How to Write a Critical Essay

What is a Critical Essay?
A critical essay is a critique or review of another work, usually one which is arts related (i.e. book, play, movie, painting). However, the critical essay is more than just a summary of the contents of the other work or your opinion of its value. The critical essay is an objective analysis of the work, examining both its positive and negative aspects.

The critical essay is informative and stresses the work rather than your opinion. You need to support any observations or claims you make with evidence. For this reason, in writing a critical essay, you don't use the first person.

Following the general essay format of title, introduction, body, and conclusion is helpful in writing the critical essay.

Formatting Your Critical Essay
Title: An essay is an examination of a single topic. Because critical essays must back each point with solid evidence, it's much easier to focus on a single aspect of a work rather than an entire work. Remember this when choosing your essay title.

For instance, rather than trying to examine the movie "Star Wars", examine "The Use of Dialogue in Star Wars". In a critical essay, even this topic may be too broad. Narrow it further to a topic like how Yoda's odd dialogue contributes to the movie or how the voice of James Earl Jones adds to the character of Darth Vader.

Introduction: The introduction of a critical essay introduces the topic, including the name of the work that you're analyzing and the author or artist of the work. It also states your position on the work and briefly outlines the questions that led you to develop the arguments you'll detail in the body of your essay.

Body: The body of a critical essay contains information that supports your position on the topic.

Develop your arguments through using facts that explain your position, compare it to the opinions of experts, and evaluate the work. Directly follow each statement of opinion with supporting evidence.

  1. The critical essay should briefly examine other opinions of the work, using them to strengthen your position. Use both the views of experts that are contrary to your viewpoint as well as those in agreement with your position.
  2. Use your evidence to show why your conclusion is stronger than opposing views, examining the strength of others' reasoning and the quality of their conclusions in contrast to yours.
  3. As well as comparisons, include examples, statistics, and anecdotes.
  4. Find supporting evidence within the work itself, in other critical discussions of the work, and through external sources such as a biography of the author or artist.
Conclusion: The conclusion of your critical essay restates your position and summarizes how your evidence supports your point of view. Remember to restate the title and author of the work in the conclusion.

Final Touches for the Critical Essay
The critical essay is an informative review based on authoritative and expert evidence. Completing the essay with the appropriate final touches adds an authoritative look to your composition.

  1. Since much of the information in a critical essay is based on the opinions and viewpoints of others, it is crucial to properly cite your sources within the body of the essay and include a list of sources at the end of the paper. The critical essay normally uses the MLA format of citation.
  2. Remember to proofread your essay. Mechanical errors (spelling, grammar, punctuation) erase your credibility as an expert on your topic.
Although finding the supporting evidence for a critical essay takes some effort, because you support your position with facts the critical essay results in making you look like an expert on your topic. Overall, it may be easier to write than a first-person essay!





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