How to Write a Critical Essay: Tips from 5 Experts

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How to Write a Critical Essay: Tips from 5 Experts

A critical essay is an analytic examination of a text or group of texts that presents an individual's interpretation of or argument about that text using the text itself as the basis for evidence and analysis.  A critical essay is very similar to an analysis essay because it presents a claim about a topic in a thorough and academic way; however, while critical essays can be considered analysis essays, not all analysis essays are critical essays.  This is because an analysis essay can be about a number of topics, and a critical essay always takes a text as its subject.  Critical essays are common assignments in college courses because so many college courses require learners to read and engage with the work of scholars.  Critical essays are especially common in courses that are based in the interpretation of texts, such as literature, philosophy, and theology.  

The text the critical essay is about should be clearly identified very early in the report—typically in the first paragraph.  Shortly following, it should present a specific thesis about that text.  A thesis is a statement or group of statements that presents an argument or a claim.  A good critical essay thesis will also give a brief indication of how that writer will defend that thesis.  For example, a critical essay on Henry James' novel The Turn of the Screw might claim that Henry James intends for the reader to interpret the novel as a ghost story.  To advance that claim, the author might argue that even though the governess may seem to be an unreliable narrator, the examination of the observances of other characters in the text supports the governess' claims of paranormal activity.  The thesis of the paper could therefore be:

Though the governess in James' Turn of the Screw is notoriously known as an unreliable character, the inclusion of the strange experiences of other characters in the novel as reported through their dialogue indicates that James intended the novel to be interpreted as a ghost story.

In this thesis, the author makes a claim and then explains how she will support that claim using textual evidence.

One of the primary difficulties of writing critical essays is avoiding too much summary.  The point of the critical essay is to shed new light on a particular aspect of that text.  Therefore, the writer should assume that his reader is familiar with the text in question and should present only a brief sketch of the plot or main points of the text.  

Finally, because a critical essay is text-based, it must include a multitude of references to and quotes from the text.  No claim the author makes should be without an example from the text to support it.

Viewpoint of Author #2

A criticism essay is one which provides some sort of critical stance on a particular subject.  A criticism essay can be written about a concept, a topic, or even a person, place, thing, work of artwork, and more.  Criticism essays are a way for course instructors to gauge a student's ability to not only think critically, but to constructively criticize the subject.

Criticism essays are written in much the same way that any report is written.  The primary difference between a criticism essay and a general report is that the research used in a criticism essay is used to critique the subject.  A criticism essay is a sort of critical review on the topic.  And, although critical essays are often somewhat negative, they do not necessarily have to be.  Often the course instructor will indicate what standpoint to take when writing the document.

Like any academic paper, a criticism report should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  The introductory paragraph of a criticism report should have a sound thesis statement.  A thesis statement is actually the answer to the question that the report raises.  And, although the thesis is presented at the beginning of the document, the remainder of the criticism essay must support and prove the thesis.

The proof which supports the thesis statement is presented in the body.  A paper body should be at least three paragraphs long.  However, the actual length of the report body should be determined by the required length of the report as assigned.  For instance, learners should plan on writing three body paragraphs for a one page criticism article.  A good rule of thumb is to write three body paragraphs per page.  So, for a one page paper, the student should have three body paragraphs, for a two page paper, there should be six body paragraphs, and so on.  

The conclusion of a criticism report should restate the thesis and summarize the information presented in the body paragraphs.  The conclusion should indicate how that information proves the thesis.  The conclusion should present the reader with a definite ending to the critical essay and should not leave the reader wondering how the research presented in the report supports the thesis.

As always, any criticism essay presented for a grade should be well-written and well-researched.  The report should be proofed for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Students should always make sure that they present the best criticism essay possible.

Viewpoint of Author #3

When a pupil writes a response essay with an opinion that he or she has come by through critical analysis, the student is writing a critical lens essay.  A critical lens essay is one that a pupil writes in order to provide a point-of-view about a piece of information or an idea.  The student needs to first be exposed to that piece of information or idea in order to come up with his or her own opinions, stances, and viewpoints.  

Often, when a student has to write a critical lens essay, the learner will not only have to review one particular idea in question, but the learner will have to perform related research as he or she develops his or her argument.  The idea of critical lens essays is not only that they show that the student has critically analyzed a particular idea, but also that the student has a sound argument to support his or her point-of-view.  

Essays in general are usually written from a student's point-of-view.  However, a major distinction of critical lens essays is that they respond to a particular document or idea.  For example, if a professor tells students to write critical lens essays in response to the mishandling of the Caylee Anthony murder investigation, learners will need to read documents about the investigation with a critical eye.  They will then have to provide critical feedback about the documents that support their points of view.  

Many critical lens essays are also research essays because the learner will need to perform a certain degree of research in order to form an opinion and an argument.  However, critical lens essays are not research papers.  Such articles are formal academic documents that require learners to research a practical topic in depth.  Students should then provide information about that topic in a subjective manner.  

However, a critical lens essay allows students to form their own opinions.  Because essays are usually subjective, it can be expected that the critical lens essays are also subjective, providing a forum for students to express their agreement or disagreement with a particular idea or situation.  After all, a lens is a tool through which an individual views a particular situation.  By nature, a lens is subjective.

Viewpoint of Author #4

Despite the fact that most people think of being critical as being negative, a critical essay can be either positive or negative in the point-of-view that is expressed.  In either case, the purpose of the critical essay is to describe your attitude toward a specific topic, though you must still strive toward providing factual information and data rather than simply writing your opinion.

When writing critical essays, you must first analyze the topic.  In order to accomplish this step, you will need to provide a brief statement of your main idea, which is referred to as your thesis statement or as the theme.  You will then outline the important facts that you intend to discuss in your essay and you will wrap it up by providing a summary of your article.

In order to formulate your criticism of the subject matter, you will need to complete an extensive amount of data collection.  In this way, you can learn the subject matter thoroughly and you can distinguish the important information from the material that is irrelevant.  Once you have selected the relevant material, read over it again in order to make sure you have a solid understanding.

Based off of the information you have gathered, you should then formulate a thesis statement and create a rough introductory paragraph.  Then, determine the main topics of your next paragraphs and write a rough draft by filling in the details from your research.  

Keep in mind that a critical essay is meant to be very logical in nature and is to present a great deal of information to support its point-of-view.  Therefore, your critical report should include statistic, theoretical concepts, quotations, and more.  Be certain to cite all of the information that you include in your critical article.  Not only will this help to validate its accuracy and relevancy, it will also keep you from being charged with plagiarism.

Since writing a critical essay requires developing a clear and strong understanding of a particular topic, you should give yourself plenty of time to complete the document.  Similarly, you will need to utilize a number of different resources while gathering information.  In this way, you can ensure the accuracy of the information you present while also obtaining the most relevant and up-to-date information.  Since you likely will not have time to read several books on the subject from beginning to end, it is better to select one specific aspect of the topic and to research that particular area.  By doing so, you can read only those sections that pertain to the topic you are writing about.

When writing a critical essay, you will need to know how to sort out the relevant information quickly.  One way to accomplish this is to use the table of contents of a book in order to find the chapters that are relevant.  Similarly, only utilize websites and magazines that are well-respected in the field.

After writing the critical essay, set it aside for a few days and then read it again.  In this way, you can better check for logic errors and you can make corrections that will help improve the overall flow.

Viewpoint of Author #5

Nearly every college student will be required to write one or more critical analysis essays during the course of his or her academic career.  However, many learners do not understand how to write a critical analysis article.  Unlike general reports, a critical analysis essay requires not only good writing and research skills, it also requires students to critically analyze and present the information in a particular manner.

A critical analysis essay is not an opinion paper.  Students often misinterpret the assignment to be an invitation to express their opinion, or to criticize, the research they gather for the assignment.  Critical analysis essays require that students critically analyze their topic and use their research to substantiate any claims they make in the report, not that students express any personal opinions.

Because a critical analysis essay is somewhat difficult for many learners, the presentation sometimes ends up rather disjointed.  Students who do not understand how to write a critical analysis essay tend to present a paper which contains a lack of clear direction and supported arguments.  A critical analysis essay is intended to help students evaluate and understand the material which helps them develop critical thinking skills as well as good writing skills.

Students should begin a critical analysis essay with a sound thesis statement.  The remainder of the document should support that thesis.  The paper body should include research which helps develop that thesis.  And the report conclusion should restate the thesis and explain how the information presented in the body supports that thesis.

Some students find that critical analysis essays are easier to write once their thoughts, and their research, has been well organized.  It is helpful to begin organizing one's research by writing main thoughts and research points on index cards.  A student can then lay out the index cards on a flat surface and rearrange them in a way that makes sense.  Once they are suitable arranged, the student should then write each point on a piece of paper to form a sort of outline.  Students can then visualize how the information they have gathered will fit into an introduction, paper body, and conclusion, all the while bearing in mind how each thought supports the critical analysis article's thesis.

The outline that the student has created can then be fleshed out into the critical analysis report itself.  Whenever possible, learners should prepare a draft of their document several days before the report due date so that they have ample time to proofread and rewrite as necessary.  The final version of the critical analysis report should be well-written and free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

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