How to Write a Critical Analysis


A critical analysis examines an article or other work to determine its effectiveness. You may need to write a critical analysis of an article, book, film, painting, or other text. Start by reading the text critically to understand the author’s argument and begin forming your own opinion of it. Then, examine the text in more depth to analyze it. When you have finished developing your analysis, draft it according to critical analysis structure.

Part 1
Conducting a Critical Reading

Conducting a Critical Reading on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Read through all of the material that you are using for your critical analysis. Highlight, underline, or make notes about important passages as you go. Look up any words, concepts, and other information that you don’t understand.[1] You may need to read the text more than once, especially if it is dense or complicated. As you read the text, consider what about it is important, worthwhile, useful, relevant, controversial, or valid.

Conducting a Critical Reading on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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As you read the text, determine what the author is arguing for or against. Identify their thesis and underline or highlight it. A thesis statement often appears in the first 1 to 2 paragraphs of an essay. The thesis is usually a single sentence that explains the author’s argument.[2] It might be easier to find the thesis in an academic article than in a creative work, movie, or painting. If you’re critiquing a work of fiction or creative nonfiction, in either written form or film form, identify one of the main themes of the story instead. For a painting, identify what the painter may be trying to get across with their work of art.

Conducting a Critical Reading on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Underline or highlight all of the topic sentences and other passages that seem significant to you. These may include the author’s reasons and supporting evidence that they provide throughout the text. Identifying these parts of the text will allow you to analyze its structure.[3] In an academic article, identify the topic sentences of each paragraph or section. For works of fiction or paintings, look for scenes and imagery that seem to support the thesis.

Conducting a Critical Reading on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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As a final way to cement the ideas you’ve read about in the text, write a brief summary of it. Try to keep your summary around 1 paragraph long and describe what the text’s focus was about, including the author’s main argument.[4] If the text was a film or work of art, write a brief 1 to 2 paragraph synopsis of the film or description of the painting.

Part 2
Analyzing the Text

Analyzing the Text on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Take a moment to reflect on what the text made you feel or think. The way the text affects you emotionally is also known as pathos and this is an important component of rhetoric. Write down your initial responses to the text, good and bad. Try to explain in writing why you responded the way that you did. Pinpoint the aspects of the text that evoked that response in you.[5] For example, if the text made you angry, what was it about the text that made you angry? If you found yourself laughing at the text, what about it was laughable?

Analyzing the Text on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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If the author of the text has a well-known background that may have informed their argument, this may help you to craft a critical analysis of the text. Look into the author’s background to see if this might help to inform why they made the argument that they did. Try checking to see what else they've written, what they are known for, and what affiliations they have.[6] For example, if the author is an outspoken proponent of healthcare reform, then this would likely explain any bias in an argumentative essay on universal healthcare. The author’s background may also include credentials, such as a doctorate or medical degree. This is part of the ethos of the text since having credentials may help to bolster an author’s credibility.

Analyzing the Text on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Another way to approach your analysis is to consider how well the author has defined concepts in the text. If the concepts are poorly or inadequately defined, this will provide you with an easy way to critique the text. Identify what is inadequate or unclear about the definitions and what would have made them easier to follow.[7] For example, if the author’s explanation of greenhouse gasses is long, full of jargon, and confusing, then you might focus on this as part of your critique.Tip: Keep in mind that you canalso have a positive critique ofthe text if you think it waseffective. For example, if theauthor’s description ofgreenhouse gasses was written insimple, easy to understandlanguage, you might note this aspart of your analysis.Tip: Keep in mind that you can alsohave a positive critique of the textif you think it was effective. Forexample, if the author’s descriptionof greenhouse gasses was written insimple, easy to understand language,you might note this as part of youranalysis.Tip: Keep in mind that you can also have apositive critique of the text if you thinkit was effective. For example, if theauthor’s description of greenhouse gasseswas written in simple, easy to understandlanguage, you might note this as part ofyour analysis.Tip: Keep in mind that you can also have a positive critique of the textif you think it was effective. For example, if the author’sdescription of greenhouse gasses was written in simple, easy tounderstand language, you might note this as part of your analysis.Tip: Keep in mind that you can also have a positive critique of the text ifyou think it was effective. For example, if the author’s description ofgreenhouse gasses was written in simple, easy to understand language, youmight note this as part of your analysis.

Analyzing the Text on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Whether or not the author has used credible evidence that supports their position is also a great way to critically analyze a text. Look at each of the sources the author has used to check them for credibility. Then, consider if the content of these sources provides good support for the author’s points. If it has, then the author has made good use of logos, or the appeal to logic.[8] For example, if the author has used a website that is known for being biased in favor of their argument, then this would weaken their position. However, if the author used sources that were fair and unbiased, then this would strengthen their position. Not all texts will incorporate evidence. For example, if you’re doing a critical analysis of a film or work of art, it probably won’t include secondary sources.

Part 3
Drafting the Analysis

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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Provide all of the basic information about the work you’re analyzing, such as the author’s name, the title, date of publication, and any other relevant information. Then, give a brief overview of the work and its purpose. Try to keep all of this information within 2 to 3 sentences.[9] For example, in the first sentence of your essay, provide the basic information on the text. Then, describe text’s argument in about 1 to 2 sentences.

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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After you finish describing the author’s argument, provide your argument in the form of your thesis statement. Depending on whether or not you thought the text was effective, you may frame your thesis as showing where the text failed to accomplish its goal or how it was successful.[10] For example, you might write, “Darcy Gibbons’ essay on the environmental impact of consumerism provides a thorough and valuable overview of the problem.” Or, you might write, “Shannon Duperty’s mixed media painting, “Dove on Heroin,” falls short of its attempt at edgy political commentary.”

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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After you have provided your thesis statement, include a 1 paragraph summary of the work. You can use the summary that you wrote after reading the text or write a new one. Focus on the main points that the text covers and leave out the rest.[11] Keep in mind that the summary paragraph is the only place in your essay where you may include summary. The rest of the essay should provide analysis of the essay.

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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After you summarize the text, start going through the points that support your thesis. If you thought the text was ineffective, devote 1 paragraph to each of your reasons for why it was ineffective. If you thought it was effective, devote 1 paragraph to each reason why it was effective. You may also organize the paragraphs by topic if you’re having trouble identifying multiple reasons for a text’s effectiveness. Some topics you may use to decide what to cover include:[12] Organization. How did the author organize their argument? Was this a good strategy or not? Why? Style. What style did the author use to get their point across? How did the style hurt or help their argument? Effectiveness. In general, was the text effective at getting its point across? Why or why not? Fairness or bias. Did the author demonstrate a fair or biased perspective on their topic? How could you tell? Appeal to a specific audience. Did the author seem to have a specific audience in mind? If so, who were they and how well did the author meet their needs?[13]

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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As you go through your reasons for your position, you’ll also need to point to specific examples from the author’s text, so be ready with quotes, paraphrased sections, and summaries. Make sure to put any direct quotes into quotation marks and provide page numbers for any evidence you use from a written text.[14]Tip: Check with your teacher fordetails on how to cite sources.They may want you to use aspecific citation style, such asMLA, Chicago, or APA.Tip: Check with your teacher fordetails on how to cite sources. Theymay want you to use a specificcitation style, such as MLA, Chicago,or APA.Tip: Check with your teacher for details onhow to cite sources. They may want you touse a specific citation style, such as MLA,Chicago, or APA.Tip: Check with your teacher for details on how to cite sources. Theymay want you to use a specific citation style, such as MLA, Chicago, orAPA.Tip: Check with your teacher for details on how to cite sources. They may wantyou to use a specific citation style, such as MLA, Chicago, or APA.

Drafting the Analysis on How to Write a Critical Analysis

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This is where you can summarize the main points of your analysis and give your opinion of the text’s effectiveness overall. In other words, explain to readers whether or not the author accomplished their objective. Don’t repeat your intro or other parts of the essay word-for-word. Instead, try to cover the most important info in different words or discuss the implications of your argument.[15] For example, you might conclude by talking about how the author made a good effort in some regards, but ultimately their argument was ineffective, and then explain why in 2 to 3 sentences.