Critical Essay -- Art and Science of Analysis

Although the term "critical" is most often used in a negative sense, a critical essay does not necessarily need to have a negative tone. A critical essay is simply the writer's reaction to another reading. As the writer, you will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the reading as well as the information that it presents. This can end up framing the reading in either a positive or negative light.

How to Write a Critical Essay

A critical essay must start out with the writer restating the main idea of the reading or readings. It is a good idea to do this with each work that will be included in the overall analysis. After quickly summarizing the main points of the reading, the next step is to break down and evaluate the reading or readings. One level of assessment is to analyze the factual information that the author presents in the reading. This can take many forms but usually reliability and relevance are examined.

The logical flow of the author's presentation of the material must also be taken into consideration when looking at the reading critically. Another level of analysis that the writer needs to take into consideration is whether or not there are opposing viewpoints than those that are presented in the reading. This takes careful analysis and presentation on the part of the writer. It also requires the writer to take an educated stand and present evidence to back up claims.

It is important to keep personal feelings out of this critical analysis and focus on simple facts and logical conclusions. Another approach to writing a critical essay is research work that has already been done about the reading that the writer is analyzing. This is a great way to lend credibility to the claims and opinions that the writer is already trying to establish.

The key to a successful critical essay is to stay focused on the facts and organization of the essay. The backbone of the critical essay is the making of claims and backing them up with credible evidence from the text. It is important for the writer to ensure that all information that is presented about the reading is relevant and flows in a logical manner.

Template for a Critical Essay

Introduction

  • Present original material
  • Provide summary of material and arguments
  • Present thesis

Body

  • Set up writer’s claim about material
  • Examine factual evidence that is provided in the reading
  • Assess differing viewpoints
  • Discuss previous critical works about material

Conclusion

  • Restate thesis
  • Reiterate main points
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