- Identify the author's thesis and purpose
- Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
- Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
- Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
- Write a summary of the work
- Determine the purpose which could be
- To inform with factual material
- To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
- To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY
After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.
- I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
- A. Information about the work
- 1. Title
- 2. Author
- 3. Publication information
- 4. Statement of topic and purpose
- B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
- II. Summary or description of the work
- III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
- A. Discussion of the work's organization
- B. Discussion of the work's style
- C. Effectiveness
- D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
- E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.
Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.
Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What is the overall value of the passage?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.
Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.
Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.
Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.
Use this sample format to take your questions from description and evaluation above to turn them into a smoothly written paper. The "XXX" is your answer:
In "Why I Hate Cats" author John Stephans explains XXX (give a summary of article).
"Why I Hate Cats" is an XXX essay which makes the claim XXX. The essay opens with XXX and makes the claim XXX in paragraph XXX that XXX. The rest of essay is organized by XXX (very brief description of the outline of essay perhaps telling where the description of problem is, where claims are and where support is located in the paper).
Because the article was published in XXX, the intended audience is probably XXX and they believe XXX. Stephans wants to convince them XXX. The author establishes his/her authority by XXX. The author assumes an audience who XXX. He (She) establishes common ground with the audience by XXX. The purpose of the author is XXX. The constraints on discussing this issue are XXX.
The support includes XXX. The support is adequate (inadequate) and is relevant (irrelevant) to the author’s claim because XXX.
Overall, the article is effective (or ineffective) because XXX.