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Writing Critical Essays

The task for the writer of a critical essay is to analyze and interpret a given text, a play, an artwork or a musical piece. The purpose behind the exercise must be an academic one and the end product must be based on a solid argument. While critical essays are often mistaken for reviews, the former bears more resemblance to an essay of the formal variety. It is expected to include the student’s observations and all factual information must be referenced in the correct manner.    

Main Points for Consideration

  • Argument can be founded on notable characteristics of the text being analyzed. The writer must consider the type of audience or reader they are addressing in their essay.
  • A critical lens essay is designed to examine a specific text, evaluate and question it. The writer should say what type the text is and if it achieves the objectives the person who authored it had in mind. In other words, is it educational, instructional, informative or entertaining?
  • The writer must use an appropriate blend of primary and secondary points in the body paragraphs and the main gist of the essay must be contained in these. The writer will have to rework any concepts, ideas or points from their initial notes to develop a sound argument.
  • The writer should not use rhetorical questions because these are too predictable and not robust enough to build a good argument. You should also avoid truisms. It is always much better to make a point based on the word of a subject matter expert.  
  • You must use persuasion to argue whether a text has value or not. A commonly used technique is to make an emotional appeal to readers and to provide correctly cited facts and evidence. Techniques like these adhere to such principles as logic.   
  • However, critical essays do not just agree with the opinions, judgments and findings of other authors. They must analyze, question and suggest replacement viewpoints, solutions or viable ways forward.   

Styles Used in Critical Writing

The technique of making claims and backing these with evidence is one of the styles that can be used in a critical analysis essay. With this option, the writer can make several claims about the text or piece they are analyzing. They would then support their claims with referenced evidence from various other texts. 

The option of providing new facts or information is another good style. With this method, the writer would provide new and yet unused research as a basis for discussion in relation to the subject matter.

Another style possibility is that of examining and exploring a text, artwork, etc. in a way that looks at it in minute detail. The writer would explore every possible reason or motivation the creator had for developing the piece and/or where they derived their inspiration from. 

Common Errors

Can you now answer this question, “what is a critical essay?” In any case, here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

  • Do not hammer your point(s) home in an overly aggressive way. Just support any claims you make with sound evidence and without repeating yourself or using language that is unnecessarily strong.
  • Good critical essays should appeal to the sentiments of the reader, but not overly so.
  • Do not make points that are only your opinion.
  • Use language that suits the style of argument.
  • Make sure you include direct quotations from appropriate texts. All references must be current and suitable for the theme and subject matter.
  • Try not to use an excessive amount of negative words/sentences. It is permissible for critical essay papers to be as positive in tone as other written pieces that analyze, question and/or interpret.   
  • It is not a good idea to try and present data and facts without a clearly-worded and well-considered thesis-style argument. Create a plan or outline that is logical, and stick to it.

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