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How to Write a Critical Essay

How to Write a Critical Essay

A critical essay contains analyses, interpretations, and evaluations of specific texts. Critical writing touches upon various mediums. Film, advertising, literature, music, scientific and academic works all go through the prism of critique. Although the name “critical essay” might suggest a negative connotation, the process is actually neutral. If the writer offers a prejudiced view, challenge it. If work is valuable and insightful, write in appraisal of their contribution.

Table Of Contents

Critical essays are traditionally intended for academic audiences. However, the roots of critical evaluation remain present in the mundane. The modern world is a product of decisions based on interpretations. People always react. Whether it's specific images we see in the media or opinions of friends we disagree with. Reactions can be manifested through violence, or ideally, discussed and dissected for better understanding of our world. These discussions are as important to ‘real life’ as the critical essay is to academia.

Plan Your Essay

It's important to consider a few things before getting down to the actual writing stage. Any professional essay writer will tell you that organization is key to writing good papers.

Critical essay pre-writing stage

Evaluate the work

When writing about the work of a different author, it is crucial to provide a summary of that work. This summary must make the author’s point of view clear. Authors always have a specific idea they want to carry through to the reader. The author’s reasoning, their potential values and their conclusions on the matter will be the primary focus of your evaluation.

Know the author

After in-depth analysis and outline of the author’s work, each of the stated facts and conclusions must be assessed. There are cases where authors omit essential facts for the sake of proving their argument. You may also notice some inconsistency in the author’s reasoning. As the person providing critical analysis, it is your role to explore these points. It is not for the sake of criticism - but for giving a better, and fuller understanding of the topic to the reader.

Write a tentative thesis

Writing a thesis at the start will guide you with the research and what you are trying to find out. Remember that you can always change the thesis later to match your findings. Just make a rough statement for reference while at the beginning stages.

Reference everything used in correct format

It is no surprise that plagiarism is taken very seriously. Every source used needs to be cited in the correct format. Regardless of the essay you are writing or the professor's preferred style. Here is a guide on possible citation formats.

How to structure a critical essay

There are various formats of critical writing. From book reports, critical analyses of academic works, to the critique of poetry, writing, cinema, etc. By the time you write critical essays in college, you should have already mastered the 5-paragraph-essay format. This goes to say that your critical essay outline shouldn’t necessarily follow some imposed structure conventions. In fact, it is best to structure your essay in regards to the document you’re dissecting.

The reader will only trust you after you’ve shown that you know the work inside out and backward. Offering critical analysis on the author’s terms is a helpful tip to preserve continuity. It will make your essay read like a natural progression of the argument at hand, rather than some radical, destructive criticism.

This being said, every essay follows a pattern which makes it academic. Whatever format you choose for your critical essay, take care to include these core structural principles.

critical essay outline


  • An introduction includes a hook, some background information, and a thesis statement.

Main Body

  • State an idea or opinion;
  • Provide evidence, use quotes;
  • Relate to thesis.


  • Summarize the most important findings;
  • Restate thesis, opinions and reflections;
  • Further questions and concluding sentence.


After writing your title, you must include a “hook” to attract the reader’s interest. This can consist of a question or an interesting fact. Then some background information on what you will be finding out and the basis for the essay. Try to keep it intriguing and not switch off the reader. After this, state the thesis for the analysis, make this concise but informative as this will be the whole point of the critical essay.

Main Body

This is the main findings and bulk of the work, so here you must present the information logically and transparently. Start a paragraph with the opinion or idea that you are discussing. Then it is essential to back up everything with actual evidence in the form of quotations or examples. With every aspect try to relate it to the thesis in some way. Make sure paragraphs interlink nicely and flow well to the next by using transition words and phrases. A good flow keeps it from being just a long list of statements.

A good flow keeps your writing from being just a long list of statements.


The concluding section of a critical essay must always leave an impression on the reader. First, summarize the most important findings that have been explored in the work. Then restate the thesis, showing the reader what the paper has shown. It is likely that you will include personal thoughts and opinions related to the findings. Make sure they are in line with the style of the work. The concluding sentence can be the most noted. Make sure it is memorable and thought-provoking. This can take the shape of asking the reader a question or doing further research of their own. Even humor can be used but be careful with this as not everybody has the same taste.

Techniques Used In Literary Critiques

techniques used in literary critiques

An objective analysis - The evaluation will be based only on facts and not using feeling or emotion in the study.

Traditional Critique - The main feature is the collective agreement of what literature educated people should read and what are the aims and purposes of such works.

New Critique - This was meant to be a diversion from previous methods and concentrated on just the text itself. Areas of irony, metaphor, ambiguity, and paradox were under close evaluation.

Marxist Criticism - As the name suggests it closely based its analogy through class conflicts and identification but coming to conclusions of a political or social nature. Marxist criticism has had a profound effect on the understanding of literature.

Metaphorical Critique - This is no surprise and as expected the close identification of metaphors to greater understand a specific work and its author.

New Historicism - In essence, this is the study of literature through its historical value without evaluating it through previous literary studies and analogies.

Psychological Critique - This can be interpreted as a deep understanding of the text through Freud as an example of a theorist which is stating the author's unconscious wishes just like dreams can be evaluated as a pathway to their mind.

Sociological Criticism - Mainly focuses on how the literature represents social functions but also where the work fits into society in general.

Moral or Ethical Criticism - To judge work or literary piece by the morals learned or moral lessons within the text.

Top Tips To Save You Time

  • Come back to the draft later - After completing you first, complete draft put it to one side then review it after a few days. A clear mind is always an advantage in proofreading your work.
  • Explain everything - Do not assume the reader knows a particular detail or fact. Carefully guide the audience through each step of the way. Describe technical terms and abbreviations fully.
  • The introduction and the thesis statement can be produced later, after the body of the critical essay has been written. This way you could know exactly what background you need to give your readers. It is not necessary to write the introduction and thesis statement first. Try writing the body of your critical essay before crafting an introduction and thesis. This way you could know exactly what background you need to give your readers.
  • A second pair of eyes can be better - Let a family friend or professional colleague review your work and get a second opinion but be prepared for criticism.
  • Develop your style of writing - Do not write in the style of someone else but try to get comfortable with your style. It can take a while and possibly more than one essay. Once mastered it will be much more rewarding and save you time in the long run.
  • Do not be scared of an issue - When describing something make sure you are being specific and do not give vague or timid explanations that will annoy the reader.
  • Rhetorical questions should not be used - The body of the arguments should only contain points based on findings and factual statements.
  • Plan the time well - It is common not to have enough time to read through all the literature. Make a plan for how much can be read and anything else will rely on a search using the index while embarking on the essay.

Reading books taking your precious time?

Do not worry if you do not have enough time to read all the books necessary. Come to Essaypro where we have lots of free guides and blogs to help you out. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work needed to do, then ordering a complete custom critical essay online could not be more comfortable. Our team of professional writers from different academic backgrounds is ready and waiting to get you the best grades!

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