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Content of this article

  1. How to write a critical essay
  2. Preparation process
  3. Research
  4. Structure
  5. Finalizing an essay
  6. How to choose topic for a critical writing
  7. Samples

1. How To Write A Critical Essay

A critical essay seeks to provide an analysis or interpretation of either a book, a piece of art or a film. A critical essay is not the same as a review because unlike a review, it encompasses an academic purpose or goal. Students should not just aim at reviewing a book or a film, but should have an argument and include scholarly observations within their essay. Contrary to popular belief by a significant portion of students, critical essay writing is not about criticizing or focusing on the negative aspect of analysis. It is possible to have a critical essay which supports an idea or an author’s or director’s view regarding a particular theme. A critical essay is thus an objective analysis of a particular subject whose aim is to analyze the strengths or weaknesses of text, art, or a film. The above is of great importance, especially to students who think that critical essays are supposed to focus on the negative aspects of a subject.

The goal or purpose of a critical essay is to provide readers with an explanation or an interpretation of a specific idea or concept that an author, a painter or director included in their work. Additionally, writers can be asked to situate a certain theme in a book or film within a broader context. Essentially, critical essay writing involves weighing up the consistency of an author or director in trying to convey a particular message to their audience. It is thus vital to be keen and observant and note the different feelings as well as emotions conjured within a text, a film, or a painting. Writing a critical paper or criticizing might seem easy at first, but it can also be challenging.

Some of the purposes of a critical essay writing are as shown below:

  • Provide an objective account of an author’s, director’s or painter’s work.
  • Analyze the consistency of an author’s work in presenting their ideas.
  • Assess the consistency of an author’s work in maintaining and supporting their main argument or idea.
  • Present the strengths as well as weaknesses of an article.
  • Criticize the work of an author or a painter.

2. Preparation For Writing

Step 1: Understand the requirements

Students are often at fault for starting their essays without clearly understanding the instructor’s requirements. Instead of starting an essay immediately after reading the requirements, it is wise to seek any clarification from the teacher.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the primary source

The primary source is the book, film, or painting a student has been asked to write a critical essay about. Here, students are always advised to be careful and note everything within the source for purposes of making their essay better. If asked to write a particular book, film, or painting, students should read the book more than once, watch the film more than once, or look at the painting from different perspectives to understand the underlying themes.

Step 3: Take notes when reading/watching/assessing the primary source

Note taking is also vital to identifying the different patterns and problems within a text, film, or painting. While reading the text, or watching the movie, it is important to note the important concepts and ideas that an author or director or painter decided to incorporate within their work. The important points or aspects can indeed be overwhelming, and it is thus essential to ensure none will skip or escape the writer’s mind.

Step 4: Identify the main problems or patterns within a text, movie or art

After reviewing a text, or watching a movie or keenly analyzing a piece of art and taking notes, the next step is to identify the main problems or patterns that emerge from the notes. While noting the important aspects, certain issues or points are bound to emerge and stand out. Students thus need to be keen and identify these patterns and problems.

Step 5: Find solutions to the identified problems and patterns

The next thing after this is to try and find solutions for the identified problems and patterns. At this point, the writer should be developing their thesis statement and have their perspective clearly outlined.

3. Performing Research

Critical Essay writing is heavily dependent on how much research an individual does. In some instances, students make the mistake of depending on their primary source to write their critical essay. Unless otherwise specified by the instructor, it is always advisable to find other sources to help expand and increase the essay’s depth in content. Secondary sources help to increase an essay’s credibility and thus if needed should always be included.

Finding the right sources can be a problem and students often find themselves at fault for using unreliable sources. It is important to find genuine sources which offer reliable and accurate information lest one’s essay is filled with lies and inaccurate information. Just like how one is advised to take notes while reading or watching the primary source, it is also essential to take notes while going through the secondary sources. The notes help to determine or find patterns and points of correlation between the primary and secondary source. Understanding the relationship or the connection between the primary and secondary source is key to writing a decent critical essay. Below are some criterions for choosing the right secondary source:

  • Assess the timeliness of the source, that is, how current is the material.
  • Accuracy of the information. How reliable is the information within the source.
  • Coverage or relevance to the topic under study. Assess whether the material is of any importance or adds any value to the topic.
  • Evaluate the source of the information, that is, the author, painter, or director’s credibility.
  • Examine the objectivity or purpose of the information presented within a source. Here one assesses the possible bias within a text.

4. Critical Essay Structure

All essays follow a particular standard or format which includes an introduction, body, and a conclusion. These parts must be included in an essay to be termed as complete. However, before tackling these sections, it is important first to develop an outline for a critical essay. Critical essay outlining is essential because it provides students with a step by step guide to developing their essay.

If, for example, the topic under study is “the use of ethnic music by mainstream musicians” the outline should be as shown below:

The Use of Ethnic Music by Mainstream Musicians


–    Explain how music keeps changing.

–    Provide a brief description of the use of ethnic music in mainstream music.

–    Pick an artist and explain why their music is of interest in this paper.


–    Assess the change in music production of the artist.

–    Provide an analysis of how the artist has managed to use ethnic music.

–    Include the reception of the music of the above artist and how fans find his music.


–   Restate the argument or thesis statement while also mentioning why the focus was narrowed to the specified artist and their music.

–    Provide a summary of the main points.

Writing a Critical Essay Introduction

An introduction provides a description of the topic under study. While some students like providing a lot of information in the introduction, it is advisable to be brief and direct. An introduction should be specific and short but usher in the readers into the topic under study. Readers should be able to determine the writer’s focus or perspective without much fuss or without the need of reading deep into a text.  Background information is indeed of the essence, and it is thus important to include some information which will help readers to understand the entire essay.

Writing a Thesis Statement for a Critical Essay

A thesis statement reveals the main focus of the essay. Readers need to know the writer’s focus and hence the importance of a thesis statement. On many occasions, students often have flat and simple thesis statements which even though is not against any rules only help to reveal the lack of imagination or research involved. A thesis statement should be argumentative and provide readers with an assurance that they will indeed enjoy what they are reading.

Below are some tips to writing a good thesis statement:

  • Always include it in the introduction. A thesis statement should be provided early in the essay.
  • Avoid ambiguity and be as clear as possible.
  • Cliché sentence structures should be avoided. For example, “The main point of this paper is…” or “The focus of this article will be…”
  • Be specific and narrow down the statement’s scope.
  • Be original.

Writing a Critical Essay Body

While writing an essay, each sentence in the body should communicate its point. The above is almost a cliché, but it is indeed crucial to being a good critical essay writer. Each paragraph should support the thesis statement by including a claim or an argument and following it up with supporting evidence or sentences. Unless otherwise stated, critical essays should have three to six paragraphs and each of these is supposed to have five to six sentences.

Writing a Critical Essay Conclusion

A critical essay conclusion is not any different to other essay conclusions. When writing a conclusion for a critical essay, one should reiterate their stance or main argument followed by the main supporting arguments or points. Only a summary is needed here, and hence writers are asked to be brief and only include what is necessary. Readers should feel directly linked or impacted by the topic under study. An essay should leave the readers with the need or urge of finding out more about a topic.

5. Finalizing Essay

Once the paper is complete, it is essential to revise, proofread, choose a captivating title, and make appropriate citations. Revising an assignment is important because it helps to clarify the main point as well as ensures the readers’ needs are met. Having a purpose is indeed essential to writing a decent critical essay and it is important to outline it clearly. Proofreading helps one to correct grammatical errors and maintain their stance throughout their essay.

A reader’s interest is always enticed from the title and developing one is indeed an important aspect of an essay. Citations are also of the essence and help to avoid issues of plagiarism. Paraphrasing, and in-text citations should hence be taken seriously, lest a student’s work graded poorly.

6. How to choose topic for a critical analysis

Choosing a topic can be a challenge. Writers are, however, often advised to select a topic that they are familiar with and that will gift them with enough information to write the entire essay.

Below are some examples of critical essay topics:

  • Examine the literary and cultural context of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
  • Examine the use of satire in John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight Show.
  • How accurate is the assertion that satirical news shows offer people more credible news than some news channels?
  • How is the movie 21 Jump Street accurate in its depiction of high school life?
  • How does the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre horror film use the aspect of suspense to create horror?
  • What makes/made comedy series such as The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and How I met Your Mother popular?
  • What unique features did the directors of The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and How I met Your Mother include that made their shows standout?
  • Video games contribute to a significant reduction in attention span of both children and adults.
  • Adoption of children by gay couples.
  • How does exposure to violent videos impact the temperament of young children?
  • How is fashion a central part of a person’s identity?
  • Analyze the role of women characters in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Examine the cultural and historical accuracy of the TV series Merlin.
  • How does the director and producer of Merlin make use humor throughout the TV series?
  • Examine how well the Game of Thrones books have been adapted into the TV series Game of Thrones.

7. Samples

7.1 First sample

7.2 Second sample

7.3 Third sample

A critical essay contains analyses, interpretations, and evaluations of specific texts. Critical writing touches upon various mediums. Film, advertising, literature, music, scientific and academic works all go through the prism of critique. Although the name “critical essay” might suggest a negative connotation, the process is actually neutral. If the writer offers a prejudiced view, challenge it. If work is valuable and insightful, write in appraisal of their contribution.

Table Of Contents

Critical essays are traditionally intended for academic audiences. However, the roots of critical evaluation remain present in the mundane. The modern world is a product of decisions based on interpretations. People always react. Whether it's specific images we see in the media or opinions of friends we disagree with. Reactions can be manifested through violence, or ideally, discussed and dissected for better understanding of our world. These discussions are as important to ‘real life’ as the critical essay is to academia.

Plan Your Essay

It's important to consider a few things before getting down to the actual writing stage. Here are some points from our essay writer to get started with a critical essay.

Evaluate the work

When writing about the work of a different author, . This summary must make the author’s point of view clear. Authors always have a specific idea they want to carry through to the reader. The .

Know the author

After in-depth analysis and outline of the author’s work, . There are cases where authors omit essential facts for the sake of proving their argument. You may also notice some inconsistency in the author’s reasoning. As the person providing critical analysis, it is your role to explore these points. It is not for the sake of criticism - but for giving a better, and fuller understanding of the topic to the reader.

Write a tentative thesis

. Remember that you can always change the thesis later to match your findings. Just make a rough statement for reference while at the beginning stages.

Reference everything used in correct format

It is no surprise that plagiarism is taken very seriously. . Regardless of the essay you are writing or the professor's preferred style. Here is a guide on possible citation formats.

How to structure a critical essay

There are various formats of critical writing. From book reports, critical analyses of academic works, to the critique of poetry, writing, cinema, etc. By the time you write critical essays in college, you should have already mastered the 5-paragraph-essay format. This goes to say that . In fact, .

The reader will only trust you after you’ve shown that you know the work inside out and backward. Offering critical analysis on the author’s terms is a helpful tip to preserve continuity. It will make your essay read like a natural progression of the argument at hand, rather than some radical, destructive criticism.

This being said, every essay follows a pattern which makes it academic. Whatever format you choose for your critical essay, take care to include these core structural principles.


  • Title, hook, background information and introduction to topic, thesis statement

Main Body

  • State an idea or opinion;
  • Provide evidence, use quotes;
  • Relate to thesis.


  • Summarize the most important findings;
  • Restate thesis, opinions and reflections;
  • Further questions and concluding sentence.


After writing your title, . This can consist of a question or an interesting fact. Then some background information on what you will be finding out and the basis for the essay. Try to keep it intriguing and not switch off the reader. After this, state the thesis for the analysis, make this concise but informative as this will be the whole point of the critical essay.

Main Body

This is the main findings and bulk of the work, so . Start a paragraph with the opinion or idea that you are discussing. Then it is essential to back up everything with actual evidence in the form of quotations or examples. With every aspect try to relate it to the thesis in some way. Make sure paragraphs interlink nicely and flow well to the next by using transition words and phrases. A good flow keeps it from being just a long list of statements.

A good flow keeps your writing from being just a long list of statements.


. First, summarize the most important findings that have been explored in the work. Then restate the thesis, showing the reader what the paper has shown. It is likely that you will include personal thoughts and opinions related to the findings. Make sure they are in line with the style of the work. The concluding sentence can be the most noted. Make sure it is memorable and thought-provoking. This can take the shape of asking the reader a question or doing further research of their own. Even humor can be used but be careful with this as not everybody has the same taste.

Techniques Used In Literary Critiques

An objective analysis - The evaluation will be based only on facts and not using feeling or emotion in the study.

Traditional Critique - The main feature is the collective agreement of what literature educated people should read and what are the aims and purposes of such works.

New Critique - This was meant to be a diversion from previous methods and concentrated on just the text itself. Areas of irony, metaphor, ambiguity, and paradox were under close evaluation.

Marxist Criticism - As the name suggests it closely based its analogy through class conflicts and identification but coming to conclusions of a political or social nature. Marxist criticism has had a profound effect on the understanding of literature.

Metaphorical Critique - This is no surprise and as expected the close identification of metaphors to greater understand a specific work and its author.

New Historicism - In essence, this is the study of literature through its historical value without evaluating it through previous literary studies and analogies.

Psychological Critique - This can be interpreted as a deep understanding of the text through Freud as an example of a theorist which is stating the author's unconscious wishes just like dreams can be evaluated as a pathway to their mind.

Sociological Criticism - Mainly focuses on how the literature represents social functions but also where the work fits into society in general.

Moral or Ethical Criticism - To judge work or literary piece by the morals learned or moral lessons within the text.

Top Tips To Save You Time

  • Come back to the draft later - After completing you first, complete draft put it to one side then review it after a few days. A clear mind is always an advantage in proofreading your work.
  • Explain everything - Do not assume the reader knows a particular detail or fact. Carefully guide the audience through each step of the way. Describe technical terms and abbreviations fully.
  • Thesis and Introduction can be completed later - The thesis statement or introduction can be achieved in full after a large proportion of the critical essay has been done to save time and write something better.
  • A second pair of eyes can be better - Let a family friend or professional colleague review your work and get a second opinion but be prepared for criticism.
  • Develop your style of writing - Do not write in the style of someone else but try to get comfortable with your style. It can take a while and possibly more than one essay. Once mastered it will be much more rewarding and save you time in the long run.
  • Do not be scared of an issue - When describing something make sure you are being specific and do not give vague or timid explanations that will annoy the reader.
  • Rhetorical questions should not be used - The body of the arguments should only contain points based on findings and factual statements.
  • Plan the time well - It is common not to have enough time to read through all the literature. Make a plan for how much can be read and anything else will rely on a search using the index while embarking on the essay.

Reading books taking your precious time?

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