It has happened, perhaps for the very first time in your university education. You have been given an assignment and now you are wondering how to write a critique. You feel the panic rising because you aren’t sure you can pull it off.
Here’s the thing:
Writing a critical essay is really no big deal! When learning how to write a critique paper, you will find it is nothing more than a critical analysis of a specific topic. As long as you take it step-by-step, you will get through it just fine and you’ll see there is nothing to worry about.
But before we get into the ins and outs of writing a good critique, let’s take a quick peek at the history of the critique.
History of Critique Writing
The critique began during the Renaissance, when the arts began to criticize the Church. One of the masters of comedic drama, Jean-Baptiste Molière, was one of the few people to continue creating dramatic works even though the Church labeled is as anti-Christian. After Molière wrote his comedy Tartuffe (aka. the Hypocrite), which deeply criticized the Church, the priests targeted Molière and his work. Even the king couldn’t protect Molière once this comedy hit the stage.
But this was just the beginning:
It wasn’t until German philosopher Immanuel Kant brought critique into the realm of theory that we came close to our modern method of critique. In his aesthetic work called Critique of Judgment, he examined the viability and logic behind “judgments of taste.” Based on his aesthetic theory, a lot of works on writing critiques came into being and the critique carried on to make a name for itself in the 21st century, a time that turned aesthetics into commerce and shaped critiques into what we know them as today. Now it’s time to learn how to write a critique today.
The Modern Critique
The best way to explain the how to write a critique today is to provide a critique definition. Now, if you are getting ready to bury someone’s work, you truly do not understand what you are expected to do.
A critique is really nothing more than a critical analysis and the word “analysis” does not have a negative meaning. “To analyze” just means to understand something better and that is all you are doing when you write a critical essay, trying to understand it and present an evaluation. Critical essays are objective evaluations of or a critical response to an author’s work, and as such, they can be either positive or negative, as the work deserves. Queensland University of Technology offers a great explanation of a critique.
The following are general tips when writing a critique:
- A critique is often assigned to analyze a work of literature, such as an essay, a book, poetry, etc. However, paintings, movies, and so on can also be the subject of your critical analysis.
- When writing a critique, you can also introduce your opinion on a subject and make your own judgment.
- Always provide reasonable and convincing arguments. Your assertions and judgments are worth nothing if they are not backed up with supporting arguments.
- Be sure to use an impartial tone.
You can evaluate the chosen piece of literature in several ways. Pick the one you feel more comfortable with from the following:
- Descriptive critical essays examine texts or other works. Their primary focus is usually on certain features of a work and it is common to compare and contrast a given work to a classic example of the genre to which it belongs.
- Evaluative critical essays provide an estimate of the value of the work. Was it as good as you expected based on the recommendations or do you feel your time would have been better spent on something else?
- Interpretive essays provide your readers answers that relate to the meaning of the work in question. To do this, you must select a method of determining the meaning, read/watch/observe the work according to this method, and put forth an argument.
There are also different types of critiques and Goshen College provides a great explanation of each of these. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill also discusses the types of critique and appropriate critique language.
You should also take these tips into consideration:
- A critique can be somewhat confusing when you don’t know how to link it to your thesis. If you see that your writing is taking you nowhere, consider consulting with someone, or choose another object for your investigation.
- Even if you disliked the work you have chosen to analyze, be polite. Your reader will want to get a sophisticated point of view.
Dos and Don’ts of Critique Writing
Essentially, your paper has to do justice to the author’s or creator’s work. You will be providing a detailed examination of the main theme and organization of a book, article, movie, artwork or whatever you are assigned to critique. In your critique, you will summarize, analyze, interpret and evaluate the work.
Do address these issues in your critique:
- Has the author/creator chosen a good topic and done an adequate job collecting evidence?
- What techniques were used by the author/creator to convey the primary message of the critique? Were these techniques successful?
- Does the author’s/creator’s style adequately suit the topic being covered?
- Pay an unwarranted amount of attention to the topic presented by the author/creator. For example, the article’s topic might be positive thinking, but this is not the focus of the paper. The topic should be stated briefly in the summary, but the primary focus is how the topic is dealt with by the author.
- Express your personal bias or opinion throughout the paper. You are permitted to give your opinion, but only in the critical response section (it is preceded by summary and analysis).
- Manufacture false evidence so you can discuss the author’s work in a negative light. Remember, critical essays can be either positive or negative, whichever is more suitable.
How to Write a Critique
Now we get down to the real work. Critical essays are a regular assignment in English classes. Some teachers prefer to provide the topic and sometimes even specify the thesis; others leave the choice up to you. It doesn’t matter if you are wondering:
- How to write an article critique
- How to write a literature critique
- How to write a journal critique
- How to write a critique of a research paper
- How to critique a quantitative research study
- How to write a critique on a movie
- How to write a critique on a book
- How to write a critique on a play
- How to write a critique essay of any other type
The same general guidelines apply to all of them. No matter what the requirements are the complete list of guidelines on essay writing below will help you to succeed in writing a good critique.
But first things first:
Before getting started on writing a custom critical essay, you need to do a couple of important preparation steps:
- Read the book that you’ve chosen (make sure it’s something you like), preferably twice. If you don’t have time or desire to read the book twice, study it once, but thoroughly and take detailed notes.
- Mark the places you will talk about in your critical response essay. Bookmarks or sticky flags can be very handy.
The main parts of good critical response essays are:
- Summary: This should be brief and to the point. Only the author’s/creator’s main ideas and arguments should be included.
- Analysis/interpretation: Discuss what the author’s/creator’s primary goal was and determine whether or not this goal was reached successfully. Use the evidence you have gathered to argue whether or not the author/creator achieved was adequately convincing (remember there should be no personal bias in this discussion).
- Evaluation/response: it is at this point that your readers are ready to read your objective response to the work. Your response should be professional, yet you should include your critical responses in a way that they are entertaining to read. Do not hesitate to use strong language. You can say that the work you analysed was weak and poorly-structured if that is the case, but keep in mind that you have to have evidence to back up your claim.
These main parts of a critique are laid out in a certain format, as follows:
Let’s take a look:
The introduction is how to start a critique paper. It launches the critique, setting the stage for your analysis. Here are some tips to follow when writing your introduction:
- Here you will provide the reader with a brief synopsis of the main points of the work you are critiquing, which will be followed by a careful analysis of the meaning of the work.
- State your general opinion of the work, as this will act as your thesis statement. The ideal situation is that you identify and use a thesis that is controversial.
- Remember that you will uncover a lot of basic information about the work you are critiquing and it is important that you don’t make use of all of it, providing the reader with information that is unnecessary in the context of your critique. If you are writing about Shakespeare, you don’t have to waste your or your reader’s time going through all of his works.
The body of the critique contains the supporting paragraphs. This is where you will provide the facts that prove your main idea and support your thesis. Follow these tips when writing the body of your critique:
- Every paragraph must focus on a precise concept that is present in the work and your job is to include arguments to support or disprove that concept. Concrete evidence is required.
- A critical essay is written in the third-person and ensures the reader is presented with an objective analysis.
- Discuss whether or not the author/creator was able to achieve their goals and adequately get their point across.
- It is important not to confuse facts and opinions. An opinion is a personal thought and requires confirmation, whereas a fact is supported by solid data and requires no further proof. Do not back up one opinion with another opinion.
- Remember that your purpose is to provide the reader with an understanding of a particular piece of literature or other work from your point of view. Be as specific, as possible.
You will need to write a conclusion for your critique. The conclusion reasserts your overall general opinion of the ideas presented in the text and ensures there is no doubt in the reader’s mind as to what you believe and why. Follow these tips when writing your conclusion:
- Summarize the analysis you provided in the body of the critique.
- Summarize the primary reasons you provided the analysis.
- Where appropriate, provide recommendations on how the work you critiqued can be improved.
For more details on how to write a critique, check out the information provided by Bowling Green State University and the University of Calgary. You will also find a great critique template provided by Thompson Rivers University.
With all of the information and tips provided above, your way will become clearer when you have a solid example of a critique essay. Here is a critical response to The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:
When speaking of feminist literature that is prominent and manages to touch on incredibly controversial issues, The Yellow Wallpaper is the first book that comes to mind. Written from a first-person perspective, magnifying the effect of the narrative, the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman introduces the reader to the problem of the physical and mental health of the women of the 19th century. However, the message that is intended to concern feminist ideas is rather subtle. Written in the form of several diary entries, the novel offers a mysterious plot, and at the same time, shockingly realistic details.
What really stands out about the novel is the fact that the reader is never really sure how much of the story takes place in reality and how much of it happens in the psychotic mind of the protagonist. In addition, the novel contains a plethora of description that contributes to the strain and enhances the correlation between the atmosphere and the protagonist’s fears: “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight” (Gilman).
Despite Gilman’s obvious intent to make the novel a feminist story with a dash of thriller thrown in, the result is instead a thriller with a dash of feminism, as Allen (2009) explains. However, there is no doubt that the novel is a renowned classic. Offering a perfect portrayal of the 19th century stereotypes, it is a treasure that is certainly worth the read.
Seeing an example of a critique is so helpful. You can find many other examples of a critique paper at the University of Minnesota and John Hopkins University. The University of Connecticut also provides a great journal article critique example APA style. Plus, you can check out this video for a great explanation of how to write a critique.
When learning how to write a critique, you will need to tackle it piece-by-piece. Thinking about the whole thing at once is too overwhelming, so breaking it up is ideal. If you are still having trouble, you can always hire a custom writing service to help.
Your ultimate goal is to submit to your instructor a critique that will knock his or her socks off and you will succeed!