A critical essay provides interpretation and analysis of a set text, piece of music, a painting, or play. It must be written with an academic purpose; it often proposes a sound argument. Although frequently confused with a review, a critical essay is more similar to a formal essay. It should incorporate scholarly observations, with all facts correctly referenced.
Steps for Writing a Critical Essay
- A text, film, piece of music, or play must be selected by the instructor or student. No matter what you choose to write your critical essay on, you must ensure you are fully informed about it before writing an essay on it.
- Relevant material from which references can be drawn must be sought. Journals, books, articles, and online material are suitable, as long as the references are scholarly, not popular.
- Notes must be written about the text in question, and an argument must be constructed. A stand must be taken by the writer in favor of a particular view.
- The body, in the form of three or more paragraphs, must be written first. Each paragraph must discuss one point that supports the argument.
- A conclusion is written next, summing up the points, summarizing the argument, and giving a one-sentence closing.
- The introduction is written last to make sure it presents the argument clearly. It must contain a strong thesis statement that also sums up the argument.
- The finished essay must be read a number of times, corrected, edited, and finally proofed for errors.
Critical Essay Topics
- Doping in the Olympics
- Impact of videogames to children
- Changing gender roles
- Impact of technology
- Factors leading to juvenile delinquency
- How to avoid recidivism?
- Wonders of the ancient world
- Ways of managing inflation
- Importance of entrepreneurship
Key Points to Consider
- An argument can be based on the qualities of the text in question. Thought must be given to the kinds of readers or audiences to whom the writing might be addressed by the author of the set text.
- A critical essay must examine the text, question it, and evaluate it. The writer must state what kind of text it is, and whether it achieves the aims of its author. That is, does it entertain, does it educate, does it instruct, or does it inform?
- A suitable combination of main and secondary points must be used in the three or more body paragraphs, which contain the central thrust of the essay. Ideas, notions, and concepts taken from the initial set of notes must be reworked to produce an argument.
- Rhetorical questions must not be used, since they are a weak and predictable way to form an argument, and truisms must be avoided. Making a point using the findings of an authoritative author is always best.
- Persuasive techniques must be used in an effective manner to argue the value or lack of value of the text. The most common techniques are to appeal to emotion, to evidence, and facts supported by citations. These techniques must adhere to a discipline, such as logic.
- A critical essay does not merely accept the decisions and opinions of others, however. It must question, analyze, and propose alternative views, options, and attitudes.
One style to use when writing a critical essay is the claim and evidence style. The writer must make a number of claims about the set text, or anything else you have chosen to examine. These claims are then supported by evidence found in other texts, which are used as references.
Another effective style is the new information method. Here, the writer provides fresh research which has not yet been used by others to discuss the given subject.
Examination and exploration is a style that looks into the fine details of a text or piece of art, and explores all the possible motivations, inspirations, and reasons the creator of the text or piece of art might have had during the creative process.
Do and Don’t
- Avoid driving a point home too strongly. It is enough to support your claims with evidence without strong language or repetition.
- An effective critical essay must appeal to the reader’s sentiments, but not in an overstated fashion.
- Avoid making points that are mere opinions.
- Make sure your language matches the argument style.
- Do not omit direct quotes from relevant texts. Ensure all your references are up-to-date and appropriate to the subject and theme.
- Avoid using too many negative sentences. A critical essay can be just as positive as any other piece of writing: analysis, interpretation, and questioning need not be negative.
- Avoid presenting facts and data, but omitting a clear and well thought-out thesis argument. Make a logical outline or plan, and keep to it.
A well-written critical essay is one where the writer has made a clear argument in flawless language. Logic, sound reasoning, and an investigative attitude are always seen by examiners as foundations for a well-organized discussion about a set text.
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic critical essay writing tips and rules, you can check out our critical essay samples to link theory with practice.
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Samples for Writing a Critical Essay
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- Identify the author's thesis and purpose
- Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
- Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
- Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
- Write a summary of the work
- Determine the purpose which could be
- To inform with factual material
- To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
- To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY
After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.
- I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
- A. Information about the work
- 1. Title
- 2. Author
- 3. Publication information
- 4. Statement of topic and purpose
- B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
- II. Summary or description of the work
- III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
- A. Discussion of the work's organization
- B. Discussion of the work's style
- C. Effectiveness
- D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
- E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.
Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.
Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What is the overall value of the passage?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.
Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.
Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.
Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.