An excellent guide to writing a critical essay
A critical essay is an analysis of a text such as a book, film, article, or painting. The objective of this type of article is to offer a text or an interpretation of some aspects of a text or to place it in a broader context. For example, a critical analysis of a book might look at the tone of the text to determine how that tone influences the meaning of the text in general. Likewise, a critical analysis of a movie might focus on the meaning of a recurring symbol in the movie. In any case, a critical essay should include an argumentative thesis about the text and many textual sources of evidence to help support your interpretation of the text
Preparing for critical essay writing
- Understand the assignment. As soon as your teacher assigns you an article, read the guidelines and highlight anything you don’t understand. Ask your teacher to explain the directions if something seems unclear or if you don’t understand the assignment.
- Do a critical reading of your source or sources. A critical essay assignment asks you to rate a book, article, movie, painting, or some other type of text. To do a critical analysis of some text, you have to become very familiar with the primary text.
- Take notes when you read the text. Taking notes as you read will help you to remember the important aspects of the text and also to think about it critically. As you read, keep a few key questions in mind and try to answer them with your notes
- Review your notes to identify patterns and problems. After you finish reading and taking notes on your text, review your notes to determine what patterns are present in it and what problems do you think stand out. Try to identify a solution to one of the problems you identified.
Researching for your critical essay
- Look for appropriate secondary sources, if requested. If you are asked to use fonts for your critical essay, you will need to do some research. Review your assignment guidelines or ask your instructor if you have any questions about the appropriate font types for this assignment.
- Evaluate your sources to determine their credibility. It is important to use only reliable sources in an academic essay; otherwise, you will damage your own credibility as an author. Using the library’s databases will also help ensure that you get plenty of reliable sources for your article. There are many factors that you will have to consider in determining whether or not a source is trustworthy.
- Create your provisional thesis. After you have developed your ideas about the primary source and read your primary sources, you are ready to write a thesis. Effective theses express the main focus of an article and provide a debatable claim. It can be helpful to use a multi-sentence thesis, where the first sentence provides the general idea and the second refines it to provide a more specific idea.
- Write a general outline based on your research notes. Writing an outline before you start to draft your essay will help you organize your information more effectively. You can make your outline as detailed or reduced as you like. Just keep in mind that the more details you include in your outline, the more material you will have to include in your article.
- You can use a formal outline structure that uses Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, and letters. You can also use an informal “concept map” type of outline, which allows you to gather your ideas before you have a full notion of how they are progressing.
- Start your essay with an interesting sentence that directly addresses your topic. Your introduction should immediately start talking about your topic. Think about what you will be talking about in your essay to help you determine what to include in your introduction. Keep in mind that your introduction should identify the main idea of your critical essay and act as a preview of it
Writing Your Critical Essay
- Start your essay with an interesting sentence that directly addresses your topic. Your introduction should immediately start talking about your topic. Think about what you will be talking about in your essay to help you determine what to include in your introduction. Keep in mind that your introduction should identify the main idea of your critical essay and act as a preview of it.
Other good techniques for starting an essay include using specific evocative information that relates to your larger idea, asking a question that your essay will answer, or providing a compelling statistic.
- Provide background to orient your readers. Providing adequate background or context will help guide your readers throughout your essay. Think about what your readers will need to know to understand the rest of your essay and put this information in your first paragraph. This information will vary depending on the type of text you were asked to write about.
- If you are writing about a book, include the name of the work, the author, and a brief summary of the plot.
- If you’re writing about a movie, put in a short synopsis.
- If you are going to write about a painting or some other static image, put a short description for your readers.
- Keep in mind that your background from the first paragraph should lead to your thesis. Explain everything the reader needs to know to understand what your topic is about, and then narrow it down to the topic itself.
Use your body paragraphs to talk about specific components of your text. Instead of trying to talk about many aspects of your text in a single paragraph, make sure that each paragraph in the body focuses on only one aspect of your text. Talking about each of these aspects should contribute to the proof of your thesis
- Develop a conclusion for your essay. Your conclusion should emphasize what you tried to show your readers about the text. Before writing your conclusion, take some time to reflect on what you have written so far and try to determine the best way to end your essay. There are many good options for ending an academic essay that could help you decide how to structure your conclusion. For example, you could do the following:
- summarize and review your main ideas about the text;
- explain how the topic affects the reader;
- explain how your specific topic applies to a broader topic or observation;
- request that the reader participate or explore the topic further;
- present new questions that your essay raised.
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