How to Write a Critical Essay

How to Write a Critical Essay

Have you ever been so utterly disappointed in a movie as to write a lengthy review about all the horrible aspects you despise? If so, you have already tried your hand at being a critic, and you will have an easier time when faced with a critical essay at school. However, not all critical essays have to be as negative as every “Transformers. The Last Knight” review.

Are All Critical Essays Negative?

The word “critical” possesses several meanings. The most commonly used is related to expressing negative opinions on something. Online trolls are always critical about everything. On the other hand, “critical” can also relate to the opinions of professional critics on movies, music or literature. If you read a critical review in a “Rolling Stone” magazine, you can expect it to be expertly written and insightful.

When you are assigned to write a critical essay in high school or college, your professor has another meaning of this word in mind. In such cases, “critical” means a careful judgment and analysis of both good and bad parts of the art piece. Therefore, you don’t have to be all positive or negative towards the book or article you have to discuss. Instead, you get a chance to try on a mantle of a professional critic and provide a thoughtful and informative piece of writing for people who have not had the pleasure to read the book you are discussing.

Three Types Of Critical Essays

There are three strategies for you to choose from when writing a critical essay. Depending on the approach, your paper will require different research and analysis. So you should decide on the type of critical paper you wish to write before you start. Your instructor may specify the preferred type within the assignment, so pay close attention to the task you are given.

Evaluative Critical Essay

This type is the easiest to understand, though professors rarely require students to write it. In an evaluative critical essay, you should explain whether you like the book and provide the reasons for your reaction. Of course, it is not enough to say you hate the novel because it’s stupid. Instead, you have to provide your literary standards and compare them to the book you are discussing.

Look for formal literary methods and devices that you find unappealing and provide copious examples from the text to support your arguments. You can also compare the novel to other works that you consider more educational or entertaining. Another good idea is to analyze political, historical or religious aspects of the work and their influence on the author. Treat an evaluative critical essay as an argumentative piece, not a reaction paper. Address possible objections to your points and provide evidence, this way your paper will be convincing.

Descriptive Critical Essay

This type of paper resembles a rhetorical analysis essay when you have to analyze what makes the book tick, what makes it such an outstanding example of its genre. You can select one or two literary devices or methods the author uses and discuss their role in the book. You can always find numerous examples of any literary means you choose between the covers of the book. The only challenge you are going to face is putting the obvious findings into an exciting light, so get ready to let your imagination run wild.

Interpretive Critical Essay

If you want to answer the question “What does this work mean?”, you are trying to interpret the book. Instead of merely rephrasing the work, analyze it. First, you need to choose your strategy; it can be based on psychoanalysis, economic theories, historical impact, etc. Use this approach to dissect the work and provide copious examples for your every argument. After completing your interpretive essay, the reader should have a good idea of what the author wanted to say with his or her work.

Three Types Of Critical Essays

6 Steps To Write A Successful Critical Essay

As ever, we’ll break the writing process into easily manageable steps for you to follow. As you see, writing is just a single stage, while pre-writing is where you will need to do most of the work.

Choosing The Right Primary Source

Not every instructor is willing to let students choose the book or poem to analyze. However, if you are among the few lucky bastards, choose wisely. Pick a work you like and know well, the one you’ve read at least a couple of times and can probably quote your favorite parts. Make your life easier by selecting the right book, and your critical essay will be done in no time.

Reading And Note-Taking

The easiest way to work on a book is by highlighting or underlining the parts you find interesting or entertaining. However, this is not enough. While reading the work, always ask yourself:

  • How does this chapter make me feel?
  • Which questions arise when I read this book?
  • Which methods and devices does the author use to make me feel this way?
  • Why can’t I stop laughing or crying when I read this dialog?

The more questions you ask yourself, the easier it will be for you to create an outline and analyze the book. And to keep your notes in order, use a blank sheet of paper to write down the numbers of pages with interesting literary methods.

Crafting A Thesis

The content of your thesis will depend on which type of critical essay you are going to write. Consult our comprehensive guide to write your thesis statement. In short, your thesis should answer the central question: “So what?”. Besides just stating the obvious, address the how or the why. Explain to the readers how you came to this conclusion or why they should care about your opinion.

Researching Secondary Sources

If you can’t come up with any ideas for the critical essay, consult professional critics. Read literary discussions or evaluations of the text you have to analyze. These will help you form your own opinion. Research the author’s biography, the historical period of his or her life, political or religious factors that might have influenced the text.

Plotting An Outline

It is tempting to delve into writing after days of research, but in the end, you risk producing a jumbled mess of unrelated thoughts. So take the time necessary to create a rough outline. List the main points you want to make, use your notes and examples from the primary source to flesh out the body paragraphs. Their number and length will depend on the parameters of your assignment.

Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

After so many preparatory steps, writing a critical essay is easy. All you have to do is put your thoughts into words, and words — into sentences and paragraphs. Remember to cite the sources and edit the finished paper carefully. Think about what a professional critic would write after reading your essay. Every typo decreases your credibility, so proofreading is also a must.

If you need a critical essay example, check out our database, and if you need more help with this assignment, reach out to our writers and editors. They will gladly improve your paper or create one from scratch to save your time.

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