4 Tricks for Writing a Critical Analysis Essay

Most of us aren’t critics. Sure, we criticize movies, television shows, books – and even the actions of others (that last one, perhaps most commonly). That doesn’t mean we’re cut out to be professional critics, though. That job takes focus, hefty evaluation skills and high analytical thinking. When students are faced with critical analysis essays – essays that actually ask them to be the critics – most of them panic. Luckily, by following a few simple steps, even the least essay-savvy student can compose perfect critical analysis essays! When writing such essays, always remember to:

  1. Read the chosen text. This should be relatively self-explanatory – and to be honest, it doesn’t really qualify as a trick so much as a necessity. Students should always read the material they are critiquing prior to critiquing it. Don’t think you can skate by on sparknotes, general summaries or other writings scrounged up from the internet. These may give you the big picture, but they definitely don’t provide a view of the piece as a whole, or specify certain language usage. You’re much better off reading the material yourself.
  2. Ask the right questions. When composing a critique, you’re working to evaluate the material available. What is so important about this text? What can you take away from it? What is meaningful or significant about it? Ask questions about the heart of the writing and you’ll be able to compose a critique much more effectively. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird was significant in that it exposed the issues of racial discrimination. Why is this important to society? How does it heighten our understanding or expose an untruth?
  3. View weaknesses as well as strengths. Most people assume that a critique is a negative evaluation of a piece. Nothing could be further from the truth. Critiques are not meant to crucify a piece; they are meant to evaluate. If you want to successfully evaluate a text, you need to identify both strengths and weaknesses. Also ensure that you do not spend too much time focusing on either area. Whether you’re boasting the many strengths of a text, or over-criticizing its weaknesses, you will end up appearing extremely unreliable.
  4. Organize. There are several things you need to identify in your critical analysis essay: a) the text you are analyzing; b) a brief summary of said text; c) the author’s purpose or point of view; d) evaluation of the author’s purpose or points; e) your analysis, along with textual support. These are not only the crucial steps to a critical analysis essay, but the order in which they should appear. Organize accordingly and you’ll have a much better chance at writing an incredible critical analysis essay.
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