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  • Writing Guide
  • Essay Writing

How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay

  • What is a critical essay
  • Critical essay structure
  • How to start a critical essay

Types of critical essays

Step-by-step critical essay writing guide.

  • Critical essay formatting tips
  • Critical essay examples

What is a critical essay?

  • To offer an objective vision of the original author.
  • To provide a complete analysis of the consistency offered by the original author.
  • To thoroughly evaluate original work and discuss the capability to maintain and support primary arguments and concepts.
  • To critically analyze in an essay by presenting strengths and weaknesses discovered in an article, a movie, or an academic journal entry.
  • To criticize the original author’s work by providing actual examples and explanations.

Critical essay structure and outline rules


How to start a critical essay?

  • Take notes about information related to the author and include it in your introduction paragraph.
  • Determine the author’s opinion and take on the subject by analyzing available data.
  • Seek out examples of evidence as to whether the author proves why it is the right way of thinking.
  • Create a strong thesis statement representing 50% of the author’s opinion and 50% of your vision.
  • Determine both the strong and weak sides of the author’s style, grammar, accuracy, and structure. Use evaluation and analysis.
  • Sociological critique.
  • Sociocultural analysis.
  • Reader-response criticism.
  • Gender-based critical writing.
  • Mythological critique.
  • Biographical writing.
  • History writing analysis.
  • Psychoanalytical criticism.
  • Formalist criticism and analysis.

Step 1: Know what is expected!

Step 2: take your time to analyze the source material, step 3: taking notes technique, step 4: primary challenges and working in patterns, step 5: author’s solutions, step 6: editing and proofreading, important critical essay formatting tips.

  • Keep up with the specified writing style for your citations and the written content.
  • Provide basic biography information about the author.
  • Include only 1-3 citations per page.
  • Provide information in “introduction – quote – analysis” template format.
  • Your tone must be formal and analytical unless specified otherwise.
  • The bias matters must be clarified with your academic advisor before writing.
  • When seeking out the weak points for your critical analysis essay, explain why you think so with a piece of evidence that may include the author’s limitation or evidence taken from an external source.

Helpful critical essay examples

  • Critical Reading and Analysis by the University of Queensland. 
  • Critical Analysis Template by Thompson Rivers University. 
  • Critical Essay Examples by EduBirdie (Our academic writing partner). 
  • Critical Essay Samples by Students by James Cook University. 

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How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jun 7, 2021 • 3 min read

Critical analysis essays can be a daunting form of academic writing, but crafting a good critical analysis paper can be straightforward if you have the right approach.

the structure of a critical essay

How to Write a Critical Essay

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Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.

the structure of a critical essay

  • B.A., American Studies, Yale University

A critical essay is a form of academic writing that analyzes, interprets, and/or evaluates a text. In a critical essay, an author makes a claim about how particular ideas or themes are conveyed in a text, then supports that claim with evidence from primary and/or secondary sources.

In casual conversation, we often associate the word "critical" with a negative perspective. However, in the context of a critical essay, the word "critical" simply means discerning and analytical. Critical essays analyze and evaluate the meaning and significance of a text, rather than making a judgment about its content or quality.

What Makes an Essay "Critical"? 

Imagine you've just watched the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." If you were chatting with friends in the movie theater lobby, you might say something like, "Charlie was so lucky to find a Golden Ticket. That ticket changed his life." A friend might reply, "Yeah, but Willy Wonka shouldn't have let those raucous kids into his chocolate factory in the first place. They caused a big mess."

These comments make for an enjoyable conversation, but they do not belong in a critical essay. Why? Because they respond to (and pass judgment on) the raw content of the movie, rather than analyzing its themes or how the director conveyed those themes.

On the other hand, a critical essay about "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" might take the following topic as its thesis: "In 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' director Mel Stuart intertwines money and morality through his depiction of children: the angelic appearance of Charlie Bucket, a good-hearted boy of modest means, is sharply contrasted against the physically grotesque portrayal of the wealthy, and thus immoral, children."

This thesis includes a claim about the themes of the film, what the director seems to be saying about those themes, and what techniques the director employs in order to communicate his message. In addition, this thesis is both supportable  and  disputable using evidence from the film itself, which means it's a strong central argument for a critical essay .

Characteristics of a Critical Essay

Critical essays are written across many academic disciplines and can have wide-ranging textual subjects: films, novels, poetry, video games, visual art, and more. However, despite their diverse subject matter, all critical essays share the following characteristics.

  • Central claim . All critical essays contain a central claim about the text. This argument is typically expressed at the beginning of the essay in a thesis statement , then supported with evidence in each body paragraph. Some critical essays bolster their argument even further by including potential counterarguments, then using evidence to dispute them.
  • Evidence . The central claim of a critical essay must be supported by evidence. In many critical essays, most of the evidence comes in the form of textual support: particular details from the text (dialogue, descriptions, word choice, structure, imagery, et cetera) that bolster the argument. Critical essays may also include evidence from secondary sources, often scholarly works that support or strengthen the main argument.
  • Conclusion . After making a claim and supporting it with evidence, critical essays offer a succinct conclusion. The conclusion summarizes the trajectory of the essay's argument and emphasizes the essays' most important insights.

Tips for Writing a Critical Essay

Writing a critical essay requires rigorous analysis and a meticulous argument-building process. If you're struggling with a critical essay assignment, these tips will help you get started.

  • Practice active reading strategies . These strategies for staying focused and retaining information will help you identify specific details in the text that will serve as evidence for your main argument. Active reading is an essential skill, especially if you're writing a critical essay for a literature class.
  • Read example essays . If you're unfamiliar with critical essays as a form, writing one is going to be extremely challenging. Before you dive into the writing process, read a variety of published critical essays, paying careful attention to their structure and writing style. (As always, remember that paraphrasing an author's ideas without proper attribution is a form of plagiarism .)
  • Resist the urge to summarize . Critical essays should consist of your own analysis and interpretation of a text, not a summary of the text in general. If you find yourself writing lengthy plot or character descriptions, pause and consider whether these summaries are in the service of your main argument or whether they are simply taking up space.
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Critical Essay: How-To, Structure, Examples, Topics

Posted: 12 June, 2017

Critical Essay: How-To, Structure, Examples, Topics

Critical essays are quite common when you reach college, but you may not know exactly how to go about writing one. This guide will help you with the entire writing process, so read on to find out more.

Table Of Contents

What is Critical Essay?

Critical essay structure, how to write critical essay, critical essay topics, critical essay examples.

A critical essay is one where you evaluate a subject, removing yourself from it and looking at it critically. It sounds as though you must always be negative, but in fact that's not true. Instead, you must make a judgement on the topic depending on the evidence you find. You could be positive as well as negative in your essay.

The essay structure for this type of essay is quite simple, so it's easy to follow. Most critical essays will follow this pattern:

  • Introduction: Where you introduce the main topic, and present your thesis on it. You'll be expanding on this shortly.
  • Main body: This is where you'll be writing about your evaluation. Dedicate each paragraph to a new topic, and link them together to create a flow that your readers can follow. Use your research to back up any points you make here.
  • Conclusion: This is where you'll wrap up your main points, in order to prove your thesis.
  • When you get your topic, start reading around it. Start gathering evidence that supports your evaluation of that topic. If you take notes, you'll find it easier to refer back to research later when you're writing.
  • Write your outline. Now you've done the reading, start outlining your essay, using the structure given here. You can write in your topic sentences now, so it will be easier to refer back to them later.
  • Now, you'll need to write your essay. If you have the outline already written, this should be simple. Just follow what you write in it and you'll be done in no time at all.
  • Now you've written it, make sure you proofread and edit your essay before handing it in.

Critical essays are usually given in subjects such as English, where you may be asked to critically analyse a book or author. You can also be asked to analyse an idea or theory, depending on which subject you study. So, you could be asked to critically analyse John Steinbeck, or modern day advertising. These problems can be solved by an essay writing service in just a day. There's a lot of scope in these essays to put your own ideas across, as long as you back them up with research.

Here are some examples of essay topics, if you want to try writing an essay yourself:

  • The impact of social media on your school.
  • The future of self driving cars.
  • The benefits of Sudoku in the elderly.
  • The health benefits of gaming.

Remember to use research to analyze these issues, and come up with your own conclusion.

There you have it. You too can write an excellent critical essay, and get the grades you need.

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  • Body of a critical essay

The body of a critical essay should have a logical sequence . This helps the reader to follow the development of the argument, as stated in the introduction. Your argument determines what evidence you select from your research, how you develop your reasoning, and what citations you include to support your position.

Consider others’ analyses of the work and identify the strengths or weaknesses of your reasoning. Use evidence to support your views and acknowledge any arguments against them.

Paragraphs are used to group and categorise your evidence. In the example below, note how the linking sentence of the first paragraph connects to the topic sentence of the following paragraph.

Each paragraph should:

  • relate back to the thesis (argument)
  • use key words to express the concepts and themes from the framework
  • use a structure such as TEEL to clearly express your ideas to the reader.

Click on the buttons to explore through each part of the paragraph.

Modernist Brasilia: A utopian paradox

Modernism in Brazil arose from optimistic visions of progress and stability. Brasilia, the new federal capital, was based on modernist principles on a very large scale. Commissioned to be the ‘capital of hope’ (Wheeler 2007, p. 64), it was meant to fulfil forecasts for an optimistic future, to be an ‘elegy to progress, to modernity’ (Madeleno 1996, p. 274). With these clearly modernist principles of promise and progress, Costa and Niemeyer developed the formal layout in the ‘pilot plan’ for Brasilia. The space was ordered into zones defined by two main axes: the ‘monumental’ and the ‘highway’ that intersected in a cross shape ‘resulting in the modernist analogy to the wings of an aeroplane’ (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). The spaces between were then ordered following Le Corbusier’s principles of the functional city: spaces for specific purposes (Le Corbusier, cited in Mumford 2000). Hence, residential dwellings and places of work were separated and industry was removed to the outskirts of the city; cultural precincts were established near the green and open residential precincts; and the movement of pedestrians and vehicles was separated (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). This initial planning was to be repeated in the utopian vision for the interior spaces.

Modern planning is derived from the design rationality: informed by the context of a site and the organisation of interior spaces according to the needs of the inhabitants (Treib 1993). Therefore it is apparent that the function of spaces and the links between these, and the users of the spaces, is paramount for the modern ideology for living (Eckbo, cited in Trieb 1993). In Brasilia, these ideals resulted in zoning separate sectors to accommodate differing civic amenities and functions. The residential areas are made up of self-contained ‘super-blocks’ of uniform height. Dwellings are separated from the work sectors with ample green space, offset from roadways. The separation of living and working areas was devised to fulfil the citizens’ needs for rest, as Le Corbusier (cited in Mumford 2000) claimed that urban residents required spaces of natural greenery and freedom from noise and air pollution in order to live and work together without discord. The separation of space and purpose is illustrated by Costa’s attempts to order aspects of daily life following his modernist, functional ideology.

Below is an example of an body paragraph. The features explored are:

  • topic sentence

[Topic sentence] Modernism in Brazil arose from optimistic visions of progress and stability. Brasilia, the new federal capital, was based on modernist principles on a very large scale. [End topic sentence] [Evidence] Commissioned to be the ‘capital of hope’ (Wheeler 2007, p. 64), it was meant to fulfil forecasts for an optimistic future, to be an ‘elegy to progress, to modernity’ (Madeleno 1996, p. 274). [End evidence] [Example] With these clearly modernist principles of promise and progress, Costa and Niemeyer developed the formal layout in the ‘pilot plan’ for Brasilia. [End example] [Evidence] The space was ordered into zones defined by two main axes: the ‘monumental’ and the ‘highway’ that intersected in a cross shape ‘resulting in the modernist analogy to the wings of an aeroplane’ (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). The spaces between were then ordered following Le Corbusier’s principles of the functional city: spaces for specific purposes (Le Corbusier, cited in Mumford 2000). [End evidence] [Example] Hence, residential dwellings and places of work were separated and industry was removed to the outskirts of the city; cultural precincts were established near the green and open residential precincts; and the movement of pedestrians and vehicles were separated (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). [End example] [Link] This initial planning was to be repeated in the utopian vision for the interior spaces. [End link]

Modernism in Brazil arose from optimistic visions of progress and stability . Brasilia, the new federal capital, was based on modernist principles on a very large scale. Commissioned to be the ‘ capital of hope ’ (Wheeler 2007, p. 64), it was meant to fulfil forecasts for an optimistic future , to be an ‘elegy to progress , to modernity’ (Madeleno 1996, p. 274). With these clearly modernist principles of promise and progress , Costa and Niemeyer developed the formal layout in the ‘pilot plan’ for Brasilia. The space was ordered into zones defined by two main axes: the ‘monumental’ and the ‘highway’ that intersected in a cross shape ‘resulting in the modernist analogy to the wings of an aeroplane’ (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). The spaces between were then ordered following Le Corbusier’s principles of the functional city: spaces for specific purposes (Le Corbusier, cited in Mumford 2000). Hence, residential dwellings and places of work were separated and industry was removed to the outskirts of the city; cultural precincts were established near the green and open residential precincts; and the movement of pedestrians and vehicles was separated (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349).This initial planning was to be repeated in the utopian vision for the interior spaces.

Modern planning is derived from the design rationality : informed by the context of a site and the organisation of interior spaces according to the needs of the inhabitants (Treib 1993). Therefore it is apparent that the function of spaces and the links between these, and the users of the spaces, is paramount for the modern ideology for living (Eckbo, cited in Trieb 1993). In Brasilia, these ideals resulted in zoning separate sectors to accommodate differing civic amenities and functions. The residential areas are made up of self-contained ‘super-blocks’ of uniform height. Dwellings are separated from the work sectors with ample green space, offset from roadways. The separation of living and working areas was devised to fulfil the citizens’ needs for rest, as Le Corbusier (cited in Mumford 2000) claimed that urban residents required spaces of natural greenery and freedom from noise and air pollution in order to live and work together without discord . The separation of space and purpose is illustrated by Costa’s attempts to order aspects of daily life following his modernist, functional ideology .

Now see what keywords have been used. These include, themes, concepts andframeworks.

Modernism in Brazil arose from optimistic visions of [Keyword] progress [End keyword] and [Keyword] stability [End keyword]. Brasilia, the new federal capital, was based on modernist principles on a very large scale. Commissioned to be the [Keyword] ‘capital of hope’ [End keyword] (Wheeler 2007, p. 64), it was meant to fulfil forecasts for an [Keyword] optimistic future, [End keyword] to be an ‘elegy to [Keyword] progress, [End keyword] to modernity’ (Madeleno 1996, p. 274). With these clearly modernist principles of [Keyword] promise [End keyword] and [Keyword] progress, [End keyword] Costa and Niemeyer developed the formal layout in the ‘pilot plan’ for Brasilia. The space was ordered into [Keyword] zones [End keyword] defined by two main axes: the [Keyword] ‘monumental’ [End keyword] and the ‘highway’ that intersected in a cross shape ‘resulting in the modernist analogy to the wings of an aeroplane’ (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). The spaces between were then ordered following Le Corbusier’s principles of the [Keyword] functional [End keyword] city: spaces for specific purposes (Le Corbusier, cited in Mumford 2000). Hence, residential dwellings and places of work were separated and industry was removed to the outskirts of the city; cultural [Keyword] precincts [End keyword] were established near the green and open residential precincts; and the movement of pedestrians and vehicles were separated (Wright & Turkienicz 1998, p. 349). This initial planning was to be repeated in the [Keyword] utopian [End keyword] vision for the interior spaces.

  • Framework, research and project
  • Introduction
  • Integrating evidence

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How to Write a Critical Essay

Last Updated: April 8, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,163,474 times.

The goal of a critical essay is to analyze a book, film, article, painting, or event and support your argument with relevant details. When writing a paper like this, you will have to come up with an interpretation of your own and then use facts or evidence from the work or other sources to prove that your interpretation is acceptable. A critical essay on a book, for example, might focus on the tone and how that influences the meaning of the book overall and would use quotations from the book to support the thesis. This type of paper requires careful planning and writing, but is often a creative way to engage with a subject that you are interested in and can be very rewarding!

Preparing to Write a Critical Essay

Step 1 Make sure that you understand the assignment.

  • Get to know the text inside and out by reading and rereading it. If you have been asked to write about a visual text like a film or piece of art, watch the film multiple times or view the painting from various angles and distances.

Step 3 Take notes as you read your text.

  • What is the text about?
  • What are the main ideas?
  • What is puzzling about the text?
  • What is the purpose of this text?
  • Does the text accomplish its purpose? If not, why not? Is so, how so? [3] X Research source Don't: summarize the plot — you should already be familiar with it. Do: jot down thoughts that may guide your paper: Does he mean __? Does this connect to __?

Step 4 Review your notes to identify patterns and problems.

  • Your solution to the problem should help you to develop a focus for your essay, but keep in mind that you do not need to have a solid argument about your text at this point. As you continue to think about the text, you will move closer to a focus and a thesis for your critical analysis essay. Don't: read the author's mind: Mary Shelley intended Frankenstein's monster to be more likable because... Do: phrase it as your own interpretation: Frankenstein's monster is more sympathetic than his creator, leading the reader to question who the true monster really is.

Conducting Research

Step 1 Find appropriate secondary sources if required.

  • Books, articles from scholarly journals, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and trustworthy websites are some sources that you might consider using.
  • Use your library’s databases rather than a general internet search. University libraries subscribe to many databases. These databases provide you with free access to articles and other resources that you cannot usually gain access to by using a search engine.

Step 2 Evaluate your sources to determine their credibility.

  • The author and his or her credentials. Choose sources that include an author’s name and that provide credentials for that author. The credentials should indicate something about why this person is qualified to speak as an authority on the subject. For example, an article about a medical condition will be more trustworthy if the author is a medical doctor. If you find a source where no author is listed or the author does not have any credentials, then this source may not be trustworthy. [5] X Research source
  • Citations. Think about whether or not this author has adequately researched the topic. Check the author’s bibliography or works cited page. If the author has provided few or no sources, then this source may not be trustworthy. [6] X Research source
  • Bias. Think about whether or not this author has presented an objective, well-reasoned account of the topic. How often does the tone indicate a strong preference for one side of the argument? How often does the argument dismiss or disregard the opposition’s concerns or valid arguments? If these are regular occurrences in the source, then it may not be a good choice. [7] X Research source (Note, however, that literary criticism often presents a very strong preference for one reading; this is not usually considered "bias" because the field of literary study is inherently subjective.) Don't: dismiss an author for favoring one point of view. Do: engage critically with their argument and make use of well-supported claims.
  • Publication date. Think about whether or not this source presents the most up to date information on the subject. Noting the publication date is especially important for scientific subjects, since new technologies and techniques have made some earlier findings irrelevant. [8] X Research source
  • Information provided in the source. If you are still questioning the trustworthiness of this source, cross check some of the information provided against a trustworthy source. If the information that this author presents contradicts one of your trustworthy sources, then it might not be a good source to use in your paper. [9] X Research source

Step 3 Read your research.

  • Clearly indicate when you have quoted a source word for word by putting it into quotation marks and including information about the source such as the author’s name, article or book title, and page number. Don't: highlight a phrase just because it sounds significant or meaningful. Do: highlight phrases that support or undermine your arguments.

Writing Your Essay

Step 1 Develop your tentative thesis.

  • Make sure your thesis provides enough detail. In other words, avoid simply saying that something is "good" or "effective" and say what specifically makes it "good" or "effective." [12] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
  • Place your thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph unless your instructor tells you to place it elsewhere. The end of the first paragraph is the traditional place to provide your thesis in an academic essay.
  • For example, here is a multi-sentence thesis statement about the effectiveness and purpose of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road : "Many action films follow the same traditional pattern: a male action hero (usually white and attractive) follows his gut and barks orders at others, who must follow him or die. Mad Max: Fury Road is effective because it turns this pattern on its head. Instead of following the expected progression, the movie offers an action movie with multiple heroes, many of whom are women, thereby effectively challenging patriarchal standards in the Hollywood summer blockbuster." Don't: include obvious facts ( Mad Max was directed by George Miller ) or subjective opinions ( Mad Max is the greatest movie of 2015 ). [13] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Do: present an argument that you can back up with evidence.

Step 2 Develop a rough...

  • You may want to use a formal outline structure that uses Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, and letters. Or, you may want to use an informal "mind-map" type of outline, which allows you to gather your ideas before you have a complete idea of how they progress.

Step 3 Begin your essay with an engaging sentence that gets right into your topic.

  • Other good techniques to open an essay include using a specific, evocative detail that links to your larger idea, asking a question that your essay will answer, or providing a compelling statistic.

Step 4 Provide background information to help guide your readers.

  • If you are writing about a book, provide the name of the work, the author, and a brief summary of the plot.
  • If you are writing about a film, provide a brief synopsis.
  • If you are writing about a painting or other still image, provide a brief description for your readers.
  • Keep in mind that your background information in the first paragraph should lead up to your thesis statement. Explain everything the reader needs to know to understand what your topic is about, then narrow it down until you reach the topic itself.

Step 5 Use your body paragraphs to discuss specific components of your text.

  • Provide a claim at the beginning of the paragraph.
  • Support your claim with at least one example from your primary source(s).
  • Support your claim with at least one example from your secondary sources.

Step 6 Develop a conclusion for your essay.

  • Summarize and review your main ideas about the text.
  • Explain how the topic affects the reader.
  • Explain how your narrow topic applies to a broader theme or observation.
  • Call the reader to action or further exploration on the topic.
  • Present new questions that your essay introduced. Don't: repeat the same points you made earlier in the essay. Do: refer back to earlier points and connect them into a single argument.

Revising Your Essay

Step 1 Set aside your paper for a few days before revising your draft.

  • It is important to begin writing a paper far enough ahead of time to allow yourself a few days or even a week to revise before it is due. If you do not allow yourself this extra time, you will be more prone to making simple mistakes and your grade may suffer as a result. [16] X Research source

Step 2 Give yourself sufficient time to do a substantive revision that clarifies any confusing logic or arguments.

  • What is your main point? How might you clarify your main point?
  • Who is your audience? Have you considered their needs and expectations?
  • What is your purpose? Have you accomplished your purpose with this paper?
  • How effective is your evidence? How might your strengthen your evidence?
  • Does every part of your paper relate back to your thesis? How might you enhance these connections?
  • Is anything confusing about your language or organization? How might your clarify your language or organization?
  • Have you made any errors with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? How can you correct these errors?
  • What might someone who disagrees with you say about your paper? How can you address these opposing arguments in your paper? [17] X Research source

Step 3 Complete your paper by carefully proofreading a printed version of your final draft.

  • If you are submitting your paper online or through email, check with your teacher or professor to find out what format s/he prefers. If you have used any textual formatting in your paper, you may wish to save it as a PDF file to preserve your formatting.

Sample Essays

the structure of a critical essay

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Ask a friend, family member or other acquaintance to proofread and make constructive comments on your paper. Professional writers go through several drafts of their work and you should expect to do the same. Thanks Helpful 9 Not Helpful 0
  • It is often easier to write a rough introduction and proceed with the rest of the paper before returning to revise the introduction. If you're feeling lost on how to introduce your paper, write a placeholder introduction. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 1
  • Write in your own voice. It is better to correctly use the words you know than to misuse the words you do not know in an attempt to sound scholarly. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 1

the structure of a critical essay

  • Make sure to cite all of your research including quotations, statistics and theoretical concepts as accurately as possible. When in doubt, err on the side of citing more rather than less, since failing to cite your research can result in a charge of plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 2
  • Papers written at the last minute suffer from logic gaps and poor grammar. Remember that your teacher has read hundreds, if not thousands of student papers, and as such, can tell when you've written a paper at the last minute. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 2

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Write a Research Introduction

  • ↑ https://uwc.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/UWC_handouts_readingessayprompts.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.sussex.ac.uk/s3/?id=122
  • ↑ http://www2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/elejeune/critique.htm
  • ↑ https://guides.lib.uw.edu/research/faq/reliable
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/03/
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/673/1/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://www.irsc.edu/students/academicsupportcenter/researchpaper/researchpaper.aspx?id=4294967433
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/2/58/
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/05/

About This Article

Megan Morgan, PhD

To write a critical essay, develop a thesis that expresses your essay's main focus and states an arguable claim. Next, write an introduction that gives a basic overview of your paper and introduces your thesis. Then, create paragraphs that discuss your specific ideas, focusing on one main idea per paragraph. Be sure to start each paragraph with a claim and use examples from primary and secondary sources to support that claim. Finally, create a conclusion that summarizes your main points. For tips on outlining and revising your paper, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Critical Essay: Structure, Elements, Writing Secrets

the structure of a critical essay


Welcome to The Knowledge Nest's comprehensive guide on critical essays. In this article, we will explore the structure, essential elements, and writing secrets to help you excel in your critical essay writing. Whether you are a student or a writer, understanding how to craft a compelling critical essay is crucial for analytical and evaluative thinking.

Understanding Critical Essays

A critical essay is a form of academic writing that analyzes, interprets, and evaluates a piece of literature, artwork, or any other subject matter. It requires an in-depth examination of the chosen topic, a critical approach, and the ability to articulate and support your arguments with evidence.

The Structure of a Critical Essay

When it comes to structuring your critical essay, it is important to follow a logical and organized approach. Here is a suggested structure for your reference:

1. Introduction

The introduction sets the tone for your essay and provides a brief overview of the topic. It should capture the reader's attention and present the main thesis statement or argument of your essay.

2. Background Information

Provide relevant background information about the subject you are analyzing. This section helps the reader understand the context and significance of your essay.

3. Critical Analysis

This is the main body of your essay where you critically analyze and evaluate the subject matter. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect or theme, supported by evidence from the source material.

4. Counterarguments

Addressing counterarguments strengthens your essay and shows your ability to consider different perspectives. Analyze opposing viewpoints and present logical arguments to refute or support them.

5. Conclusion

Conclude your essay by summarizing your main points and restating your thesis statement. Leave the reader with a strong impression and encourage further reflection.

Key Elements of a Critical Essay

Successful critical essays possess several key elements that contribute to their effectiveness:

1. Thesis Statement

A clear and concise thesis statement is essential. It provides a roadmap for your essay and guides your analysis.

2. Evidence and Examples

Support your arguments with evidence from the source material, such as quotes, statistics, or specific examples. This adds credibility and strengthens your analysis.

3. Proper Referencing

Cite all your sources using the appropriate referencing style, whether it's APA, MLA, or any other format required by your academic institution.

4. Coherent Organization

Your essay should have a logical flow of ideas and well-structured paragraphs. Use appropriate transitions to connect your thoughts and maintain coherence.

Writing Secrets for Impressive Critical Essays

To take your critical essay writing to the next level, consider these invaluable writing secrets:

1. Thorough Research

Before writing your essay, conduct thorough research on the subject matter. Familiarize yourself with different perspectives and gather relevant evidence.

2. Analytical Thinking

Develop your analytical skills to critically evaluate the subject, identify underlying themes, and offer insightful interpretations.

3. Engaging Introductions

Craft an engaging introduction that hooks the reader and provides a clear sense of direction for your essay.

4. Clarity and Precision

Express your ideas clearly and precisely, using concise language. Avoid ambiguity and make sure your arguments are easy to follow.

5. Proofreading and Editing

Always proofread and edit your essay before submission. Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, and refine your writing for clarity and coherence.

In summary, mastering the art of writing a critical essay is essential in academia and beyond. By understanding the structure, key elements, and implementing the writing secrets shared in this guide, you can excel in your critical essay writing endeavors. The Knowledge Nest is here to support you in your journey towards becoming a proficient critical essay writer.

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Critical Essay

Definition of critical essay, evolution of the critical essay, examples of critical essay in literature, example #1: jack and gill: a mock criticism (by joseph dennie).

“The personages being now seen, their situation is next to be discovered. Of this we are immediately informed in the subsequent line, when we are told, Jack and Gill Went up a hill. Here the imagery is distinct, yet the description concise. We instantly figure to ourselves the two persons traveling up an ascent, which we may accommodate to our own ideas of declivity, barrenness, rockiness, sandiness, etc. all which, as they exercise the imagination, are beauties of a high order. The reader will pardon my presumption, if I here attempt to broach a new principle which no critic, with whom I am acquainted, has ever mentioned. It is this, that poetic beauties may be divided into negative and positive, the former consisting of mere absence of fault, the latter in the presence of excellence; the first of an inferior order, but requiring considerable critical acumen to discover them, the latter of a higher rank, but obvious to the meanest capacity.”

This is an excerpt from the critical essay of Joseph Dennie. It is an interpretative type of essay in which Dennie has interpreted the structure and content of Jack and Jill .

Example #2: On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth (by Thomas De Quincey)

“But to return from this digression , my understanding could furnish no reason why the knocking at the gate in Macbeth should produce any effect, direct or reflected. In fact, my understanding said positively that it could not produce any effect. But I knew better; I felt that it did; and I waited and clung to the problem until further knowledge should enable me to solve it. At length, in 1812, Mr. Williams made his debut on the stage of Ratcliffe Highway, and executed those unparalleled murders which have procured for him such a brilliant and undying reputation. On which murders, by the way, I must observe, that in one respect they have had an ill effect, by making the connoisseur in murder very fastidious in his taste, and dissatisfied by anything that has been since done in that line.”

Example #3: A Sample Critical Essay on Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (by Richard Nordquist)

“To keep Jake Barnes drunk, fed, clean, mobile, and distracted in The Sun Also Rises , Ernest Hemingway employs a large retinue of minor functionaries: maids, cab drivers, bartenders, porters, tailors, bootblacks, barbers, policemen, and one village idiot. But of all the retainers seen working quietly in the background of the novel , the most familiar figure by far is the waiter. In cafés from Paris to Madrid, from one sunrise to the next, over two dozen waiters deliver drinks and relay messages to Barnes and his compatriots. As frequently in attendance and as indistinguishable from one another as they are, these various waiters seem to merge into a single emblematic figure as the novel progresses. A detached observer of human vanity, this figure does more than serve food and drink: he serves to illuminate the character of Jake Barnes.”

Functions of a Critical Essay

A critical essay intends to convey specific meanings of a literary text to specific audiences. These specific audiences are knowledgeable people. They not only learn the merits and demerits of the literary texts, but also learn different shades and nuances of meanings. The major function of a literary essay is to convince people to read a literary text for reasons described.

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How To Write A Critical Analysis Essay With Examples

Declan Gessel

May 4, 2024

the structure of a critical essay

A Critical Analysis Essay is a form of academic writing that requires students to extract information and critically analyze a specific topic. The task may seem daunting, but with the right approach, it can become an exciting task. 

Critical Analysis Essays help students improve their analytical skills and foster principles of logic. In this article, we are going to discuss how to write an essay and break it down for you. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Table Of Content

What is a critical analysis essay, why the subject of your critical analysis essay is important, 5 reading strategies for critical analysis essay, building the body of your analysis, 5 things to avoid when writing your critical analysis essay, write smarter critical analysis essay with jotbot — start writing for free today.

essay written on a laptop screen - Critical Analysis Essay

When you write a critical analysis essay, you move beyond recounting the subject's main points and delve into examining it with a discerning eye. The goal? To form your own insights about the subject, based on the evidence you gather. 

This involves dissecting and contemplating the author's arguments , techniques, and themes while also developing your own critical response. While forming your own conclusions may sound intimidating, it's a key aspect of fine-tuning your critical thinking skills and organizing your thoughts into a cohesive, argumentative response. 

Key Skills in the Craft

This process consists of two key elements: understanding the core components of the subject and forming your own critical response, both supported by evidence. The first part involves grasping the subject's main arguments, techniques, and themes. The second part entails taking that knowledge and constructing your analytical and evaluative response. 

Deconstructing the Subject

In other words, roll up your sleeves and get deep into the subject matter. Start by identifying the author's main point, deconstructing their arguments, examining the structure and techniques they use, and exploring the underlying themes and messages. By engaging with the subject on this level, you'll have a thorough understanding of it and be better prepared to develop your own response. 

The Power of Evidence

Remember that evidence is your secret weapon for crafting a convincing analysis. This means going beyond summarizing the content and instead using specific examples from the subject to support your own arguments and interpretations. Evidence isn't just about facts, either; it can also be used to address the effectiveness of the subject, highlighting both its strengths and weaknesses. 

The Art of Evaluation

Lastly, put your evaluation skills to work. Critically assess the subject's effectiveness, pinpointing its strengths and potential shortcomings. From there, you can offer your own interpretation, supported by evidence from the subject itself. This is where you put everything you've learned about the subject to the test, showcasing your analytical skills and proving your point.

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girl writing on a copy about Critical Analysis Essay

Let’s delve on the importance of understanding the Work you'll be analyzing:

Main Argument

When diving into a work, one must unravel the central point or message the author is conveying. All other analyses stem from this fundamental point. By identifying and comprehending the main argument, one can dissect the various elements that support it, revealing the author's stance or point of view.

Themes are the underlying concepts and messages explored in the subject matter. By venturing into the depths of themes, one can unravel the layers of meaning within the work. Understanding these underlying ideas not only enriches the analysis but also sheds light on the author's intentions and insights.

Structure & Techniques

Understanding how the work is built - be it a chronological story, persuasive arguments, or the use of figurative language - provides insight into the author's craft. Structure and techniques can influence the way the work is perceived, and by dissecting them, one can appreciate the intricacies of the author's style and the impact it has on the audience.

In critical analysis, understanding the context can add an extra layer of depth to the analysis. Considering the historical, social, or cultural context in which the work was created can provide valuable insights into the author's influences, intentions, and the reception of the work. While not always necessary, contextual analysis can elucidate aspects of the work that might otherwise go unnoticed.

To conduct a comprehensive critical analysis , understanding the work you'll be analyzing is the foundation on which all other interpretations rely. By identifying the main argument, themes, structure, techniques, and context, a nuanced and insightful analysis can be crafted. This step sets the stage for a thorough examination of the work, bringing to light the nuances and complexities that make critical analysis a valuable tool in literary and artistic exploration.

person holding a book on Critical Analysis Essay

1. Close Reading: Go Deeper Than Skimming

Close reading is a focused approach to reading where you don't just skim the text. Instead, you pay close attention to every word, sentence, and detail. By doing this, you can uncover hidden meanings, themes, and literary devices that you might miss if you were reading too quickly. I recommend underlining or annotating key passages, literary devices, or recurring ideas. This helps you remember these important details later on when you're writing your critical analysis essay.

2. Active Note-Taking to Capture Important Points

When reading a text for a critical analysis essay, it's important to take active notes that go beyond summarizing the plot or main points. Instead, try jotting down the author's arguments, interesting details, confusing sections, and potential evidence for your analysis. These notes will give you a solid foundation to build your essay upon and will help you keep track of all the important elements of the text.

3. Identify Recurring Ideas: Look for Patterns

In a critical analysis essay, it's crucial to recognize recurring ideas, themes, motifs, or symbols that might hold deeper meaning. By looking for patterns in the text, you can uncover hidden messages or themes that the author might be trying to convey. Ask yourself why these elements are used repeatedly and how they contribute to the overall message of the text. By identifying these patterns, you can craft a more nuanced analysis of the text.

4. Consider the Author's Purpose

Authorial intent is an essential concept to consider when writing a critical analysis essay. Think about the author's goals: are they trying to inform, persuade, entertain, or something else entirely? Understanding the author's purpose can help you interpret the text more accurately and can give you insight into the author's motivations for writing the text in the first place.

5.  Question and Analyze your Arguments

In a critical analysis essay, it's important to take a critical approach to the text. Question the author's ideas, analyze the effectiveness of their arguments, and consider different interpretations. By approaching the text with a critical eye, you can craft a more thorough and nuanced analysis that goes beyond a surface-level reading of the text.

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person writing checklist for Critical Analysis Essay

Let’s delve on the essentials of building the body of your analysis: 

Topic Sentence Breakdown: The Purpose of a Strong Topic Sentence

A powerful topic sentence in each paragraph of your critical analysis essay serves as a roadmap for your reader. It tells them the focus of the paragraph, introducing the main point you will explore and tying it back to your thesis. For instance, in an essay about the role of symbolism in "The Great Gatsby," a topic sentence might read, "Fitzgerald's use of the green light symbolizes Gatsby's unattainable dreams, highlighting the theme of the American Dream's illusion."

Evidence Integration: The Significance of Evidence from the Subject

To bolster your arguments, you need to use evidence from the subject you are analyzing. For example, in "To Kill a Mockingbird," when explaining Atticus Finch's moral compass, using a quote like, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it," can back up your analysis. It proves that the character values empathy and understanding.

Textual Evidence: Integrating Quotes, Paraphrases, or Specific Details

When you quote or paraphrase text, ensure it directly relates to your analysis. For example, when discussing Sylvia Plath's use of imagery in "The Bell Jar," quote, "I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story." This paints a vivid picture for readers and helps solidify your point about the protagonist's feelings of entrapment.

Visual Evidence: Analyzing Specific Elements in the Artwork

If you are analyzing a painting, you can use visual details like color, lines, or symbolism as evidence. For instance, if exploring Van Gogh's "Starry Night," you could delve into the calming effect of the swirls in the sky or the stark contrast between the bright stars and the dark village below. This visual evidence helps explain the painting's emotional impact on viewers.

Analysis & Explanation: The Importance of Going Beyond Evidence Presentation

When examining evidence, don't stop at merely presenting it. Analyze how it supports your thesis. For instance, when exploring the role of the conch in "Lord of the Flies," after showing how it represents order, explain how its loss signals the boys' descent into savagery. By unpacking the evidence's meaning, you help readers understand why it matters and how it connects to your overall argument.

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girl doing Critical Analysis Essay

1. Avoiding Summary vs. Analysis Pitfalls

When crafting a critical analysis essay, it's crucial not to fall into the trap of merely summarizing the subject without offering your own critical analysis. A summary merely recaps the content, while an analysis breaks down and interprets the subject. If you overlook this vital distinction, your essay will lack the depth and insight that characterize a strong critical analysis. Ensure your critical analysis essay doesn't read like an extended book report.

2. Steering Clear of Weak Thesis Statements

A critical analysis essay lives and dies on the strength of its thesis statement, the central argument that guides your analysis. A weak or vague thesis statement will result in an unfocused essay devoid of direction, leaving readers unclear about your point of view. It's essential to craft a thesis statement that is specific, arguable, and concise, setting the tone for a thoughtful and illuminating analysis.

3. Using Evidence is Key

The use of evidence from the subject matter under analysis is instrumental in substantiating your critical claims. Without evidence to back up your assertions, your analysis will appear unsubstantiated and unconvincing. Be sure to provide detailed examples, quotes, or data from the text under scrutiny to support your analysis. Evidence adds credibility, depth, and weight to your critical analysis essay.

4. The Importance of Clear and Supported Analysis

A successful critical analysis essay goes beyond simply presenting evidence to analyzing its significance and connecting it to your central argument. If your essay lacks clear analysis, readers won't understand the relevance of the evidence you present. Go beyond description to interpret the evidence, explaining its implications and how it supports your thesis. Without this analysis, your essay will lack depth and will not persuade your audience.

5. Addressing Counter Arguments

In a critical analysis essay, it's vital to acknowledge and engage with potential counterarguments. Ignoring opposing viewpoints undermines the credibility of your essay, presenting a one-sided argument that lacks nuance. Addressing counter arguments demonstrates that you understand the complexity of the issue and can anticipate and respond to objections. 

By incorporating counterarguments, you strengthen your analysis and enhance the overall persuasiveness of your critical essay.

girl using laptop for Critical Analysis Essay

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Jotbot's AI note-taking feature helps writers collect and organize information in a structured manner. By enabling writers to jot down key points and ideas during research or brainstorming sessions, Jotbot ensures that important details are not missed and can be easily accessed during the writing process.

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the structure of a critical essay

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Critical Essay

John K.

Critical Essay - An Ultimate Guide For Students

Published on: Jan 6, 2023

Last updated on: May 26, 2023

Critical Essay

On This Page On This Page

A critical essay is a type of essay writing assignment that expects you to examine another person’s work, critically analyze it, and present your own idea.

In order to come up with effective critical writing, you must have knowledge of source material and the basic principles of writing this type of essay.

In this article, we will discuss what is a critical essay in detail and how to write one for an A+ grade.

Follow the guide and understand the key information for writing an impressive critical analysis essay.

Critical Essay Definition

A critical essay is a form of academic writing in which a writer evaluates and analyzes a text. It can be a book, article, or movie, etc.

In this type of writing, the main objective is not to convince your audience but to create an informative analysis.

You have to come up with your interpretation and prove with facts or evidence from other sources of work.

Teachers assign this type of assignment to challenge the critical analyzing ability of students. They want to get a well-written paper with clear arguments and reliable references to support the claim.

Characteristics of a Critical Essay

All critical essays, despite the subject matter, share the following characteristics.

  • Critical essays contain a central point that is usually expressed at the start of the essay.
  • It includes facts and evidential information to support your thesis statement.
  • All critical essays offer a brief and concise conclusion. It summarizes the main argument and emphasizes the most important points of the essay.

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How to Write a Critical Essay?

Here is a step-by-step guide that you need to go through for writing an excellent critical analysis essay.

Find and Examine a Source

Find the information you need to include in your essay to support the central claim. Books, journals, articles, encyclopedias, and news are the most common sources of information that you can use.

Start critical reading and gather the relevant information and refer to it when writing your essay.

Make Notes of Your Thoughts and Ideas

Now identify the main problem to be discussed in your essay. After the central claim, find the evidence for demonstrating that claim.

Brainstorm ideas and think about how it can relate to what you are analyzing. Think about the associated ideas and write it all on paper and figure out which ideas need further research.

Compose a Thesis Statement

All critical essays must have a one-sentence thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph.

The thesis statement should be composed based on the information that you gather from different sources.

When composing a thesis statement, answer the question, ‘What point are you trying to prove?’. If you are still not sure, read some interesting  thesis statement examples  and know-how to come up with a strong point.

Create an Outline

Don’t think about writing an essay without creating its outline first. An outline will help you save your time and organize your ideas more effectively. Here you need to structure all the points so the writing process is easier for you.

Write Your Essay

Once you are done with the outline, start the writing process. Begin your essay with an interesting introduction that ends with the central claim of your essay. After that, analyze and evaluate it with facts and evidence in the body paragraphs. And end it with the key points of the claim in conclusion.

Edit and Proofread

After writing your essay, leave it for a few days if the deadline is not soon. Then review your essay to find and correct mistakes. You may do it yourself or ask your friend or family member to do it for you.

Make the changes until you feel like the essay is perfect and without any mistakes. You can also hire an  essay writer  for professional editing and proofreading services.

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Critical Essay Outline

The critical analysis essay outline also follows a 5 paragraph structure format. It includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.


The introduction of the essay should describe the topic and provide some background information of the work in a few sentences. It should end with a strong  thesis statement  that will help the reader determine what the essay is focusing on.

Body Paragraphs

In this section, you need to cover all the ideas that have been outlined. Answer the question that you have mentioned in the introduction. Explain the significance of the work with facts, examples, and quotes. Keep in mind that your main aim is to analyze and inform your readers so pay attention to how the original work is presented.

Wrap up your essay by restating the main point of view of your essay. Summarize the main argument and emphasize the key points of the essay.

Critical Essay Format

Here is the most commonly used format that you can use for creating a detailed  critical essay outline  and organize your ideas.

1. Introduction

  • Introduce the topic
  • Provide some background information
  • Thesis statement

2. Body Paragraphs

  • A summary of the whole work
  • Cover your ideas and answer the main question
  • Analyze and evaluate

3. Conclusion

  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Summarize the key pieces of evidence
  • The work’s overall importance

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Critical Essay Topics

Here are some interesting  critical essay topics  for college students. Feel free to choose any topic and start the research process.

  • The impact of violent video games on young children
  • What are the negative effects of modern technology?
  • Pros and cons of standardized tests
  • Analyze the three types of decision making
  • What is the impact of human-nature relationships on health?
  • Analyze the economic development of the UK since 1950
  • Critically examine the novel ‘Jane Eyre’.
  • How are humans related to nature?
  • What is the role of modern art in our society?
  • What is the ideology of feminism?
  • The most important elements in Chinese religious culture
  • The future of the oil industry

Critical Essay Examples

Before you start writing your essay, get inspired with some interesting critical analysis essay examples.

Critical Essay About the Leadership of Duterte PDF

The Great Gatsby Critical Essay Example PDF

Critical Essay on my Papa’s Waltz PDF

Critical Essay of Aristotle on Tragedy PDF

These examples will definitely help you learn how to write a good critical essay no matter if you are a beginner writer.

You may also see our  free essays  and understand the basic principles of writing academic essays.

Critical Essay Writing Tips

Below are some expert tips to remember when writing a critical essay.

  • In critical essays, your personal opinion plays an important role but avoid writing it if you don't have enough evidence to support it.
  • Critically analyzing a piece of work does not mean you need to bring out the negative aspects of it. You are evaluating another person’s work, you need to be informative and that means the claims you made need to be backed up by credible evidence.
  • Your critical essay should inform your audience of something new. Whether it is a new idea or new lesson or a new perspective.
  • Do you know what type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay? Your tone and language in a critical analysis essay should be objective throughout. Although you can use a humorous tone if you are not writing on a serious topic.

Critical essay writing is not an easy task especially if you are writing about a topic which you don’t know anything about.

The task becomes even more difficult if you do not have enough time to research and the deadline is approaching soon. You can handle this by delegating your task to professional essay writers at  FreeEssayWriter.net .

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How To Create The Perfect Critical Essay

By: Max Malak

How To Create The Perfect Critical Essay

A critical essay is an excellent way to share and discuss the literature you have read. A critical essay can analyze one piece of literature (characters, themes, points) or compare and contrast multiple literature pieces from the same author. Don't want to write a critical essay? Buy critical thinking essay at Studybay!

How Has Critical Essay Meaning Evolved?

Aspects that make an essay "critical", main features of a critical essay, what you should evaluate, introduction, learn the subject, research it, develop your thesis, choose evidence, include an antithesis, write an outline, best critical essay topics from experts, best tips from our experts.

The word "criticize" for many is associated with condemnation, the identification of negative aspects. It may seem to you that writing a critical essay is about breaking all the author's arguments and showing how weak his work is. But in reality, this is not at all the case.

An article, a review, and an essay are literary criticism genres designed to evaluate and interpret works of art and life phenomena reflected in them. The nature of literary criticism changes over time.

At first, it was mainly a general assessment of the work, a recommendation to other readers. Then goals and objectives of criticism become more complex. The aesthetic, social, and moral significance of the work, which is considered an integral artistic phenomenon in the unity of form and content, becomes an important evaluation criterion. This essay has the same parts as for any other - introduction, body, and conclusion. Let's start a more detailed study.

What Does Critical Essay Mean?

To begin with, criticism implies an analysis, during which both negative and positive aspects of the phenomenon under consideration are revealed. A critical essay is a kind of essay that is necessary to analyze and evaluate any scientific work (dissertation, article, report) or fiction.

Students may be asked to write a critical essay to develop their critical thinking. In the work process, they will learn to identify contradictions in the work, find errors, inaccuracies, see the work's strengths and weaknesses, and check the authenticity of specific arguments.

You should not take the word “critical” because your task is to evaluate writers' from an objective perspective and not just point out the shortcomings. This essay is intended for high school students who are well-versed in literary work matters and understand what criteria to evaluate. Your essay can be associated with various characters, plots, ideas for a book, story, or article.

Samuel Johnson first introduced the concept of the English "critical essay." He clearly defined the idea, which meant that in this essay, it is necessary to express your personal opinion, which includes both praise and criticism, shortcomings in various literary works. After him, Matthew Arnold gave the essential elements that should be in the composition. He argued that a good critical essay should have an objective perspective, without empathy or strong bias. So the concept of this type of essay evolved, and as a result, now discussion essays have a structure , which we described below.

Interestingly, the very word "criticism" will mean nothing more than "the art of disassembling and judging." And it was born at the moment when the very first work came out to the readers' judgment. At different times, the criticism tasks changed. Its status was notable for instability, but gradually the term "critical essay" became the foundation for fiction. It combined practice and theory, allowing a person to expand the horizons of his vision of this or that reality, created by the author.

Criticism is an essential part of literature. We often face such a situation when we need to give our assessment of a particular artwork. Sometimes we are very subjective and believe that we have the right to judge other people's texts. But this is far from the case. It would help if you learned not only to criticize but to give an objective professional assessment. To make your essay look correct, you should study the following aspects:

  • The polarity of your presentation. A critical article, reaction paper , needs you to show the shortcomings of the work and its apparent strengths. They are in every object. It all depends only on whether you are ready to see them.
  • Objectivity. Emotions are useless here. You have the right to express your opinion, but it must be supported by sound arguments lined up in a logical sequence.
  • Factuality. Everything should be based on real facts. No unfounded accusations and thoughts, even if you are sure of them. Support your views with scientific research, rely on knowledge.
  • Latitude. View the work from different angles. Try to look deeper into the author's intention; put yourself in his place. Why did he write like that? What did he want to express but couldn't?
  • Reflection. Assess your capabilities and abilities adequately. Are you entitled to harsh judgments or recommendations? Avoid being straightforward. Always leave room for free thought on one topic or another.

A critical essay is one of the main genres of literary appreciation. The text provides a book review , book topics, ideological content, language, and style, indicates the meaning in several other works of the writer, etc. This type of essay can be characterized as a review of a work designed to impress the target audience.

The essay itself is small; the standard volume is 1-2 pages of A4 format, fictional text containing a review, analysis of something. If a student delves into the study of the author's work in general or significant work in the context of modern literature, this is a critical article.

In the document, the work is sorted out by letters - what the author said, what he wanted to say, what the readers thought, and what they might think, which made a mistake where or created a masterpiece. The main requirements are to follow the logic, not stoop to humiliation, argue your position, and make sure that there is no single mistake in the text - neither factual nor grammatical.

Major Purposes of a Critical Essay

A critical essay aims to convey the assessment of a fictional text to the audience, while it must be truthful. The audience of this essay is most often already familiar with the work and wants to hear the opinions of other people or, on the contrary, is going to read the book but does not know whether it is worth it. Readers pay attention to the merits and the elements, plots, and moments that make the book not very good. Therefore, your writing task is to correctly convey your message and convince the reader whether it is worth reading the book or not paying attention to it at all.

We bring to your attention what can be taken into account, evaluated, and analyzed:

  • The overall impression of the book is solid, scattered, powerful, weak, pleasant.
  • The plot - how straight, branchy, twisted, fascinating it is. How well it is connected, how logically it is brought together, are there any exciting moments?
  • The narrative is dynamic, unhurried, drawn-out, driven. To what extent do the narrative dynamics correspond to the genre and tasks set in the book?
  • Heroes - how detailed and reliably are they described, are their psychological portraits sufficiently accurate and natural, could they have done just that under the given circumstances? Whether these characters are attractive to the reader, whether they evoke empathy or disgust.
  • Whether the book violates the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy.
  • The main idea of the text - how ethical, smart, original is it? What does the book teach the reader, what does it want to tell him?
  • Originality - how banal is the idea of where the author borrowed what, whom he quotes, parodies, paraphrases. If it seems that the book opens up a new genre or direction, we will certainly mention it.
  • Social significance - all of a sudden, the text identifies useful moments, say, for patriotic education or national identity, describes complicated ethical moments and options for choice.
  • Literary merit - for example, historical, ethnographic, or social value.
  • Demand - is the topic raised relevantly, is it attractive to society, what audience is the book intended for?
  • Did you like the book, the film, did you have any positive emotions, would you like to advise the work to someone?

It is not necessary to analyze all the points. You select those that are important to you at the moment.

General Critical Essay Structure

The essay should consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. In any plan, this traditional structural principle is worth maintaining. Each compositional part of the paper should be designed; the text must be divided into paragraphs. By highlighting sections, you will more closely follow the logical sequence of the presentation. Such a text also wins purely visually: it is clear that there is a movement of thought in the material's presentation. Such a text is more straightforward for a teacher to read.

An essay can contain approximately the same number of paragraphs: introduction - 1-2 paragraphs; body - 3-4 paragraphs; conclusion - 1-2 paragraphs. The writing must fit your plan: the composition's clarity contributes to a convincing disclosure of the topic.

There are times when the educational institution's requirements indicate that a list of used literature must be added to the essay. This is necessary so that if you suddenly used quotations, some author's style in your document, then the teacher will see what methods of writing you used, what literature you studied. Students are often inclined to write a paper based on another author's examples. You should indicate in the bibliography about them because you may be accused of plagiarism due to this element's lack. Before writing the list, clarify all the design requirements.

When you have any difficulties with writing a document, then you can contact us for help. Professional writers will study your topic, conduct research, and arrange the document by the requirements. If you are in doubt, you can see an informative essay example , where you will see how writers work professionally.

Crucial for the successful writing of an essay is its beginning - the introduction. In this paragraph, you can show your erudition, position, etc. Of course, there is no universal introduction that can be used in an essay on any topic. But we do not recommend using banal expressions, all the more start work with them. Each topic requires its beginning: also, you need to take into account your knowledge and style features.

It is essential here to outline the problem, which will be further disclosed. In the introductory part, you need to form the questions, which you will give in the central part. Also, do not forget to show in what style you are writing an essay. In this case, it will be a critic genre.

The problem definition must be taken most seriously. Your entire composition and the teacher's assessment will depend on how correctly you do this. There are usually several problems in a text, but you only need to formulate one. Keywords and sentences will help you do this. Do not delay the introduction. It should be capacious and meaningful without water.

In this part of the essay, you have to demonstrate your knowledge of the text to the greatest extent, understanding its features, connections with literature, and culture in the time's social context. As a rule, the central part includes 3-4 points of the plan, 3-4 paragraphs, which were mentioned above, correspond to them.

In presenting the material, do not forget about the need to argue your positions with examples from the text; this is not necessarily a direct quotation, but just a few times that you write in your own words. The content of your essay is enriched by references to the evaluations of this work by critics. In the central part of the paper, you can say both your aesthetic impression of the given work and your assessment.

Just do not resort to overly emotional statements and categorical generalizations. Try to maintain research objectivity and correctness. You can show your erudition by comparing the work itself with other literature and artworks in the central part.

Avoid retelling the text and pay more attention to the art form issues, not forgetting literary terminology.

The conclusion is small but not at all a formal element of the composition. It is here that formulated conclusions must be expressed in a concise form. These should be specific conclusions from your work and not banal phrases about the world's significance of this writer's work, as is often the case. In conclusion, it is appropriate to talk about the nature of the reader's perception of the work and the new accents you saw.

The conclusion should be laconic, reveal the topic, and answer the questions posed during the essay's writing. It is also necessary to write an individual color, personal attitude to the problem, and assess.

There are different approaches to preparing the final part. Some students carefully re-read the finished work to select the essential information. Thorough proofreading allows writing the last part of the work and eliminating possible spelling, stylistic, or logical errors. Tips for writing a conclusion:

  • Remind yourself of the objectives in the introduction. Decide which of them were solved and which were not.
  • Highlight all the main points.
  • Present the collected information in a summary form, but focus on the facts you learned from the work analysis.
  • Mention whether the thesis was confirmed.
  • Write sentences with a call to action. For example: "I recommend the book, and it is worth reading for those students who are interested in science fiction."

Tips on How to Create Correct a Critical Essay

A critical article, of course, should not be devoid of emotion. Writing should not create chaos. However, the emotional coloring of your paper plays an important role. Simultaneously, do not try to write stereotyped: "This is terrible, disgusting work, dry text, ugly images" and stuff like that. It would help if you described all your thoughts and feelings in as much detail as possible that this work aroused in you.

Pay attention to detail. So it will be apparent that you have grasped the essence of what has been written, tried to understand it, examine the work done. Be sure to highlight what you like. Let it be a few great metaphors or random thoughts. Let it be the brightness of the style or the extravagance of the story. But do not think that if the article is critical, then you need to scold.

On the contrary, if there is something worthy, be sure to indicate. And whatever is wrong, say it against this background. Create a conducive atmosphere to be heard.

When you talk about the author, focused on the strong points of the story, you can criticize. Tell us about what failed, think about what the writer lacked. Discover his idea, once again, drawing a parallel with your feelings. Be precise and clear. Try to show your location, show all your resourcefulness. Become a friend and like-minded person, not an arrogant author. Now, let's learn a few secrets about how to prepare for writing a paper.

If you need to write objective criticism for a book, story, poem, then you need to study the subject of research in detail before starting work. You can write this essay only if you are well versed on the topic. If you write what comes to mind, then your article will not be appreciated. If your task is to write a criticism about the film, then watch it several times to understand the essence of what the director was trying to convey to the viewer. Perhaps you will see the hidden meaning and be able to tell the reader about it. Then your discovery will be a valuable event for connoisseurs of cinema. When you study any subject of research, you should take notes:

  • What is the idea, what is the movie or book about, the purpose of creation?
  • What features are inherent in the research subject, what makes it impossible to apply to other works, or perhaps elements you have already met somewhere?
  • What genre is the cinema, books? What value do they have in the modern world?
  • Do you have questions while reading or viewing?

To confirm your words, it is not enough to have examples from a book or a movie; you must also add quotes from authoritative sources trusted by millions of people. These should be the thoughts and opinions of those related to the studied science genre. Thanks to additional sources of information, you can answer the questions you will compose for the essay. Stock up on as many resources as possible to write an imposing document.

It would help if you learned how to write a thesis correctly. With this element's help, the reader learns about some important things for him, described in the document. The thesis serves as a map by which the reader will understand how you show the importance of this topic and analyze the arguments you put forward. Use your vocabulary to show confidence and steadfastness. For a person to appreciate your thesis, you need to build sentences and phrases, especially.

You need to know how and where to place great thesis statements. These phrases are usually placed under the introduction or first paragraph. Don't write more than two sentences. It would help clarify what it is about, your position, and your thoughts on this topic.

Keep a rough draft in which to write down the thesis. When you write your thesis on a draft, it will help you develop some new ideas. You will be able to observe the logic and clarity of what is written. When creating a thesis, there are two versions of the development of events. According to some, in no case should you start writing a document without preparing a work plan. Others believe that it is imperative to walk in the fresh air to be inspired by ideas. Choose the one that is closest to you and start acting.

You can choose only a few convincing pieces of evidence for your essay. What if you have prepared a lot of evidence? Accordingly, it would help if you acted according to this plan:

  • Go through all the evidence and choose the one that best supports your thesis.
  • Select that evidence based on the opinion of reputable writers.
  • Select evidence where many authors support your idea.

Antithesis is the opposition of two words or phrases. The antithesis will not necessarily consist of antonyms - it can be images, words in a figurative sense, which in the poem creates the impression of opposite phenomena.

By the way, the antithesis is often confused with another stylistic figure called "oxymoron," which is also based on playing with the opposite. Their fundamental difference lies in the fact that there is an obvious confrontation of opposite concepts in the first case, and in the second, there is an attempt to combine them to obtain a unique phrase. Are you looking for examples? Please: "fire and water" is the antithesis, and "firewater" is an oxymoron.

It must be borne in mind that the antithesis can manifest itself in both explicit and latent forms. Direct antithesis is identified using the antonyms present. And the hidden is usually expressed not in one phrase but whole text fragments.

Composing an informative essay or critical essay means that you need to break the text into paragraphs, highlighting the primary information in them, an idea that develops your thoughts. Each fragment is a micro text that can contain from two to five sentences. Accordingly, it would help if you had a plan not to lose each paragraph's main idea. Moreover, each next paragraph should logically complement each other.

In the plan, it is advisable to write detailed phrases, instead of short words, so you will not forget what you wanted to write. It isn't easy to define the main idea by one word, and experts advise making aspects with the thesis. But also do not confuse yourself with long phrases; write only the most important. For example, when you look at a phrase, you immediately understand what it is about, then it means that you have made a great plan.

But formulations in the form of questions are also possible, to which answers are given in the work. It is important to remember that the outline carries information about how your essay is structured specific details on each of its parts' content. The writing should be "viewed" through the plan.

We understand how difficult it is to decide on topics and have prepared persuasive essay ideas :

  • Describe your favorite book and what artistic techniques the author used. Did he manage to achieve the desired effects with the help of them?
  • How do you understand feminist ideologies in literary art?
  • How do you think the life path and biography of the author affect the writing style?
  • Describe the meaning of the minor characters in any book you like.
  • What are the details and plots that make a drama series exciting and engaging?
  • Describe the film that won the Oscar. Do you think the director shot great scenes?
  • In your opinion, the poverty alleviation program has been well implemented or needs to be improved?
  • Discuss the challenges of eating fast food, and what is the role of healthy food?
  • Do you think that rubbish needs to be refined? Can this affect the economic situation in the country?
  • Discuss how historical events are filmed. Are they realistic enough?

When you know everything about how to structure the text, what to avoid, how to start writing, we can talk about the secrets that our experts share with you:

  • If possible, do not delay writing an essay; try to start the document earlier to have time to hand over the paper on time. Also, you will be able to avoid stress because it is better to write in a comfortable environment than to whip it up, to be in time for the night.
  • Please write your text on a draft, then put it aside for a few days. Reread it and fix any errors found.
  • Ask a friend, parents to read your document; they may have comments on the content. Our writers initially write a draft and only then improve the text.
  • Work according to the scheme that suits you. For example, one student decides that work should start with a plan; another believes that he should take a walk in the air to find inspiration and write down ideas. Find out what actions will lead you to a result and take action.
  • Choose your writing style that will be different from other writers. We recommend using only those words whose meanings are clear to you; otherwise, you may look stupid in front of the reader.
  • Make sure that your quotes look appropriate and not too many. If some passage raises doubts, it is better to re-read it and only after that write it.
  • Those essays that students write at the last moment. May be given for revision due to lack of style, logic, or due to the presence of mistakes. Your teacher has probably read many essays for all his time and quickly identified a document written in half an hour and a document you worked hard on.

Now we wish you good luck. You have all the tools to create a unique text.

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the structure of a critical essay

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How to Write a Critical Essay [Ultimate Guide]

Table of Contents:

1.How to write a critical essay 2.What Makes Essay Critical 3.Steps to Write a Critical Essay 4.Creating a critical essay plan 5.Tips for Writing a Critical Essay 6.Useful techniques used in writing a critical essay 7.Critical Essay Structure 8.Topics for writing a critical essay 9.Critical Essay Examples

How to write a critical essay:

  • Examine a source: read it carefully and critically.
  • Organize your thoughts: figure out the core claim and evidence, do research of secondary resources.
  • State a thesis: make sure it has both a claim and details sustaining it.
  • Write an outline.
  • Write a draft of your critical essay.
  • Edit and improve your essay .

Critical essays are among the most common types of writing assignments in college. Also known as analytical, a critical essay is about evaluating somebody’s work (a movie, a book, an article, etc.) and proving that your evaluation is correct.

The problem is, students often confuse a critical essay with a report, a critical precis , or a review.

In this article, we’ll reveal the core characteristics of a critical essay and learn the right way of writing it.


What Makes Essay Critical

A critical essay has  a claim  and  evidence  to prove that claim.

Here you need to  analyze the work (a book, a movie, an article, whatever), respond to its central themes, and evaluate  how its author conveyed them.

Attention!  If the purpose of your paper isn’t to critique but inform or persuade readers of something, it won’t be a critical essay. Check our guides on  expository essays  or  persuasive essays  instead.

In other words,  your essay is critical if:

  • There is a thesis about the central themes of a discussed work in it.
  • It explains what an author wanted to say about those themes.
  • You describe what techniques an author used to communicate the message.

Please note that “critical” doesn’t mean “negative.” It’s about analysis and interpretation, not judging or disparaging.

When a teacher assigns a critical essay, they want to get a professionally presented and grammatically correct paper with a clear argument and consistent and accurate references to support that argument. They need a paper demonstrating that you’ve read a source, understood its theme, and evaluated the evidence relating to that theme.

Steps to Write a Critical Essay

Before you take a seat and start writing a critical essay, make sure you understand its characteristics and purpose inside out.

You need to analyze and evaluate a work.

Note:  Analysis = breaking down and studying the part; evaluation = assessing strengths and weaknesses.

You need to express a central claim of your work in a  thesis statement  and then support it with evidence in each body paragraph.

Note:  The evidence can be either the details from a source (dialogues, imagery, descriptions, text structure, etc.) or secondary resources such as scholarly articles or expert reviews that can help you support your argument.

You need to  write a conclusion .  Summarize a critical essay, emphasizing its most essential insights.

Long story short, here go your steps to write a critical essay.

Step 1: Examine a Source

You won’t write a critical essay if you don’t understand the subject of evaluation. Let’s say you write an essay on a book. It stands to reason that you need to read it first, right?

So, your first step to writing a critical essay will be critical reading. And while reading, make sure to take as many notes as possible. Utilizing an essay maker can help to organize your thoughts and structure your essay.

Take note of the instruments the author uses to communicate the message. What does he want to say? What words, grammar constructions, or stylistic devices does he use?

Also, think of the questions that come to your mind while reading. Write them down, too.

Step 2: Organize Your Thoughts

Now it’s time to figure out the core topic and problem of a piece. Find its central claim and the evidence demonstrating that claim. What does make it different or similar to other corresponding works?

Brainstorm to come up with what you already know, think, and feel about the topic. Think of related ideas and associations arising when you try to analyze it. Once your thoughts are on paper, start organizing them: group all the ideas and identify the areas for further research.

You might need to  do research  and find secondary sources such as scholarly articles or online reviews by experts to understand the original piece better. Collect all the necessary references you might later need to give credit in your critical essay.

Step 3: State a Thesis

Your critical essay should have a one-sentence thesis with two components: a claim and details sustaining it. Based on the information you’ve gathered from the subject of evaluation (a book, a movie, etc.) and secondary sources, write a thesis that will specify your essay’s direction.


Hint:  When making a claim, answer the question, “What point am I trying to make?” If still in doubt, introduce your idea and evidence to a  thesis statement generator : it will craft a thesis draft that you’ll modify later (if needed) to reflect your position better.

Step 4: Write a Critical Essay Outline

You can’t write an essay without outlining. At least, it will help you  save time : here you’ll structurize all the points into paragraphs so it would be easier to write them later.

At this stage, you’ll have arguments and evidence to evaluate in essay paragraphs. Decide on the evidence that would support your thesis statement best.

Step 5: Write a Draft

Once the essay outline is ready, it’s time to write. (Yeap, finally!) Begin with an examination (a summary) of the work and respond to its central claim. Then, analyze and evaluate it with the evidence. And finally, conclude your critical essay with the emphasis on its most essential insights.

While writing, remember about academic style: stay formal and objective; use language precisely; remember about references; use transition words in paragraphs to guide readers and help them follow your train of thoughts.

Step 6: Edit and Improve

The best advice here would be to hold your completed draft for a short while and get some rest from writing. Then,  read your essay  a few times to see all the mistakes. You may do it yourself or ask a friend, a mom, or a groupmate to help you: they’ll see your essay from a different perspective, as readers, so it will be easier for them to identify weak points to edit.

Revise your essay, making all the necessary amendments until you see it’s perfect. To make sure it’s genuinely so, don’t hesitate to  ask writing service for professional help .


Creating a critical essay plan

To write critical essay correctly, you will need a work plan. This will make it possible not to be confused by your information and to do the work consistently. More often than not, only three basic steps will suffice:

  • The first thing to do is to write an introduction that will allow the topic to be disclosed, give the first argument, and strengthen the thesis.
  • Next, you must create the central part, consisting of at least three full paragraphs. Consistently give arguments, facts, figures, and comparisons.
  • Conclude with a proper conclusion. You can rephrase the thesis statement to make a circle between the end and the beginning of your paper.

Now you know how to write a critical essay introduction and can get started efficiently.

Tips for Writing a Critical Essay

Writing a critical essay is about your thinking skills. It’s an analysis- and argument-building process, and you need to practice a lot to develop essential skills of thinking. These tips will help you start and write academic papers that work, no matter if that’s a SAT essay , a dialectic essay , or any other type of college writing.

  • Practice smart reading.  It’s when you read a text, identifying and analyzing its specific details: an author’s claims, how he or she presents those claims, controversies surrounding the message, its strengths and weaknesses, its overall value, etc.
  • Read some examples of critical essays.  It will help to understand their structure and writing style. But don’t copy others’ ideas, trying to sound smarter! Develop your writing style, use the words you know, and introduce your ideas.
  • Start writing a critical essay in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment: you’ll need time to read and evaluate the source, find evidence, introduce your thesis, write, and edit your essay. The more time you have, the better.
  • Remember to introduce the author and the work  you’re going to evaluate in your essay.
  • Avoid the “I think” or “in my opinion” stuff  when writing. You need to focus on the work, not yourself. When expressing your opinion, do it third-person and back it up with evidence.
  • Always document quotes, paraphrases, and other references  you use in essays.
  • Resist the temptation of summarizing the source in general. If you start writing lengthy descriptions of all characters and the plot, stop and double-check if this information helps your analysis. Critical essays are about interpretation and evaluation, not retelling the plot.

Useful techniques used in writing a critical essay

Writing critical analysis essays can help you with a few useful tricks that even experts use during their work:

  • you need to create a clear thesis statement to follow throughout the paper;
  • work properly with textual evidence. Don’t leave only quotes in the paragraph and give clear examples;
  • try to break paragraphs in time to create the right pauses for readers and to move from description to critique.

By doing so, your chances of succeeding in your assignment will return several times over!

Critical Essay Structure

Most essay types have a standard structure that includes an introduction (with a thesis statement), a body (paragraphs with arguments and evidence to support the thesis), and a conclusion (with a thesis restatement and essential insights). A critical essay structure is not an exception here.

But before you start writing, craft an outline,  aka  a roadmap for your essay to make sure you won’t miss any critical detail while writing a draft.

Critical Essay Outline

When you have an essay plan, its writing becomes much easier. Consider the format: as a rule, critical essays have a standard structure that consists of an introductory paragraph, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use this template that will help you write a detailed outline for your critical essay :


Once you’ve completed the critical essay outline, it’s time to start writing. Do it quickly (you will have time to proofread and edit it later), paying attention to all the details from your outline.

Critical Essay Introduction

All essays have introductions, as it’s a part where you  hook readers , tell about the topic and its importance, and, therefore, persuade them to continue reading. But while the purpose of most introductions is to introduce the thesis, a critical essay introduction is more complicated.

  Here’s how to write a critical essay introduction:

  • First,  you need to introduce the author and the title of the work.
  • Second,  you need to state the author’s main point (of the entire work or the section you’re going to evaluate in your critical essay). Answer the question, “What does the author want readers to remember?”
  • Third,  you need to state (1-2 sentences) your evaluation of the work. (It will be your thesis statement.)
  • And finally, add any background information the reader might need to understand the work’s context (its overall topic, the controversy it might involve, etc.). While it’s not a narrative essay , you need to set the stage: the chances are, your audience didn’t read the work so they wouldn’t understand your essay without the provided background.

Critical Essay Body

It’s the most detailed part of your critical essay, and it involves several sections. Each section addresses a particular detail and evidence to support your thesis.

The first section is the work’s summary.

Write a short, objective, and unbiased report of the work (or its abstract) you’re evaluating in your critical essay. Here you need to tell about the author’s overall point and the main supports he or she offers for that point. Make sure to avoid your personal opinion: write a summary in the third person!

The second section is the work’s interpretation and evaluation.

It’s where your report ends, but your  analysis  starts. Here you’ll evaluate the work’s strong and weak parts, by the following criteria:

  • How accurate is the information in the work you’re criticizing?
  • Does it have or lack definitions and key terms?
  • Are there any controversies or hidden assumptions?
  • Is the author’s language clear?
  • Is the author fair? Does he or she cover both sides of the issue, without any bias?
  • Is the work’s organization logical? Does the author present all the points in a meaningful way?
  • Are there any gaps in his or her arguments?
  • What are (if any) the author’s fallacies? (Too emotional language, over-simplification, generalization, etc.)

After that, your interpretation comes. It’s not about judging (evaluation) anymore, but your response (opinion) on this work.

Ask yourself:

  • Where do I agree or disagree with the author?
  • What does he or she get right or wrong?
  • Would I recommend this work as a credible research source?

Your interpretation is, actually, the thesis of your essay. In this section, you’ll support the opinion you expressed in the thesis.

Critical Essay Conclusion

Yes, finally! Here comes the time to write a critical essay conclusion, and it doesn’t have to be too long. It’s like a reworded introduction, where you repeat the importance of your topic, reiterate the points you discussed, and summarize your interpretation.

  • Remind readers why this topic is essential.
  • Combine your evaluation and interpretation to focus on the work’s overall strengths and weaknesses.
  • State what makes the work so popular and successful.

Topics for writing a critical essay

A properly assembled structure of a critical essay will allow you to work with almost any topic without any problems. However, choosing it can take a while, so here are some cool examples to help you start proactively.

Topic 1Topic 2
Do online games affect children? How much harder the laptop will make work
 Is euthanasia humane? Effectiveness of road traffic regulation
 Racism in High School How much influence the media has on people’s opinions
 The benefits of inflation The human factor at work
 How pop culture has changed the way we think about gender stereotypes Can you improve your financial situation

Choose the topic closest to you and begin to study it in depth. This will allow you to accumulate the right argument and use it competently and quickly. Don’t forget to learn how to structure a critical essay and get to writing!

Critical Essay Examples

With tons of resources available online today, it’s not that difficult to find critical essay examples. But it’s challenging to find good ones . Here we have a couple of essay abstracts for you to get an idea of what a critical essay looks and sounds. Feel free to use them for informational and educational purposes only; don’t copy them word by word in your essays to avoid duplications and  accusations of plagiarism  from your educators.

Critical essay example #1  (the abstract, taken from examples.com):


Critical essay example #2  (the abstract, taken from examples.com):


More examples and explanations:

  • The University of Queensland: Critical reading and analysis
  • Thompson Rivers University: Critical analysis template
  • Nova Southeastern University : Critical essay

FAQ about Critical Essay

And now, for the most interesting part:

To make a long story short for you, here go answers to the most frequently asked questions about critical essay writing. Read them if you want your analytical essay to be A-worthy.

  • What type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay?

Make sure to use a formal language in critical essays. It’s about grammatical and pronunciation norms used in intellectual and academic activities. And since your essay is analytical and requires credibility, a formal language is what you need to make it sound so.

  • How to cite a critical essay?

For citing critical essays, use the MLA format. Name the author first, followed by the title. Then, specify the publication details, including the pages from where you take the quote or reference.


  • How to write a critical essay on movies?

Do it in the same ways as with books or articles. Watch the movie several times, engage with it critically: identify its core focus and message, interpret and evaluate it in the essay, and come up with the essential insights this movie gives to the audience.

  • How to write a self-critical essay?

Self-critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating your own writings. As a rule, educators assign them for you to reflect on your progress as a writer.

Such essays are not that difficult to craft. Follow the basic structure of a critical essay: write an introduction stating your thesis, a few body paragraphs analyzing your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and a conclusion that restates your thesis and sums up what you’ve learned about yourself. 

  • Can a critical essay be in the first person?

Yes, if you write a self-critical essay. But if you write about others’ works, use the third person only.

In a Word…

Don’t be afraid of writing a critical essay! Yes, essays are many, and it might seem impossible to learn the differences between them and the rules of writing them. But their basic structure is the same. All you need to do is identify the purpose of your assigned work and outline it accordingly.

Critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating the work of other writers. So, just read it, figure out what the authors wanted to say, think of whether you agree or disagree with them, and write a critical essay about all this stuff. Therefore, you develop critical thinking. You learn to introduce and prove your arguments.

And you understand how to share ideas with others so they’d listen and support you.

Related posts

  • Harvard Referencing Style: A Comprehensive Guide
  • What Is the Difference between Primary and Secondary Sources
  • Common Types of Plagiarism with Examples

Our Writing Guides

University of Sussex

  • Starting at Sussex
  • Critical thinking
  • Note-making
  • Presentations, seminars and group work
  • Reading and research
  • Referencing and academic integrity
  • Revision and exams
  • Writing and assessments
  • Time management

Maria introduces this section on writing and assessments

Maria: Welcome to this section on writing and assessments. Writing is a major part of your university life. In these pages, you'll find techniques and strategies to support you in the essay-writing process. You'll also find example essay types and features of academic writing. Additionally, you'll find information on how to make the most of your feedback. Over the academic year, we also run workshops on academic writing, so keep an eye out for those. Remember, we're here to help you.

There are six topics in this section relating to Writing and assessments:

Critical essay writing (this page) | Reflective writing | Reports | Dissertations | Academic writing style, editing and proof-reading | Feedback  | AI

A very large part of your time at university will be spent writing, since it is the main method of assessment used at Sussex. While essay-writing is an opportunity to show your tutor how much you have understood of your subject and how widely and deeply you have researched the question, this is not the main purpose of an essay. The most important purpose of an essay is to critically analyse the main ideas of a topic and to decide on your own viewpoint. You then present this viewpoint in the form of an argument, weighing the evidence for and against your proposition. So you need to develop the skills of analysing materials and demonstrating what is correct and incorrect about them, and synthesising materials, i.e. comparing and contrasting the many different sources and texts you come across.   

Therefore, it is important to develop your writing skills. As with all academic skills, you are not expected to have perfect academic writing when you arrive ; it is a skill that you will develop as you practise it more and more. In these pages, we show you how to adapt your writing to different written assessments.

Ann Marie talks about her first essay assignment and how to get started

Ann Marie: It's a very scary process. You would just sit to start writing and then completely shut off and you'd be like, 'I don't know what to do.' And then after a lot of times, there was once when I sat down to write it, I took the whole day and I didn't write even two lines. It used to be like, sit down, read certain things, go back again, have a cup of coffee or tea or something like that, come back thinking I'll make it, make two lines. But then it didn't happen. But then again, it's a process of again, going back to it, I guess. The problem is, the more you read, the more ideas you have, and then the more you don't know where to start. And you're so confused. And it was one of my friends, actually, I was probably, I just was so lost. And I probably spoke to one of my friends and he was like, 'You should just know when to stop reading.' And then sometimes, and my housemate, because she did a course at Sussex the year before. So she was really very helpful. So she said, 'Just write, just continue writing. Don't think about the word limit. Don't think about what you're writing. Don't think if there is a structure to it or if it's beautiful and it's what you want to present as final. Just keep writing. Put down your thoughts. Let it all be there on a paper, on a piece of paper.' And when you see it and then when you re-read it, you yourself can formulate it and structure it better. But if you just keep it in your head and not start anywhere, you're not going to get it out. So that was a good piece of advice, I felt. So then that's how I started. I just started writing whatever I wanted to, whatever I thought could be an answer. I didn't think about perfection at that time. Just went with the flow and then took a break, went around, came back, re-read it, reorganised it - it probably looked nothing like how I had started it off with, but then yeah.

What type of academic writing do you need to focus on?

There is a lot to think about and practice when it comes to academic writing. Look in at the six areas below and see which applies to you. You can go directly to the ones you want to focus on:

  • Have you been asked to write an essay and need help to understand what is involved? If yes , go to Critical essay writing below (this page) for a plethora of information on academic essays.
  • Have you been set a reflective writing assessment and are wondering what to do? If yes , head to Reflective Writing for more information (takes you to a different page).
  • Are you writing a report and trying to figure out its components? If yes , the section on Reports will help you out (takes you to a different page).
  • Do you have a dissertation  to write and need some pointers to help start you off? If yes , good Luck! Click over to Dissertations to get the basics plus some encouragement (takes you to a different page).
  • Do you need some support with writing in correct academic English style or want help with editing and proof-reading? If yes , try looking through the information on Academic writing style, editing and proof-reading to check you are following the guidelines (takes you to a different page).
  • Would you like to know how best to collect feedback from your assessments and how to benefit from it? If yes , the section on Feedback has useful advice on the best ways to deal with this (takes you to a different page).

Critical essay writing

Georgia talks about her first essay assignment.

Georgia: I think my first assignment was an essay for one of my modules. I found it quite overwhelming because it's just, 'Here's an essay topic - go away and do it.' Although I'd done essays before in A-level and I'd done psychology ones before, it wasn't to the same level, and I didn't have to do anywhere near the same kind of research. Doing research for the essay was probably one of the things that took maybe the most time, especially at the beginning. I used Library Search, which was fantastic, and that's what I still use to find most of my research because it's a great way to see what the university has access to and you can break it down into chunks for keywords for what you need for your assignment, and then it will just pull up everything that has that in it. Obviously, that's not something I knew straight away. And those were skills that I developed. But the first one was a lot of going through the marking criteria, going through research, trying to understand the research, trying to bring it all together and making sure I answered the question, which is quite important and it's very easy actually to derail from. Referencing as well was something that I'd done a bit of previously. I did an EPQ and I'd had to do referencing for that. So I'd had some experience, but figuring out the referencing style and things like that, which I used Skills Hub for. I also used referencing software and that really helped me and took a bit of the stress away from having to figure out how to do references and how to write long references. It put all my research into one place and kept it for me whereas I know lots of people who did research and then couldn't remember where they found that bit of information from. And so that really helped me with my first assignment.

For many students, writing critical essays will form the majority of their assessment at Sussex. Because setting out an argument is such an important part of academic work, learning how to do it well is fundamental for university success.

There are many parts to writing a successful essay. This list is a basic order, but most essays require moving back and forth between stages as you refine your thinking and writing, rather than following a strict linear path.

  • understanding the essay title or creating your own
  • planning for the length of your essay
  • researching the subject
  • creating a brief essay plan
  • developing the argument
  • adding counter-arguments
  • writing a detailed outline
  • developing the paragraphs
  • sticking to academic writing conventions
  • proof-reading.

In order to get a good grade, your essay must :

  • prove you understand the topic
  • answer the question
  • show that you have read widely
  • demonstrate you have evaluated the evidence
  • display critical thinking
  • have a clear argument
  • contain relevant information to support your argument
  • be well structured and organised
  • conform to academic style
  • use consistent and accurate referencing
  • be professionally presented
  • be grammatically correct
  • have been proofread for mistakes.

Essay Questions

Feedback from tutors often focuses on students not answering the question. It may be that you know plenty of information about the topic and are keen to show off everything that you have read, but if you do not focus on responding to the question, you will lose marks. Take time to make sure that you have understood exactly what the question means, or composed a question that you can answer with precision.

Sara and Tavian talk understanding essay questions and structure

Sara: So when I get a question, I really have to have a think about that because I know often times it's the case of when you write a perfectly good assignment, but you haven't answered the question. So I think I break down the question. I see what the keyword is. Is it 'evaluate', is it 'discuss', is it 'compare'? I think that is a key thing to look at. And then what they're actually asking of you and what you're answering. So when I'm writing my assignments, I always make sure when I'm done with the paragraph to read that paragraph back and see if it's actually adding to what the question has asked of me. And I think that's very important because you can be so invested in your work and just writing a lot, but then at the end you're not actually answering the question and you're not going to get any marks, no matter how good your writing is. So I think going back, reading it through and keeping the question in mind constantly really helps. Tavian: So the Skills Hub, I was mostly looking at the formatting of an essay because I hadn't really written an essay. As I mentioned, well reports are mostly what we do in the Business School, at least for my course in my modules. So it had been almost since first year since I'd written an essay, and so I just wanted to understand a little bit more, okay, what the difference was. You know, do you use appendices or not? Because reports are very appendix heavy. And so yeah, that was really helpful for me to understand then, okay, what's expected? And then I had to adapt my approach.

Essay questions at Sussex

There are different types of academic essays at university. You may start university with essay questions that ask for description and explanation. As you progress throught your course, there will be more focus on critical writing. See Critical Thinking for more details.


A description is not intended to persuade the reader to agree with a view. You will be asked to give an account of a concept or a process. It should be accurate and factual. The aim of this essay type is to give the reader an informed understanding of what is being described.


Similar to a description, the purpose of an explanation is not to convince the reader of a point of view. The aim of this essay type is to give explanations as to why or how something happens and to establish the meaning of a theory or argument. Unlike a description, it also includes causes, purposes and consequences.

Critical argument

The most common type of essay question. The aim of this essay is to state a clear position and present a persuasive line of argument in order to convince the reader of this particular view. An argument should consider alternative perspectives and be supported with evidence throughout.

Decoding your Essay Title

Here are some useful tips to help you understand the question:

  • highlight words which tell you the approach to take (the directive words)
  • circle the words which guide you on selecting the subject matter of the essay (the topic words)
  • underline the words which the question is asking you to focus on (the limiting words)
  • ask yourself what the essay is really looking for. Can you identify the central question? How many sections are there to it?
  • find the links between what you have learnt through reading or lectures and the title.

Cottrell, S. (2013)

Let’s look more at directive, topic and limiting words:

  • directive words tell you what you need to do
  • topic words show you what content you must discuss
  • limiting words provide boundaries for your essay.

Look at the example question below. Can you identify the directive, topic and limiting words?

Discuss critically how semantics and pragmatics both have a role in the understanding of meaning

Now look below to reveal the three parts that are indicated:

Directive = Discuss, critically, both

Topic = Semantics, pragmatics, the understanding of meaning

Limiting = have a role in

Now, practise by breaking down the following question into the three types of question words:

Review the evidence for links between cholesterol levels and heart disease, and evaluate the usefulness of cholesterol screening programmes in preventing heart disease.

Directive words

Making sure you understand the directive word helps to stay on task and answer the question.

Activity: Directive words

Use the Dialog cards below to reveal the meaning of some of the most common directive words (seven) used in essay questions (there is a text only version below the activity):

1. Compare = Identify the similarities of two or more things.

2. Criticise = Identify weaknesses and disadvantages. You should also point out favourable aspects, so it should be a balanced view.

3. Evaluate = Assess how important or useful something is.

4. Critically Evaluate = similar to evaluate / weigh up the arguments for and against / assess the strength of the evidence on both sides.

5. Analyse = Break an idea into parts and consider how they relate to each other – investigate.

6. Assess = weigh up how important something is – similar to evaluate.

7. Contrast = similar to compare / looks at the differences.

Devising your own Essay Question

As you progress through university, there will be opportunities to devise your own essay titles. While this may seem to be a luxury at first, it soon becomes clear that it is harder than you think!

Here are some key points to consider when creating your essay title:

  • check the marking criteria first. You’ll need to come up with a question that enables you to meet the criteria
  • consider the right kind of directive word for the topic. If there are two main competing theories in the literature, a compare and contrast essay might be suitable. If you want to explore an innovative approach, you might like to critically evaluate the evidence in support of and against it
  • some words are not suitable as directive words. Describe, for example, leads to purely descriptive writing. Analyse or Evaluate would be better alternatives
  • keep the title concise, and stick to just one question
  • you may choose to use a short quotation in your title, but make sure that it links to the academic debate you want to focus on. The quote may provide the topic and limiting words, but you might need to follow it with a typical essay question to focus your essay. For example:

‘ There is not a brick in the city but what is cemented with the blood of a slave .’ (Bristol Annalist, early 18th century)

Critically evaluate this assessment of the impact of the slave trade on Bristol.

  • essay titles do not always use directive words – it’s up to you whether to use them. This title does not contain a directive word

        ‘In what respects was the debate over slavery fundamental to later history of the British Empire?’

  • ask a friend or family member to read your title to make sure it can be understood.
  • check that you can find research evidence relevant to the topic.

Planning and Structuring your Essay

Saira and amelia talk about planning their essay structure.

Saira: For me, what I do is I first start with a plan, so I'll just have a general idea of what's my argument. Because for some modules or some degrees, I guess you might need to have a bit of a balanced argument, but I know for Law you need to be quite persuasive and you need to understand what it is that you're trying to argue and set that out in the beginning. A lot of people tend to think that you have to wait till the end to say what you want to say. But that's probably the worst way to go about it, because you're going to be lost while you're writing. So I usually just have a bullet-point plan with headings. What's my introduction, what are my middle paragraphs and what's my conclusion? And then I have a separate section where I think about what are my academic sources I'm going to use. How am I going to compare them? Do they show different points of views? And then I just make sure that I have all my referencing and things sorted out. And then I usually do about two drafts. So the first draft, I just write things in my own words. And then the second draft I go through and make it more formal and put in, you know, proper referencing and then make it look nice: 1.5 line spacing, edge to edge, Times New Roman size 12. And then, yeah, that's pretty much how I go through essays. Amelia: The biggest thing for me coming from high school into uni was analysis. In high school, a lot of the analysis was like, what was my personal analysis? And then I came to uni and they're like, no, no, no. Like, you can have an opinion, but it has to always be backed up by academic research. And so changing my analysis from a personal analysis to an academic analysis was hard and still is really hard. And like, it's not, 'What is your opinion?' It's, 'What is your opinion on the research?'

The planning and structuring of your essay goes hand in hand with reading and researching it. Usually, they both happen at the same time: as you read more and develop your knowledge and opinions on the subject, you start to picture the shape of the essay in your mind. And as the structure of the essay begins to become clear, you will know which sources of information you need to investigate more, and which you can leave behind. 

Basic Structure of Critical Essays

Critical essays have three sections: an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion  (or a discussion for science-based essays) .  

You can imagine an essay like an hourglass, with the introduction and the conclusion/discussion as the wide top and bottom parts, where the general context of the essay is discussed. The main body is the very narrow part of the hourglass, where the focus is on very specific aspects of the topic . 

Read  the lists below of which   features are found in the three main parts:


  • the hook - a strong statement or surprising fact about the topic which engages the reader
  • background information - some background information about the topic. For example, a brief history or an explanation of the context
  • a thesis statement – what your argument and position is. This is the most important part of your essay and what the essay can be reduced down to. All the other parts of your essay act as extra details to your thesis statement. 
  • signposting - tell your reader what you will cover.
  • topic sentences – the sentence in each paragraph which outlines its main idea. 
  • use of sources, explanations, examples and data to support your topic sentence idea. Most essays, and all science-based ones, need multiple sources per paragraph.  
  • critical analysis of the evidence and sources. (In science-based essays, rgis comes in the discussion )
  • concluding sentences – final sentences in each paragraph which sum up the idea and may link back to the next question or to the next point.

Conclusion (for non-science-based essays)

  • a brief restatement of your argument
  • a summary of your main points
  • a strong closing statement - perhaps a prediction or a recommendation.

Discussion (for science-based essays)

  • a brief summary of your argument
  • critical analysis of the evidence and sources
  • a strong closing statement - perhaps the implications of your argument on other parts of the discipline, or a recommendation for more research.

Remember! Stating that ' more research is needed ' is not a very useful recommendation. Be specific about what the research should be on and what it should attempt to find out. 

There is more information on each of these sections below.

Planning for length

Planning starts with understanding your task, how much time you have, the number of words you have to write and what direction you're going to take.

Before you embark on research, give yourself realistic goals for the amount of material you need by sketching out a plan for length. This helps to breakdown the task into manageable sections, and to focus your reading.

Access this YouTube video talking about ' Planning for length '

Writing an essay outline

Elena talks about the structure of her science essay.

Elena: Once we have the essay topic - I found it also at the beginning very hard to just start writing. So what I do is I just write down thoughts or some bullet points of what I think I want my essay to go into. What I want to discuss, what the topics I want to include are, maybe some details, some of my thoughts. So I write that down first and then I actually don't have a structure I don't start with the introduction or I don't start with the conclusion. I usually start with what I feel most comfortable. So I take one of those bullet points that I jotted down. I do further research into it. Well, this is because it's also scientific, so it's a bit different. So I do research into it. I write notes, and I continue writing notes on what I find, and I just put that all into the document. Then once I have that, I begin to structure it. So I do the structuring later so that I have all the information that I want to include already in the document. So I structure it. And then what we have in scientific essays that's really important is the abstract or something that resembles an abstract, where in the introduction you have to include a summary of what the essay is about and the conclusions also. So then I work on that so that I have something that clearly defines what my essay will be about. So I work on that, and then I go into the body and then into the conclusions. And as a scientific essay or scientific topic, we always appreciate further research - like a little section of further research. So I develop that into the conclusion. And yeah, slowly, slowly it takes time. Editing, re-editing, maybe even proofreading. Having someone to proofread your essay is also very important. And yeah, like a student mentor. In first year, I would always go to student mentors to discuss my essay, how I can Improve it, how like critical opinions are always appreciated and what I did good as well, both negative and positive feedback.

After you have planned for length, you can start your research .

Before you plan the content of your essay, you need to decide a clear position on the question (e.g. you disagree with the question's statement, or you have identified the main reason for the phenomenon mentioned in the question) and think about a line of argument (i.e. how are you going to persuade the reader that you are correct?) You should identify evidence to support your argument, and find at least one counter-argument.

Next comes the writing! But starting an essay can be daunting, because you may not know exactly what to write about and in what order.  So, an easier step is to create a outline. It will also help you to stay on track throughout the process.  

An essay outline is like the skeleton of your essay. You include the essential information, and can play around with the order until you are happy with it. This is the experimental phase of your writing. Don't worry about writing full sentences or including every reference. Correct spelling and grammar aren't important in this phase. It's only after the essay outline is complete that you can start writing full sentences. You won't need to worry about wondering what each paragraph will be about or where to add a particular reference - you've already decided all this in your essay outline. 

 Your essay outline can be more or less detailed depending on what helps you. Some things you could include in your outline are:

  • a word count for each section
  • your thesis statement (main overall argument) in the introduction
  • topic sentences describing the main idea of each main body paragraph
  • concluding sentences for each main body paragraph
  • citations and references.

Experiment with how much detail works for you in your plan. It is almost impossible to write well without planning something beforehand, but it is also easy to overplan as an excuse not to get writing!

Access this blank  PDF  Essay plan template: Structure of an essay.

Access this YouTube video talking about ' Planning for content'

Developing your argument

Imagine that you want to change the brand of coffee that you buy for you and your flatmates. By reading and researching, you have investigated the different options, and with critical thinking, chosen the one you want to switch to. You now decide to gather your flatmates together and persuade them that the coffee you want to get is better than the coffee you all currently drink.

Coffee cup

 “ Stylised coffee mug ” by freesvg.org is licensed under CC0 .

Just like for a critical essay, in order to win them over you’ll need to develop your argument. It might be best to write down all of your the reasons for changing and deciding which ones are most likely to be persuasive:

  • there are both caffeinated and decaf varieties
  • the company has a carbon-offsetting scheme
  • I really like the flavour
  • it’s cheaper than the current choice
  • it reminds me of my holiday in Italy
  • it’s fair-trade.

You can probably cut out the personal reasons to persuade your flatmates because there isn’t any objective evidence for them. You are left with:

  • tthe company has a carbon-offsetting scheme

Next, how are you going to group these points? Carbon-offsetting and fair-trade are both about sustainability, so your argument will be clearer if these two points are kept together.

  • the company has a carbon-offsetting scheme and the coffee is fair-trade
  • it’s cheaper than the current choice.

Now think about the order they should be in. Which one of your reasons packs the biggest punch? All of your flatmates want to save money, so this is probably the best reason to put first. Decaf coffee isn’t drunk very often in your flat, so this one can go last.

  • there are both caffeinated and decaf varieties.

Your flatmates are going to want proof of what you say, so make sure you include evidence to back up each of your reasons for wanting to change coffee. 

  • it’s cheaper than the current choice. Show them a receipt
  • the company has a carbon-offsetting scheme and the coffee is fair-trade. Open up the company website
  • there are both caffeinated and decaf varieties. Bring them some examples!

You’ve also found a counter-argument to swapping brands: Your coffee is only available in two shops in town. Let’s bring this up last of all since it isn’t really related to price, sustainability or varieties of coffee. To make sure your flatmates don’t agree with the counter-argument, you need to explain why it isn’t such a big problem. Put the counter argument at the end. 

  • the brand is only available in two shops in town. However, one shop is on the bus route back from campus and you are happy to pick some up when needed.

Of course, you’ll start and end explaining that you want to change coffee brands.

You might not succeed in convincing your flatmates to switch what they put in their lattes, but you have succeeded in developing an argument. The process is the same for developing an argument in an essay, but with a bigger word count and more complex topics!

Complete the checklist to make sure you have done everything you can to develop the best argument possible.

  • I’ve decided on my position
  • I have a number of reasons for my position
  • I’ve selected the reasons that are most persuasive and I have evidence for
  • I’ve put the reasons into groups that are connected in some way
  • I’ve ordered the reasons/groups of reasons, putting the strongest ones first
  • I’ve attached my evidence to each reason
  • I’ve thought of some counter-arguments to my position and I have included their weaknesses in my essay.

Access this excellent YouTube video on ' How do I develop an argument? '

For extra resources, look at Making an Argument .

Main Body Paragraphs

If your essay is a sandwich, and the introduction and conclusion are the slices of bread at the top and the bottom, then your main body paragraphs are the filling. This is where you will put the main flavour to your essay – the arguments, the details, the evidence, the examples etc. Get this right and the rest of your essay becomes much easier to write.

Remember that for each main idea, you need a new paragraph, for example one effect of a situation; one reason why you agree with the question; one event in a timeline. Putting all the reasons why you agree with the question in one paragraph is too confusing for the reader, and will probably be a very long paragraph. Likewise, splitting paragraphs by the different sources that you have found (e.g. Paragraph 1: source 1 says this...., Paragraph 2: source 2 says this....) is also not a good idea if both sources are talking about the same concepts. It's better to put each of the concepts that they both discuss in individual paragraphs, showing the reader that you have synthesised their opinions.

The structure of a paragraph

Paragraphs tend to follow a general structure. You can adapt it to your needs but always keep in mind the main shape:

  • start with a topic sentence, which tells the reader the main idea of the paragraph. This main idea should of course fit with your argument
  • next, you can give more detail on the main point. What does it mean? What are the ins and outs? What are the reasons for it? What are its implications? Why is it important? What examples are there?
  • you need to include sources (usually more than one) to back up your main point, or the details of the main point.
  • a good way to include sources - especially in science-based essays - is to use the fact:citation sentence pattern. This is a paraphrased fact, followed by the citation of the source. Keeping to this sentence pattern makes it easy for the reader to follow your argument and not get distracted by your referencing. 
  • avoid starting or ending paragraphs with a reference.
  • to round off, write a concluding sentence which summarises the paragraph or links to the question or the next paragraph.

You may also find this structure called the PEEL model of paragraph writing.

Let's look at an example of a paragraph:

Paragraph sectionExampleEffect
Topic Sentence The reader understands that this paragraph will explain the negative effects of the Iraq War on the Labour Party votes, focusing particularly the perceptions of Blair’s character.
Details A detail about the negative effects on Blair of the war.
Example An example of a negative effect of the war on the internal politics of the Labour party. This effect is more serious than the next one, so goes first.
Example Another example of a negative effect of the war on the Labour party inner workings, so is immediately afterwards. Important to include in the essay, but less significant than the previous, so it goes second.
Example Another example of the effects of the war. The writer feels the public view is less relevant to the main point than the issues within the Labour party, so this goes third.
Link (plus source) A final example to back up the main point that Blair’s character was damaged by the Iraq War. This sentence includes a source for the assertion and is in fact a link to the next paragraph which discusses the media response to the war.

Using Evidence

The quality of evidence you have in your essay depends on how well you’ve done your reading and note-making. How well you present the evidence depends on the quality of your plan. In each main body paragraph, you have a main point, and further details you want to address. Select relevant evidence from your notes during the planning stage so that you know which evidence belongs to which point, and weave it into the paragraph to support your argument. It can be very tempting to include material that isn't relevant because you’ve worked hard to collect it and it's interesting. However, if it doesn't fit with your argument, leave it out.

Synthesising evidence

In order to develop an argument, you have to consult and refer to a variety of different views. This shows the reader that you have read widely, and you have presented a balanced, non-biased argument. It’s very likely that you'll need to use more than one source per paragraph in order for your argument to develop. Putting these different sources together, or synthesising them, is an important academic skill. It can show that there are multiple people with the same view on a topic, or can help highlight the nuances between different schools of thought.

Read this example of a main body paragraph using synthesis of two sources:

The first topic sentence tells us that the paragraph will look at fabrication being a part of psychotic behaviour, and the second sentence gives more detail on this. The third and fourth sentences synthesise what Elphick and Mitchell write, since both have similar opinions. Note the synthesising language:

  • and this viewpoint is also found in
  • both Elphick and Mitchell see fabrication as
  • albeit to varying degrees (This phrase acknowledges that there are some differences between Elphick’s and Mitchell’s work).

There are many more phrases that can be used to synthesise different sources! Keep an eye out for them when you are reading and note down useful ones.

Refuting Counter-arguments

Including counter-arguments in your essay shows that you have considered views that contradict ones which you have presented but have decided that they are not strong enough to sway your opinion. Using the synthesis table above, include a main idea that does not agree with your thesis and find some sources for it. Using your critical thinking skills, make sure to demonstrate why these main ideas are incorrect or refute them

Some counter-arguments may disagree with a small detail of a paragraph. In this case, it is fine to include them as one or two sentences towards the end of a paragraph. Other counter-arguments may disagree with a main point, or an entire section of your essay. If so, they deserve a paragraph or more dedicated to them. Read this example of a paragraph addressing and then refuting a main counter-argument.

This section of the essay is in support of Kernohan’s theories, but it would lose marks if the student did not mention some opponents of Kernohan. The topic sentence makes clear that this paragraph will introduce some counter-arguments, with more details in the second half of the sentence. Bayliss’ position is summarised, and then the rest of the paragraph explores the weaknesses of Bayliss’ argument.

Note the specifical language for refutation:

  • however, Bayliss’s research did not take into account
  • while it is true that (This is a concession that Kernohan’s work is not perfect, but the student then shows why this is not a big problem).

Like synthesis, there are many more phrases that can be used to refute counter-arguments, and you can collect them while you are reading. Look at this Academic Phrasebank for some great examples.

Writing Introductions, Conclusions and Discussions

While you are reading, pay attention to how the introductions and conclusions/discussions that you come across are written. Are the introductions similar to each other? Does each conclusion/discussion have a comparable structure?

Introductions should:

  • introduce your topic, giving some background information such as a brief history or the current context
  • explain how you have understood the question, in particular any terms that may have multiple interpretations
  • include your position - your thesis statement. For example, do you agree or disagree with the essay title topic?
  • list the issues you are going to discuss. Why are these the important ones? List them in the same order they appear in your essay
  • be roughly 10% of your word count.

Triangle pointing down with text. Read text version below

A triangle is overlaid in text going down the triangle to signify the scope, starting wide at the top and becoming narrower at the bottom, we have:

1) the background, history/context

2) definition of terms

3) the specifics of the topic in question

4) a thesis statement and position

Conclusions/Discussions should:

  • restate your position
  • summarise your main points
  • make it clear why your conclusions are important or significant
  • include a strong closing statement. This could be a prediction for the future, reference to further research, or a suggestion for a way forward

Triangle pointing down with text. Read text version below

A triangle is overlaid in text going down the triangle to signify the scope, starting at the pointed top and becoming wider at the bottom, we have:

1) restate position

2) summarise main points

3) strong closing statemnet

Other topics in this section relating to Writing and assessments:

Critical essay writing (this page) | Reflective writing | Reports | Dissertations | Academic writing style, editing and proof-reading | Feedback


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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

There are five key steps to writing a literature review:

  • Search for relevant literature
  • Evaluate sources
  • Identify themes, debates, and gaps
  • Outline the structure
  • Write your literature review

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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the structure of a critical essay

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Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).


The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.


If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources


A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved June 9, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/

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    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

  25. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.