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How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay - Easy Step-by-Step Guide

It's not unusual for college students to find themselves with several assignments that all fall under the category of "critical analysis essay." Teachers and professors favor this task because it allows them to assess students' ability to process and review the piece of text given. However, not all of those professors take the time to teach you how to write a critical analysis essay. For some reason, they expect you to wrap your head around everything by yourself. Now, that is not the right way to educate!

You may not have the time to go through dozens of textbooks to find the information you need. That is why we've put together this mini-guide on critical analysis writing.

Let us give you a few tips on your path to academic proficiency!

Critical Analysis Essay - The Basics

Before getting straight to the writing phase, you need to understand the whole concept of this paper first. We already established that they assign this essay to evaluate students' ability to dissect and study a piece of work. But, what is a critical analysis of the work itself? Well, it is a paper that breaks down a given text piece by piece and states its different characteristics. You should write this work in a rather subjective manner because you express your point of view and thoughts on the subject matter.

But, you should be careful not to make your essay too personal. Don't try to convince the reader but lay all of the facts down in a manner that is seamless and unobtrusive. Remember that a critical essay is different from other types of essays - it is neither argumentative nor persuasive.

Pre-Writing Stage Tips

After figuring out its definition, it still isn't the time to start writing as you need first to read the text critically. But, that doesn't mean you must scan it like you usually do with your literary pieces. Prepare your pen and notepad because, while going through the text, you will need to do a few things.

  • Identify and write down the author's thesis, their goal in composing the subject of your study.
  • Single out your main ideas and lessons present in the text.
  • Make sure you understand everything. If there is something unclear, use a dictionary or some other sources to interpret what you read.
  • It wouldn't hurt to make an outline of your essay and add a short description. That way, you will be able to understand the fundamental points in the plot or structure better.
  • Determine the methods employed by the author to get their point across.
  • Ascertain whether the text complies with the literary standards. What pros and cons does it have? Is it easy to understand and process the information?

After you finish analyzing it verbally, it's time to start writing. Now, don't forget that there is a proper critical analysis essay format. It may seem like a sure thing because it's an essay after all, and yet, each writing assignment has its specific features.

In critical analysis essay writing, it isn't advisable to use such phrases as "I think" or "from my viewpoint." Once again, you are aiming to subtly present your thoughts, not scream them at the reader, trying to convince them you're right. The purpose is to inform and evaluate. Interpret the information the way you perceive it, but don't forget to mention the title and the name of the author. In addition, include some general facts related to the text to let your reader become acquainted with what you're evaluating.

Another tricky part here is the structure of a critical analysis essay. So, let's get to it!

Critical Analysis Essay Outline and Structure

Before starting writing, take a moment to organize your thoughts. Begin by outlining your critical analysis essay. You should know by now that an outline is a plan, a shape that will later form your paper. By developing it beforehand, you will aid the future you in composing the final version. You must envision what you will write to make it all make sense in the ending. It's good when you write down all your thoughts, notes, and arguments, but it will be much better if you put them in one place and structure them accordingly.

The Structure

The next logical step of the whole writing process is to come up with the proper structure for your critical analysis essay. Well, the obvious answer is an introduction, then the main body part, and a conclusion. It may seem so, but there is so much more to it than this simple scheme.

First, your essay has to make sense as a cohesive discourse, therefore structure your disputative points in a way that forms a smooth flow. The transition between your thoughts should be natural and logical. You shouldn't jump from point to point without finishing describing or explaining something.

How does a proper critical analysis essay start? Getting to the point immediately is not an option. What is expected from you is to inform your reader about the core parts of what you're analyzing, who wrote it, and where it was published. You should do that even if you're sure that people looking at your essay are aware of that. Imagine that the work got into the hands of a stranger who had never even heard about the subject of your study. Inform them and help them understand. You should make it clear and available for anybody to grasp what you're trying to convey.

Outline Example

Now, let's get another look at your possible plan. We will provide you with an outline example of a critical analysis essay so that you could draw your conclusions and use it as a model sample.

  1. Introduction
    • Essential data about the analyzed text
    • The author's key points
    • Your thesis statement and your interpretation of the idea behind the text
  2. Main Body
    • Summary of the book's plot - the five W's method (who, what, where, when, why)
    • No less than three argumentative paragraphs with the structure like:
      • The point you're getting across
      • Example from the text
      • How it relates to the main idea of your analysis
  3. Conclusion
    • Round up all the points you've made. Try to make it short, dynamic, and precise. Don't retell but conclude.

That's the standard structure of critical essays. It should be clear at this point, but we will still focus on two major parts: the introduction and conclusion.

The introduction

We've already stated what parts should be present in the passage that is known as introduction, but it wouldn't be out of place to focus on this part. You can even go as far as to call it the most important one. It is the thesis of a critical analysis essay.

Don't forget that the thesis is a statement you provide that asserts your opinion about a particular part of a text or its entirety. Support it with evidence and elaborate. Mind that your thesis must not repeat what the author has used to state in their thesis. For instance, in case the author wrote "The sky is white," you'd have to write something along the lines of "An author's declaration about the sky being white is baseless and unsustainable."

The conclusion

The way you finish up your literary analysis essay is what will remain in your reader's mind for a while. So, if you're wondering how to write a conclusion for a critical analysis essay, it means you're taking it seriously. What has to be done is:

  • repeat your thesis (by restating it);
  • summarize every main point you've made, but don't drag it out;
  • be short and precise;
  • highlight the importance of your analysis and what you've achieved;
  • pinpoint different perspectives of looking at the issue and encourage the reader to keep on investigating.

Choosing the Topic

Speaking of critical analysis essay topics, you're free to select any issue that catches your eye. But it's better to be familiar with the text you're analyzing. Sometimes, professors will give a specific topic to you based on the subject you're studying. But, many prefer to provide their students with freedom of choice to see what interests them more and what topic they navigate better.

Remember that the topic should concern something you are familiar with so that it is effective and engaging. For example, it's not a good idea to write about Charlotte Brontë if you are as far from classic English literature mentally as you are chronologically. Try to combine the things you enjoy doing with your studies. That way, you will not only make your critical analysis essay engaging and professional but also learn something new!

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