Guidelines on how to write a critical analysis paper

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If you’re assigned to submit a critical analysis essay, the first thing that you should know is that it asks you to make a strong argument about a given movie, book, etc. The main goals of this academic assignment include:

  • Identifying and explaining the main argument made by the author;
  • Providing your own opinion about it.

How to write a critical analysis paper? One of the key clues of writing it successfully is to avoid or minimize a summary because you need to evaluate the author’s argument, not writing a book report.

The definition of critical analysis papers

A critical analysis is the academic paper designed to get a better understanding of a specific written work. It’s subjective because you need to express your personal opinion to provide the audience with a good evaluation. Basically, there are major steps involved in writing this type of essay:

  • Critical reading;
  • Critical writing.

When writing it, make sure that you can express personal opinions based on real-life experiences.

How to effectively plan your critical analysis

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As you already know, critical reading is the first step to completing this assignment successfully. To read critically, you need to identify the analysis and purpose of the author. Take notes of the main ideas and the paragraphs that support them. Check relevant reference materials for the things that you don’t understand. Write an outline, description, and summary of a given work while considering its basic purpose. To write and synthesize, you should ask a few basic questions:

  • Is it written to entertain readers?
  • Is it factual?
  • Is it written to express any particular opinion?

Next, you need to determine whether the author achieved a particular purpose in a given written work.

The importance of outlining your analysis and evaluation

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Some teachers provide their students with a sample or an outline to help them submit a well-written and organized critical analysis papers. An outline serves as a helpful skeleton of how you will structure your essay. That’s why its creation is a fundamental element of completing any academic assignment.

How to create a helpful outline

Consider important background information because it allows readers to get a brief overview or a better understanding of the work that you want to evaluate. Make sure that all key details are provided, but the information you include should be brief. Use these details as a basis for your critical analysis:

  • Publication data;
  • Titles;
  • Authors;
  • A thesis statement that indicates your main reaction to a given work;
  • A statement of its purpose and topic.

A summary is another fundamental element of writing a critical analysis because you need to read critically to submit a good paper.

Writing an interpretation usually varies from one student to another because it’s subjective. Base this part on your honest opinions and personal experiences, both positive and negative. The way you evaluate in this section reflects your proficiency and individuality. However, when writing the following elements, make sure that your paper is focused on your critical analysis, not you:

  • Discussing the style of a given work;
  • Evaluating its organization;
  • Effectiveness;
  • Determining an appeal to the audience;
  • Discussing a topic treatment.

Possible points of criticism

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Sometimes, it seems intimidating and confusing for students to criticize a particular article or book. The main part of this practice is to expose the fact that although authors are qualified and skillful, they still provide their evidence and advance arguments. This means that their basic goal is to persuade you that they’re right, not just to present facts. Once you understand that authors make arguments, you will start analyzing if you find them compelling enough.

Helpful questions when evaluating arguments

There are different questions that you can ask to evaluate the arguments stated by authors and end up with a strong critical analysis. They all can be easily grouped into specific categories. For example, the most common theoretical questions include:

  • How do authors understand and see the entire situation?
  • What are their theoretical backgrounds?
  • How do they influence an overall view of this situation?

Besides, there are effective definitional questions, such as:

  • Do all concepts in the text seem clear?
  • Do author define them vaguely to let them be applied to different situations?
  • If concepts relate to seemingly different situations, are they really meaningful?

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Feel free to ask specific evidence questions, including the following:

  • Does the evidence presented by authors support their key arguments?
  • Do they have enough evidence to prove a broader point?
  • Do they ignore or underemphasize the evidence contrary to their arguments?
  • Are their arguments compelling if they ignore obvious exceptions?
  • Can you see any bias in their evidence?
  • Is it really credible?

It’s advisable to ask policy or implication relevance questions too:

  • How do authors deal with given issues?
  • What are the implications of their arguments?
  • Are they negative or positive?

There are other questioning approaches that can be used when making your critical evaluation:

  • Are the arguments of authors consistent throughout their written works?
  • Does a conclusion offer a different argument than an introduction?
  • Do specific language choices betray any bias or ideology and frame arguments in a given way?
  • Do the backgrounds of authors have any significant implications for these arguments?

How to make a strong critical analysis

How to write a critical analysis paper? Once you take the above-mentioned steps, you’re prepared to write it using the following plan. Background information plays an important role because it helps the audience understand the nature of a given work, and you always need to introduce it. Don’t think that you can skip mentioning its title only because readers know what you’re writing about. Ask these basic questions to effectively guide your critical analysis:

  • Is there any controversy surrounding a passage in the text?
  • What is its overall value?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • What are both weak and strong sides?

Why support a thesis with evidence

When writing a critical analysis, you should support a thesis with strong evidence from the text and document all paraphrases and quotes. The main reason is that the purpose of writing this paper is not only to inform, but also to evaluate the distinction, utility, worth, truth, excellence, and goodness of a given work. Although you are the one to set standards, stay well-informed, open-minded, and honest. You’re free to express personal opinions, but be sure to support them all with strong evidence taken from the text. Your critical analysis should provide the audience with the following elements:

  • Information to help readers understand the nature of a particular written work;
  • Interpretation that explains its main meaning and requires your proper understanding of it;
  • Evaluation that discusses personal opinions and presents your valid justification.

How to write the best evaluation part

The main key to write a good evaluation part of your critical analysis is to take a certain position, state it clearly in your paper, and develop it forcefully. There are helpful steps that should be taken in any order adapted to your personal writing needs and style.

First, you need to prepare by carefully reading a given written work and considering different issues. Choose any interesting idea that comes to your mind while reading critically either because you agree with it, but you think that it requires more thought, or because you disagree and are uncomfortable with it.

Ask a question about the chosen idea to investigate it in your critical analysis paper. Consider your personal feelings about a specific issue and reasons that can be used to support them. If you like what you get, you’re ready to state a preliminary thesis. If you don’t like it, go back to consider other questions from your critical reading.

Write a preliminary thesis statement to name the chosen topic, assert interesting ideas about it, and suggest the right arrangement of a major argument. Go back to your critical reading and find enough details to back up your arguments. Assume that all readers are familiar with a given written work, but use any references to the text and quotes only to back up your point of view.

Once everything is done, you’re prepared to write the first draft of your critical analysis. Take into account further refinements to the main argument after taking a short break and you will end up with a well-organized and designed paper.

How to structure your critical analysis

Most papers of this kind start with a brief summary of a given written work before diving into the main argument. Since many critical analysis assignments are short, you need to be concise in all sections. Creating a helpful outline is a must to stay focused on your argument and avoid irrelevant descriptions when structuring your critical analysis that should include an introduction, a conclusion, a short summary, and your argument.

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