Academic Writing

Your Guide to a Perfect Explication Essay

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If you’ve arrived here through your “explication essay”, search, most probably, you are stuck with a poem you have no idea how to analyze. Well, we’re here to let you know that you are not alone in your struggle! Countless other students face the same problem, as the explication of a poem is not an easy thing to accomplish all by yourself. You need to have a certain sensibility all while knowing all kinds of literary devices in order to produce a first-class paper. Let’s not forget about the most important ingredient many students severely lack – precious free time. knows how challenging life can be even for the most gifted students, so we’ve prepared some essentials for you to help with your daunting task and ensure that you come out with a top-notch paper in the end.

Explication Meaning. Fancy Word for a Not-So-Simple Task

If the word “explication” sounds weird to you, then you must neither be familiar with the explication paper assignment nor with the French language The term comes from the French phrase “explication de texte” whose literal translation is “explanation of a text”. So there you have it, mystery solved! The purpose of this type of assignment is to make you explore the given text to its depth to understand how it came together as well as what its significant elements, themes, and concepts are.

After finishing your explication essay you should have a much deeper understanding of the assigned text, and the familiarity or even knowledge of the author’s language and style should reveal additional details about the particular piece of writing.

What Is an Explication Essay and Is It Only for Poems?

Explication in academic writing does not only mean that you need to spend countless hours pouring over a boring poem you don’t understand. The explication essay format can vary depending on the question asked by your teacher or professor. You may need to explain how something works (like a chemical process) in your own words, describe a specific historical event and the reason for its occurrence or even find a solution to a problem posed in your instructions using your own words for different concepts and ideas of your assigned text. The main goal of explication papers is to teach you to read a seemingly difficult or outright dense text and know how to interpret it. It’s an extremely useful tool for helping students who struggle with their reading early on. For that reason, explication essays often use poems, song lyrics, and other short and compact texts. It’s also helped college students make sense of their reading lists, as knowing how to spot the most important points and concepts of the text can save you hours if not days of reading time.

When writing an explication you need to make sure of three main things:

  1. that you get all the important themes and points of your text;
  2. that you can summarize them in your own words;
  3. that you can refer to the text to support your summary.

What Does It Mean to Explicate a Poem? Uncovering the Mystery

Now that we’ve dealt with the question of an explication essay as an assignment type, let’s see what it means exactly to explicate a poem, the most common text assigned for such a paper. What is an explication of a poem exactly? It’s an analysis of a poem where you examine each line, stanza, and word to understand the inner workings of the poem.

To analyze a poem, you need to focus on its parts and elements and investigate how it dramatizes its conflicts and ideas through its language. When examining the poem’s parts you need to understand its structure and gather supportive points and evidence for your interpretation. You need to analyze it line by line and closely examine its elements to get certain patterns and connections that will give you insight into the overall meaning of the text.

Make sure to familiarize yourself well with the language of poetry to produce a decent analysis. Your goal, no matter the size or the number of the poems, is to formulate a strong argument in your explication, the process being that the text guides you to that argument, rather your preconceived notion about its meaning.

Poetry Explication Outline for Your Essay

Like the majority of essays, the explication essay follows the classical 3-part structure of introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs. Understandably, that might not be so helpful if it’s your first time writing a poetry explication. There are many points to consider and research with this format, depending on what route you choose to take with your analysis. Fortunately, our writers have prepared a handy poem explication template that you can adapt and use for your essay.

  1. Introduction paragraph

  • Hook sentence
  • Title and name of the author
  • Your thesis statement and the main elements analyzed in the essay
  1. Body paragraph

  • Meaning (surface, deeper, theme)
  • Tone (who is the speaker and what is their tone, quotes for support)
  • Literary devices (simile, metaphor, personification)
  • Sound effects (alliteration, rhyme scheme)
  • Symbolism (explain the poem’s symbols)
  1. Conclusion

  • Summary of your main points
  • Reiteration of your thesis
  • Connection of the poem’s meaning to real life (what can we learn from it?)

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How to Write an Explication Essay: Useful Step-By-Step Guide

If you get filled with dread just at the thought of searching for “how to write an explication paper”, we can assure you that the task is not as daunting as it seems. Whether it’s your first time writing a poem explication essay or poetry is simply not your cup of tea and you struggle with its analysis on a constant basis, our helpful step-by-step guide should help you to produce an excellent paper in no time!

  1. First and foremost, you need to pick the work you’ll be analyzing. That is if one hasn’t been assigned to you. If you do have the chance to make your choice, see which poem speaks the most to you, as that connection will be of great help for your explication process.
  2. Now we’re on to the writing part. In your first, introductory paragraph you need to state a couple of crucial things: identification of the text, a general overview of the poem’s speaker, subject, the most significant themes and conflicts, and of course, your thesis statement.
  3. In the next, “body” paragraphs, you should continue with your explication but now focus on the poem’s smaller elements such as words, imagery, figures of speech, symbolism, speaker, and tone. It’s useful to group the section of the poem in stanzas and dedicate one paragraph to each, all while keeping the common thread running through all of them.
  4. In the conclusion paragraph make sure not to restate your introductory points, but discuss the value of the poem in literature, the experience of reading it, and your personal impression and connection to the text.
  5. Here you should be done with the creative part and move on to the more technical things like editing and proofreading. Particularly for such assignments as poetry explication essays, it’s extremely helpful that somebody reads your work. That way you can make sure you get your points across in a way that your reader can understand and connect with.

How to Write an Explication of a Poem. Tips And Tricks to Guide You

Not all of us are blessed with the ability to understand poems on our first reading. Let’s be honest, more people can’t understand them at all (although they wouldn’t be quick to admit it). Although even understanding a poem can’t guarantee that you can write a superb explication essay your professor will be thrilled with. You still need to follow certain poetry explication guidelines in order to put your feelings and understanding into logical arguments that are supported by relevant quotes. So, if you’re in need of an explanation of how to write an explication essay on a poem (pun intended), here are some useful questions that will help you to analyze the poem as a whole as well as line-by-line.

The big picture points to identify:

  • The speaker of the poem.
  • The structure of the poem. Note the stanza and the meter form.
  • Subgenre – ballad, sonnet, haiku, monologue, etc.
  • The general theme of the poem and how you know that.

Now let’s break that poem down:

  • Word choice. Why has the author chosen these specific words and why haven’t they used their alternatives or synonyms?
  • Imagery. What images does the poem inspire? Which words and phrases are used to evoke them? How different images are connected with each other?
  • Literary devices. What kind of figurative language (simile, hyperbole, metaphor, personification, metonymy) does the author use, and for what purpose?
  • Sound and visual devices. Does the punctuation set a visual or sound pattern to the poem? If read out loud, does the sound contribute to the poem’s meaning?

Some practical steps to take:

  1. Read the poem once to get its general themes and points. Then reread it with the pencil and make notes along the way. Your explication should follow the poem’s structure from the first line to the last.
  2. Start with the main points on the poem’s structure and purpose before getting into its details. That way you’ll avoid repeating yourself as you analyze the smaller parts of the text and you’ll be able to connect them to the poem’s meaning as a whole.
  3. Break down your analysis into three parts. First, study the smallest parts of the poem on their own. Second, explain how those units relate to one another. Third, make the connection between the smallest part and the poem’s meaning in its entirety.
  4. Don’t focus exclusively on the textual analysis, as you still need to have a clear thesis statement for your poetry explication essay. Formulate it by answering the questions “what is the poem doing and how is it doing it?”.


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