How to Write a Critical Essay

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What Is a Critical Essay

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “critical essay?” Most students associate the concept of a critical essay with the negative opinion about the creator and their creation, but that is only half-true. The critical analysis definition may be formulated as an academic paper designed to understand a certain written work. To speak literally, the adjective “critical” should be replaced by the term “evaluative” and be perceived both in a positive and negative meaning.

Essays of such types are usually subjective considering the text that usually stands behind them to provide personal opinions. Of course, this means a backed-up opinion, and not just saying you didn’t like the book.

Video Lesson on How to Write a Critical Essay

Critical Essay Structure

You will notice that the structure for a critical essay is slightly different from a traditional 5-paragraph essay structure. Still, you should follow the three part structure, which includes the introduction with the thesis statement, the body and the conclusion.

Let’s take a closer look at the details of writing of each part.

Background information. This is the obligatory part when you state the purpose of your work mentioning in the topic and sometimes why you decided to choose this topic.
Information about the work. The main feature of a critical essay is the absence of intrigue. In other words, from the very beginning you must indicate basic information about the subject of your critical evaluation, such as the title, author, publication information, statement of topic and purpose.

Summary. This part marks the beginning of the main body of the essay. If you want to draw parallels with the more tradition perception of essay structure. The summary is the fundamental part of the critical analysis. This part proves that you have completed at least part of a task – you have read, or seen or listened to the subject. Furthermore, it proves that you considered and analyzed the received information.

Interpretation. Finally the part for the sake of which everything was started. Your personal subject interpretation and honest opinions, whether they are negative or positive. Possible themes that may be addressed are the organization of the work, style of the work, the meaning pledged in work, and the methods and effectiveness of appealing to a particular audience.

Conclusion. Summarize all of your ideas. However, check if this part matches the introduction regarding ideas and arguments, as well as the general tone of the essay.

Stages of Writing a Critical Essay

We have around eight stages of writing a critical essay. Here we go.

  1. The choice. Think about the text, article, film, piece of musical play you want to analyze from a critical point. Be sure that you are totally informed about it before you start writing. It means that you should be familiar with the original, not just some reviews or critical essays written by others.
  2. Critical reading. Pay attention that in this case the reading is used in a much wider context determined by the object of analysis.
  3. Annotation. Note moments that cause you to be concerned or to take a critical look and include some questions that arise in a process of reading.
  4. Preparation of future references. Search some relevant incredible materials to make your arguments sound more convincing.
  5. The body writing. Start with the main and the most responsible part. Do no forget that each paragraph must correspond with one single point, for or against the thesis.
  6. Summarizing. As you can see the stranger elements have not concluded in the previous step. But it is true, before writing the introduction, it is better to create a concluding part that sums up all the points and the argument.
  7. The actual beginning. The introduction is written last to to make sure that it will respond to all of what you have said throughout the text.
  8. Proofreading. The final step – reading, correction, edition, checking one more time, checking one more time again and your critical essay is done!

Critical Essay Topics

Now to give you a couple of ideas, we have prepared a list of good topics to choose while writing a critical essay.

  1. A Place of Women in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Literature
  2. The Concepts of Families in Ancient Greek Literature
  3. The Innocence and the Evil in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  4. The Role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Play Death of a Salesman
  5. “True love” in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
  6. The “real monster” of Mary W. Shelley’s Frankenstein
  7. The Hidden Meaning in the Paintings of René Magritte
  8. Pop-up Ads in Web Advertising
  9. Suicide in the Works of Émile Durkheim
  10. Mass media liberal bias
  11. Eyewitness Memory to Recall a Crime is infallible
  12. Economic Development since 1950
  13. Lost Generation: Cause and Benefits
  14. United Nations and the Environment
  15. Criticizing Donald Trump’s Inauguration Speech

Mistakes to Avoid While Writing a Critical Essay

The biggest mistake with which even the most experienced writers are faced is the fear of a blank list. You do not know what to write first and make a big mistake — you stop trying to write. Remember, it does not matter where you start: most importantly, do not stop writing and do not worry about style and spelling.
Do not use a strong language or repetition, it will be enough to support the claims with evidence without excessive emotions.
Do not appeal to the current fashion in the thoughts. Note that an effective critical essay should address the reader’s sentiments and logical thoughts.
Avoid making points that do not reveal your opinion fully: however, remember that even such statements should be argumentative enough.
Do not use informal language while writing academic papers. In spite of the fact that a critical essay is a subjective type of paper, the style of language should be argumentative enough to defend the position.
Do not omit the direct quotes from the original text and relevant papers. The main mistake that accompanies this one is the use of unreliable and sources that do not meet the criteria to be up-to-date.
Do not use too many negative sentences. You should remember that a critical essay does not equate to a negatively colored essay — it can be positive as any other type of essay writing.
Do not replace the thesis and arguments with facts, data, and other sources of evidence.
Avoid a weak thesis statement that only states the broad opinion. For example, the sentence “The Great Gatsby is a great example of American literature” is weak, while “The Great Gatsby captures the essence of America’s Jazz Age in its decadence, materialism and ultimately, its tragic emptiness” emphasizes the main idea of the future paper and is specific enough.
Using new material in the conclusion is one more mistake that writers should try to avoid.
Now that you have acquainted with the definition of the critical essay, it’s structure, tips of writing and what mistakes to avoid, you can check out your essay once again to be sure that it will be the best it can be and deserves an excellent grade.

Critical Essay Writing Checklist

Here is a critical essay writing checklist.

– Is there an introduction with an attention gatherer that grabs the interest of the audience? Is the thesis statement clearly stated and described as well?
– Ask whether the main points reflected by the topic sentences are supported with concrete and detailed examples. Do the main points relate to the thesis directly?
– Are topic sentences clear and do all of them relate to the thesis? Do the rest parts of the body paragraphs support each of the topic sentences? Is there enough evidence, which means that there is no need for additional examples or details?
– Think whether the examples you have used were the best. What are the weaknesses of your examples? Are there any ambiguities?
– What are the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments? Were the arguments clear?
– Is there logic in the presentation of ideas through the whole paper? Check whether transitions are used appropriately, vary with structure, and are not limited to their usage only in the topic sentence.
– Check the balance between descriptive and critical elements of writing. Do not forget that a critical essay is not a retelling of a book, so ask yourself whether this essay is your analysis, your interpretation, and your presentation of the ability to think critically.
– Does the conclusion make sense? Does the conclusion have a distinct ending rather than simply an abrupt stop?
– Is your critical essay free from wordiness, clichés, and gender or race biased language? Does the text contain an appropriate vocabulary, and use active over passive voice?

In conclusion, it is worth noting that in any essay people try to see the image of the person who wrote it. Remember this idea and do not be afraid to be overly critical (if you criticize in fact) or too soft (because in case of academic writing there is also a term positive criticism), just present your own thoughts.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska from Unsplash

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