Explications: “proof” for your thesis

Explication is close reading that moves past the level of summary to examine how the formal structures that enable the meaning of the prose.  “Explicate” from the Latin for “unfold” or “explain”; this is what you do—with, to, and through the text—you explain and unfold it.

An explication is a focused analysis of a particular passage (a sentence, a few lines, etc.).  The best explications are focused on ONE idea, theme, or stylistic element. Use the text to show and prove your argument about it. **In a paper, explications act as the support for your larger argument. So, each paragraph contains at least one explication.

Some hints for writing an explication:

  • Use specific quotations, phrases, or words and explain why they’re important and how they relate to your argument.
  • Analyze the language of the text; explain—explicate.
  • Stay specific and focused on the passage at hand. Don’t generalize. Look at the words on the page and explain how they work.
  • Be sure that you contextualize the passage near the start of your explication – just a sentence or two.  Don’t summarize.

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