How to write a critical essay

In college you are often asked to write a critical essay about a work of literature or a social or political issue. Before you write, you will need to compose a thesis statement that clearly and specifically declares your position. The rest of the essay will provide critical analysis and evidence to support and prove the thesis.


Before writing the essay, you should brainstorm on the topic to get ideas for the content. Methods of brainstorming include free writing, cluster maps and lists. The value of brainstorming lies in having a judgment-free space to put down everything that comes to mind in relation to the essay’s prompt. If you don’t yet have a thesis statement, this process can help you formulate your thesis, and if you already have a focus, brainstorming can give you ideas for the reasons and analysis you will provide.

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement of your critical essay poses your main argument and provides readers with a snapshot of the rest of the essay. According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it also “tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.” Therefore, your thesis statement should connect to a larger issue and communicate the significance of its point. For example, you can write: “If we stop using factory farming to produce food then we can save money in health care costs and save lives in the future.”

Critical Analysis

A key element of a critical essay is critical thinking: analysis, reflection and explanation of the issue. John Carroll University states that a critical essay involves “evaluating information, theories or situations” and “analyzing information, posing questions and challenging information.” Since the thesis is driving the essay, the analysis should directly support the essay’s single main idea. Forms of analysis include explaining how things happen, why they happen, who they affect and why they matter.


The analysis in your essay should be fortified with evidence. Specific examples from the real world allow the reader to see how something has or has not worked in the past and help explain the paper’s concepts and arguments. Evidence can be quotations and passages from a text, statistics, charts or anecdotes. After you provide a specific example, explain how it relates to the main idea of the paragraph as well as the overall thesis statement of the essay.

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center: Thesis Statements
  • John Carroll University : What Is a Critical Essay?

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

A critical essay aims to give writers a chance to improve their critical writing abilities. Moreover, the paper written should trigger the reader’s mind provocative reason, and ultimately get to know how to write a critical analysis essay. In addition, a writer for a critical essay is advised to base their reasoning within a specified theme that could be from a book or film, or even a broader scale. Critical writing needs a strong capability to consider what the creative author or film director aimed to express to their original audience and give a logical explanation that new audiences can understand.

What is the Meaning of Critical Essay?

A critical essay comprises an evaluation of a matter from an observer’s perspective and carefully analyzing the situation and providing a critique that will give substantial information based on the aspect or subject in question. In your essay, you can choose to be either positive or negative in the essay being written. A critical essay is an essential academic instrument that enables the students to develop both their subjective and in-depth investigation of a provided topic.

Critical writing has several goals which include;

  • Giving an independent perception of the initial writer or a director’s work
  • Giving all-round scrutiny of the reliability of the original author’s work
  • Giving a complete valuation of the creative author’s work and ability to preserve and offer care to their chief argument or perception.
  • Giving the audience an insight into the fortes and faults of an article or a journal entry
  • Providing critique to an original writer’s work

7 Main Steps to Write a Critical Essay

It may seem as a complicated form of writing when it comes to writing a critical essay but be rest assured it is easy. Below is the step by step guidelines to writing a well-structured critical essay that is captivating to the target audience.

  1. Have a deep understanding of what is required of you: find clarification in instances that you might feel uncertain.
  2. With the source material available, develop a reliable understanding of it: the source material can be from a book or a film among other forms of media. With the excerpt provided, try working with it as your source material and it is advisable to read or review the source material several times.
  3. Write down notes as you assess the source material: this helps craft a top-notch critical paper by taking notes of the main ides or concepts originating from the original creator’s work.
  4. Bring to light the primary challenges or patterns that are under critique: after careful review of the text or film, identifying prevailing new challenges will help provide a critique to areas of concern
  5. Realize solutions to all problems identified: offering solutions to all problems identified are essential, and a summary of this could be used as your thesis statement.
  6. Come up with a well-structured outline that will help develop the critical essay and have a logical flow of ideas, the more information used within the plan, the direct the description of the writing process.
  7. Write your essay using the rough draft you created for your specified topic of discussion.

How to write a critical essay

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How to write 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

In this guide you will find:

  • What is a Critical Essay
  • Step by Step Guide to Writing a Critical Paper
  • Various Types of Critical Essays
  • Critical Essay Structure

What is a Critical Essay

Critical Essay Definition: A critical essay is a piece of writing intended to analyze, interpret or evaluate a specific text or other media forms.

More specifically, this type of critical paper is normally viewed by academic audiences and typically supports an argument made by the writer.

The goal of a critical essay is to enable writers to hone their critical writing skills. Additionally, the paper should present readers with a thought-provoking explanation or the writer’s interpretation of the medium being critiqued. Furthermore, anyone authoring a critical analysis could be asked to position their thoughts around a specific theme in a book or film on a much broader spectrum. Specifically, writing critically requires the keen ability to weigh what the original author or director might have been attempting to say to their original audience and to explain that in a manner that the new audience can understand.

There are many goals for critical writing, including:

  • Offering an objective view of the original writer or painter or director’s work
  • Offering a complete analysis of the consistency of the original author’s work
  • Offering a thorough assessment of the original author’s work and capability to maintain and support their primary argument or concept
  • Presenting the strengths and weaknesses of an article or journal entry
  • Criticizing the work of the original writer or artist

Step by Step Guide to Writing a Critical Paper

Writing a critical essay might seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be so. First and foremost, make certain that you understand the requirements and what is expected of you. Often times, students set themselves up for failure by starting their assignment without clearly understanding the assignment details.

Step One: Know what is expected: If you are uncertain of the details of the assignment, ask for clarification.

Step Two: Develop a strong understanding of the source material. The source material will come in the form of a book, a film, a piece or art of some other media. You will be asked to create a critical paper that analyzes all or part of the source material. Students are cautioned to take care and consider everything from the source material that might enhance their essay. If you are asked to critique a book or film, it is good practice to read (or view) the source material more than once.

Step Three: Write down as many notes as possible when assessing the source material. Taking great notes is the key to success for any critical paper. When reviewing your chosen medium, remember to take note of the key ideas or concepts that the original creator included in their work.

Step Four: Uncover the primary challenges or patterns in the work being critiqued. Once you’ve reviewed the text or film, or whatever other media you were reviewing, next you will need to identify any key challenges, patterns or problems that might exist. As you note these aspects, other issues or key concepts will begin to emerge. You should be prepared to identify these.

Step Five: Uncover solutions to the problems identified. Next, you will need to offer solutions for the problems or patterns that were identified previously. By now, you should be on your way to creating your thesis statement.

What are the various types of critical essays

There are several different types of critical analysis that a student authoring a critical review paper might be asked to write. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Sociological Criticism
  • Reader-response Criticism
  • Gender Criticism
  • Mythological Criticism
  • Biographical Criticism
  • New Historicism
  • Psychoanalytical Criticism
  • Formalist Criticism

Critical Essay Structure

Every essay, regardless of topic or nature, follows a standard structure which includes the introduction (or thesis statement), the body paragraphs, and the conclusion (or closing statement.) In order for the essay to be considered ‘whole’ each of these parts must be included. That being said, prior to tackling each of these sections, you must first draft an outline suitable for a critical paper. For all papers of this nature, the outline is important because it presents writers with the opportunity to begin to build a roadmap for their essay. If you would like to get some further assistance with your essay, consider using one of the academic services:

Different ways of writing essays

Studying in college most students forget about their leisure time. The reason of it: an insane amount of workload. Entering college a person learns how to think and express his own ideas on a new level, higher than in school. One of the hardest tasks is writing an essay. A person can spend hours trying to combine proper words and arguments together, but as a result receive a bad mark. After several attempts of composing a good piece of writing a student can find himself shouting ‘I need someone to write my essay for me!’. Well, miracles happen and you can find this person online. The service of essay writing is thriving, and what is most important it’s you who to choose the author. According to experience and education, different price ranges exist. Even you don’t have lots of money to pay the Nobel Prize winner for your essay, there are plenty of skilled specialists ready to do the job. He is called essay writer, and his task is to make a perfect paper for you according to the task.

You can decide what way is more suitable: spending nights over writing an argumentative essay yourself or spending a small amount of money and get the job done. These services are quite convenient for people who don’t have time. Situation of every student is different, most of them working, some have kids or parents to look after, some just forget about homework. The easiest way is to go online to find best essay writing service. Let’s see how they are working.

How essay writing service is working

You tried, you failed, you lost hope. You went online to consult the Internet. After typing ‘write essay for me’ don’t be surprised by amount of websites appearing on the screen of your computer. This service is extremely popular, as there are plenty of students not wiling or not able to perform the job themselves. If you will to pay for essay, numerous websites offer such a possibility. You need to do a research to choose most suitable for you. Essay writers have different education and experience, and hiring someone who is not an expert in the topic would lead to negative outcome. You don’t want your work to be done poorly, because it’s you who would be receiving a mark for it. A person whose job is to write essays for money should have proper knowledge in demanded sphere. Sometimes essays can be easy, but some topics require research and specific education. When searching for college essay writing service online, check that a person has a college degree at least. There are thousands of gifted kids but they don’t earn money this way. In major situations it’s highly unlikely that a scholar is able to write an essay. Anyway, after getting paper read, check and read again what has been sent to you to avoid any complications with the teacher. If you don’t like the work, be sure to leave negative review if possible or ask to make changes.

Is it worth the money?

Sometimes student can ask himself a question: can someone actually write my essay for small amount of money? The answer is yes! Writers are skilled in many topics, have huge experience in creating strong essays and performing job faster than you expect. Cheap essay writing service is not actually a bad website. Sphere of writing is competitive and everyone can find something for his budget.

Whether you specialize in literature or just writing an essay for a class, knowing how to write a critical essay will give you an advantage throughout your studies at a university and in your professional career. Writing critical essays allows you to develop critical thinking skills, including attentive reading, technical analysis, academic writing skills, searching for reference books and editing. Mastering these skills will help you conduct a scientific conversation and allow you to communicate and think more productively.

What is a Critical Essay?

A critical essay is an analysis of any piece of text. It can be a book, a movie, an article or even a painting. The main point of this type of an essay is to interpret text or position it in a wider context. For instance, if you write a critical analysis of a book, you may analyze the tone of its text and find out how it influences the overall meaning of the book. If you analyze a movie, you might concentrate on a symbol that you see over and over again. Nevertheless, you have to include an argumentative thesis about the text and have a lot of evidence sources, obviously textual, to support your statements.

How to write a Critical Essay? Step by Step Guide

  • Find out the topic as early as possible to plan your research.
  • Find the information you need in a wide variety of sources, including journal articles, books, encyclopedias, news. Gather more information than you plan to actually refer to when writing a paper, but do not collect too much, it can distract you from the main thing, and you will eventually include it in your essay simply because you found it. Do not use Wikipedia and do not copy other people’s comments; no matter from which website you take them, plagiarism will be discovered.
  • Look through your sources to separate interesting information from irrelevant material. Interesting research can be found in books, literary guides, in published critical articles on your particular topic. And vice versa, do not investigate things that do not relate to your topic, what I mean is, do not engage in the study of witches, if the topic of your paper is monarchy.
  • Carefully reread the relevant materials and evaluate them critically. Highlight, underline or otherwise mark the necessary information in your personal articles and books. Use colored stickers to draw your attention to important details in library books. Make a brief summary of each source after reading it. Pay attention to important details and highlight the main point of view for further use.
  • Formulate the theses by reviewing your notes and research. You can write a more general thesis or ask an important question that your paper will answer.
  • Write a preliminary introduction, knowing that you can edit or even rewrite it later.
  • Develop an approximate plan based on your notes and studies.

Identify two or three main sections of the body of your essay. These sections should consist of your most important arguments. Use your notes and research to fill these sections with details. You can copy and paste the most important details or arguments into your plan.

  • Identify the relationships between sections of your essay and briefly describe them on the margins of your plan.
  • Use this connection to write an approximate conclusion.
  • Set your paper aside for a few days before rereading the draft.
  • Leave enough time to make a thorough review of all material that will clarify any illogical reasonings or arguments.
  • Complete your essay by carefully checking the final version of the printed version. Use your imagination and make the introduction interesting for readers. Write a clear thesis statement and use up-to-date sources, with a lot of useful information.

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How writing an argumentative essay can help you get into college

Worked hard to make your final grades impressive? Well, the news is they might not be enough to win you a place in a college. Admission committee attentively studies the papers of all applicants and devote special time for reading essays. This is the key that can help you open the college door and win the heart of the office. Writing a essay might be a complicated task, especially if you’re not good in written works like compositions. What should be included in this paper?

First, the arguments that prove you would be a brilliant addition to the college life. The whole point of essay is to convince the committee in your uniqueness and skills. Writing an argumentative essay yourself will require plenty of time. You can’t just sit in front of your laptop and make a good point in a couple of hours. You need to analyze, to provide facts, quotations, share your ideas and views, show your achievements and awards (if any) and just help them to get to know you better.

Second, it’s the length and format of your essay. It’s not the contents that always matter, but the way you express your thought too. Too much information, repetitive sentences, absence of logic and links between passages might lead to a fail. Committee won’t be interested in a poorly written paper, meaning it wouldn’t be interested in you as well.

How to find the balance in everything? There are two ways.

  • You can search the Internet for tips and recommendations and compose the paper yourself.
  • You can pay to write essay. A professional writer will perform the task for you.

Essay writing help: pros

We are going to discuss all advantages and disadvantages that services for writing essays offer. Honestly, there are more positive features and moments in that.

What are the pros?

Time you save. There’s no need to search the Web and devote your efforts. You’ll get the result and won’t spend sleepless nights in front of PC.
Professional approach. The workers of essay writing help will do everything flawlessly. The proper format, the correct spelling and grammar, arguments that might never come to your head, quotations and examples.
Price. Most services are doing the perfect job for a relatively low amount of money. You don’t have to worry about empty pockets, the cost is usually symbolic.
Quality. An essay composed by a skilled writer with experience and degree would be way better than a piece of writing made by person who does it for the first time.

If you want to have a winning essay filled with argument, an essay to impress the committee and help you to be admitted then don’t hesitate to text a professional “help me write an essay”.

Is this service expensive?

We’ve already mentioned the pricing for the service. It’s not necessarily high. Usually the cost depends on the skills of the writer. If you want to have your essay made by an educated and experienced person be ready to pay more. If you need your paper urgently, the cost might be increased too.

Have you ever been so utterly disappointed in a movie as to write a lengthy review about all the horrible aspects you despise? If so, you have already tried your hand at being a critic, and you will have an easier time when faced with a critical essay at school. However, not all critical essays have to be as negative as every “Transformers. The Last Knight” review.

Are All Critical Essays Negative?

The word “critical” possesses several meanings. The most commonly used is related to expressing negative opinions on something. Online trolls are always critical about everything. On the other hand, “critical” can also relate to the opinions of professional critics on movies, music or literature. If you read a critical review in a “Rolling Stone” magazine, you can expect it to be expertly written and insightful.

When you are assigned to write a critical essay in high school or college, your professor has another meaning of this word in mind. In such cases, “critical” means a careful judgment and analysis of both good and bad parts of the art piece. Therefore, you don’t have to be all positive or negative towards the book or article you have to discuss. Instead, you get a chance to try on a mantle of a professional critic and provide a thoughtful and informative piece of writing for people who have not had the pleasure to read the book you are discussing.

Three Types Of Critical Essays

There are three strategies for you to choose from when writing a critical essay. Depending on the approach, your paper will require different research and analysis. So you should decide on the type of critical paper you wish to write before you start. Your instructor may specify the preferred type within the assignment, so pay close attention to the task you are given.

Evaluative Critical Essay

This type is the easiest to understand, though professors rarely require students to write it. In an evaluative critical essay, you should explain whether you like the book and provide the reasons for your reaction. Of course, it is not enough to say you hate the novel because it’s stupid. Instead, you have to provide your literary standards and compare them to the book you are discussing.

Look for formal literary methods and devices that you find unappealing and provide copious examples from the text to support your arguments. You can also compare the novel to other works that you consider more educational or entertaining. Another good idea is to analyze political, historical or religious aspects of the work and their influence on the author. Treat an evaluative critical essay as an argumentative piece, not a reaction paper. Address possible objections to your points and provide evidence, this way your paper will be convincing.

Descriptive Critical Essay

This type of paper resembles a rhetorical analysis essay when you have to analyze what makes the book tick, what makes it such an outstanding example of its genre. You can select one or two literary devices or methods the author uses and discuss their role in the book. You can always find numerous examples of any literary means you choose between the covers of the book. The only challenge you are going to face is putting the obvious findings into an exciting light, so get ready to let your imagination run wild.

Interpretive Critical Essay

If you want to answer the question “What does this work mean?”, you are trying to interpret the book. Instead of merely rephrasing the work, analyze it. First, you need to choose your strategy; it can be based on psychoanalysis, economic theories, historical impact, etc. Use this approach to dissect the work and provide copious examples for your every argument. After completing your interpretive essay, the reader should have a good idea of what the author wanted to say with his or her work.

How to write a critical essay

6 Steps To Write A Successful Critical Essay

As ever, we’ll break the writing process into easily manageable steps for you to follow. As you see, writing is just a single stage, while pre-writing is where you will need to do most of the work.

Choosing The Right Primary Source

Not every instructor is willing to let students choose the book or poem to analyze. However, if you are among the few lucky bastards, choose wisely. Pick a work you like and know well, the one you’ve read at least a couple of times and can probably quote your favorite parts. Make your life easier by selecting the right book, and your critical essay will be done in no time.

Reading And Note-Taking

The easiest way to work on a book is by highlighting or underlining the parts you find interesting or entertaining. However, this is not enough. While reading the work, always ask yourself:

  • How does this chapter make me feel?
  • Which questions arise when I read this book?
  • Which methods and devices does the author use to make me feel this way?
  • Why can’t I stop laughing or crying when I read this dialog?

The more questions you ask yourself, the easier it will be for you to create an outline and analyze the book. And to keep your notes in order, use a blank sheet of paper to write down the numbers of pages with interesting literary methods.

Crafting A Thesis

The content of your thesis will depend on which type of critical essay you are going to write. Consult our comprehensive guide to write your thesis statement. In short, your thesis should answer the central question: “So what?”. Besides just stating the obvious, address the how or the why. Explain to the readers how you came to this conclusion or why they should care about your opinion.

Researching Secondary Sources

If you can’t come up with any ideas for the critical essay, consult professional critics. Read literary discussions or evaluations of the text you have to analyze. These will help you form your own opinion. Research the author’s biography, the historical period of his or her life, political or religious factors that might have influenced the text.

Plotting An Outline

It is tempting to delve into writing after days of research, but in the end, you risk producing a jumbled mess of unrelated thoughts. So take the time necessary to create a rough outline. List the main points you want to make, use your notes and examples from the primary source to flesh out the body paragraphs. Their number and length will depend on the parameters of your assignment.

Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

After so many preparatory steps, writing a critical essay is easy. All you have to do is put your thoughts into words, and words — into sentences and paragraphs. Remember to cite the sources and edit the finished paper carefully. Think about what a professional critic would write after reading your essay. Every typo decreases your credibility, so proofreading is also a must.

If you need a critical essay example, check out our database, and if you need more help with this assignment, reach out to our writers and editors. They will gladly improve your paper or create one from scratch to save your time.