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Schaffer Glossary

CD = concrete detail

CM = commentary

TS = topic sentence

CS = concluding sentence

Chunk = 1 CD and 2 CM

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FATT Sentences

When writing a literary analysis paper, it is important to make sure you include FATT information in your introduction paragraph:

F = Focus (a brief idea of what the text is about)

A = Author

T = Title of text

T = Type of text

Writing Tips

Terms and Examples

Thesis Statement – a statement having a subject and an opinion. The possibility of disagreement is always present. Possible synonyms include argument, claim, assertion or main idea. The thesis must be proved by reasons, not by emotions, in order to be proved valid.  The thesis statement should be found in your introduction paragraph.

Example: Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird models integrity for his children and community. (literary essay)

Example: My first week at Xavier College Preparatory has been challenging. (personal essay)

Concrete Detail – facts and examples that support the thesis or topic sentence. They include direct quotations from and summaries or paraphrases of literary texts. These must be documented unless they are in the public domain or are common knowledge. They are another author’s thoughts and words, not the student essayist’s.

Example: Atticus chooses to defend Tom Robinson against Mayella Ewell’s false charge even though he feels "licked a hundred years before we started" (Lee 84).

Example: In the first place, my big sister, who arranged to meet me before the bell rang for the first class, was delayed in traffic and I had to find my way to my new homeroom by myself.

Commentary – the student essayist’s analysis and insights, not concrete detail. Make the reader understand the concrete detail the way you intend it to be understood, and relate the concrete detail back to your paragraph topic.  Other synonyms include development, elaboration and explication of the concrete detail.

Example: Atticus’ moral code is stronger than peer pressure or his fear for his personal safety. His willingness to risk the treasures of his good name and economic security in order to do what he views as right, illustrates his role model qualities.

Example: I had to learn to rely on myself right away. On the other hand, I had to ask others for help, and found out that Xavier had lots of friendly people willing to steer me in the right direction.

Conclusion Sentence – the "clincher" at the close of a paragraph. It may also rephrases the topic sentence and provides a sense of completion to the paragraph.

Chunk – 1 concrete detail and 2 commentary sentences

The 5 Paragraph Essay

This format works for essays that are 4 paragraph or more; just add or delete body paragraphs as needed.

Paragraph 1: Introduction: should consist of at least 40 words and at least 4 sentences, and move in a "funnel" progression from general to specific ideas. The first sentence arouses the reader’s attention and interest, while the final sentence(s) is usually the thesis. The paragraph is entirely commentary.

Paragraphs 2 , 3, and 4:  body or support paragraphs, which should follow the 11 sentence format and include transitions connecting the main ideas. The topic sentences should refer directly to the thesis. These paragraphs should have a minimum of 120 words.

Paragraph 5: conclusion: should consist of at least 40 words and 3 or 4 sentences. The conclusion should rephrase the thesis and close the argument. The paragraph is entirely commentary.  

The Body Paragraph

Most essays will have 3 body paragraphs and follow the format below, but always check with your teacher about the requirements of any essay assignment.

Sentence 1 – Topic Sentence

Sentence 2 – Concrete detail (quote/example #1)

Sentence 3 – Commentary (explains why/how the detail proves topic)

Sentence 4 – Commentary (further explains or analyzes CD)

Sentence 5 – Concrete detail (gives a second quote/example)

Sentence 6 – Commentary (explains why/how CD #2 proves topic)

Sentence 7 – Commentary (further explains or analyzes CD #2)

Sentence 8 – Concrete detail (gives a third quote/example)

Sentence 9 – Commentary (explains why/how CD #3 proves topic)

Sentence 10 – Commentary (further explains or analyzes CD #3) 

Sentence 11 – Closing Commentary (summarizes paragraph, restates topic or thesis sentence, and does not introduce new information.) 

Sample Concrete Details and Commentary

Example: Schaffer style chunk with quote not woven (not acceptable)

“My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white” (2.2.64-65). Though Lady Macbeth is admitting she has the same share of blame for the murders as her husband, she is pointing out the very difference between herself and Macbeth. At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth feels no guilt for her role in the murders; a stark contrast to Macbeth whom she isridiculing for his lack of manliness and strength.


Example: Most basic acceptable chunk (quote integrated, but not woven)

For example, after Macbeth kills Duncan, Lady Macbeth says, “My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white” (2.2.64-65). Though Lady Macbeth admits she has the same share of blame for the murders as her husband, she points out the very difference between herself and Macbeth. At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth feels no guilt for her role in the murders; a stark contrast to Macbeth whom she ridicules for his lack of manliness and strength.


Example: Advanced chunk with a woven quote (ideal)

Though Lady Macbeth admits her “hands are of [Macbeth’s] color,” she also points out the very difference between herself and Macbeth (2.2.64). At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth feels no guilt for her role in the murders and would “shame to wear a heart” as “white” as Macbeth’s (2.2.65). Her lack of guilt is a stark contrast to Macbeth, whom she ridicules for his lack of manliness and strength over the murder of Duncan.

Attention-Grabbers for the Introduction Paragraph

1. Address the reader directly. Example: "'You are the winner of one of the following fabulous prizes.' No doubt you have read such statements on pieces of mail delivered to your home. Don't believe them. . . ."

2. Begin with a startling, unusual, or enlightening fact. Example: "The wedding cake has not always been lovingly fed to the bride by her adoring husband." OR "One out of every 500 Americans will not make it home tonight."

3. Start with an example or anecdote. Example: "Princess Diana's photo once graced the covers of hundreds of magazines." OR "Once, many years ago, Tiger Woods was playing golf with some friends."

4. Begin with an interesting or dramatic quotation. Example: "'To be or not to be.' Even Hamlet had his doubts." OR "Nike's 'Just Do It' slogan has been applied to much more than running shoes."

5. Start with a question or challenge (this technique can be misused and is used too often, so use wisely). Example: "Why do some people wear a mask when they cut their lawns?" OR "Would you stop wasting water if your water bill was $500 a month?"

6. Begin by defining the idea or concept that is the topic of the paper. Example: "The word punk no longer just means a form of alternative music." OR "The phrase 'free way' is an oxymoron when we look at how many of our tax dollars are spent on adding more byways to our highways."

7. Point out a contradiction that the paper will consider. Example:  "Most Americans think the Europeans can't build a reliable refrigerator much less a complicated piece of the International Space Station; however, they are more competent in aerospace engineering than we think, according to Michael Hawes, head of Nasa's international space station."


Replacing "To Be" Verbs

1. Substitute-Sometimes a good replacement just pops into your brain. For example, instead of “That cherry pie sure is good,” substitute the “to-be” verb is with tastes as in “That cherry pie sure tastes good.”

2. Rearrange-Start the sentence differently to see if this helps eliminate a “to-be” verb. For example, instead of “The monster was in the dark tunnel creeping,” rearrange as “Down the dark tunnel crept the monster.”

3. Change another word in the sentence into a verb-For example, instead of “Charles Schulz was the creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip,” change the common noun creator to the verb created as in “Charles Schulz created the Peanuts cartoon strip.”

4. Combine sentences-Look at the sentences before and after the one with the “to-be” verb to see if one of them can combine with the “to-be” verb sentence and so eliminate the “to-be” verb. For example, instead of “The child was sad. The sensitive young person was feeling that way because of the news story about the death of the homeless man,” combine as “The news story about the death of the homeless man saddened the sensitive child.”

Active vs. Passive Voice

Changing passive voice to active voice.

You’ve identified a "BE verb + past participle," otherwise known as passive voice, (typically an -ed verb or other irregular past participle) in your paper. When you use passive voice, it’s easier to create confusing, awkward, or wordy sentences. It takes more words to say what you mean, and even then it’s not always clear what you’re trying to say. So, when possible, always try to write in active voice.

Active voice: the subject performs the action (The car hit the tree.)

Passive voice: the subject receives the action (The tree was hit by the car.


Ask who or what performs the action in the past participle verb.

Passive: The charge was contested.

Ask yourself: "Who or what contested the charge?"

Active: Brian contested the charge.