A critical analysis (sometimes called a critique, critical summary, or book review) is a systematic analysis of an idea, text, or piece of literature that discusses its validity and evaluates its worth. A critical analysis usually includes a summary–a concise restatement of what a text says–and an evaluation–how well it says it. A critical analysis in literature, for example, might examine the style, tone, or rhetorical appeals of a text, while an analysis of a scientific paper might examine the methodology, accuracy, and relevance of the research.
A good critique will consider the following questions
- Who is the author, and what are his/her qualifications?
- What is the nature of the work (type, purpose, intended audience)?
- What is its significance? How does it compare to other material on the same subject? By the same author?
- What is the author's thesis?
- What is the organizational plan or method? Is it well conceived? Does it achieve the author's objectives?
- What are the underlying assumptions? Are they stated or do they lurk behind a stance of neutrality and objectivity?
- How do assumptions and biases affect the validity of the piece?
- Are arguments/statements supported by evidence? Is the evidence relevant? Sufficient?
- Is the author's methodology sound?
- What evidence or ideas has the author failed to consider?
- Are the author's judgments and conclusions valid?
- What rhetorical strategies does the author use? Are they effective?
A word about the thesis statement
Remember that no matter what format you follow in writing your critical analysis, it should have a thesis statement that establishes your approach to or opinion about the piece. Your thesis statement will not be the same as the original author's thesis statement. For example, say that the original author's thesis statement is “the moon is made of green cheese.” Your own thesis might be “the author's assertion that the moon is made of green cheese is ill-founded and is not supported with adequate evidence.”
Organizing the Critical Analysis
There are many models for writing a critical analysis. Some disciplines recommend breaking an analysis into two sections: The first section provides a summary of the content of the work, while the second section analyzes and evaluates the work. Other disciplines, in contrast, favor a model in which the summary and analysis are smoothly integrated. See the reverse side for two serviceable (if unembellished) formats for a critical analysis. Also, remember that length can vary from a paragraph to several pages.
Sample Critical Analysis — Two-Part Structure
In “Nature Cannot be Fooled,” [title] originally published in 1998 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, [date and source] Washington University Professor Jonathan Katz[author name and descriptor] contends [active verb] that American Society denies reality, living instead as if its “wished-for fictions” were “true” [paraphrase (and partial quotation) of author's thesis]. Katz further [transition] argues[active verb] that this distorted view of reality manifests itself in many negative ways—from public health policy to education. [list of key ideas]
(Note that the evaluative terms are bold-faced for the purposes of illustration only.)
Unfortunately, Katz fails to support his argument. His commentary relies onfallacies, unsupported claims, and opinions rather than on logical statements, supported claims, and facts. Therefore, even though Katz expresses much passion, he fails to offer a persuasive argument. [Use your own thesis statement to provide an organizational plan for the paper.]
The body paragraphs should analyze particular components of the work. For instance, in an analysis of the Katz commentary, the body would offer specific illustrations of the flawed passages in Katz's commentary; these illustrations would support the analytical claims that you are making about the work. The focus, then, is objective analysis, not subjective response.
The conclusion may restate the author's thesis, but the main purpose of the conclusion should be to emphasize your assessment of the writer's work.
Sample Critical Analysis — Integrated Model
One technique for integrating a summary and an evaluation is simply to merge the two separate sections (like the examples above) into a single introductory paragraph. Another technique is to synthesize the summary and evaluative comments, as in the following sample introduction:
In 1936, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” for an audience of literary scholars of his own day. Thus, the essay can pose some difficulties for modern readers, who may not be familiar with literary history or the specific critics to whom Tolkien refers. In addition, Tolkien's diction is formal and quite dense. Nevertheless, he offers a persuasive and masterful defense of Beowulf, one of England's most beloved works. [Our thesis] Tolkien argues that Beowulf scholars are wrong to mine the poem solely for historic evidence about the Anglo-Saxon period, rather than reading it as a great and inspiring work of literature. [Tolkien's thesis] Although he agrees that its historical value is high, he shows that Beowulf is so powerful as a poem that its literary qualities far outshine its historical value.
Teresa Sweeney & Fran Hooker Webster University Writing Center, 2005
What is a Critical Analysis Essay?
Imagine that you receive an assignment to write a critical analysis essay in a quick period of time. Does it cause panic in you? If YES, you are on the way to the best solution to this issue. A critical analysis essay is a type of an academic paper which demonstrates a student’s ability to analyze a piece of literature or cinematograph. That is why college and high school lecturers assign this type of written task quite often. It may be confused with a report as a critical essay also deals with books, articles, movies, or even paintings. A good critical analysis provides the reader with profound evaluation of the piece and reflects its positive and negative aspects. Want to learn how to write successful critical analysis essay quickly? Follow our special guide created with the help of several professional writers and lecturers of different scientific fields and be at the top!
Writing a critical analysis essay is a captivating process if you know the right structure of it and use experience of the qualified experts who know all the intricacies of essay creation.
How to Start Writing a Critical Analysis Essay?
Beginning: read first then write! If you have to evaluate a piece of writing such as a novel, a play, or a poem, you should first read it carefully. Arm yourself with stickers, notebook, and pen or pencil. Concentrate on the given topic of your essay and make notes of the essential parts of the book. Pay attention to the unfamiliar terms and concepts. Follow the assignment instructions as right formatting and successful completing of the specific requirements will bring you the highest grade.
Creation of Title: formulate a “working” title which is able to help you to focus your ideas. This will help your reader or another researcher to have a clear vision of the essay problematic. For instance, critical analysis in literature may deal with the following books:
- On Hamlet written by William Shakespeare;
- On Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley;
- On Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby;
- On the Lord of the Rings written by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Steps to Writing an Excellent Critical Analysis Essay
As your aim is to criticize the work done by another writer, your essay has to be well-structured, reasoned, and clear. You describes your attitude towards the text, but it is not necessary to give only something negative. Agree or disagree with the author by supporting your point of view with strong arguments and evidence on what the author did right or wrong. This type of essay has Intro – Body Paragraphs – Conclusion format.
INTRO. Note that introduction act as a preview to your critical analysis essay. It starts with an engaging sentence that catches the reader’s attention. Outline the main ideas of the piece along with the author’s thesis and present your own thesis statement. Begin discussion of your topic.
BODY. Develop a discussion. Paragraphs of the body answer the questions stated in the introduction and give evidence, examples, and quotes in order to support your position. The body of the essay should be structured into separate sections. Follow the classical formula for the separate paragraph: TOPIC sentence – SUPPORTING sentences – CONCLUDING sentence.
How to Conclude a Critical Analysis Essay?
CONCLUSION. Restate your point of view. The conclusion should match the intro but not repeat it! As you attempt to show the readers the particular points about the text, create a strong final argument on the basis of the previous explanations. Now you are ready to submit your excellent critical analysis essay!
Main Tips for the Whole Writing Process:
- Make time for writing you critical analysis in order to be concentrated on the work;
- Follow the needed instruction and structure;
- Make sure that you evaluate the authors work adequately.