis statement;
  • Use quotations without explaining them for the target audience;
  • Provide a conclusion that merely restates the body of the essay.

As you can see, analytical essay writing in Religious Studies is not just a way of expressing your points of view of any religious issues. It is a process that structures and organizes your thinking, providing you with an opportunity to turn interesting ideas and random issues into cogent theories.

It is not a surprise that writing an analytical essay is one of the best ways to master Religious Studies, and mastering essay writing is an integral step you have to take to graduate.

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