The Guide for Writing a Critical Essay
GENERAL TIPS ON CRITICAL ESSAY WRITING
The main objective of a critical essay is the analysis of a literary piece, an article, a work of art, or a movie. For a student, it is vital to see the difference between this kind of essay and a review. Generally, it lies in the academic level of these papers. While a critical essay is an example of academic writing which is based on proper research, the goals of a review are much more superficial. When you write a critical essay, you are to provide evidence from credible sources and their analysis. In the majority of reviews, you are simply to summarize the plot, retell the story shown in a movie, or describe a piece of art under consideration and provide your personal opinion about it. One of the main reasons why students fail their critical reviews is that they don't understand that criticizing and critique are not the same things. Although you still should point out the disadvantages of the work you are writing about, you shouldn't forget about its strong points and its value in the history of art, literature, or cinema. Your ultimate goal is to stay unbiased and evaluate all the aspects of the piece objectively. Keep this in mind if you want to create an excellent critical essay.
Writing a critical essay requires a student to be very attentive to details for three main reasons. First, you are to explain the author's or artist's ideas to your reader, which is next to impossible unless you have conducted comprehensive research. Secondly, you have to state whether an author, an artist or a film crew was consistent in their attempts to bring the idea to light. Therefore, you can't miss a thing tracking both the details of the work and your response to them. These aspects should be observed both from the point of view of the audience and from that of critics and researchers. And finally, you might be assigned to evaluate the background of the story or a separate part of the work in question. Taking into the account everything said above, writing a good critical essay is not as easy as it might seem.
Before you start writing, remember the five main goals a critical essay should achieve. They are:
- To analyze the work under consideration objectively;
- To conclude whether the author has been logical in his or her work;
- To state whether the author has succeeded to prove his or her point;
- To discuss strong and weak points of the work;
- To provide an unbiased critique of the piece.
BEFORE YOU START
There are several steps of preparing for writing a critical essay.
#1 Make sure you have no questions
If any of the instructions are not clear to you, don't make the mistake of starting to work right away. Don't rush and read the assignment attentively. Ask your instructor to explain everything you don't understand. This is the only way to avoid doing unnecessary work and get a good grade.
#2 Take your time studying the primary source
Whatever you have to write your critical essay about, focus on your primary source. Remember that it is not enough to scan a book or a movie under your consideration. You will have to read or watch it several times. If it is a movie, you can't watch it over and over again. Mindless staring at the screen will be stressful and won't bring you a full understanding of the movie in question. If you are to write a critical essay about a painting or a sculpture, try to look at it from various angles as if it is seen by different people.
#3 Write down everything you think is important
You shouldn't rely on your memory blindly. You might notice a lot of interesting things when you read a book, watch a movie, or see a work of art for the first time. You have to take notes about it immediately. Otherwise, when you start writing, they can simply slip your mind. It concerns everything – from the main ideas the author wants to convey to any mistakes he or she makes in attempts to do so. One may argue that essay writers
can get distracted from the work itself when they take notes. Keep a pad and a pencil at hand to avoid major distractions. A second-long note taking won't make you lose track.
#4 Single out the problems and the themes
After studying the primary source in detail, you have to revise your notes. On this basis, you will be able to point out the main problems that an author, an artist, or a film crew touch upon. Also, pay attention to the themes of the work you write about, as you will have to discuss them in your essay as well. At this point, you only need to find the questions the author wants to answer.
#5 Try to solve the problems addressed in the work
Trying to find the answers to the questions mentioned above is your next step. Now, it is time to choose your point of view. Enumerate strengths and weaknesses of the work you are going to write about. Remember that you can't ‘pick a side' because you have to stay objective. You can start working on your thesis and an outline of your critical essay.