How to Write a Critical Essay
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Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Practice active reading strategies . These strategies for staying focused and retaining information will help you identify specific details in the text that will serve as evidence for your main argument. Active reading is an essential skill, especially if you're writing a critical essay for a literature class.
- Read example essays . If you're unfamiliar with critical essays as a form, writing one is going to be extremely challenging. Before you dive into the writing process, read a variety of published critical essays, paying careful attention to their structure and writing style. (As always, remember that paraphrasing an author's ideas without proper attribution is a form of plagiarism .)
- Resist the urge to summarize . Critical essays should consist of your own analysis and interpretation of a text, not a summary of the text in general. If you find yourself writing lengthy plot or character descriptions, pause and consider whether these summaries are in the service of your main argument or whether they are simply taking up space.
Watch Now: How to Write a Strong Essay Conclusion
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Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.
The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.
Answering Questions: The Parts of an Essay
A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.
It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)
"What?" The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.
"How?" A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.
"Why?" Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.
Mapping an Essay
Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.
Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ." Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay.
Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.
Signs of Trouble
A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").
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How to Write a Critical Analysis
Have you ever read an article and thought to yourself: “I disagree with this writer; I think they are biased”? Perhaps you’ve even gone as far as offering your own opinion in the comments section. If you’ve done this, good job! You have performed a critical analysis; you’ve analyzed the author’s work and offered your own opinion in response.
Writing a critical analysis requires lots of essential reading, as authors always use rhetorical techniques to gain your trust. In this article from our research paper writers , we will define critical analysis, list some topics and provide a critical analysis essay example to give you a better idea of your expected result. We will also present a robust step-by-step process of how to write a critical analysis.
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What is a critical analysis essay.
A critical analysis essay requires its writers to write a critical evaluation of an argument. Topics can range from analyzing a modern or historical event, film, book, types of music, and complicated social and political issues. It is a form of evaluation and observation with subjective elements. Critical analysis helps one to better understand a subject and it allows one to examine different controversial points of view.
The main purpose of a critical analysis essay is to tell a reader about a subject, and to explain its purpose and meaning. You will also need to present your personal point of view and critically analyze the subject.
Since critical analysis is very subjective, it is important to avoid some common mistakes. First and foremost, keep your tone formal and academic. Stay away from familiarities and slang. Second, critical analysis is mainly your own opinion on a matter that can be supported by the work of others. Do not base your entire essay on works of other scholars. If you do use supporting evidence from other sources, make sure that you reference it to avoid plagiarism. Next, make sure you focus on the analysis of the subject, rather than on the description of it. In critical analysis essays the point of interest is your opinion about the matter, not the matter itself. Lastly, make sure you follow a good structure and make sure that you have enough sufficient evidence. Double-check the logical sequence of your arguments to ensure that you present them to your reader correctly.
It is very easy to confuse a descriptive essay with a critical analysis essay. A descriptive essay simply states what the subject is, or when and how an event happened. On the other hand, a critical analysis essay explains the significance of that subject and your personal viewpoint on the matter. It digs deep into a subject and shows the complexity of it. Instead of simply describing, a critical analysis essay evaluates the issue in different contexts and points of view. Reasoning and argument are the best approaches to differentiate a critical analysis essay from a descriptive one.
Let’s take a look at some common critical analysis essay topics from our dissertation writers to give you an idea of just how broad this essay format is.
25 Critical Analysis Essay Topics
Living in an era of social and political unrest certainly has its benefits. Students often pick controversial statements, articles, or events, because they lend themselves easily to critical analysis. Finding a topic for critical essay in this day and age shouldn’t be hard.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a topic:
- Make sure the topic lends itself easily to critical analysis. Famous literature and controversial articles would be excellent choices.
- Find a topic which is widely discussed. Different opinions can help you think outside the box and create a strong argument.
- Try to keep it narrow. Some topics can be complicated, and it may take books to explore them fully.
- Talk to your professors for ideas. They will happily point you in the right direction.
If you read books, consider taking the work of your favorite author. Famous books like Alice in Wonderland have been analyzed and interpreted in many different ways; there should be plenty of source material you could use for reference.
Here are some of the critical analysis essay topics you can use:
Culture Critical Thinking Topics
- Pick a sport that famously had a drug abuse history. Summarize and assess the situation and how it affected the competition.
- College football plays a vital role in American Universities. How does it change the community, the spirit, and the economics of the college?
- Gain a deeper understanding of homelessness in your city. Why is it a problem and which resources can the city use to help?
- Anti-drug campaigns often cause more problems than solutions. Take a look at a similar campaign and analyze its effectiveness.
- Take a look at how women are portrayed in a particular medium today. For example the medium of Cinema. Has sexism that polluted 50’s Hollywood been wholly removed from movies?
Mass Media Topics
- Take a film. What is the message, and how does the director convey it?
- Analyze a graphic novel. What is the message/passage, and how does it push the possibilities of the visual novel medium?
- Observe the remake of a classic motion picture. What has changed?
- Examine the influence of a popular TV series on youth.
- Take Facebook. What was the initial idea? Has it grown consistently with the internet and how people use it?
Critical Evaluation Topics on History
- Compare Ancient Greece to today. Are the practices, teachings, and rituals of the Ancient Greeks still relevant?
- Colonization of America was a brutal time in history. Looking back at it, could we have done it without killing the indigenous people of America?
- Ancient Egypt. Tackle the controversies surrounding the pyramids of Giza. Was it slaves or aliens who built them?
- World War II. Some say that it was a necessary tragedy that shaped the modern world. Present and analyze this controversial opinion.
- Ancient Rome borrowed heavily from Ancient Greek and Egyptian culture and art. However, when Mussolini came around, he wanted to preserve the classic Italian aesthetic of Ancient Rome. Analyze the irony of the ultra-right Fascist movement in light of these facts.
Culture Critical Thinking Topics in Literature
- Analyze Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and its impact on racism in America.
- Take a dystopian novel like 1984 or Brave New World and compare it to society today.
- J.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a profoundly subversive series in its genre. How does Martin achieve this, in comparison to Lord of the Rings?
- Analyze Orwell’s Animal Farm and compare it to the real history of the Soviet Union.
- Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is purposely wrongly named as the actual protagonist is Brutus. Analyze how this relates to the plot and theme of the play.
Culture Critical Thinking Topics in Sports
- Money ruined sports. Analyze the argument to establish whether it’s true or false.
- Analyze the effect of betting on the sporting community.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is known to be a bit of an actor on the field. Analyze the validity of this claim.
- Should cybersports be considered sports?
- Some say that FIFA releases the same game every year, exploiting the sports gaming community. Challenge the validity of this claim.
We hope that you have found an interesting topic you could use for reference. Let's get right into the writing process.
First of all, read all the sources you will use to support your opinions carefully. Most likely, you already have a solid opinion on the matter of your critical analysis essay, however, look at the problem from multiple perspectives to be more objective and open-minded. When reading other people’s works on the subject, identify their thesis and carefully include it as supporting evidence for your main argument.
Presenting other people’s opinions shows you as a considerate writer. Carefully think about your response and reaction to the subject matter of your essay. Make sure your opinions are not offensive to anyone who might read your essay and make sure that you take the different backgrounds and experiences people might have into consideration.
Next, draft your essay. Start by including an overview of your subject and its key points, and draw your reader toward your thesis statement. Each of your body paragraphs has to have a new point for your analysis. The point of each paragraph has to be fair; avoid extreme bias and any irregular needs to prove your arguments effectively.
Lastly, your conclusion has to reiterate each point you have made and restate your overall opinion. Without further ado, let’s learn how to write a critical analysis essay step by step.
Step 1: Critical Reading
The initial step to critical analysis to read carefully and thoroughly, identifying the author’s thesis. Most of your information will come from reading different sources and understanding different takes and opinions on the same issue. You must pay attention to details, recognize the author's’ rhetorical devices, biases, and assumptions.
Remember always to write down vocabulary words and define terms that you don’t understand.
Whenever reading a source, always look out for:
- The author’s intended audience . Good writers write in a specific way to appeal to a particular audience; ex. Playful language appeals to kids, statistics appeal to business people.
- The author’s means of persuasion (language and rhetoric.) Good writers won’t directly say that Burger King is unhealthy, they will present BK’s sick list of ingredients and let the reader make this assumption.
- The general structure of the writing and how it supports the author’s statements . A blog post about the importance of punctuation, like commas, may illustrate, how, many people, annoyingly, overuse, commas, just, like, this.
As a critical reader, it is your job to pinpoint the author’s motives and dissect the text for meaning. Understanding how the author tries to achieve their purposes and gain your trust is the whole point of critical reading.
Step 2: Critical Analysis Writing
The first thing to remember is that your job is not to de-legitimize this author’s work. Your post is to serve the reader by exploring the work with them, opening up aspects that were ignored or neglected. It is your duty to help the world understand the subject to the fullest extent.
The first thing to do is provide a summary of your source (event, article, work of art, etc.). This is done to demonstrate that you have fully understood what you’re talking about. Summaries should not contain your argument or show any bias towards the source you’re about to discuss.
If the source is a text (as it will most likely be), address the following aspects:
- How has the author organized the text?
- Identify the intended audience and why the author has targeted them.
- Identify the author’s assumptions about the intended audience.
- List and explain the rhetorical devices, language, and imagery that the author uses in the text.
Write a Thesis
After you have summarized the work, it is time to write a thesis statement. In a critical analysis essay, the thesis statement is usually your reaction to the source that you have analyzed. As noted before, your opinion is subjective; expect it to be challenged in the future. However, if you can articulate your personal opinion carefully and thoroughly, the reader will trust you.
The best way to make your message clear and consistent is to create an analysis essay outline.
Creating a Critical Analysis Essay Outline
An outline helps to put your arguments in order. Creating a good overview will help you write a critical analysis essay fast and be consistent with your message. Most instructors will provide a sample of a critical analysis essay outline to help you write a well-organized analysis paper. Before writing a critical analysis essay, make sure you have an outline which organizes your thoughts into a coherent critical essay structure.
Here is a sample critical essay outline you may use for reference:
- Background Information: Give the reader some context; help them understand the nature of the work.
- ~ Information
- ~~ Publication information
- ~~ Statement of topic and purpose
- ~ Thesis statement: After giving the reader some context, provide your reaction to the work in a thesis statement.
- Summary: Demonstrate your understanding of the source, as described in the Summary section above.
- Critical Analysis (Interpretation and Evaluation): Here is where you finally present your analysis of the work based on your reading and critical evaluation.
- ~ Talk about how the source is organized ;
- ~ Discuss the style and rhetoric of the source;
- ~ How Effective was the source and the message;
- ~ How was the topic treated was the writer biased or did he do it justice?
- ~ Discuss how the source appealed to its target audience.
Conclude the essay with a traditional custom writings essay conclusion by restating the thesis and offering some final thoughts. Summarize your reactions and outtakes from your analysis.
If you need help with any of the steps above
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Techniques Used in Literary Critiques
- An Objective Analysis — Evaluation based only on facts; without using feeling or emotion in the study.
- Traditional Critique — Critique based on a collective agreement of sources that literate and educated people should know.
- New Critique — Critique that is concentrated on just the text itself. Areas of irony, metaphor, ambiguity, and paradox are under close evaluation.
- Marxist Criticism — Analogy through class conflicts and identification, coming to conclusions of a political or social nature. Marxist criticism has had a profound effect on the understanding of literature.
- Metaphorical Critique — Close attention to metaphors to form a deeper understanding of the work and its author.
- New Historicism — The study of literature based on its historical value.
- Psychological Critique — Freudian critique, where the author's unconscious wishes, just like dreams, can be evaluated as a pathway to their mind.
- Sociological Criticism — Mainly focuses on how the literature represents social functions but also where the work fits into society in general.
- Moral or Ethical Criticism — Judging the work or literary piece by the morals learned from the text.
Top Tips to Save You Time
Come back to the draft later. After completing the first draft, put it to one side then review it after a few days. A clear mind is always an advantage in proofreading your work.
Explain everything. Do not assume the reader knows a particular detail or fact. Describe technical terms and abbreviations fully.
The introduction and the thesis statement can be produced later. This way, you can know precisely what background you need to give your readers.
The second pair of eyes can help. Let a family friend or professional colleague review your work to get a second opinion.
Develop your style of writing. Do not write in the style of someone else but try to get comfortable with your style. It can take a while and possibly more than one essay. Once mastered it will be much more rewarding and save you time in the long run.
Do not be scared of an issue. When describing something make sure you are being specific and do not give vague or timid explanations. It will annoy readers.
No rhetorical questions. The body of the arguments should only contain points based on findings and factual statements.
Plan the time well. It is common not to have enough time to read through all the literature. Make a plan for how much you can learn in a day, and stick to it.
Now that we have discussed all of the writing techniques and components of a critical analysis essay, let’s look at an example that showcases the practical uses of all of these rules.
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Critical Essay - An Ultimate Guide For Students
Published on: Jan 6, 2023
Last updated on: Jan 6, 2023
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A critical essay is a type of essay writing assignment that expects you to examine another person’s work, critically analyze it, and present your own idea.
In order to come up with effective critical writing, you must have knowledge of source material and the basic principles of writing this type of essay.
In this article, we will discuss what is a critical essay in detail and how to write one for an A+ grade.
Follow the guide and understand the key information for writing an impressive critical analysis essay.
Critical Essay Definition
A critical essay is a form of academic writing in which a writer evaluates and analyzes a text. It can be a book, article, or movie, etc.
In this type of writing, the main objective is not to convince your audience but to create an informative analysis.
You have to come up with your interpretation and prove with facts or evidence from other sources of work.
Teachers assign this type of assignment to challenge the critical analyzing ability of students. They want to get a well-written paper with clear arguments and reliable references to support the claim.
Characteristics of a Critical Essay
All critical essays, despite the subject matter, share the following characteristics.
- Critical essays contain a central point that is usually expressed at the start of the essay.
- It includes facts and evidential information to support your thesis statement.
- All critical essays offer a brief and concise conclusion. It summarizes the main argument and emphasizes the most important points of the essay.
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How to Write a Critical Essay?
Here is a step-by-step guide that you need to go through for writing an excellent critical analysis essay.
Find and Examine a Source
Find the information you need to include in your essay to support the central claim. Books, journals, articles, encyclopedias, and news are the most common sources of information that you can use.
Start critical reading and gather the relevant information and refer to it when writing your essay.
Make Notes of Your Thoughts and Ideas
Now identify the main problem to be discussed in your essay. After the central claim, find the evidence for demonstrating that claim.
Brainstorm ideas and think about how it can relate to what you are analyzing. Think about the associated ideas and write it all on paper and figure out which ideas need further research.
Compose a Thesis Statement
All critical essays must have a one-sentence thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph.
The thesis statement should be composed based on the information that you gather from different sources.
When composing a thesis statement, answer the question, ‘What point are you trying to prove?’. If you are still not sure, read some interesting thesis statement examples and know-how to come up with a strong point.
Create an Outline
Don’t think about writing an essay without creating its outline first. An outline will help you save your time and organize your ideas more effectively. Here you need to structure all the points so the writing process is easier for you.
Write Your Essay
Once you are done with the outline, start the writing process. Begin your essay with an interesting introduction that ends with the central claim of your essay. After that, analyze and evaluate it with facts and evidence in the body paragraphs. And end it with the key points of the claim in conclusion.
Edit and Proofread
After writing your essay, leave it for a few days if the deadline is not soon. Then review your essay to find and correct mistakes. You may do it yourself or ask your friend or family member to do it for you.
Make the changes until you feel like the essay is perfect and without any mistakes. You can also hire an essay writer for professional editing and proofreading services.
Critical Essay Outline
The critical analysis essay outline also follows a 5 paragraph structure format. It includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
The introduction of the essay should describe the topic and provide some background information of the work in a few sentences. It should end with a strong thesis statement that will help the reader determine what the essay is focusing on.
In this section, you need to cover all the ideas that have been outlined. Answer the question that you have mentioned in the introduction. Explain the significance of the work with facts, examples, and quotes. Keep in mind that your main aim is to analyze and inform your readers so pay attention to how the original work is presented.
Wrap up your essay by restating the main point of view of your essay. Summarize the main argument and emphasize the key points of the essay.
Critical Essay Format
Here is the most commonly used format that you can use for creating a detailed critical essay outline and organize your ideas.
- Introduce the topic
- Provide some background information
- Thesis statement
2. Body Paragraphs
- A summary of the whole work
- Cover your ideas and answer the main question
- Analyze and evaluate
- Restate the thesis statement
- Summarize the key pieces of evidence
- The work’s overall importance
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Critical Essay Topics
Here are some interesting critical essay topics for college students. Feel free to choose any topic and start the research process.
- The impact of violent video games on young children
- What are the negative effects of modern technology?
- Pros and cons of standardized tests
- Analyze the three types of decision making
- What is the impact of human-nature relationships on health?
- Analyze the economic development of the UK since 1950
- Critically examine the novel ‘Jane Eyre’.
- How are humans related to nature?
- What is the role of modern art in our society?
- What is the ideology of feminism?
- The most important elements in Chinese religious culture
- The future of the oil industry
Critical Essay Examples
Before you start writing your essay, get inspired with some interesting critical analysis essay examples.
Critical Essay About the Leadership of Duterte PDF
The Great Gatsby Critical Essay Example PDF
Critical Essay on my Papa’s Waltz PDF
Critical Essay of Aristotle on Tragedy PDF
These examples will definitely help you learn how to write a good critical essay no matter if you are a beginner writer.
You may also see our free essays and understand the basic principles of writing academic essays.
Critical Essay Writing Tips
Below are some expert tips to remember when writing a critical essay.
- In critical essays, your personal opinion plays an important role but avoid writing it if you don't have enough evidence to support it.
- Critically analyzing a piece of work does not mean you need to bring out the negative aspects of it. You are evaluating another person’s work, you need to be informative and that means the claims you made need to be backed up by credible evidence.
- Your critical essay should inform your audience of something new. Whether it is a new idea or new lesson or a new perspective.
- Do you know what type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay? Your tone and language in a critical analysis essay should be objective throughout. Although you can use a humorous tone if you are not writing on a serious topic.
Critical essay writing is not an easy task especially if you are writing about a topic which you don’t know anything about.
The task becomes even more difficult if you do not have enough time to research and the deadline is approaching soon. You can handle this by delegating your task to professional essay writers at FreeEssayWriter.net .
All you have to do is place your order with your initial requirements and get your critical essay done on time.
John K. (Research)
John K. is a professional writer and author with many publications to his name. He has a Ph.D. in the field of management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is highly sought after for his insights and knowledge, and he regularly delivers keynote speeches and conducts workshops on various topics related to writing and publishing. He is also a regular contributor to various online publications.
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Posted: 12 June, 2017
Critical Essay: How-To, Structure, Examples, Topics
Critical essays are quite common when you reach college, but you may not know exactly how to go about writing one. This guide will help you with the entire writing process, so read on to find out more.
Table Of Contents
What is Critical Essay?
Critical essay structure, how to write critical essay, critical essay topics, critical essay examples.
A critical essay is one where you evaluate a subject, removing yourself from it and looking at it critically. It sounds as though you must always be negative, but in fact that's not true. Instead, you must make a judgement on the topic depending on the evidence you find. You could be positive as well as negative in your essay.
The essay structure for this type of essay is quite simple, so it's easy to follow. Most critical essays will follow this pattern:
- Introduction: Where you introduce the main topic, and present your thesis on it. You'll be expanding on this shortly.
- Main body: This is where you'll be writing about your evaluation. Dedicate each paragraph to a new topic, and link them together to create a flow that your readers can follow. Use your research to back up any points you make here.
- Conclusion: This is where you'll wrap up your main points, in order to prove your thesis.
- When you get your topic, start reading around it. Start gathering evidence that supports your evaluation of that topic. If you take notes, you'll find it easier to refer back to research later when you're writing.
- Write your outline. Now you've done the reading, start outlining your essay, using the structure given here. You can write in your topic sentences now, so it will be easier to refer back to them later.
- Now, you'll need to write your essay. If you have the outline already written, this should be simple. Just follow what you write in it and you'll be done in no time at all.
- Now you've written it, make sure you proofread and edit your essay before handing it in.
Critical essays are usually given in subjects such as English, where you may be asked to critically analyse a book or author. You can also be asked to analyse an idea or theory, depending on which subject you study. So, you could be asked to critically analyse John Steinbeck, or modern day advertising. There's a lot of scope in these essays to put your own ideas across, as long as you back them up with research.
Here are some examples of essay topics, if you want to try writing an essay yourself:
- The impact of social media on your school.
- The future of self driving cars.
- The benefits of Sudoku in the elderly.
- The health benefits of gaming.
Remember to use research to analyze these issues, and come up with your own conclusion.
There you have it. You too can write an excellent critical essay, and get the grades you need.
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- Citation Styles
How to write a critical analysis
Unlike the name implies a critical analysis does not necessarily mean that you are only exploring what is wrong with a piece of work. Instead, the purpose of this type of essay is to interact with and understand a text. Here’s what you need to know to create a well-written critical analysis essay.
What is a critical analysis?
A critical analysis examines and evaluates someone else’s work, such as a book, an essay, or an article. It requires two steps: a careful reading of the work and thoughtful analysis of the information presented in the work.
Although this may sound complicated, all you are doing in a critical essay is closely reading an author’s work and providing your opinion on how well the author accomplished their purpose.
Critical analyses are most frequently done in academic settings (such as a class assignment). Writing a critical analysis demonstrates that you are able to read a text and think deeply about it. However, critical thinking skills are vital outside of an educational context as well. You just don’t always have to demonstrate them in essay form.
How to outline and write a critical analysis essay
Writing a critical analysis essay involves two main chunks of work: reading the text you are going to write about and writing an analysis of that text. Both are equally important when writing a critical analysis essay.
Step one: Reading critically
The first step in writing a critical analysis is to carefully study the source you plan to analyze.
If you are writing for a class assignment, your professor may have already given you the topic to analyze in an article, short story, book, or other work. If so, you can focus your note-taking on that topic while reading.
Other times, you may have to develop your own topic to analyze within a piece of work. In this case, you should focus on a few key areas as you read:
- What is the author’s intended purpose for the work?
- What techniques and language does the author use to achieve this purpose?
- How does the author support the thesis?
- Who is the author writing for?
- Is the author effective at achieving the intended purpose?
Once you have carefully examined the source material, then you are ready to begin planning your critical analysis essay.
Step two: Writing the critical analysis essay
Taking time to organize your ideas before you begin writing can shorten the amount of time that you spend working on your critical analysis essay. As an added bonus, the quality of your essay will likely be higher if you have a plan before writing.
Here’s a rough outline of what should be in your essay. Of course, if your instructor gives you a sample essay or outline, refer to the sample first.
- Background Information
Here is some additional information on what needs to go into each section:
In the first paragraph of your essay, include background information on the material that you are critiquing. Include context that helps the reader understand the piece you are analyzing. Be sure to include the title of the piece, the author’s name, and information about when and where it was published.
“Success is counted sweetest” is a poem by Emily Dickinson published in 1864. Dickinson was not widely known as a poet during her lifetime, and this poem is one of the first published while she was alive.
After you have provided background information, state your thesis. The thesis should be your reaction to the work. It also lets your reader know what to expect from the rest of your essay. The points you make in the critical analysis should support the thesis.
Dickinson’s use of metaphor in the poem is unexpected but works well to convey the paradoxical theme that success is most valued by those who never experience success.
The next section should include a summary of the work that you are analyzing. Do not assume that the reader is familiar with the source material. Your summary should show that you understood the text, but it should not include the arguments that you will discuss later in the essay.
Dickinson introduces the theme of success in the first line of the poem. She begins by comparing success to nectar. Then, she uses the extended metaphor of a battle in order to demonstrate that the winner has less understanding of success than the loser.
The next paragraphs will contain your critical analysis. Use as many paragraphs as necessary to support your thesis.
Discuss the areas that you took notes on as you were reading. While a critical analysis should include your opinion, it needs to have evidence from the source material in order to be credible to readers. Be sure to use textual evidence to support your claims, and remember to explain your reasoning.
Dickinson’s comparison of success to nectar seems strange at first. However the first line “success is counted sweetest” brings to mind that this nectar could be bees searching for nectar to make honey. In this first stanza, Dickinson seems to imply that success requires work because bees are usually considered to be hard-working and industrious.
In the next two stanzas, Dickinson expands on the meaning of success. This time she uses the image of a victorious army and a dying man on the vanquished side. Now the idea of success is more than something you value because you have worked hard for it. Dickinson states that the dying man values success even more than the victors because he has given everything and still has not achieved success.
This last section is where you remind the readers of your thesis and make closing remarks to wrap up your essay. Avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.
In “Success is counted sweetest” Dickinson cleverly upends the reader’s usual thoughts about success through her unexpected use of metaphors. The poem may be short, but Dickinson conveys a serious theme in just a few carefully chosen words.
What type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay?
Because critical analysis papers are written in an academic setting, you should use formal language, which means:
- No contractions
- Avoid first-person pronouns (I, we, me)
Do not include phrases such as “in my opinion” or “I think”. In a critical analysis, the reader already assumes that the claims are your opinions.
Your instructor may have specific guidelines for the writing style to use. If the instructor assigns a style guide for the class, be sure to use the guidelines in the style manual in your writing.
Additional t ips for writing a critical analysis essay
To conclude this article, here are some additional tips for writing a critical analysis essay:
- Give yourself plenty of time to read the source material. If you have time, read through the text once to get the gist and a second time to take notes.
- Outlining your essay can help you save time. You don’t have to stick exactly to the outline though. You can change it as needed once you start writing.
- Spend the bulk of your writing time working on your thesis and critical analysis. The introduction and conclusion are important, but these sections cannot make up for a weak thesis or critical analysis.
- Give yourself time between your first draft and your second draft. A day or two away from your essay can make it easier to see what you need to improve.
Frequently Asked Questions about critical analyses
In the introduction of a critical analysis essay, you should give background information on the source that you are analyzing. Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work. Your thesis normally goes in the introduction as well.
A critical analysis has four main parts.
The focus of a critical analysis should be on the work being analyzed rather than on you. This means that you should avoid using first person unless your instructor tells you to do otherwise. Most formal academic writing is written in third person.
How many paragraphs your critical analysis should have depends on the assignment and will most likely be determined by your instructor. However, in general, your critical analysis paper should have three to six paragraphs, unless otherwise stated.
Your critical analysis ends with your conclusion. You should restate the thesis and make closing remarks, but avoid summarizing the main points of your critical analysis unless your essay is so long that readers might have forgotten parts of it.
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How to Write a Critical Essay [Ultimate Guide]
How to write a critical essay:.
- Examine a source: read it carefully and critically.
- Organize your thoughts: figure out the core claim and evidence, do research of secondary resources.
- State a thesis: make sure it has both a claim and details sustaining it.
- Write an outline.
- Write a draft of your critical essay.
- Edit and improve your essay.
Critical essays are among the most common types of writing assignments in college. Also known as analytical, a critical essay is about evaluating somebody’s work (a movie, a book, an article, etc.) and proving that your evaluation is correct.
The problem is, students often confuse a critical essay with a report, a critical precis , or a review.
In this article, we’ll reveal the core characteristics of a critical essay and learn the right way of writing it.
What Makes Essay Critical
A critical essay has a claim and evidence to prove that claim.
Here you need to analyze the work (a book, a movie, an article, whatever), respond to its central themes, and evaluate how its author conveyed them.
Attention! If the purpose of your paper isn’t to critique but inform or persuade readers of something, it won’t be a critical essay. Check our guides on expository essays or persuasive essays instead.
In other words, your essay is critical if:
- There is a thesis about the central themes of a discussed work in it.
- It explains what an author wanted to say about those themes.
- You describe what techniques an author used to communicate the message.
Please note that “critical” doesn’t mean “negative.” It’s about analysis and interpretation, not judging or disparaging.
When a teacher assigns a critical essay, they want to get a professionally presented and grammatically correct paper with a clear argument and consistent and accurate references to support that argument. They need a paper demonstrating that you’ve read a source, understood its theme, and evaluated the evidence relating to that theme.
Steps to Write a Critical Essay
Before you take a seat and start writing a critical essay, make sure you understand its characteristics and purpose inside out.
You need to analyze and evaluate a work.
Note: Analysis = breaking down and studying the part; evaluation = assessing strengths and weaknesses.
You need to express a central claim of your work in a thesis statement and then support it with evidence in each body paragraph.
Note: The evidence can be either the details from a source (dialogues, imagery, descriptions, text structure, etc.) or secondary resources such as scholarly articles or expert reviews that can help you support your argument.
You need to write a conclusion . Summarize a critical essay, emphasizing its most essential insights.
Long story short, here go your steps to write a critical essay.
Step 1: Examine a Source
You won’t write a critical essay if you don’t understand the subject of evaluation. Let’s say you write an essay on a book. It stands to reason that you need to read it first, right?
So, your first step to writing a critical essay will be critical reading. And while reading, make sure to take as many notes as possible. Utilizing an essay maker can help to organize your thoughts and structure your essay.
Take note of the instruments the author uses to communicate the message. What does he want to say? What words, grammar constructions, or stylistic devices does he use?
Also, think of the questions that come to your mind while reading. Write them down, too.
Step 2: Organize Your Thoughts
Now it’s time to figure out the core topic and problem of a piece. Find its central claim and the evidence demonstrating that claim. What does make it different or similar to other corresponding works?
Brainstorm to come up with what you already know, think, and feel about the topic. Think of related ideas and associations arising when you try to analyze it. Once your thoughts are on paper, start organizing them: group all the ideas and identify the areas for further research.
You might need to do research and find secondary sources such as scholarly articles or online reviews by experts to understand the original piece better. Collect all the necessary references you might later need to give credit in your critical essay.
Step 3: State a Thesis
Your critical essay should have a one-sentence thesis with two components: a claim and details sustaining it. Based on the information you’ve gathered from the subject of evaluation (a book, a movie, etc.) and secondary sources, write a thesis that will specify your essay’s direction.
Hint: When making a claim, answer the question, “What point am I trying to make?” If still in doubt, introduce your idea and evidence to a thesis statement generator : it will craft a thesis draft that you’ll modify later (if needed) to reflect your position better.
Step 4: Write a Critical Essay Outline
You can’t write an essay without outlining. At least, it will help you save time : here you’ll structurize all the points into paragraphs so it would be easier to write them later.
At this stage, you’ll have arguments and evidence to evaluate in essay paragraphs. Decide on the evidence that would support your thesis statement best.
Step 5: Write a Draft
Once the essay outline is ready, it’s time to write. (Yeap, finally!) Begin with an examination (a summary) of the work and respond to its central claim. Then, analyze and evaluate it with the evidence. And finally, conclude your critical essay with the emphasis on its most essential insights.
While writing, remember about academic style: stay formal and objective; use language precisely; remember about references; use transition words in paragraphs to guide readers and help them follow your train of thoughts.
Step 6: Edit and Improve
The best advice here would be to hold your completed draft for a short while and get some rest from writing. Then, read your essay a few times to see all the mistakes. You may do it yourself or ask a friend, a mom, or a groupmate to help you: they’ll see your essay from a different perspective, as readers, so it will be easier for them to identify weak points to edit.
Revise your essay, making all the necessary amendments until you see it’s perfect. To make sure it’s genuinely so, don’t hesitate to ask writing service for professional help .
Tips for Writing a Critical Essay
Writing a critical essay is about your thinking skills. It’s an analysis- and argument-building process, and you need to practice a lot to develop essential skills of thinking. These tips will help you start and write academic papers that work, no matter if that’s a SAT essay , a dialectic essay , or any other type of college writing.
- Practice smart reading. It’s when you read a text, identifying and analyzing its specific details: an author’s claims, how he or she presents those claims, controversies surrounding the message, its strengths and weaknesses, its overall value, etc.
- Read some examples of critical essays. It will help to understand their structure and writing style. But don’t copy others’ ideas, trying to sound smarter! Develop your writing style, use the words you know, and introduce your ideas.
- Start writing a critical essay in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment: you’ll need time to read and evaluate the source, find evidence, introduce your thesis, write, and edit your essay. The more time you have, the better.
- Remember to introduce the author and the work you’re going to evaluate in your essay.
- Avoid the “I think” or “in my opinion” stuff when writing. You need to focus on the work, not yourself. When expressing your opinion, do it third-person and back it up with evidence.
- Always document quotes, paraphrases, and other references you use in essays.
- Resist the temptation of summarizing the source in general. If you start writing lengthy descriptions of all characters and the plot, stop and double-check if this information helps your analysis. Critical essays are about interpretation and evaluation, not retelling the plot.
Critical Essay Structure
Most essay types have a standard structure that includes an introduction (with a thesis statement), a body (paragraphs with arguments and evidence to support the thesis), and a conclusion (with a thesis restatement and essential insights). A critical essay structure is not an exception here.
But before you start writing, craft an outline, aka a roadmap for your essay to make sure you won’t miss any critical detail while writing a draft.
Critical Essay Outline
When you have an essay plan, its writing becomes much easier. Consider the format: as a rule, critical essays have a standard structure that consists of an introductory paragraph, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use this template that will help you write a detailed outline for your critical essay :
Once you’ve completed the critical essay outline, it’s time to start writing. Do it quickly (you will have time to proofread and edit it later), paying attention to all the details from your outline.
Critical Essay Introduction
All essays have introductions, as it’s a part where you hook readers , tell about the topic and its importance, and, therefore, persuade them to continue reading. But while the purpose of most introductions is to introduce the thesis, a critical essay introduction is more complicated.
Here’s how to write a critical essay introduction:
- First, you need to introduce the author and the title of the work.
- Second, you need to state the author’s main point (of the entire work or the section you’re going to evaluate in your critical essay). Answer the question, “What does the author want readers to remember?”
- Third, you need to state (1-2 sentences) your evaluation of the work. (It will be your thesis statement.)
- And finally, add any background information the reader might need to understand the work’s context (its overall topic, the controversy it might involve, etc.). While it’s not a narrative essay , you need to set the stage: the chances are, your audience didn’t read the work so they wouldn’t understand your essay without the provided background.
Critical Essay Body
It’s the most detailed part of your critical essay, and it involves several sections. Each section addresses a particular detail and evidence to support your thesis.
The first section is the work’s summary.
Write a short, objective, and unbiased report of the work (or its abstract) you’re evaluating in your critical essay. Here you need to tell about the author’s overall point and the main supports he or she offers for that point. Make sure to avoid your personal opinion: write a summary in the third person!
The second section is the work’s interpretation and evaluation.
It’s where your report ends, but your analysis starts. Here you’ll evaluate the work’s strong and weak parts, by the following criteria:
- How accurate is the information in the work you’re criticizing?
- Does it have or lack definitions and key terms?
- Are there any controversies or hidden assumptions?
- Is the author’s language clear?
- Is the author fair? Does he or she cover both sides of the issue, without any bias?
- Is the work’s organization logical? Does the author present all the points in a meaningful way?
- Are there any gaps in his or her arguments?
- What are (if any) the author’s fallacies? (Too emotional language, over-simplification, generalization, etc.)
After that, your interpretation comes. It’s not about judging (evaluation) anymore, but your response (opinion) on this work.
- Where do I agree or disagree with the author?
- What does he or she get right or wrong?
- Would I recommend this work as a credible research source?
Your interpretation is, actually, the thesis of your essay. In this section, you’ll support the opinion you expressed in the thesis.
Critical Essay Conclusion
Yes, finally! Here comes the time to write a critical essay conclusion, and it doesn’t have to be too long. It’s like a reworded introduction, where you repeat the importance of your topic, reiterate the points you discussed, and summarize your interpretation.
- Remind readers why this topic is essential.
- Combine your evaluation and interpretation to focus on the work’s overall strengths and weaknesses.
- State what makes the work so popular and successful.
Critical Essay Examples
With tons of resources available online today, it’s not that difficult to find critical essay examples. But it’s challenging to find good ones . Here we have a couple of essay abstracts for you to get an idea of what a critical essay looks and sounds. Feel free to use them for informational and educational purposes only; don’t copy them word by word in your essays to avoid duplications and accusations of plagiarism from your educators.
Critical essay example #1 (the abstract, taken from examples.com):
Critical essay example #2 (the abstract, taken from examples.com):
More examples and explanations:
- The University of Queensland: Critical reading and analysis
- Thompson Rivers University: Critical analysis template
- Nova Southeastern University : Critical essay
FAQ about Critical Essay
And now, for the most interesting part:
To make a long story short for you, here go answers to the most frequently asked questions about critical essay writing. Read them if you want your analytical essay to be A-worthy.
- What type of language should be used in a critical analysis essay?
Make sure to use a formal language in critical essays. It’s about grammatical and pronunciation norms used in intellectual and academic activities. And since your essay is analytical and requires credibility, a formal language is what you need to make it sound so.
- How to cite a critical essay?
For citing critical essays, use the MLA format. Name the author first, followed by the title. Then, specify the publication details, including the pages from where you take the quote or reference.
- How to write a critical essay on movies?
Do it in the same ways as with books or articles. Watch the movie several times, engage with it critically: identify its core focus and message, interpret and evaluate it in the essay, and come up with the essential insights this movie gives to the audience.
- How to write a self-critical essay?
Self-critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating your own writings. As a rule, educators assign them for you to reflect on your progress as a writer.
Such essays are not that difficult to craft. Follow the basic structure of a critical essay: write an introduction stating your thesis, a few body paragraphs analyzing your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and a conclusion that restates your thesis and sums up what you’ve learned about yourself.
- Can a critical essay be in the first person?
Yes, if you write a self-critical essay. But if you write about others’ works, use the third person only.
In a Word…
Don’t be afraid of writing a critical essay! Yes, essays are many, and it might seem impossible to learn the differences between them and the rules of writing them. But their basic structure is the same. All you need to do is identify the purpose of your assigned work and outline it accordingly.
Critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating the work of other writers. So, just read it, figure out what the authors wanted to say, think of whether you agree or disagree with them, and write a critical essay about all this stuff. Therefore, you develop critical thinking. You learn to introduce and prove your arguments.
And you understand how to share ideas with others so they’d listen and support you.
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10 thoughts on “ how to write a critical essay [ultimate guide] ”.
Writing is not an easy task, but the way you described it seems going to be easy. Thank you so much for this article. This is really helpful.
Very helpful information. It seems to me that the best way to learn to write well and structured is to learn from an essay format. I love the format of the essay. It really develops written skills, structures thoughts and makes you think.
I liked your post, it was helpful! But it lacks real examples…
Thanks for your comment, Amy!
No real examples? Hm… But there are at least two of them in the article; plus, we shared three links to highly authoritative resources (all are universities) with tons of critical essay examples there. 🙂
If you need even more real examples, please don’t hesitate to ask our writers for help!
Good stuff, thanks for this article. my problem is writing critical essay on a topic not on a book, article or film, I guess I will just have to follow the same layout and format the essay.
This makes it feel so natural…I love this!
great guides! any other tips of such kind about other essay types? i would love to read about personal essays or informative ones
We have the guide on personal essays already 🙂 As for informative ones, I’m working on the guide right now – so, stay tuned!
For me, it always was quite difficult to build critical essays.. It seems you need to prove something, search arguments, use evidence… all that is not that simple. Narrative or personal essays are much more interesting to write.
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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.
Mapping an Essay Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative.
Critical analysis essays can be a daunting form of academic writing, but crafting a good critical analysis paper can be straightforward if you have the right approach.
A critical analysis essay requires its writers to write a critical evaluation of an argument. Topics can range from analyzing a modern or historical event, film, book, types of music, and complicated social and political issues. It is a form of evaluation and observation with subjective elements.
A critical essay is a type of essay writing assignment that expects you to examine another person’s work, critically analyze it, and present your own idea. In order to come up with effective critical writing, you must have knowledge of source material and the basic principles of writing this type of essay.
What is Critical Essay? A critical essay is one where you evaluate a subject, removing yourself from it and looking at it critically. It sounds as though you must always be negative, but in fact that's not true. Instead, you must make a judgement on the topic depending on the evidence you find.
What is a critical analysis? A critical analysis examines and evaluates someone else’s work, such as a book, an essay, or an article. It requires two steps: a careful reading of the work and thoughtful analysis of the information presented in the work.
Step 3: State a Thesis. Your critical essay should have a one-sentence thesis with two components: a claim and details sustaining it. Based on the information you’ve gathered from the subject of evaluation (a book, a movie, etc.) and secondary sources, write a thesis that will specify your essay’s direction.