Writing a critical analysis essay: a simple guide

Most of the time, when students are assigned a critical analysis essay, they think they should disagree (that is, criticize) the work in question. In practice, a critical analysis is more complex and way more objective than that. Sure, it does not have to be a praising work. However, it cannot be a blunt, unjustified critique either. Instead, you are to apply some critical thinking skills to see if the article you are analyzing has any logical flaws, biased statements, or questions left without answers. This is the ultimate goal of critical analysis — to point out the flaws of someone else’s writing, while also acknowledging the benefits and strong points of the writing piece in question.

So, the most important step when working on a critical analysis paper is not writing but reading. You have to thoroughly analyze the material at hand, and you should be quite savvy with distinguishing various rhetoric means and stylistic devices.

Then, of course, writing itself and sticking to an academically accepted structure, in particular, is very important — if you want to secure a high grade. We’ll teach you the ins and outs of writing a stunning critical analysis paper, so stay tuned for professional writing tips from pro experts.

Critical Analysis Goals and Purpose

Most of the time, students are analyzing someone else’s writing — a short story, an article, etc. However, a critical analysis applies to more works than written text. It can be practically any communication medium — a speech, a movie, even a TV commercial.

The end goal of any analysis is to gain a better understanding of the medium in question. Even though this paper will certainly have a subjective degree in it (after all, we all analyze and evaluate things from our personal perspectives), it does not mean that the form of your analysis will be free-assigned. Like any other academic task, it follows guidelines of its own and following these guidelines while expressing your ideas is exactly what gets you an A+.

In practice, though, it’s not as scary as it seems at first. You have come across multiple critical analysis in everyday life. Practically any movie or book review you’ve seen or read is an example of critical analysis. A lot of people do that for a living, and they and their audience have tons of fun watching their work. So, you can easily come up with an impressive analysis if you really set your mind to it. Let’s see how you can do that in the sections below.

Choosing a compelling topic for an interesting paper

If the professor has already given you an article (or any other medium to analyze), you will have no choice but to stick to a specific prompt. This is not a bad thing at all because choosing a good topic for critical analysis is not always simple.

If you’re left with a free topic, you will, first of all, have to decide which medium to pick for your analysis. Often, the first idea most students get would be to analyze their favorite book or a movie. We, however, would not recommend analyzing your favorite authors. First of all, if you like something, you will inevitably present at least a slightly biased analysis — and your professor, being an expert in rhetoric, will surely notice that. Second, it will simply be challenging for you to spot out the flaws in a work you like.

The good part, though, is that finding a topic for an impressive analysis is not that hard — especially, these days when we are literally bombarded with information. Here are several criteria that should help you make the right choice:

  •  Pick something controversial, that is — something that may have multiple interpretations. A novel, a controversial short story, a compelling article about some acute problem — those are great examples of mediums for quality analysis.
  •  Choose a popular subject — this way, you can stay confident that your audience has all the background information they need. Besides, they probably have their opinions about the issue, which means you will have an excellent ground for presenting your thesis and defending your point of view.
  •  Avoid broad subjects and generalizations. Quality analysis of a general topic will take dozens of pages, which is unlikely what your professor expects. Find an issue that is specific and matches your required paper length.
  •  Consult your teacher. Sure, it’s your paper, but it does not mean that your professors will not point you in the right direction should you consult them. If you have several questions or ideas, do not be afraid of running them by your supervisor. After all, it’s their job to guide you.

Step by step guide to writing a critical analysis paper

Obviously, the first step to completing a winning analysis is choosing an interesting subject, which we already covered in the paragraphs above. After you’re done, what’s next? Follow this simple guide to save time and still write an A+ paper.

Step 1: Critical reading

Even if you are working on an article you’ve read before, you still have to carefully re-read it — this time, you will be asking questions and making notes on the go. There are several aspects you will need to focus on if you want to nail this stage:

  • Author’s audience: Who is this medium aimed at? What message is it trying to convey? Is it succeeding? Why/why not? These are the first questions you will need to focus on — and, of course, find objective answers.
  • Rhetorical means used: when trying to convey our ideas, we use basic rhetoric appeals. These appeals have been defined centuries ago, in Ancient Greece, but we still stick to them. Those are logos (appeal to logic), pathos (emotional appeal), and ethos (an ethical appeal that is often based on the writer’ s/speaker’s authority on a given subject). Often, one medium may feature a combination of the above appeals, and it’s your goal to find and identify them. Do they fit the context? Do they convey the message the author is trying to convey? Is rhetoric ethical? Logical? Easy to follow?
  • General structure and logic: Speaking of logic and easy to follow ideas, this is the last parameter you will need to focus on while reading. Even though it is the last, it does not mean it’s the easiest. Pay attention to the logical transitions the author uses. Is each new argument a logical continuation of the last? Are the writer’s deductions adequate? Is there any bias in the author’s argumentation?

Step 2: Formulating a thesis

Next crucial milestone is creating a compelling thesis. Basically, this is going to be your subjective attitude to the work in question. However, you cannot dumb it down to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ evaluation — you have to try and make it more objective than that. Also, make sure your thesis is not too obvious — the main idea you are going to prove in your analysis cannot be the same idea that will inevitably occur to any other person who reads the same text. Look a bit beyond the surface, try to read between the lines and extract any hidden meanings in the document you are analyzing — this is the best way to come up with a thesis that would be both exciting and arguable.

Step 3: Drafting an outline

This step may be optional, but if you have little experience with critical analyses, we strongly recommend having one — at least, in your head or in the form of rough notes. They will keep you focused when you get down to writing. Just like any other academic paper, a critical analysis will consist of:

  • Introduction: that states the author, the article, and some background information about both of the above. It also introduces the main points you are going to analyze and presents a thesis in the final sentence.
  • Body paragraphs: this is the essence of your entire analysis. Here, you present all the arguments that help you prove your thesis. When working on a five-paragraph paper, you can use a pattern we already mentioned in the critical reading section. So, the first body paragraph will analyze the author’s intended audience, the second one — rhetoric means, and the third one — overall logic and style. With lengthier, more complicated analyses, you can include more body paragraphs. However, you still have to answer the essential questions above and make sure that every point you make is logically connected to the previous idea. Otherwise, your professor will point out logical flaws in your work, and that’s not the kind of effect you strive to achieve.
  • Conclusion: in this part, you sum up your main points (when working on long papers — just in case your reader forgot some of your initial arguments) or simply restate the thesis. It is also wise to highlight the importance of your paper — why was this analysis valuable, in the first place?

Step 4: Writing your analysis

Once you have defined all of the above, you can safely get down to writing. Your outline will keep you on track, so the actual writing process should not take long. If you have any new ideas as you write, think twice before using them, though. Adding new information may break the entire logical flow of your paper, losing you points on the final grade.

Step 5: Editing and proofreading

Finally, remember to proofread the paper for typos and, if necessary, edit it for logical flaws and omissions. Apply some critical reading — just like you did for the document you’ve been analyzing.

As you can see, a critical analysis is not as complicated as it seems. Still, critical reading and critical writing (not to mention choosing the best medium for your work) takes a bit of time. Often, this time is more than most students can spare — especially when dealing with less important subjects, not directly related to their majors.

The good news, though, is that you can always count on professional writing help when you need one. Our writers have written thousands of fully customized papers for students in need, and a critical analysis is one of the works they like best. So, if you want to secure a higher grade while saving your time and energy, contact us, and we’ll provide you with an original paper your professor will appreciate.

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