How to Write a Critical Essay: Definition, Ideas, Tips

What is Critical Essay?

A critical essay can be defined as a type of academic writing that is aimed at analyzing, reviewing, and evaluating a particular text or piece of writing. In critical writing, the writer tries to explain the meaning and significance of the ideas and themes that are present in a particular text and also tries to support his/her claim with evidence from other sources.

Unlike the general perception, critical essays are not focused at pointing out the errors and mistakes present in a particular text, rather, it tries to help people to understand the idea the author of a text is trying to pass across, and also analyzing the meaning and significance of such writing.

Characteristics of a Critical Essay

Some important things that should be noted when writing a critical essay. These attributes are the important factors that make your writing pass as a critical essay. When they are neglected, the essay can no longer be considered as a critical essay as they are the major building blocks on which a critical essay is built. Some of these important factors are explained below.

Central belief or Claim

This is the major idea that the writer supports in the text. It is can be based on the main idea expressed in the text depending on what the writer wants. This claim is usually stated at the beginning of the writing in a thesis supported throughout the text with convincing arguments and evidence.


After the central claim has been established, the claim is to be backed with evidence from the text. This evidence may include dialogues, descriptions from the text and also word choice or structure. Evidence from secondary sources such as scholarly works can also be used to strengthen and support the main argument.


The conclusion is a summary of all that has been written. It should also summarize the main claim and also emphasize the essay’s most important points.

How to Write a Critical Essay.

Below are some very important things that should be followed to write a very good critical essay.

Understand the assignment

Before commencing on writing a critical essay ensure you understand what you are asked to do. If the essay is a school assignment, read the instruction attached to the assignment and ask your teacher for more explanation on anything you don’t understand properly. Understanding the assignment is very important because a slight deviation from the instruction you have been asked to follow might make the whole writing invalid.

• Familiarize yourself with the text

This should not be news to you, as you know, critical essays involve the analysis of articles, films, books or even paintings. Thus, to be able to make a good analysis you should study the content of the text through and through. This will enable you to easily identify the major themes and concepts in the text as soon as you start writing. Also, as you are reading through the text, keeps some major important questions about the text in mind and try to find an answer to them in the text. Example of such questions are:

a) What is the text about?

b) What are the central ideas the text is passing across?

c) What is puzzling about the text?

d) What is the purpose of the text?

e) Does the text accomplish its purpose?

These questions if answered will make the writing a lot easier and error-free.

• Take important notes

Before you commence writing and as you read through your text, ensure you write down the important aspects of the text that you think might be essential for your essay. Taking notes of these aspects will help you to remember important points and also help you to think critically about the text.

• Review your notes

After writing down important and notable events in the text, you should now review the notes you have taken. You should now be able to identify some patterns and problems present in the text you just studied based on the notes you have taken.

• Find appropriate secondary sources for your research.

You might not be required to use a different source for your essay, but if you are asked to do that, you should try to make use of the best sources to make your research about the essay. Since making researches is also very important in writing a good critical essay, you should be sure of the credibility of the sources of your research.

• Read through your research

After you have made your research from a good and credible source, it is important to read through your research and ensure you fully understand them. Also, as you read through this research, highlight the important part of the research so that you can easily recall them when they are needed during the writing.

• Write your essay

When writing your essay, make sure you begin the essay with a very interesting line that fully introduces your topic or not beat about the bush by starting the essay with a cliché such as “modern society”, “the dictionary defines”. To catch the attention of the reader, you can start with a very interesting fact or another attention grabber element to keep the reader interested.

Also, it is important to provide additional information about the text to guild your reader. This information may include the author of the book, a summary of the plot, or a brief synopsis in a case where you are writing about a film.

Finally, to finish the critical writing, a conclusion should be written. This conclusion should be a summary and review of the main ideas of the text, how these ideas affect the reader, and also a few questions that you have introduced from your essay.

Make sure you cite all of your research including quotations, statisticsCritical Essay, and theoretical concepts as accurately as possible.

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