How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay: Examples & Guide

A critical analysis essay is an academic paper that requires a thorough examination of theoretical concepts and ideas. It includes a comparison of facts, differentiation between evidence and argument, and identification of biases.

Crafting a good paper can be a daunting experience, but it will be much easier if you have the right approach. In this guide by our custom writing team, you will find:

  • Different types of critical analysis;
  • Best ways to structure your essay;
  • Two excellent critical analysis essay examples.

📝 What Is a Critical Analysis?

Criticism is the process of appraising things such as works of art and literature. It comes from the word meaning “able to make judgments”. A critical analysis essay is often referred to as a critical thinking essay, critical response paper, critical evaluation essay, and summary and response essay.

When we hear the word “criticism,” we often associate it with negative judgments. However, to criticize doesn’t necessarily mean to find faults. Even though criticism involves active disagreement, it strives to understand the meaning further and evaluate its efficiency. We call it constructive criticism.

In other words, critical analysis is an evaluation of a piece of work that promotes its better understanding. Have a look at this comparison and see what critical analysis is and what it isn’t:

Critical analysis is:Critical analysis is not:
  • Evaluation of an argument
  • Analysis of artworks, events, and issues
  • Examination of different points of view
  • A mere summary
  • A deliberate process of finding flaws
  • A personal reflection on facts and biases

Aside from art and literature, critical analysis is often used in theoretical research, nursing, and social work. In any of these areas, you have an opportunity to exercise your critical faculties.

Analysis in Writing: Definition & Examples

Analysis is a step you take before writing any paper. It’s aimed at evaluating and interpreting the sources. To do it, you break them down and study them in detail. You can learn more from this article on critical analysis by Southeastern Louisiana University.

In the following table, we’ve compiled several forms of analysis in writing and illustrated each type with a topic example:

Type of AnalysisExplanationTopic example
Rhetorical Analysis The purpose of this analysis type is to discover how a text persuades its readers. It can help you develop an ability to detect manipulations. Techniques that Sir Ken Robinson to emotionally appeal to the viewer in his TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Process Analysis This form of analysis divides a business, social, or political process into several steps. There are two distinct types of process analysis:
  • Instructions on how to achieve a result;
  • Explanations of how something works or occurs.
How to purify water using carbon filtering.
Causal Analysis This type of analysis focuses on the events that already happened and may try to predict what will happen in the future. Counter-arguments are a crucial part of the causal analysis. Causes and effects of internet addiction among younger generations.
Critical analysis This type of analysis aims to evaluate a work and to promote its better understanding. The role of Zen Buddhism in JD Salinger’s Nine Stories.

What Is the Difference between Summary and Analysis?

Students often confuse analysis with summary and get a lower grade as a result. Here is how two notions differ. A summary is a brief restatement of the text’s main points that involves paraphrasing. An analysis is a detailed examination of the evidence that uncovers something new.

Check out this comparison to understand the difference better:

SummaryAnalysis
  • Restates information
  • Presents only the facts
  • Doesn’t add anything new
  • Interprets ideas
  • Involves personal understanding
  • Finds additional meanings

✍️ How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay

Now, we will show you the steps to writing a critical analysis with examples to guide you through this process. Keep in mind that the purpose of your critical analysis paper is to help readers understand a subject to a full extent.

The picture shows the 2 stages of critical analysis.

Critical analysis consists of two stages: critical reading and critical writing. Read on to learn more about them.

Critical Reading Examples & Definition

Critical reading a technique that involves discovering and evaluating the text’s meaning and incorporating it into what you already know. It’s the first stage of critical analysis.

According to Cleveland State University, critical reading occurs after you’ve skimmed the research material and decided where to focus your efforts. While you are reading, use the following techniques to stay on track:

  • Determine the central claim and identify how it is argued;
  • Look for the large patterns that give purpose, order, and meaning to arguments;
  • Contextualize the text within an original historical, political, or religious context;
  • Distinguish the kinds of reasoning and methodology the text employs;
  • Examine the evidence;
  • Recognize manipulations.

When it comes to recognizing manipulations, authors use three persuasive appeals to convince their readers of something: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos Ethos, or the appeal to ethics, refers to the author’s effort to convince you of their credibility through appropriate language. It refers to the author’s reputation and the reader’s trust.
Pathos Pathos, or the appeal to feelings, refers to the effort to persuade a reader by making them feel a particular emotion. It is achieved through language, tone of voice, use of anecdotes, and metaphors.
Logos Logos, or the appeal to rationality, is persuasion through logic and reason. Storytelling, historical facts, recorded evidence, and exceptional arguments are the authors’ tools to convince you.

Now, let’s apply the critical reading techniques to an actual text:

Example:

The death estimates during the US invasions of Tokyo were exaggerated by a factor of ten to twenty. The wartime casualty estimates were based on inaccurate assumptions. The data was not updated to exclude the civilians’ deaths and justify the strategic decision to drop off an atomic bomb.

  • What is the text saying? US bombs killed up to two million people.
  • What is the text doing? The death estimates were exaggerated to downplay the casualties and emphasize the importance of dropping the atomic bomb.

When you are able to recognize these persuasive modes in your reading, you can master them in writing.

What Is Critical Writing: Definition & Techniques

Critical writing is a process of commenting on another piece of work using several writing strategies. It is the second stage of critical analysis.

Want to know how to write critically? Have a look at the following tips:

  • Take a critical stance: recognize that every text comes from a perspective and is subject to interpretation.
  • Pay close attention: look not only for the facts but also for explanations.
  • Think big picture: put your sources in context with the time it was written.
  • Bring yourself in: consider the connections between several texts and add your own perspective.

When it comes to the critical writing, certain strategies can be beneficial. Yet, others are better to avoid. We’ve compiled the most important dos and don’ts in the table below:

✔️ Dos❌ Don’ts
  • Do your research well. The more thorough you are with your primary and additional sources, the stronger your argument will be.
  • Use persuasive writing techniques. Credible sources and strong arguments will help you to prove your point.
  • Present your argument with confidence. The way you communicate your point and structure your paper will determine how confident your writing sounds.
  • Compare and contrast. Present the reader not only with facts and quotes but also with in-depth research and thorough analysis.
  • Too much descriptive writing. The only essay part where you can take advantage of descriptive writing is the summary.
  • Assuming something is simply true. Question your sources and always back up your arguments.
  • “I” statements. Instead of drawing attention to yourself, focus on the strengths or weaknesses of the piece you are analyzing.
  • Not citing your sources. Always use proper citation style and have works cited page at the end of your paper.
  • Not proofreading your work. Instead, re-read it out loud. Look for mistakes and missing information.

Want to learn more? Check out our article on critical writing.

Critical Analysis Essay Topics: How to Choose

Now that you’ve learned about critical analysis, there is a big question to answer: how do you choose the topic for your essay? It might require using a specific strategy to make the right choice.

Many students find it helpful to have a list of critical thinking questions to answer while brainstorming. We’ve prepared them for you:

  1. Theme: How well does the author approach the central theme? Are the arguments strong enough?
  2. Organization: Is this piece of work well-structured and easy to follow?
  3. Audience: Who is the audience? Are there any manipulations the author is using to persuade the reader?
  4. Tone: Is there a specific tone used by the author throughout their work? How does it affect the reader?
  5. Bias and informational gaps: Does the author look at their work from several angles? Are there any contradicting arguments or missing information?
  6. Word choice: Does the author invent new words? Is the vocabulary serious or silly, casual or technical? How does it affect the overall writing?
  7. Logos: Does the author use logic to prove their point?
  8. Ethos: Does the author have any proof of their credibility? Do they claim to be an expert? In what ways is the reader’s trust gained?
  9. Pathos: Does the author use emotion to connect with the reader? Does the writing appeal to common beliefs and values?

Answering these questions will help you with deciding on critical thinking essay topics. If you want some additional inspiration, feel free to use our topic generator.

Critical Analysis Template

After carefully analyzing all of your sources, you can start writing your first draft using our critical analysis template. Use this outline to structure your essay and to ensure your arguments are related to your thesis.

The picture shows the main parts of a critical analysis essay.

How to Start a Critical Analysis Essay

To create an outstanding opening paragraph, you may want to start it with a hook. It can be a quote from your source or a rhetorical question. Be sure to make it catchy so that it will grab your reader’s attention.

After you’re done with the hook, write the following:

  • the work’s title and some background information,
  • an outline of the main ideas from your sources,
  • your thesis statement.

Here are two introduction examples for your inspiration:

Example:

What happens when there is a considerable wage gap between the upper and middle classes? The unsurprising reality forces poor people to use credit cards to pay off their debt. Credit card industries collect interest from those who can’t pay off their debt right away.

Example:

A romantic novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is about overcoming social stereotypes in the name of love. Its main character, Elizabeth Bennet, has to fight against her discrimination against wealthy men like Mr. Darcy to find love and be happy.

Critical Analysis Essay: Thesis

A thesis statement is what you are aiming to prove. Ideally, it should be the first thing you write because every other part of your critical analysis paper will be connected to it.

To create a strong thesis statement, you want to start with a broader idea of what you would like to critique. Then, you narrow it down. Choose a debatable thesis so you can back it up with evidence from your sources and anchor your entire paper around it.

The examples below will help you write your essay’s thesis:

Example:

People in positions of power are less likely to recognize the social injustice than marginalized groups of the civilian population.

Example:

In a 1989 American superhero film Batman, Tim Burton subverts the concept of heroism by refraining Batman from murder and making him morally ambiguous.

Critical Analysis Essays: Summary and Response

The body paragraphs of a critical essay consist of your source’s summary and a response with arguments.

The picture shows the 2 stages of analyzing sources for a critical essay.

A summary should present specific facts from your source to help your reader understand your arguments better. You can use these sentence starters to structure a summary:

  • The book is about…
  • The theme of the article is…
  • The author argues that…
  • The author concludes…
  • The main character is…
  • The main points are…

Example:

The main plot of Elizabeth Bennet’s plan to save her family from poverty intersects with stereotypes that romantic love and marriage don’t go together. She does not accept a marriage proposal from Mr. Darcy because she does not want to be walking proof that women marry for money. The rejected proposal leads Darcy to open up and change Elizabeth’s perception of him.

A response should present your main arguments that support your thesis statement. Each argument is a sub-thesis that connects to your central thesis. It’s crucial to discuss each point in detail and prove it with strong evidence.

Your arguments should be:

  • clear, informative, and persuasive;
  • well-researched and backed up with solid evidence;
  • connected to your thesis.

Example:

At first, Elizabeth Bennet sees Mr. Darcy only as a powerful man with wealth and high social status. For her, he represents a marriage of convenience that she is so desperately trying to fight against. After Mr. Darcy attempts to separate Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth gets proof for her ideas about powerful men who do everything in their power to destroy a loving relationship for a better financial suit.

Critical Essay Outline: Conclusion

The final stage of essay writing is to ensure you have proven your arguments. The goal of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your thesis and the essay’s main points. You may also want to leave them with some final statements for consideration.

Keep in mind that the concluding paragraph is not a place to introduce new evidence. Instead, you can do the following:

  • Restate your thesis;
  • Summarize your main ideas;
  • Talk about the work’s overall performance or outcome;
  • Identify potential opportunities for further research or investigation.

Example:

Elizabeth Bennet struggles with the societal association of marriage with financial stability. Eventually, she marries a rich man, Mr. Darcy, but she marries him for love rather than his money and social status. Her pride and prejudice towards him were destroyed by his acts of kindness and true love. Their relationship had a rough start, but both of them could get their happy ending by breaking out of old beliefs and habits.

✅ Types of Critical Analysis

Choosing the correct type of analysis will help you stay on track with your research objectives. It will give you the anchor to develop your essay around in a systematic manner.

Critical analysis can be categorized into 4 main types:

  • Literary analysis gives a critical evaluation of a literary text.
  • Article analysis reflects upon arguments presented in an article.
  • Media analysis essay interprets messages conveyed through visual media, music, or radio.
  • Cultural analysis interprets cultural phenomena and practices.

Literary Analysis: Definition & Characteristics

Literary analysis is an argument that expresses one’s critical evaluation of a poem, novel, short story, or play. A critique of literature has the same characteristics as other types of critical essays. The difference is the kind of information you can include in this type of essay.

Here’s how to analyze literature:

Introduction
  • Identify the title, author, and genre of writing.
  • State the topic of your essay.
Thesis
  • Consider the work’s strengths or weaknesses.
  • Focus on characters, tone, use of symbols, themes, etc.
Main body
  • Tell about the main points of the work.
  • Assess the author’s use of language, characters, and themes.
  • Add any background information that will help the reader understand what you are analyzing.
  • Use quotes to support your thesis.
Conclusion
  • Summarize the main point of your argument.
  • Restate your thesis.
  • Write a broader statement to provoke further thought.

You will find more interesting info in our article on literary analysis essays

How to Write an Analysis of an Article

Critical analysis of an article aims to analyze the writing strategies and techniques an author uses to develop their argument. The process is a little different than persuading the reader to accept a particular point of view. Here is a sample outline: 

Introduction
  • Introduce the author and the work under analysis.
  • Summarize the main points of the article’s content.
Thesis
  • Offer your opinion on the article.
  • Allude to elements being analyzed.
  • Outline your discussion.
Main body
  • Analyze only the most notable features of the article.
  • State what you think of the author’s thesis.
  • Examine the writer’s tone and attitude.
  • Analyze the original audience.
Conclusion
  • Share what you thought of the article and why.
  • State whether you liked it or not.

Critical Film Analysis: Types & How to Write

Film analysis goes beyond the plot structure and includes composition elements such as camera work, lighting, costume choices, etc. After watching the film at least twice, you can select what type of film analysis you will be performing. Check out the types and see what they’re about:

  • Semiotic analysis involves interpretation of signs and symbols within a film.
  • Narrative analysis examines the story the film seeks to tell.
  • Historical analysis is an examination of a film’s relationship to a cultural or historical context.
  • Mise-en-scène analysis is an analysis of compositional elements used in a scene or a single shot.

Once you’ve chosen a topic, use this outline to guide you through the writing process:

Introduction
  • Introduce the film’s title, the director’s name, and the release date.
  • State the theme or the aspect you focus on.
Thesis
  • You can focus the thesis on the movie’s theme.
  • Alternatively, you may analyze its compositional elements, lighting, sound design, costume choice, and editing.
Main body
  • Give an overview of the film’s primary concepts.
  • Note everything related to its style and structure.
  • Discuss the director’s ability to achieve their goal.
Conclusion
  • Summarize your findings.
  • Restate your thesis.
  • End with a call-to-action to urge your reader to watch the film after your reading your paper.

You can learn more from our article on film analysis

How to Write a Cultural Analysis Essay

Critical analysis essay refers to your comment upon one specific cultural aspect that works or doesn’t work in a society. After you’ve chosen a topic for your cultural analysis paper, you can start drafting your outline. Here is how the structure of this kind of paper differs from others: 

Introduction
  • Start with a hook.
  • Write a brief overview of the cultural aspect you analyze.
Thesis
  • Focus it on the causes and effects of cultural phenomena.
  • Alternatively, you can analyze its strengths or flows.
Main body
  • Perform the analysis of the phenomenon.
  • Include arguments advancing a unique concept.
  • Add evidence, examples, statistics, and quotes.
Conclusion
  • Summarize arguments to confirm that you’ve proven your thesis.
  • Make predictions about the future of the cultural issue.

📑 Critical Analysis Essay Examples & Bonus Tips

The following writing tips will help you understand how to apply your critical thinking skills in practice and write an excellent critical essay on your own.

Critical Essay Format & Free Samples

Looking for some tips on how to format your paper? This section reflects the latest guidelines for citing your sources with the latest APA 7th and MLA 9th publication manuals. 

APA formatMLA format
Font
  • 11-point Calibri or Arial.
  • 12-point Times New Roman.
  • 12-point Times New Roman.
Title page and general guidelines
  • Page-number aligned top right.
  • Title of the paper in bold, centered, in top half of the page.
  • Your name, university, course name and number, instructor’s name, and due date.
  • 1-inch margins, double-spaced.
  • Running head with your name and page numbers.
  • 1-inch margins, double-spaced.
  • Your name, instructor’s name, course and the date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page.
  • Centered title in title case.
Abstract
  • Separate page.
  • The word “Abstract”, centered and in bold.
  • No more than 250 words.
Not required.
Reference page Sources in alphabetical order. Sources in alphabetical order.

Before you dive into writing your critical analysis paper, get inspired with some compelling essay examples. The first is a film analysis example. You can download the PDF file below: 

Example:

The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock is a thriller that derives its suspense from the violence which stands on the borderline with divine retribution. The birds of the film are the symbol of the said violence and primary actors that contribute to the semiotic revelations of the film.

A Semiotic Analysis of Hitchcock's The Birds
Download the free sample

The following critical analysis essay is concerned with a literary work. You can download it below: 

Example:

Feminism has been influential in various aspects of society for many decades. With the beginning of women’s emancipation, humanity has progressed not only in political and social life but also in science, culture, and literary studies. A feminist standpoint in literature research points to the limited portrayal of the characters in literary works, which showed the world mainly from a patriarchal perspective.

An Analysis of Shakespeare's Macbeth from a Feminist Perspective
Download the free sample

Bonus Tips: Critical Thinking 

Critical thinking is the process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. It is about careful reasoning directed to a goal. The main components of this process include observing, wondering, imagining, experimenting, judging, and deciding.

This type of thinking is instrumental in conducting a critical analysis. To succeed at it, you need to be attentive, confident, and open-minded. Below are some questions that you can ask yourself while thinking critically:

  • Why are you being told this? 
  • What are you not being told? 
  • Who is telling you this? 
  • How reliable is this information? 
  • Are there any manipulations involved? 
  • How else can you analyze the same material? 

Critical thinking is a skill that develops with time and effort. However, you may encounter barriers that can prevent you from making accurate judgments. The following tips will help you overcome them:

  • Step back from your personal feelings and biases
  • Look for different ways to examine the data
  • Check your sources for reliability
  • Do your best to detect manipulations in arguments
  • Always conceptualize what you are reading
  • Challenge your worldview

Want to learn more? Feel free to check out our article on critical thinking essays

Now you know everything necessary to write a perfect critical analysis essay. Feel free to share this article or leave a comment!

Further reading

❓ Critical Analysis Essay FAQs 

How is the theme treated when writing a response to a literature essay?

When analyzing any literary text, it is essential to evaluate the work and use the theme to support your opinion. The response’s goal is to show the reader what the selection of the source and the theme means to you personally.

What is the purpose of a response to a literature essay?

The purpose of a response to a literature essay is to inform your reader about something interesting and insightful you found in a literary work. It may focus on the characters, plot, or theme of the story.

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

In a critical essay, choose the formal language and avoid using “I” statements. Focus on the piece you are analyzing, its strengths, and weaknesses. Using the first-person singular will take away the reader’s attention from your argument to you.

What is a critical source?

A critical source is a source that interprets, analyzes, critiques, and adds to the discussion of the primary source. It is then integrated into critical writing. The best critical sources can be found through library catalogs and scholarly databases.

🔍 References

Comments

Check the price of your paper