Academic Phrasebank

Academic Phrasebank

Being critical.

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As an academic writer, you are expected to be critical of the sources that you use. This essentially means questioning what you read and not necessarily agreeing with it just because the information has been published. Being critical can also mean looking for reasons why we should not just accept something as being correct or true. This can require you to identify problems with a writer’s arguments or methods, or perhaps to refer to other people’s criticisms of these. Constructive criticism goes beyond this by suggesting ways in which a piece of research or writing could be improved. … being against is not enough. We also need to develop habits of constructive thinking. Edward de Bono

Highlighting inadequacies of previous studies

Previous studies of X have not dealt with … Researchers have not treated X in much detail. Such expositions are unsatisfactory because they … Most studies in the field of X have only focused on … Such approaches, however, have failed to address … Previous published studies are limited to local surveys. Half of the studies evaluated failed to specify whether … The research to date has tended to focus on X rather than Y. Previously published studies on the effect of X are not consistent. Smith’s analysis does not take account of …, nor does she examine … The existing accounts fail to resolve the contradiction between X and Y. Most studies of X have only been carried out in a small number of areas. However, much of the research up to now has been descriptive in nature … The generalisability of much published research on this issue is problematic. Research on the subject has been mostly restricted to limited comparisons of … However, few writers have been able to draw on any systematic research into … Short-term studies such as these do not necessarily show subtle changes over time … Although extensive research has been carried out on X, no single study exists which … However, these results were based upon data from over 30 years ago and it is unclear if … The experimental data are rather controversial, and there is no general agreement about …

Identifying a weakness in a single study or paper

Offering constructive suggestions.

The study would have been more interesting if it had included … These studies would have been more useful if they had focused on … The study would have been more relevant if the researchers had asked … The questionnaire would have been more useful if it had asked participants about … The research would have been more relevant if a wider range of X had been explored

Introducing problems and limitations: theory or argument

The main weakness with this theory is that … The key problem with this explanation is that … However, this theory does not fully explain why … One criticism of much of the literature on X is that … However, there is an inconsistency with this argument. A serious weakness with this argument, however, is that … One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether … Smith’s argument relies too heavily on qualitative analysis of … Smith’s interpretation overlooks much of the historical research … Many writers have challenged Smith’s claim on the grounds that … Smith’s analysis does not take account of X, nor does he examine … It seems that Jones’ understanding of the X framework is questionable. The existing accounts fail to resolve the contradiction between X and Y. One of the limitations with this explanation is that it does not explain why…

Introducing problems and limitations: method or practice

One major drawback of this approach is that … Selection bias is another potential concern because … Perhaps the most serious disadvantage of this method is that … The main limitation of biosynthetic incorporation, however, is … Non-government agencies are also very critical of the new policies. All the studies reviewed so far, however, suffer from the fact that … Critics of laboratory-based experiments contend that such studies … Another problem with this approach is that it fails to take X into account. Difficulties arise, however, when an attempt is made to implement the policy. Critics have also argued that not only do surveys provide an inaccurate measure of X, but the … Nevertheless, the strategy has not escaped criticism from governments, agencies and academics.

Using evaluative adjectives to comment on research

Introducing general criticism.

Critics question the ability of poststructuralist theory to provide … Non-government agencies are also very critical of the new policies. Smith’s meta-analysis has been subjected to considerable criticism. The most important of these criticisms is that Smith failed to note that … The X theory has been vigorously challenged in recent years by a number of writers. These claims have been strongly contested in recent years by a number of writers. More recent arguments against X have been summarised by Smith and Jones (1982): Critics have also argued that not only do surveys provide an inaccurate measure of X, but the … Many analysts now argue that the strategy of X has not been successful. Jones (2003), for example, argues that …

Introducing the critical stance of particular writers

Jones (2003) has also questioned why … However, Jones (2003) points out that … The author challenges the widely held view that … Smith (1999) takes issue with the contention that … The idea that … was first challenged by Smith (1992). Smith is critical of the tendency to compartmentalise X. However, Smith (1967) questioned this hypothesis and … Smith (1980) broke with tradition by raising the question of … Jones (2003) has challenged some of Smith’s conclusions, arguing that … Another major criticism of Smith’s study, made by Jones (2003), is that … Jones (2003) is critical of the conclusions that Smith draws from his findings. An alternative interpretation of the origins of X can be found in Smith (1976). Jones (2003) is probably the best known critic of the X theory. He argues that … In her discussion of X, Smith further criticises the ways in which some authors … Smith’s decision to reject the classical explanation of X merits some discussion … The latter point has been devastatingly critiqued by Jones (2003), who argues that … In a recent article in  Academic Journal , Smith (2014) questions the extent to which … A recently published article by Smith  et al . (2011) casts doubt on Jones’ assumption that … Other authors (see Harbison, 2003; Kaplan, 2004) question the usefulness of such an approach.

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Critical thinking

Critical writing.

Students sometimes receive feedback such as "your essay is too descriptive" or "you need to show more critical analysis". While some description may be necessary – for instance if you are providing background information – most university assignments require you to produce work that is analytical and critical in its approach.

Your tutors want to know what you think

Your writing needs to show your interpretation of the evidence and source material, how you have used that information to demonstrate your understanding, and your subsequent position on the topic. Being critical in your writing means engaging in academic debates and research happening in your subject area.

The sources you select, the way you show how they agree or disagree with other pieces of evidence, and the way you structure your argument will all show your thought process and how you have understood the information you have read.

Use evidence to strengthen your position

Always keep your reader in mind and try to anticipate the questions they would ask — refer back to the Critical thinking questions (PDF) to help you with this. You can use evidence to help you strengthen your position, answer readers' questions, and "neutralise" opposing points of view.

Remember to keep descriptive statements to a minimum — there is no need to provide large amounts of background or historical information.

Make sure you move from description to analysis and evaluation . Give your interpretation of the facts, and explain the significance, consequences and implications of the statements you have made.

See our advice on structuring a paragraph for more information on how to attach analysis and evaluation to each point you make.

Descriptive vs critical writing examples

The following examples demonstrate the difference between descriptive writing and critical/analytical writing. They are taken from: Cottrell, S. 2003. The Study Skills Handbook . 2nd ed. London: Palgrave.

State what happened vs identify its significance

To write critically you will need to not only describe what happened, but also identify the significance of what happened.

Descriptive example

"The data shows that the incidence (new cases) of asthma rates in children under 15 years old increased rapidly from 1977, peaking in 1993 and then declining, though rates still remain significantly higher than pre-1976 levels."

Critical example

"The trend, from 1977 until 1993, of a rapid rise in rates of asthma diagnosis in children under 15 years, suggests that one of the causal factors was particularly prevalent during this time, but has since declined in importance or effect."

Explain the theory vs show its relevance

Descriptive writing will explain what the theory says. To write critically you need to go further and show why that theory is relevant.

"Carl Rogers' theory of a person-centred approach focuses on the freedom of the individual to determine what values should be used to measure successful personal outcomes or benefit, and is particularly relevant for social workers when wanting to take into account the diverse needs of the client group."

"Carl Rogers' theory of a person-centred approach is particularly suitable for social workers wanting to work with a client group with diverse needs because it allows the client to determine what values should be used to measure successful outcomes, rather than those externally determined by, for example, the service, state or dominant culture in society."

Note the method used vs indicate its appropriateness

Rather than simply noting the method used, which is the descriptive approach, a critical writer will show how appropriate that method was.

"In addition to competency-based questions, the candidates were asked to complete an in-tray exercise, which required them to allocate different priority levels to tasks, as an appropriate method to measure their likely performance in the actual job."

"In addition to competency-based questions, candidates were asked to complete an in-tray task prioritisation exercise. This was because it was considered a more effective way to measure likely performance in the actual role as the majority of the job would involve similar tasks, with little interaction with customers and therefore less requirement for highly developed communication skills."

You can apply our critical thinking model to your own work; use our Judging your own work (PDF) questions to help you decide if your writing is critical. These questions will take you through the description-analysis-evaluation stages. Take a look at further examples of descriptive writing vs. critical/analytical writing (PDF)

Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2023]

Any critique is nothing more than critical analysis, and the word “analysis” does not have a negative meaning. Critical writing relies on objective evaluations of or a response to an author’s creation. As such, they can be either positive or negative, as the work deserves.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for $13.00 $10.40/page

To write a critique, you shall:

Here’s the thing:

When learning how to write a critical analysis, you’ll see there is nothing to worry about. Before we get into the specifics, prepared by the Custom-writing team , let’s take a quick peek at its history and definition. Then we’ll consider essential tips on critical writing and what to avoid.

🔗 References

📜 history of critical writing.

Let’s start with the fundamental question: what does critical mean? Generally, it refers to involving judgment or criticism . However, it might also mean a turning point. In the context of the article, we’ll discuss it in its former meaning.

Critical analysis in the form that we know it today started with the idea of critical thinking . So, what is it?

Critical thinking is the evaluation not only of the sources of information but ideas and arguments around them, as well. As a reader, you cannot believe everything that is written. You need to evaluate the data, as it is the basis of academic debate. The effectiveness of critical thinking depends on skepticism and objectivity:

You can see it explored in essay samples on the topic.

Critical thinking skills led to the creation of critical writing . It’s an analysis in a written form that requires evaluating the evidence and coherently expressing your thoughts. If you know how to present your ideas, composing one won’t be that challenging.

Description, analysis, and evaluation in critical writing.

Critical writing appeared during the Renaissance when the arts started to criticize the Church. Two historical figures affected its development in particular:

Nonetheless, the critical writing process carried on to make a name for itself in the 21st century. This time turned aesthetics into commerce and shaped comprehensive critical analyses into what we know them as today.

Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.

🧩 Critical Writing Features

Now that you’ve learned the essential tips, you have to consider the parts of any critical writing piece. Whether you’re writing a movie critique or art critique , the same general guidelines apply to all of them. No matter what the requirements are!

While writing a critique paper, you have to strive for excellence. Each work of this sort has to obtain these features:

The main sections of good critical essays are:

Do not hesitate to use strong language! You can say that the work you analyzed was weak and poorly-structured if that is the case. Yet, keep in mind that you have to have evidence to back up your claim.

To get a better understanding, you may check our The Importance of Being Earnest critique sample.

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💡 10 Critical Essay Writing Tips

Now we get down to the real work. Critical papers are a regular assignment in English classes. Some teachers prefer to provide an essay topic and sometimes even specify the thesis statement . Others leave the choice up to you.

To get how to write a critical analysis, you should consider our tips:

Critical writing tips.

As one of the crucial critical essay writing tips, we should mention that you can evaluate the chosen piece in several ways. Pick the one you feel more comfortable with from the following:

There are also different types of critiques. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, in the article “ Writing critiques ,” also discusses them and appropriate critique language.

🚦 Critical Writing: Dos and Don’ts

Essentially, your paper has to do justice to the author’s or creator’s work. You will thoroughly examine the themes and organization of a book, article, movie, artwork, or whatever you are assigned to critique. In your review, you will summarize, analyze, interpret, and evaluate the work.

There are some things you should and shouldn’t do in your critical essay:

Thanks for reading. Now your ultimate goal is to submit to your instructor a critique that will knock their socks off, and you will succeed! Share this page if it was helpful, and leave a comment below.

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What Is Critical Writing?

by Gordana S | Dec 13, 2020 | Skills & Career | 0 comments

how to be more critical in writing

Table of Contents

What Is Critical Writing and How To Master It?

To be a proficient student and a desirable candidate for a career of your choice —whatever that ends up being—you need to have solid writing skills and employ more than a few writing strategies .

One specific form of writing is critical writing. Critical writing is used in academia to a large degree—so you can’t avoid it if you want to be successful in college —but higher education isn’t the only field where you may employ the strategies for writing a critical text. 

To be put into the category of critical writing, a piece of work needs to possess certain characteristics and be created for a specific purpose. Here, you’ll find out what critical writing is and get a glimpse at some examples of the form. You will also see what skills you need to practice to be a solid creator of critical pieces yourself.

how to be more critical in writing

Credit: Free-Photos

Critical writing can be defined by its purpose, which is to comment on another piece of work by using various writing strategies. You can comment on a written or any other work, like an art or entertainment piece. That’s not where that purpose ends, though.

When you’re writing a critical text, you also want to arrive at an original conclusion on the topic or work you’re critiquing. For that opinion to be valid, you need to explain how you formed it and back up your statements with references. That said, research will play a huge part in your writing process.

Another characteristic of critical writing is to make complicated topics easy to understand for an average reader. When they read your essay, they should understand the topic without having to look it up further.

Since a critical text is your work, your aim is also to convince the reader to side with your views. Your views are subjective, but you have to be careful about how you use that subjectivity. It’s why backing your opinions with real-life examples and existing research is vital. 

There are many forms of writing—like creative, persuasive , and argumentative —but in college, you will need to discern the difference between descriptive and critical writing.

Critical vs. Descriptive Writing

how to be more critical in writing

You have probably done assignments on descriptive writing since your first days at a school desk. Think essay topics like First Days of Fall in My Neighborhood or I Love My Best Friend Because , My Favorite Month of the Year, and so on. You had to use many adjectives and bring a person, a place, or an emotion to life in your essay. This is typical of descriptive writing.

Critical writing requires you to use a much more analytical approach to the topic of your assignment and as little description as possible.

Here’s a table to help you differentiate between the two forms of writing, which are both widely used in education:

When you are writing a critical analysis piece, you are allowed some description. In fact, you should be as original and daring with your language as possible. That said, you must be careful not to be too wordy. Never include unnecessary points in your essay only because you need to reach the required word count. Recognizing the difference between fluff and creativity is a type of writing skill you’ll need to perfect if you want to write a successful critical analysis.

Where Is Critical Writing Used?

Writing a critical analysis is a fundamental practice in:

Core Critical Writing Skills To Sharpen Constantly

how to be more critical in writing

Credit: MJ S

The skills you need to develop to be proficient in critical writing are many and more. The good news is that a large portion of them fall under the broad category of soft skills that you need to possess.

Without further ado, here are the essential skills you have to use when writing a critical analysis:

Question Everything You Read

Your first job as a critical writer is to examine the topic of your assignment with a critical mindset. Not only should you evaluate what you’re writing about but also question your resources. In other situations, the work you’re evaluating will be the only thing you need to review in your critical writing.

Whatever it is, you must be careful not to take anything you read at face value. Developing critical thinking skills is crucial for any aspect of life, not just while you’re in college and need to write an assignment.

Here’s how critical and noncritical thinking differ:

Analyze Texts All the Time

Sharpening your critical thinking skills and improving your critical reading skills go hand in hand. If your goal is to improve how you write a critical analysis, you should make reading the material that falls under that genre a routine.

Find the material that is within your area of study and read as much as possible. In the process of writing itself, you will have to do a lot of research and refer to the work you’re critiquing constantly. To get better, you shouldn’t take up critical reading only when your school assignments require you to.

While you’re working on your critical reading skills, you should:

Don’t Write Before You Outline

Outlining your essay is important for any serious writing, but when it comes to critical analysis, it’s especially necessary to have a plan before you start crafting your sentences. If you want to write a solid critical piece, you should organize your ideas and determine where in the text you’ll put all your opinions and commentary.

Your outline should include the following information:

Know How To Improve

Besides reading other people’s critical work, you should also make it a habit to reread your own. Self-improvement cannot be achieved without self-reflection, which is why you need to open yourself up to acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. While this may sound like a self-help quote, in writing, nothing aids progress as much as learning from your mistakes.

Another trick is to find people who can give you feedback on your work. You must learn to appreciate constructive criticism if you want to improve. If you’re doing critical writing for college, your mentors will assess your work. Don’t neglect to go over every comment they give you. Besides your professors, see if you can find other people who will go over your writing. 

Pay Attention to How You Use Language

You cannot create above-average written content if you don’t have control over your use of language. This refers to everything connected to language—from your vocabulary range to your sentence constructions. You should also employ different writing strategies to make your work affect your readers the way you want it to.

All the skills we mentioned will improve with practice. To improve in the long run, incorporate the conscious practice of each mentioned skill. For example, you can devote a practice to analyzing texts with a critical mindset one day. The other day, you can read the material with the mind to acquire new vocabulary.

Organize Your Time

Organization and time management skills are key to any effective writing, and critical analysis is no exception. Usually, if you’re writing a critical text, it will be a longer piece, which means you can’t put it off until the clock is ticking dangerously close to the deadline.

Being diligent with your assignments and with your practice to hone your critical writing abilities is a skill you can improve on if it’s not already your forte.

Bullet journaling is a fun way to organize your time and tasks. You enter your weekly or monthly goals and responsibilities into a notebook and track your progress. This practice will help you stay motivated to stick to your set goals.  

Learn How To Cite Your Sources

You can’t write a critical paper if you don’t reference your sources in it, especially if you’re writing for college. When you’re not sure how to quote passages, include footnotes in your text, or add the list of references at the end of it correctly, you can lose much time on that technical aspect.

As with any other skill, doing it as often as possible will result in getting more efficient with citing your sources. You can start by getting familiar with the rules and norms of a specific citation style you need to use. It’s better than referring to it constantly while writing your assignment. Purdue Online Writing Lab is a popular student resource for learning citation norms.

Critical Writing Examples

If you’re a beginner at critical writing, you should first get familiar with the form by checking out how others have done it.

Here are some free resources where you can find examples of critical writing:

Strategies To Employ in Your Critical Writing

how to be more critical in writing

Credit: Jingda Chen

Besides the skills mentioned—that you should work on to write a better critical analysis—some strategies go into every good critical piece. You should get familiar with these strategies, employ them in your work, and learn to adapt them to your style.

Some of the most prominent strategies used in critical writing are:

Do Your Research Well

Doing research is the essence of and the first step in working on a critical writing assignment. The nature of your piece is such that you can’t write it without referring to both the work you’re critiquing and the additional sources you used.

Be careful not to do research only because you need a list of references in your paper. The more thorough you are with your research, the stronger your argument will sound—which is the purpose. 

Learn To Use Persuasive Techniques in Writing

Skillful critical writers use persuasion covertly in their work to argue their point and influence the reader’s opinion on the subject they’re commenting on.

Even when the point isn’t to make your audience believe your argument, you will want to convince them to read your piece to the end. Also, when readers digest a solid critical piece, they may not necessarily agree with the final evaluation, but they should realize the validity of it, i.e., how you came to the conclusion you made and why you’re arguing your point.

Present Your Arguments With Confidence

What will influence your readers to buy what you’re saying is the tone of your writing. You can learn to write confidently by employing other strategies listed, like doing in-depth research on your topic.

How you use language, what phrases you put into your writing, and how you structure your sentences will also determine whether your paper sounds confident or not. This means that the skills and strategies of critical writing overlap, and working on one also means working on another.

Contrast and Compare

When you show your research in your writing, you have to think about how it affects your audience. For example, if you only state the facts you learned or quote your sources, you will not convince your reader you have indeed engaged with the subject material. What will make them believe your argument is seeing how you compare and contrast the different arguments in your paper.

How Would You Define Critical Writing and Its Importance?

You can benefit from improving your critical writing abilities to a great extent. It makes you a better conversationalist, a skilled judge of the world, and a more confident individual. It also makes you unafraid to express your voice in any sphere or situation in your life.

Considering the benefits of knowing how to think and write critically —and the importance of reading and writing skills in general— you’d think your high school education would put more focus on developing those skills. Usually, students are only introduced to the norms of critical reading and writing when they go to college, and they have a hard time closing the gap between their abilities and their workload.

It’s time American education was reformed to include the effective teaching of these fundamental skills in the mainstream curriculum.

If you have ideas on how you would bring the much-needed innovations in schools or you want to offer your definition of critical writing and tips on how to master it, write to us. We’ll be thrilled to hear your opinion and make room for your words on our blog!

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Effective Methods to Improve Critical Writing Skills in College

how to be more critical in writing

Among all writing assignments, critical writing tasks show how mature a student is and how he or she can view the world. Critical writing isn’t just about finding drawbacks in somebody’s papers, essays, or points of view, – it is more about the ability to judge people, things, and events on the ground of objective reasons. Engaging in critical reading and writing is also about rethinking more than describing the material, and refusing to follow mainstream opinions by working out your own viewpoint.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, the C2 level adjective ‘critical’ stands for ‘giving opinions or judgments on books, plays, films, etc.’ that might include (however, often doesn’t have to) the first literate meaning – ‘saying that someone or something is bad or wrong’. In other words, it means being bold enough to express your own opinion of facts, people, or things based on deep analysis and observation, rather than emotions or superstitions.

We can see how significant it is to judge correctly and describe your judgments in written papers in a comprehensive way.

But, is it possible to teach yourself this ability?

Effective Steps to Create a Critical Academic Piece of Writing

Critical writing isn’t an innate ability. You can learn this during your college years. There are a few steps to achieve this.

Before you express any thoughts on the given topic, you should study any existing opinions. However, this does not mean to study students’ essays. Rather, you should be studying first-hand sources written by reputable influential people who have predominating opinions in their field of studies. Look at the reasons given by those respected authors and analyze them as a contemporary student to shape your own ideas on the topics.

Experts from the University of Leicester claim that reading multiple sources helps you to create your own academic voice, which is great to have for your university development.

Become a part of a writing group

If you are a beginner and feel underprepared, you will surely face difficulties in reading dozens of books while trying to analyze them all. Placing yourself in a supportive environment will be a great start. Study together with like-minded people, and work together with them. This can help to make your critical views interesting, as you intertwine them with the modern world. Make sure you read and share both the good and bad sides you find in the literature. Community rules!

If you lack expertise, turn to experts

We live in a technologically convenient world. Nowadays, using online resources is a common occurrence. If you are mature enough to admit that you still have room to grow in this subject, you know it is okay to reach out for help. Sometimes students need to get guidance and/or mentorship with complex academic assignments. There are many highly qualified academic writers available online to help you write an essay . There are many companies like Advanced Writers who can assist you in this process.

Use notes to do the analysis

Organization is key. Creating neatly organized notes in your planner, notebook or on the laptop will help make everything clear and structured. This is crucial for any student who is wanting to dive deeper into the analysis. Try out this step, it’s really simple and helpful.

Foster healthy skepticism

In the world of plagiarising journalists and fraudsters, we cannot take everything or gospel. That is why you should not believe every single thing you hear people say or read in books. Being a healthy skeptic will come in handy in this situation. However, skepticism should be questioning unsupported evidence in a moderate way. Healthy skepticism demands good evidence and encourages you to learn the material with your own mind rather than blindly accepting what others say.

Be critical, but don’t disrespect

In both formal and informal surroundings, judging somebody’s opinion doesn’t mean judging its author. Showing disrespect is the sign of immaturity and a lack of ethics.

Throw away prejudice

It’s impossible to be an objective explorer if you have no specific stance to what you are trying to describe. While you are researching topics and making conclusions about the things you have found, be attentive so that you are not merely supporting the opinion of a scientist or writer just because you like them.

Believe only proven data that can be checked

Building your foundation should be so solid that you have no doubts that it’s well thought over. So be sure that the arguments you include are substantial and up to date, and use supported by evidence that can always be checked and verified. This is another reason why it is important to trust only tried and true scientific sources. Going through all these steps to gain the ability of critical writing (or simply striving to do all of them), you will become a better writer from day today.

For more great education tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics .

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Let's get critical: a practical guide

This guide contains key resources to introduce you to the features of critical writing.

For more in-depth advice and guidance on critical writing , visit our specialist academic writing guides:

Practical Guide

What is critical writing?

Academic writing requires criticality; it's not enough to just describe or summarise evidence, you also need to analyse and evaluate information and use it to build your own arguments. This is where you show your own thoughts based on the evidence available, so critical writing is really important for higher grades.

Explore the key features of critical writing and see it in practice in some examples:

Introduction to critical writing [Google Slides]

While we need criticality in our writing, it's definitely possible to go further than needed. We’re aiming for that Goldilocks ‘just right’ point between not critical enough and too critical. Find out more:

Google Doc

Forthcoming training sessions

Forthcoming sessions on :

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Please ensure you sign up at least one working day before the start of the session to be sure of receiving joining instructions.

If you're based at CITY College you can book onto the following sessions by sending an email with the session details to your Academic Liaison Librarian:

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There's more training events at:

how to be more critical in writing

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising are different ways that you can use evidence from sources in your writing. As you move from one method to the next, you integrate the evidence further into your argument, showing increasing critical analysis.

Here's a quick introduction to the three methods and how to use them:

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising: an introduction [YouTube video]  |  Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising [Google Doc]

Want to know more? Check out these resources for more examples of paraphrasing and using notes to synthesise information:

Google Doc

Using evidence to build critical arguments

Academic writing integrates evidence from sources to create your own critical arguments.

We're not looking for a list of summaries of individual sources; ideally, the important evidence should be integrated into a cohesive whole. What does the evidence mean altogether?  Of course, a critical argument also needs some critical analysis of this evidence. What does it all mean in terms of your argument?

These resources will help you explore ways to integrate evidence and build critical arguments:

Building a critical argument [YouTube] |  Building a critical argument [Google Doc]


IOE Writing Centre

Read and Write Critically


What do the terms 'critical' or 'criticality' mean?

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In an academic context, reading and writing critically means asking questions of the text as we read, and asking questions of the knowledge claims. We then need to decide what is worth commenting on, and what is not, and express these comments in writing. 

Which questions should I ask? You can decide which questions are relevant to your reading from a wide range of critical reading questions.

How do I express my critical response to the text in writing? Have a look at the examples on the page about writing critically.

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Self-access resources from the Academic Writing Centre at the UCL Institute of Education.

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How to Ditch Descriptive Writing and Conquer Critical Writing

December 3, 2020 By: chloeburroughs comment

How to Ditch Descriptive Writing and Conquer Critical Writing

Are you fed up with getting feedback on your essays that says, “your writing is too descriptive” or “not enough critical writing and analysis” or “ you wasted too many words on describing”?

Critical writing and thinking can be confusing, and writing in this style can feel completely alien. But staying safe with descriptive writing is holding you back and preventing you achieving those higher essay grades. Certain essay questions require critical thinking so if you’re not engaging in it you’re losing out on a lot of marks.

In this episode, I demystify the process of critical writing. You’ll learn the differences between descriptive writing and critical writing and I’ll walk you through six example essay questions to help you understand HOW to be more critical in your essays.

Your future grades will thank you for listening to this one.

Don’t forget to download the mini-guide I’ve created for this episode. Click here to join my free Study Success Resource Library.

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How To Write A Critical Essay

Content of this article.

1. How To Write A Critical Essay

A critical essay seeks to provide an analysis or interpretation of either a book, a piece of art, or a film . A critical essay is not the same as a review because, unlike a review, it encompasses an academic purpose or goal. Students should not just aim at reviewing a book or a film but should have an argument and include scholarly observations within their essays. Contrary to popular belief by a significant portion of students, critical essay writing is not about criticizing or focusing on the negative aspect of analysis. It is possible to have a critical essay that supports an idea or an author’s or director’s view regarding a particular theme. A critical essay is thus an objective analysis of a particular subject whose aim is to analyze the strengths or weaknesses of text, art , or film. The above is of great importance, especially to students who think that critical essays are supposed to focus on the negative aspects of a subject.

The goal or purpose of a critical essay is to provide readers with an explanation or an interpretation of a specific idea or concept that an author, painter, or director included in their work. Additionally, writers can be asked to situate a certain theme in a book or film within a broader context. Essentially, critical essay writing involves weighing up the consistency of an author or director is trying to convey a particular message to their audience. It is thus vital to be keen and observant and note the different feelings as well as emotions conjured within a text, a film, or a painting. Writing a critical paper or criticizing might seem easy at first, but it can also be challenging.

Some of the purposes of a critical essay writing are as shown below:

2. Preparation For Writing

Step 1: understand the requirements.

Students are often at fault for starting their essays without clearly understanding the instructor’s requirements. Instead of starting an essay immediately after reading the requirements, it is wise to seek any clarification from the teacher.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the primary source

The primary source is the book, film, or painting a student has been asked to write a critical essay about. Here, students are always advised to be careful and note everything within the source for purpose of making their essays better. If asked to write a particular book, film, or painting, students should read the book more than once, watch the film more than once, or look at the painting from different perspectives to understand the underlying themes.

Step 3: Take notes when reading/watching/assessing the primary source

Note-taking is also vital to identifying the different patterns and problems within a text, film, or painting. While reading the text, or watching the movie, it is important to note the important concepts and ideas that an author or director, or painter decided to incorporate into their work. The important points or aspects can indeed be overwhelming, and it is thus essential to ensure none will skip or escape the writer’s mind.

Step 4: Identify the main problems or patterns within a text, movie, or art

After reviewing a text, watching a movie, or keenly analyzing a piece of art and taking notes, the next step is to identify the main problems or patterns that emerge from the notes. While noting the important aspects, certain issues or points are bound to emerge and stand out. Students thus need to be keen and identify these patterns and problems.

Step 5: Find solutions to the identified problems and patterns

The next thing after this is to try and find solutions for the identified problems and patterns. At this point, the writer should be developing their thesis statement and have their perspective clearly outlined .

3. Performing Research

Critical Essay writing is heavily dependent on how much research an individual does. In some instances, students make the mistake of depending on their primary source to write their critical essays. Unless otherwise specified by the instructor, it is always advisable to find other sources to help expand and increase the essay’s depth in content. Secondary sources help to increase an essay’s credibility and thus if needed should always be included.

Finding the right sources can be a problem and students often find themselves at fault for using unreliable sources. It is important to find genuine sources which offer reliable and accurate information lest one’s essay is filled with lies and inaccurate information. Just like how one is advised to take notes while reading or watching the primary source, it is also essential to take notes while going through the secondary sources. The notes help to determine or find patterns and points of correlation between the primary and secondary sources. Understanding the relationship or the connection between the primary and secondary sources is key to writing a decent critical essay. Below are some criteria for choosing the right secondary source:

4. Critical Essay Structure

All essays follow a particular standard or format which includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. These parts must be included in an essay to be termed as complete. However, before tackling these sections, it is important first to develop an outline for a critical essay. Critical essay outlining is essential because it provides students with a step-by-step guide to developing their essays.

If, for example, the topic under study is “ the use of ethnic music by mainstream musicians ” the outline should be as shown below:

The Use of Ethnic Music by Mainstream Musicians


–    Explain how music keeps changing.

–    Provide a brief description of the use of ethnic music in mainstream music.

–    Pick an artist and explain why their music is of interest in this paper.

–    Assess the change in music production of the artist.

–    Provide an analysis of how the artist has managed to use ethnic music.

–    Include the reception of the music of the above artist and how fans find his music.

–   Restate the argument or thesis statement while also mentioning why the focus was narrowed to the specified artist and their music.

–    Provide a summary of the main points.

Writing a Critical Essay Introduction

An introduction provides a description of the topic under study. While some students like providing a lot of information in the introduction, it is advisable to be brief and direct. An introduction should be specific and short but usher the readers into the topic under study. Readers should be able to determine the writer’s focus or perspective without much fuss or without the need of reading deep into a text.  Background information is true of the essence, and it is thus important to include some information that will help readers to understand the entire essay.

Writing a Thesis Statement for a Critical Essay

A thesis statement reveals the main focus of the essay. Readers need to know the writer’s focus and hence the importance of a thesis statement. On many occasions, students often have flat and simple thesis statements which even though are not against any rules only help to reveal the lack of imagination or research involved. A thesis statement should be argumentative and provide readers with an assurance that they will indeed enjoy what they are reading.

Below are some tips for writing a good thesis statement:

Writing a Critical Essay Body

While writing an essay, each sentence in the body should communicate its point. The above is almost a cliché, but it is indeed crucial to being a good critical essay writer. Each paragraph should support the thesis statement by including a claim or an argument and following it up with supporting evidence or sentences. Unless otherwise stated, critical essays should have three to six paragraphs and each of these is supposed to have five to six sentences.

Writing a Critical Essay Conclusion

A critical essay conclusion is not any different from other essay conclusions. When writing a conclusion for a critical essay, one should reiterate their stance or main argument followed by the main supporting arguments or points. Only a summary is needed here, and hence writers are asked to be brief and only include what is necessary. Readers should feel directly linked or impacted by the topic under study. An essay should leave the readers with the need or urge of finding out more about a topic.

5. Finalizing Essay

Once the paper is complete, it is essential to revise, proofread, choose a captivating title, and make appropriate citations. Revising an assignment is important because it helps to clarify the main point as well as ensures the readers’ needs are met. Having a purpose is indeed essential to writing a decent critical essay and it is important to outline it clearly. Proofreading helps one to correct grammatical errors and maintain their stance throughout their essay.

A reader’s interest is always enticed by the title and developing one is indeed an important aspect of an essay. Citations are also of the essence and help to avoid issues of plagiarism. Paraphrasing and in-text citations should hence be taken seriously, lest a student’s work is graded poorly.

6. How to choose a topic for a critical analysis

Choosing a topic can be a challenge. Writers are, however, often advised to select a topic that they are familiar with and that will gift them with enough information to write the entire essay .

Below are some examples of critical essay topics:

7.1 First sample

7.2 Second sample

7.3 third sample.

how to be more critical in writing

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How to write critically

What is critical writing.

Critical writing involves:

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How is critical writing different from descriptive writing?

Example paragraphs.

The following examples compare a paragraph using only descriptive writing with the same paragraph rewritten to include the writer’s critical analysis of the topic.

Descriptive Writing There is a large amount of research that examines intercultural communication via social media . Smith (2016, p. 75) states that digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter help distribute knowledge between people and cultures. Cosgrove  (2018) found that people who regularly used social media were more likely to engage in activities from other cultures. Harrison (2017, p. 9) believes that technology has increased the capacity for people to communicate across cultures. Furthermore, Harrison states that social media does not foster in-depth relationships between people and communities from different cultures. Moreover, Markson (2018, p. 18) argues that digital communication platforms “erode the fundamental principles of cross-cultural engagement” by reducing important and complex aspects of culture to “ instant images … for immediate gratification rather than deep understanding."

Critical Writing Research indicates that while digital communication has enhanced the capacity of people to connect across cultures, there are limitations regarding how this communication translates to genuine connection . Smith (2016, p. 75) suggests that digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter not only benefit users in terms of social connectivity, but also help distribute knowledge between people and cultures. Similarly, Cosgrove (2018) found that people who regularly used social media were more likely to engage in activities from other cultures. While Harrison (2017, p. 9) agrees that technology has increased the capacity for people to communicate across cultures, he raises concerns that such forms of communication fail to “foster in-depth relationships” between people and communities from different cultures, because strong connections require situations to be experienced together. Markson (2018, p. 18) likewise warns that digital communication platforms “erode the fundamental principles of cross-cultural engagement” by reducing important and complex aspects of culture to “instant images … for immediate gratification rather than deep understanding.” It is this superficial nature of social media that prevents it from being a truly useful tool for enhancing cross-cultural connection. Further research is required to examine how social media might more effectively encourage meaningful intercultural connections.


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how to be more critical in writing


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Critical writing Analyse and evaluate information to develop an argument

In academic writing you will develop an argument or point of view. This will be supported by concrete evidence, in other words reasons, examples, and information from sources. The writing you produce in this way will need to be 'critical writing'. This section looks at critical writing in detail, first by giving a definition of critical writing and considering how to write critically , then by contrasting critical writing with descriptive writing , with some examples . There is also a discussion of how critical writing relates to Bloom's taxonomy of thinking skills , as well as a checklist to help you check critical writing in your own work.

What is critical writing?

Critical writing is writing which analyses and evaluates information, usually from multiple sources, in order to develop an argument. A mistake many beginning writers make is to assume that everything they read is true and that they should agree with it, since it has been published in an academic text or journal. Being part of the academic community, however, means that you should be critical of (i.e. question) what you read, looking for reasons why it should be accepted or rejected, for example by comparing it with what other writers say about the topic, or evaluating the research methods to see if they are adequate or whether they could be improved.

How to write critically

In order to write critically, you need to use a range of sources to develop your argument. You cannot rely solely on your own ideas; you need to understand what others have written about the same topic. Additionally, it is not enough to use just a single source to support your argument, for example a source which agrees with your own view, since this could lead to a biased argument. You need to consider all sides of the issue.

Further, in developing your argument, you need to analyse and evaluate the information from other sources. You cannot just string quotes together (A says this, B says that, C says something else), without looking more deeply at the information and building on it to support your own argument. This means you need to break down the information from other sources to determine how the parts relate to one another or to an overall structure or purpose [ analysing ], and then make judgements about it, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and possibly 'grey areas' in between, which are neither strengths nor weaknesses [ evaluating ]. Critical reading skills will help you with this, as you consider whether the source is reliable, relevant, up-to-date, and accurate. For example, you might examine the research methods used in an experiment [ analysing ] in order to assess why they were chosen or to determine whether they were appropriate [ evaluating ], or you might deconstruct (break down) a writer's line of reasoning [ analysing ] to see if it is valid or whether there are any gaps [ evaluating ].

As a result of analysis and evaluation, you will be able to give reasons why the conclusions of different writers should be accepted or treated with caution . This will help you to build a clear line of reasoning which will lead up to your own conclusions, and you will be writing critically.

What is descriptive writing?

Critical writing is often contrasted with descriptive writing . Descriptive writing simply describes what something is like. Although you need a critical voice, description is still necessary in your writing, for example to:

You should, however, keep the amount of description to a minimum. Most assignments will have a strict word limit, and you should aim to maximise the amount of critical writing, while minimising the number of words used for description. If your tutors often write comments such as 'Too descriptive' or 'Too much theory' or 'More analysis needed', you know you need to adjust the balance.

Examples of descriptive vs. critical writing

The following table gives some examples to show the difference between descriptive and critical writing. The verbs in bold are key verbs according to Bloom's taxonomy , considered next.

Relationship to Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist working at the University of Chicago. It classifies the thinking behaviours that are believed to be important in the processes of learning. It was developed in three domains, with the cognitive domain, i.e. the knowledge based domain, consisting of six levels. The taxonomy was revised in 2001 by Anderson and Krathwohl, to reflect more recent understanding of educational processes. Their revised taxonomy also consists of six levels, arranged in order from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills, namely: remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, and creating.

Bloom's revised taxonomy is relevant since analysing and evaluating , which form the basis of critical writing, are two of the higher order thinking skills in the taxonomy. Descriptive writing, by contrast, is the product of remembering and understanding , the two lowest order thinking skills. The fact that critical writing uses higher order thinking skills is one of the main reasons this kind of writing is expected at university.

The table below gives more details about each of the levels, including a description and some keys verbs associated with each level. Although the verbs are intended for the design of learning outcomes, they are nonetheless representative of the kind of work involved at each level, and are therefore relevant to academic writing.

Academic Writing Genres


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Below is a checklist for critical writing. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

Academic Phrasebank , The University of Manchester (2020) Being Critical . Available at: (Accessed: 11 September, 2020).

Churches, A. (n.d.) Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

Colorado College (n.d.) Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook (4th ed.) . Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

Shabatura, J. (2013) Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Objectives . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

Sheffield Halam University (2020) Critical Writing . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

Teesside University (2020). Critical Writing: Help . Available at: (Accessed: 11 September, 2020).

University of Hull (2020) Critical writing: Descriptive vs critical . Available at: (Accessed: 11 September, 2020).

University of Leicester (2009) What is critical writing . Available at: (Access date: 8/12/14).

Wilson, L.O. (2020) Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

Yale University (2017) Bloom’s Taxonomy . Available at: (Accessed: 1 September, 2020).

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Find out about research skills in the next section.

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Go back to the previous section about writing objectively .


Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 06 January 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

how to be more critical in writing

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How to write a critical essay

It is important to plan before you start writing an essay.

The essay question or title should provide a clear focus for your plan. Exploring this will help you make decisions about what points are relevant to the essay. What are you being asked to consider?

Organise your thoughts. Researching, mind mapping and making notes will help sort and prioritise your ideas. If you are writing a critical essay, planning will help you decide which parts of the text to focus on and what points to make.


An introduction should focus directly on the essay question or title and aim to present your main idea , in your answer. In an essay titled ‘What makes Slim an important character in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men ?’ you could start with:

'Slim plays an important role in Steinbeck’s novella because he represents moral authority.'

The statement gives a clear answer to the essay question. The rest of your essay could justify that answer by looking at all the different ways that he seems to represent moral authority, and the impact that has at different points in the story.

An introduction briefly introduces your main ideas and arguments - that the rest of the essay will explore this in greater detail.

When writing an introduction to an essay avoid :

Using evidence

Evidence is the foundation of an effective essay and provides proof for your points.

For an essay about a piece of literature, the best evidence will come from the text itself.

Back up each of your supporting statements with evidence. The evidence should be relevant and clearly connected to the point you’re making.

In a critical essay, evidence could take the form of:

Quotations from the text, for example, Steinbeck describes Slim’s ‘godlike eyes’, which suggests his power and authority on the ranch.

Examples from the text, for example, Slim’s reaction to the fight between Lennie and Curley shows his authority and natural leadership.

Paragraph structure

Think about how you are going to organise each paragraph.

You might want to start with a topic sentence that summarises the main point of the paragraph. This sentence acts like a mini introduction for this paragraph of the essay:

'Because the other men on the ranch respect him, Slim is able to influence their actions.'

The rest of the paragraph should then develop this main point by providing more explanation, detail and evidence:

'After the fight between Curley and Lennie, Slim takes charge. ‘I think you got your han' caught in a machine,’ he persuades Curley, defusing the situation and preventing Lennie’s dismissal from the ranch.'

A conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay. It should tie all the loose ends of your argument together.

An effective conclusion may:

It’s useful to show the reader that you have reached your conclusion by using words or phrases such as:

Thinking about what to include in a critical essay first will make it easier to structure and write the essay. Your essay will be much more convincing if you can offer evidence for each of your ideas.

Are you ready to write an essay? Let's find out in this short quiz!

Critical essay writing

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Critical thinking and writing: critical writing.

Common feedback from lecturers is that students' writing is too descriptive, not showing enough criticality: "too descriptive", "not supported by enough evidence", "unbalanced", "not enough critical analysis". This guide provides the foundations of critical writing along with some useful techniques to assist you in strengthening this skill. 

Key features of critical writing

Key features in critical writing include:

Structuring Your Writing to Express Criticality

In order to be considered critical, academic writing must go beyond being merely descriptive. Whilst you may have some descriptive writing in your assignments to clarify terms or provide background information, it is important for the majority of your assignment to provide analysis and evaluation. 

Description :

Define clearly what you are talking about, introduce a topic.

Analysis literally means to break down an issue into small components to better understand the structure of the problem. However, there is much more to analysis: you may at times need to examine and explain how parts fit into a whole; give reasons; compare and contrast different elements; show your understanding of relationships. Analysis is to much extent context and subject specific.

Here are some possible analytical questions:

Analysis is different within different disciplines:

Evaluation : 

Tip: Try to include a bit of description, analysis and evaluation in every paragraph. Writing strong paragraphs can help, as it reminds you to conclude each paragraph drawing a conclusion. However, you may also intersperse the analysis with evaluation, within the development of the paragraph. 

Your Argument

What is an argument?

Essentially, the aim of an essay (and other forms of academic writing, including dissertations) is to present and defend, with reasons and evidence, an argument relating to a given topic. In the academic context argument means something specific. It is the main claim/view/position/conclusion on a matter, which can be the  answer to the essay (or research) question . The development of an argument is closely related to criticality , as in your academic writing you are not supposed to merely describe things; you also need to analyse and draw conclusions.

Tips on devising an argument

Argument or arguments?

Both! Ideally, in your essay you will have an overarching argument (claim) and several mini-arguments, which make points and take positions on the issues you discuss within the paragraphs. 

Your Argument image

Useful resources

Learning Development, University of Plymouth (2010). Critical Thinking. University of Plymouth . Available from  [Accessed 16 January 2020].

Student Learning Development, University of Leicester (no date). Questions to ask about your level of critical writing. University of Leicester . Available from  [Accessed 16 January 2020].

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Critical Writing 101

Descriptive vs analytical vs critical writing.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | April 2017

Across the thousands of students we work with , descriptive writing (as opposed to critical or analytical writing) is an incredibly pervasive problem . In fact, it’s probably the biggest killer of marks in dissertations, theses and research papers. So, in this post, we’ll explain the difference between descriptive and analytical writing in straightforward terms, along with plenty of practical examples.

analytical and descriptive writing

Descriptive vs Analytical Writing

Writing critically is one of the most important skills you’ll need to master for your academic journey, but what exactly does this mean?

Well, when it comes to writing, at least for academic purposes, there are two main types – descriptive writing and critical writing. Critical writing is also sometimes referred to as analytical writing, so we’ll use these two terms interchangeably.

To understand what constitutes critical (or analytical) writing, it’s useful to compare it against its opposite, descriptive writing. At the most basic level, descriptive writing merely communicates the “ what ”, “ where ”, “ when ” or “ who ”. In other words, it describes a thing, place, time or person. It doesn’t consider anything beyond that or explore the situation’s impact, importance or meaning. Here’s an example of a descriptive sentence:

  “Yesterday, the president unexpectedly fired the minister of finance.”

As you can see, this sentence just states what happened, when it happened and who was involved. Classic descriptive writing.

Contrasted to this, critical writing takes things a step further and unveils the “ so what? ” – in other words, it explains the impact or consequence of a given situation. Let’s stick with the same event and look at an example of analytical writing:

“The president’s unexpected firing of the well-respected finance minister had an immediate negative impact on investor confidence. This led to a sharp decrease in the value of the local currency, especially against the US dollar. This devaluation means that all dollar-based imports are now expected to rise in cost, thereby raising the cost of living for citizens, and reducing disposable income.”

As you can see in this example, the descriptive version only tells us what happened (the president fired the finance minister), whereas the critical version goes on to discuss some of the impacts of the president’s actions.


Ideally, critical writing should always link back to the broader objectives of the paper or project, explaining what each thing or event means in relation to those objectives. In a dissertation or thesis, this would involve linking the discussion back to the research aims, objectives and research questions – in other words, the golden thread .

Sounds a bit fluffy and conceptual? Let’s look at an example:

If your research aims involved understanding how the local environment impacts demand for specialty imported vegetables, you would need to explain how the devaluation of the local currency means that the imported vegetables would become more expensive relative to locally farmed options. This in turn would likely have a negative impact on sales, as consumers would turn to cheaper local alternatives.

As you can see, critical (or analytical) writing goes beyond just describing (that’s what descriptive writing covers) and instead focuses on the meaning of things, events or situations, especially in relation to the core research aims and questions.

Need a helping hand?

how to be more critical in writing

But wait, there’s more.

This “ what vs so what”  distinction is important in understanding the difference between description and analysis, but it is not the only difference – the differences go deeper than this. The table below explains some other key differences between descriptive and analytical writing.

Should I avoid descriptive writing altogether?

Not quite. For the most part, you’ll need some descriptive writing to lay the foundation for the critical, analytical writing. In other words, you’ll usually need to state the “what” before you can discuss the “so what”. Therefore, description is simply unavoidable and in fact quite essential , but you do want to keep it to a minimum and focus your word count on the analytical side of things.

As you write, a good rule of thumb is to identify every what (in other words, every descriptive point you make) and then check whether it is accompanied by a so what (in other words, a critical conclusion regarding its meaning or impact).

Of course, this won’t always be necessary as some conclusions are fairly obvious and go without saying. But, this basic practice should help you minimise description, maximise analysis, and most importantly, earn you marks!

Let’s recap.

So, the key takeaways for this post are as follows:

how to be more critical in writing

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.

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Writing A Research Proposal:  8 Common Mistakes To Avoid



Thank you so much. This was helpful and a switch from the bad writing habits to the good habits.

Derek Jansen

Great to hear that, Sarah. Glad you found it useful!

Anne Marie

I am currently working on my Masters Thesis and found this extremely informative and helpful. Thank you kindly.


I’m currently a University student and this is so helpful. Thank you.

Divya Madhuri Nankiya

It really helped me to get the exact meaning of analytical writing. Differences between the two explains it well

Linda Odero

Thank you! this was very useful


very helpful

very helpful indeed


Thanks Derek for the useful coaching

Diana Rose Oyula

Thank you for sharing this. I was stuck on descriptive now I can do my corrections. Thank you.

Siu Tang

I was struggling to differentiate between descriptive and analytical writing. I googled and found this as it is so helpful. Thank you for sharing.

Leonard Ngowo

I am glad to see this differences of descriptive against analytical writing. This is going to improve my masters dissertation

Thanks in deed. It was helpful

Abdurrahman Abdullahi Babale

Thank you so much. I’m now better informed


Busy with MBA in South Africa, this is very helpful as most of the writing requires one to expound on the topics. thanks for this, it’s a salvation from watching the blinking cursor for hours while figuring out what to write to hit the 5000 word target 😂

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Critical writing: What is critical writing?

On this page:

“If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find confirmations” Karl Popper, cited in:  Critical Thinking  (Tom Chatfield)

Critical writing needs critical thinking. While most of this guide focuses on critical writing, it is first important to consider what we mean by criticality at university. This is because critical writing is primarily a process of evidencing and articulating your critical thinking. As such, it is really important to get the 'thinking bit' of your studies right! If you are able to demonstrate criticality in your thinking, it will make critical writing easier. 

Williams’ (2009:viii) introduces criticality at university as:

“being thoughtful, asking questions, not taking things you read (or hear) at face value. It means finding information and understanding different approaches and using them in your writing.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking requires you to carefully evaluate not just sources of information, but also the ideas within them and the arguments they develop. This is an essential part of being a student at university. You cannot simply believe everything you read or are told. For some people, this can feel uncomfortable as this requires you to critique published authors and notable academics. While this may feel inappropriate, it is one of the foundations of academic debate. Indeed, for any given topic or issue, there are many equally valid academic positions. To be effective in your critical thinking, you need to use both scepticism and objectivity :

Scepticism requires you to bring doubt and a questioning attitude to your academic work. In essence, you must ensure you do not automatically accept everything you hear, read or see as true (Chatfield, 2018). This requires you to  question everything you hear, read or see . This is the first step towards developing a critical approach.


Objectivity requires you to approach your work with a more neutral perspective . While it is not possible to take yourself out of your work, when you are engaging in critical thinking you need to acknowledge anything that influences your perspective. This is very important as without this level of self-awareness you can focus more on your opinion than developing a reasoned argument. 

Remember, you CAN criticise the experts - the University of Sussex make this point well here: Critical Thinking: Criticising the experts .

A short introduction to critical writing

Making your thinking more critical with questions

This page has so far demonstrated the importance of asking questions in all of your academic work and learning. Questions are the root of criticality. Questions engage you in active thought, requiring you to process what you are hearing, reading, seeing or experiencing against what you already know. All questions, however, are not as equally probing. Questions like 'what', 'when' and 'who' tend to be more descriptive in contrast to  questions like 'how' or 'so what' which are much more critical .

When engaging in critical thinking, you need to use a range of questions to fully consider the topic or issue you are trying to understand. Descriptive questions are great for developing your initial understanding, but you also need to consider more analytical and evaluatory questions to fully engage in critical thinking . The diagram below introduces some of the core critical questions: 

Critical questioning means you usually start by thinking about What, When Who, Where (Description) moving on to Why and How (Analysis) and finishing with What if, So what, and What next (Evaluation)

Based on: University of Plymouth

Critical questions when reading

Most of your critical thinking should be directed towards your reading of the literature. This is because the literature forms the basis of all academic writing, serving as the evidence for whatever point(s) you are trying to make. Our  Reading at University SkillsGuide  contains some useful sections which apply criticality to determining source reliability and identifying an argument. Direct links to these can be found below:

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Grammarly will soon no longer just recommend ways for you to improve your writing, it’ll do the writing for you.

The writing assistant Grammarly already uses AI in several ways to help it act as a clever tool. Not only can it pick up common grammar and spelling mistakes, but it can also recommend ways to better structure your sentences, and can even tell you the tone your writing portrays (with adjectives like Formal, Confident, Accusatory, and Egocentric).

Come April, Grammarly will be taking its help a step further with the introduction of GrammarlyGo.

Built on OpenAI’s GPT-3 large language models (OpenAI is the team behind ChatGPT ), GrammarlyGo will be able to perform a slew of different functions. If you have a document that’s already been written, GrammarlyGo will be able to edit it to portray a different tone or change the length to make your writing clearer or more succinct. Alternatively, if you’re experiencing a writing block its ideation tools will supposedly help unlock your creativity by creating brainstorms and outlines based on prompts you provide.

The press release announcement (opens in new tab) says it won’t stop at outlines either. GrammarlyGo will be able to compose whole documents for you, and it can even generate replies to emails based on the context of the conversation.

We haven’t yet had a chance to try GrammarlyGo for ourselves, but we expect it’ll perform similarly to other ChatGPT alternatives we've tested. Specifically, we imagine it’ll show a lot of promise, but its compositions will almost certainly need to be proofread and tweaked by a human – especially while it’s still in beta. Even when given prompts to work with we’ve found that AI writing bots can struggle to generate content that sounds authoritative. Sure, they can produce 400 words about, say, VR headsets, but the writing is often full of chaff and sprinkled with buzzwords rather than feeling like it’s written by someone that understands the topic.

GrammarlyGo’s beta will launch in April (we don’t have an exact date yet) and will be available to all Grammarly Premium, Grammarly Business, and Grammarly for Education subscribers. It’ll also be accessible to people using the free version of Grammarly in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

It’s not just writing that OpenAI’s tech is helping to improve. Spotify has launched an AI DJ that can talk to you while mixing your favorite tracks, and Microsoft has incorporated ChatGPT into its search engine to create the impressive Bing Chat tool.

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How to Write a Critical Essay

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What is a critical essay

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “critical essay?” Most students associate the concept of a critical essay with the negative opinion about the creator and their creation, but that is only half-true. The critical analysis definition may be formulated as an academic paper designed to understand a certain written work. To speak as a professional essay writer , the adjective “critical” should be replaced by the term “evaluative” and be perceived both in a positive and negative meaning.

Essays of such types are usually subjective considering the text that usually stands behind them to provide personal opinions. Of course, this means a backed-up opinion, and not just saying you didn’t like the book.

Video lesson on how to write a critical essay

After watching our informative video on YouTube, you will feel more confident about critical essay writing. Learn more about the critical essay outline, format, and how to follow the core academic standards. You will also find a list of great topics for your critical essay in our video lesson.

If you decide that you need more information about essays, you can consider reading the book “Essay Becomes Easy. Part II” that you can find on Amazon. In the book, you will find detailed guides on writing for seven different types of essays with two samples of each kind of paper, valuable checklists, secrets and tips, and much more.

Critical essay structure

You will notice that the structure for a critical essay is slightly different from a traditional 5-paragraph essay structure. Still, you should follow the three part structure, which includes the introduction with the thesis statement, the body and the conclusion.

Let’s take a closer look at the details of writing of each part.

Background information. This is the obligatory part when you state the purpose of your work mentioning in the topic and sometimes why you decided to choose this topic. Information about the work. The main feature of a critical essay is the absence of intrigue. In other words, from the very beginning you must indicate basic information about the subject of your critical evaluation, such as the title, author, publication information, statement of topic and purpose.

Summary. This part marks the beginning of the main body of the essay. If you want to draw parallels with the more tradition perception of essay structure. The summary is the fundamental part of the critical analysis. This part proves that you have completed at least part of a task – you have read, or seen or listened to the subject. Furthermore, it proves that you considered and analyzed the received information.

Interpretation. Finally the part for the sake of which everything was started. Your personal subject interpretation and honest opinions, whether they are negative or positive. Possible themes that may be addressed are the organization of the work, style of the work, the meaning pledged in work, and the methods and effectiveness of appealing to a particular audience.

Conclusion. Summarize all of your ideas. However, check if this part matches the introduction regarding ideas and arguments, as well as the general tone of the essay.

Stages of writing a critical essay

We have around eight stages of writing a critical essay. Here we go.

Critical essay topics

Now to give you a couple of ideas, we have prepared a list of good topics to choose while writing a critical essay.

critical essay writing

Mistakes to avoid while writing a critical essay

The biggest mistake with which even the most experienced writers are faced is the fear of a blank list. You do not know what to write first and make a big mistake — you stop trying to write. Remember, it does not matter where you start: most importantly, do not stop writing and do not worry about style and spelling.

Now that you have acquainted with the definition of the critical essay, it’s structure, tips of writing and what mistakes to avoid, you can check out your essay once again to be sure that it will be the best it can be and deserves an excellent grade.

Critical essay writing checklist

Here is a critical essay writing checklist.

– Is there an introduction with an attention gatherer that grabs the interest of the audience? Is the thesis statement clearly stated and described as well? – Ask whether the main points reflected by the topic sentences are supported with concrete and detailed examples. Do the main points relate to the thesis directly? – Are topic sentences clear and do all of them relate to the thesis? Do the rest parts of the body paragraphs support each of the topic sentences? Is there enough evidence, which means that there is no need for additional examples or details? – Think whether the examples you have used were the best. What are the weaknesses of your examples? Are there any ambiguities? – What are the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments? Were the arguments clear? – Is there logic in the presentation of ideas through the whole paper? Check whether transitions are used appropriately, vary with structure, and are not limited to their usage only in the topic sentence. – Check the balance between descriptive and critical elements of writing. Do not forget that a critical essay is not a retelling of a book, so ask yourself whether this essay is your analysis, your interpretation, and your presentation of the ability to think critically. – Does the conclusion make sense? Does the conclusion have a distinct ending rather than simply an abrupt stop? – Is your critical essay free from wordiness, clichés, and gender or race biased language? Does the text contain an appropriate vocabulary, and use active over passive voice?

Read this great critical essay sample and see the core aspects

After reading the article above, we hope that you already have a vision of the main peculiarities of critical essays. In addition, we recommend you go through this critical essay example, and also check this perfect critical essay sample.

Critical Essay – The Innocence and the Evil in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

When it comes to the moral character of characters in To Kill a Mockingbird , the focus is on the question of whether or not people are fundamentally good or wicked. By dramatizing Scout and Jem’s transition from a perspective of childhood innocence, in which they assume that people are good because they have never seen evil, to a more adult perspective, in which they have confronted evil and must incorporate it into their understanding of the world, the novel approaches this question. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, two innocent characters, are devastated because they are unprepared for the evil that they face because of their lack of knowledge of prejudice, intolerance, and ignorance (Lee). This is one of the book’s most prominent subthemes. Even Jem is a victim of his own awareness of the evils of racism during the trial. Jem’s confidence in justice and humanity has been severely wounded, and he sinks into despair. Scout, on the other hand, is able to preserve her basic faith in human nature in the face of Tom’s conviction (Lee).

Scout loses her innocence to varying degrees as she learns from the grownups in her life. As she looks up to her father, Atticus Finch, the most, she picks up many life lessons from him. She also learns a lot from her instructor, Miss Caroline, early on in the story about how the adult world operates (Lee). Scout learns a lot from Boo Radley in the story, and he plays a big part in that.

The mockingbird becomes a symbol of innocence in this narrative of innocent victims of wickedness. Therefore, it is wrong to murder a mockingbird. It is common knowledge that several characters in the novel may be recognized as mockingbirds, innocents who have been harmed or destroyed by evil. According to Mr. Underwood, once Tom Robinson is shot, he compares his death to “the mindless murder of songbirds,” and towards the end of the book Scout believes that injuring Boo Radley is like “shootin’ a mockingbird” (Lee). In addition to this, Miss Maudie informs Scout that “Mockingbirds don’t do anything except singing their hearts out for us,” as she puts it (Lee). Killing a mockingbird is thus a sin. They are particularly susceptible in the prejudiced society of Maycomb, which frequently treats the pure innocence of infancy severely because Jem and Scout have the last name Finch.

It is a good indicator of how far they have progressed from childlike innocence to mature morality. Until the end of the novel, Boo is nothing more than a source of childish superstition. They begin to see him as a real person when he leaves them gifts and fixes Jem’s clothes. The fact that he becomes totally human to Scout at the conclusion of the book shows how much she has grown as a person as sympathetic and understanding (Lee). It is difficult for Atticus to convey to his children that the world is not always fair, but he does his best. Atticus teaches Scout and Jem to treat all people with respect, even though most of the town harbors racist views toward African Americans (Lee). Boo is one of the book’s most significant mockingbirds; he is also a representation of the goodness that dwells inside individuals. Despite his past trauma, Boo’s interactions with the youngsters are governed by the sincerity of his heart (Lee). Boo shows to be the ultimate emblem of good by protecting Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell.

It is difficult for Atticus to convey to his children that the world is not always fair, but he does his best. Atticus teaches Scout and Jem to treat all people with respect, despite the prejudiced sentiments of the rest of the town.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Warner , 1982. Print.

You often ask us these questions about a critical essay

1. what is a critical essay format.

If you are assigned to write a critical essay, you must follow a particular way of arranging the text. Usually, you must create a paper following one of the three academic formatting styles: APA. MLA, and Chicago/Turabian. Each format has its unique aspects in arranging sources, citations, fonts, paragraphs, and more.

2. How many paragraphs are in a critical essay?

A standard essay of any type must contain at least five paragraphs. Assuming that one of them will be an introduction and the other one will be a conclusion, there are at least three paragraphs left for the body. The optimal number of sections for a critical essay is five to eight.

3. What is the difference between an essay and a critical essay?

Each type of essay has its peculiarities, so each essay is different and cannot be written without considering its core aspects. For a critical essay, exposing strengths and weaknesses of the subject are essential.

4. What skills do you need to write a critical essay?

Among the core skills required to write compelling critical essays are sourcing skills and time-managing skills. A student should know how to present his or her thoughts and arguments. Moreover, formatting and referencing skills are necessary.

Need assistance with a critical essay?

It is obvious that writing numerous papers is a challenging task. Students often require help with voluminous essays. Moreover, to cope with a critical essay, deep sourcing skills and writing experience are required. If you cannot finish a critical paper by yourself, we are here to help you. In addition to useful tips and video lessons, you have an opportunity to order professional help from our writers. By completing the form on our site, you will promptly start getting bids from authors who are proficient in critical writing. Turn to us anytime you need assistance and get qualified solutions.

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How to Write a Critical Essay [Ultimate Guide]

How to write a critical essay:.

Critical essays are among the most common types of writing assignments in college. Also known as analytical, a critical essay is about evaluating somebody’s work (a movie, a book, an article, etc.) and proving that your evaluation is correct.

The problem is, students often confuse a critical essay with a report, a critical precis , or a review.

In this article, we’ll reveal the core characteristics of a critical essay and learn the right way of writing it.


What Makes Essay Critical

A critical essay has  a claim  and  evidence  to prove that claim.

Here you need to  analyze the work (a book, a movie, an article, whatever), respond to its central themes, and evaluate  how its author conveyed them.

Attention!  If the purpose of your paper isn’t to critique but inform or persuade readers of something, it won’t be a critical essay. Check our guides on  expository essays  or  persuasive essays  instead.

In other words,  your essay is critical if:

Please note that “critical” doesn’t mean “negative.” It’s about analysis and interpretation, not judging or disparaging.

When a teacher assigns a critical essay, they want to get a professionally presented and grammatically correct paper with a clear argument and consistent and accurate references to support that argument. They need a paper demonstrating that you’ve read a source, understood its theme, and evaluated the evidence relating to that theme.

Steps to Write a Critical Essay

Before you take a seat and start writing a critical essay, make sure you understand its characteristics and purpose inside out.

You need to analyze and evaluate a work.

Note:  Analysis = breaking down and studying the part; evaluation = assessing strengths and weaknesses.

You need to express a central claim of your work in a  thesis statement  and then support it with evidence in each body paragraph.

Note:  The evidence can be either the details from a source (dialogues, imagery, descriptions, text structure, etc.) or secondary resources such as scholarly articles or expert reviews that can help you support your argument.

You need to  write a conclusion .  Summarize a critical essay, emphasizing its most essential insights.

Long story short, here go your steps to write a critical essay.

Step 1: Examine a Source

You won’t write a critical essay if you don’t understand the subject of evaluation. Let’s say you write an essay on a book. It stands to reason that you need to read it first, right?

So, your first step to writing a critical essay will be critical reading. And while reading, make sure to take as many notes as possible. Utilizing an essay maker can help to organize your thoughts and structure your essay.

Take note of the instruments the author uses to communicate the message. What does he want to say? What words, grammar constructions, or stylistic devices does he use?

Also, think of the questions that come to your mind while reading. Write them down, too.

Step 2: Organize Your Thoughts

Now it’s time to figure out the core topic and problem of a piece. Find its central claim and the evidence demonstrating that claim. What does make it different or similar to other corresponding works?

Brainstorm to come up with what you already know, think, and feel about the topic. Think of related ideas and associations arising when you try to analyze it. Once your thoughts are on paper, start organizing them: group all the ideas and identify the areas for further research.

You might need to  do research  and find secondary sources such as scholarly articles or online reviews by experts to understand the original piece better. Collect all the necessary references you might later need to give credit in your critical essay.

Step 3: State a Thesis

Your critical essay should have a one-sentence thesis with two components: a claim and details sustaining it. Based on the information you’ve gathered from the subject of evaluation (a book, a movie, etc.) and secondary sources, write a thesis that will specify your essay’s direction.


Hint:  When making a claim, answer the question, “What point am I trying to make?” If still in doubt, introduce your idea and evidence to a  thesis statement generator : it will craft a thesis draft that you’ll modify later (if needed) to reflect your position better.

Step 4: Write a Critical Essay Outline

You can’t write an essay without outlining. At least, it will help you  save time : here you’ll structurize all the points into paragraphs so it would be easier to write them later.

At this stage, you’ll have arguments and evidence to evaluate in essay paragraphs. Decide on the evidence that would support your thesis statement best.

Step 5: Write a Draft

Once the essay outline is ready, it’s time to write. (Yeap, finally!) Begin with an examination (a summary) of the work and respond to its central claim. Then, analyze and evaluate it with the evidence. And finally, conclude your critical essay with the emphasis on its most essential insights.

While writing, remember about academic style: stay formal and objective; use language precisely; remember about references; use transition words in paragraphs to guide readers and help them follow your train of thoughts.

Step 6: Edit and Improve

The best advice here would be to hold your completed draft for a short while and get some rest from writing. Then,  read your essay  a few times to see all the mistakes. You may do it yourself or ask a friend, a mom, or a groupmate to help you: they’ll see your essay from a different perspective, as readers, so it will be easier for them to identify weak points to edit.

Revise your essay, making all the necessary amendments until you see it’s perfect. To make sure it’s genuinely so, don’t hesitate to  ask writing service for professional help .


Tips for Writing a Critical Essay

Writing a critical essay is about your thinking skills. It’s an analysis- and argument-building process, and you need to practice a lot to develop essential skills of thinking. These tips will help you start and write academic papers that work, no matter if that’s a SAT essay , a dialectic essay , or any other type of college writing.

Critical Essay Structure

Most essay types have a standard structure that includes an introduction (with a thesis statement), a body (paragraphs with arguments and evidence to support the thesis), and a conclusion (with a thesis restatement and essential insights). A critical essay structure is not an exception here.

But before you start writing, craft an outline,  aka  a roadmap for your essay to make sure you won’t miss any critical detail while writing a draft.

Critical Essay Outline

When you have an essay plan, its writing becomes much easier. Consider the format: as a rule, critical essays have a standard structure that consists of an introductory paragraph, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Use this template that will help you write a detailed outline for your critical essay :


Once you’ve completed the critical essay outline, it’s time to start writing. Do it quickly (you will have time to proofread and edit it later), paying attention to all the details from your outline.

Critical Essay Introduction

All essays have introductions, as it’s a part where you  hook readers , tell about the topic and its importance, and, therefore, persuade them to continue reading. But while the purpose of most introductions is to introduce the thesis, a critical essay introduction is more complicated.

  Here’s how to write a critical essay introduction:

Critical Essay Body

It’s the most detailed part of your critical essay, and it involves several sections. Each section addresses a particular detail and evidence to support your thesis.

The first section is the work’s summary.

Write a short, objective, and unbiased report of the work (or its abstract) you’re evaluating in your critical essay. Here you need to tell about the author’s overall point and the main supports he or she offers for that point. Make sure to avoid your personal opinion: write a summary in the third person!

The second section is the work’s interpretation and evaluation.

It’s where your report ends, but your  analysis  starts. Here you’ll evaluate the work’s strong and weak parts, by the following criteria:

After that, your interpretation comes. It’s not about judging (evaluation) anymore, but your response (opinion) on this work.

Ask yourself:

Your interpretation is, actually, the thesis of your essay. In this section, you’ll support the opinion you expressed in the thesis.

Critical Essay Conclusion

Yes, finally! Here comes the time to write a critical essay conclusion, and it doesn’t have to be too long. It’s like a reworded introduction, where you repeat the importance of your topic, reiterate the points you discussed, and summarize your interpretation.

Critical Essay Examples

With tons of resources available online today, it’s not that difficult to find critical essay examples. But it’s challenging to find good ones . Here we have a couple of essay abstracts for you to get an idea of what a critical essay looks and sounds. Feel free to use them for informational and educational purposes only; don’t copy them word by word in your essays to avoid duplications and  accusations of plagiarism  from your educators.

Critical essay example #1  (the abstract, taken from


Critical essay example #2  (the abstract, taken from


More examples and explanations:

FAQ about Critical Essay

And now, for the most interesting part:

To make a long story short for you, here go answers to the most frequently asked questions about critical essay writing. Read them if you want your analytical essay to be A-worthy.

Make sure to use a formal language in critical essays. It’s about grammatical and pronunciation norms used in intellectual and academic activities. And since your essay is analytical and requires credibility, a formal language is what you need to make it sound so.

For citing critical essays, use the MLA format. Name the author first, followed by the title. Then, specify the publication details, including the pages from where you take the quote or reference.


Do it in the same ways as with books or articles. Watch the movie several times, engage with it critically: identify its core focus and message, interpret and evaluate it in the essay, and come up with the essential insights this movie gives to the audience.

Self-critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating your own writings. As a rule, educators assign them for you to reflect on your progress as a writer.

Such essays are not that difficult to craft. Follow the basic structure of a critical essay: write an introduction stating your thesis, a few body paragraphs analyzing your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and a conclusion that restates your thesis and sums up what you’ve learned about yourself. 

Yes, if you write a self-critical essay. But if you write about others’ works, use the third person only.

In a Word…

Don’t be afraid of writing a critical essay! Yes, essays are many, and it might seem impossible to learn the differences between them and the rules of writing them. But their basic structure is the same. All you need to do is identify the purpose of your assigned work and outline it accordingly.

Critical essays are about analyzing and evaluating the work of other writers. So, just read it, figure out what the authors wanted to say, think of whether you agree or disagree with them, and write a critical essay about all this stuff. Therefore, you develop critical thinking. You learn to introduce and prove your arguments.

And you understand how to share ideas with others so they’d listen and support you.

Our Writing Guides

10 thoughts on “ how to write a critical essay [ultimate guide] ”.

Writing is not an easy task, but the way you described it seems going to be easy. Thank you so much for this article. This is really helpful.

Very helpful information. It seems to me that the best way to learn to write well and structured is to learn from an essay format. I love the format of the essay. It really develops written skills, structures thoughts and makes you think.

I liked your post, it was helpful! But it lacks real examples…

Thanks for your comment, Amy!

No real examples? Hm… But there are at least two of them in the article; plus, we shared three links to highly authoritative resources (all are universities) with tons of critical essay examples there. 🙂

If you need even more real examples, please don’t hesitate to ask our writers for help!

Good stuff, thanks for this article. my problem is writing critical essay on a topic not on a book, article or film, I guess I will just have to follow the same layout and format the essay.

Excellent insight.

This makes it feel so natural…I love this!

great guides! any other tips of such kind about other essay types? i would love to read about personal essays or informative ones

We have the guide on personal essays already 🙂 As for informative ones, I’m working on the guide right now – so, stay tuned!

For me, it always was quite difficult to build critical essays.. It seems you need to prove something, search arguments, use evidence… all that is not that simple. Narrative or personal essays are much more interesting to write.

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How do I do "show, don't tell" in writing?

how to be more critical in writing

So, something that is a general rule in movies or any media is to show and not tell to display what happens over a period of time. An example of not doing this and it doesn't work is the live action Avatar the Last Airbender movie. I've recently been trying to write the passage of a lot of events, but not as individual scenes, kind of like a montage. I don't know how to. Any advice would be appreciated.

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It's hard to answer without knowing more about these scenes, but I generally try to ask myself, "What does that look like?"

For example, instead of writing, "He was angry," you could write, "His face turned red, and he pounded the table and yelled."

Excellent advice.

It's about focusing on effects, not the causes. You can say "he was tired from running". Or you can say "Sweat beaded down his brow as he heaved in his breaths, each one stinging as it went down. His legs dragged like lead and his vision was starting to waver".

Instead of saying what's happening, ask yourself what kinds of effects or symptoms it would cause.

Be more clear, what is your purpose? What do you want the reader to feel and see in those "show, don't tell" scenes? Do you want omit the narrator's feelings and opinions? Or is it something else?

This advice has been misused so often it's become meaningless or even harmful, and mostly, it applies to visual media where you can't tell without breaking the scene. Prose is different, prose is mostly tell and only somewhat show. If you "show" too much in prose you end up with paragraphs describing the minute details of someone's pupils narrowing and nostrils flaring while the left corner of their lips just slightly raises as they slowly draw in a stiff breath. It can work for some writing styles, but often enough it can also become tedious and distracting.

It's fine to say someone is angry, or tired, or thinking that the damn meeting serves no purpose; the reader can let their mental image do the rest. Those are feelings. A lot of people aren't very dramatic. A lot of people never pound the table or yell, or sweat only when overheating, or oppositely, always. Incidentally, my tired looks the same as my angry and my bored looks worried to other people.

There is one exception. You generally shouldn't "tell" action-driven character traits. Don't say "she was spunky had a great sense of humor" and then have the character flop around like a blank piece of corrugated cardboard for the entirety of your novel. Don't state that your character is a genius strategist and have their only applied strategy be that one game of chess they demonstratively play somewhere in the first fifth of your book. Don't tell us someone is inexperienced and clueless and have them solve everything flawlessly first try wherever they go.

I think there's a time and place for both options. Personally I like the evocativeness of a character gritting their teeth, or their dialogue tags becoming harsher like "snarled" and "growled" more than the narration just telling me that they're angry.

But a POV character is free to make their own judgements on what other characters feel, and they especially know what they feel. If I'm reading a POV character in a blind rage, it would probably be really distracting for them to even be cognizant of how their lips are moving with each stiff breath.

You generally shouldn't "tell" action-driven character traits.

Absolutely agree with this. Show a character's personality as best you can with their actions and dialogue, but it's up to the readers what they actually think about the character. It's like meeting someone in real life. You don't get a giant neon sign saying "SHE'S SPUNKY!".

The best example out there. Look up her other stuff, especially on narrative distance.

It it not a general rule. It is a test for new writers. It should be called "show versus tell." Either is proper. They are used for different effects. New writer tend to do all "tell." "Show" is just another option that can expand your depths.

It’s about letting the reader infer. You can tell as much as you want and still have the reader infer about everything else. Take these short sentences from Farewell Waltz:

Jealousy has the amazing power to illuminate a single person in an intense beam of light, keeping the multitude of others in the dark.

picture took on a three dimensional quality

They are clearly telling you what jealousy does to the person, but by telling you this you have to infer as to what the characters are feeling from the situation they find themselves in.

One way to learn is to read authors whose work you really enjoy. Analyze how they write what they write. Then emulate their writing. Practice until you develop your own voice and style. Remember that good writing does include "telling" when appropriate.

I would think of it, as describe, don’t explain.

If you find yourself explaining a character’s feeling rather than describing the feeling (or how the feeling feels), then that will create a distance between the readers and your character.

"Show, don't tell" is a well-used term, but rarely explained. Showing is letting the reader experience the scene. They should be able to imagine the scene in their mind, or get so immersed they don't even see a book anymore, rather they see a movie. The best ways of showing are by giving concrete vivid details, using the 5 senses, and using action and dialogue that can show emotion and evoke emotion within the reader.

Also, understand that 'telling' is sometimes better than showing. We don't need to see a flashback to a previous scene if that scene happened a chapter ago.

If you want to read a book on the matter, I read "Show, don't tell" by Sandra Gerth and this is where I pull my information from.

You don't because show don't tell doesn't apply to prose.

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Amal Clooney, Melinda French Gates, and Michelle Obama Share 3 Ways to Help End Child Marriage

The hands of a 14-year old girl on her wedding day in Bangladesh, Sept. 11, 2021. (Sultan Mahmud Mukut—SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

I t was the middle of the night in Kenya, and 11-year-old Miriam was hiding outside a stranger’s house, waiting to talk to the woman who lived inside. Miriam hadn’t met her before, but she knew her name: Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, who ran a school for girls at risk of child marriage.

When Dr. Ntaiya emerged, Miriam told her everything—how she’d just finished fourth grade, how her father had died in an accident, how her family was running low on money, and how, to help pay the bills, they were planning to marry her off for a dowry. Miriam had already seen her friends marry and quit school. She was desperate to avoid that—and Dr. Ntaiya was her only hope.

Each year, an estimated 12 million girls around the world, including in the United States and Europe, find themselves in Miriam’s situation because they’re caught in a web of economic, educational, and cultural systems that deprive them of choices and opportunities.

Globally, child marriage is one of the biggest threats to girls’ empowerment and education. As the data shows, marrying young has dire consequences: Child brides are more likely to leave school, experience violence, struggle to earn an income, have an unintended pregnancy, and suffer a miscarriage or die during pregnancy.

But when girls go to school, we are all better off: poverty goes down, economies grow, and babies are born healthier. The ripple effects extend throughout countries and across the globe.

As climate change and natural disasters threaten crop yields, COVID-19 continues to constrain businesses and livelihoods, and inflation raises prices and pushes people into poverty, the pressure on families only grows. And that means their daughters will continue to be used as pawns in an economic and sociocultural game in which they have little or no power.

That’s something Dr. Ntaiya knows too well.

When she was just 5 years old, she was engaged to be married. Like Miriam, she desperately sought a way out and knew that education was her best solution. So she made an impossible decision. At 12 years old, she agreed to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) if her father allowed her to complete her education. He agreed.

Years later, she founded an organization to protect girls from child marriage, abuse, and FGM, and set them on a path to higher education. What did she call it? Kakenya’s Dream .

When she met a panicked Miriam outside her house, it was an easy decision for her—yes, of course Miriam had a place at Kakenya’s Dream. Yes, of course she could get her education.

The three of us hear stories like Miriam’s as a call to action. Our partnership is grounded in our belief in the value of every girl and a shared commitment to seeing girls everywhere reach their full potential. Child marriage is a barrier to the better, more equal world girls deserve. That’s why our organizations—and our partners at Girls First Fund, Girls Not Brides, and VOW for Girls—are joining forces to help end the practice once and for all.

Together, we are working to increase funding for this issue, support civil society-led efforts, and amplify the voices of the girls and leaders who are driving real change in their countries and communities.

We know this is not an easy endeavor—there are many social, religious, and cultural norms that have upheld child marriage over centuries. But we also know that change is possible. There are interventions that work to reduce these marriages—and ultimately, will end them altogether. We’re focusing on three.

First, we are joining women and girls in taking legal action to advocate for their rights.

In far too many countries, child marriage is legally permitted. Often, girls themselves are leading efforts to reform these laws and increase girls’ access to education. For example, a courageous group of girls led by a young woman named Memory Banda successfully persuaded the Parliament of Malawi to adopt a constitutional amendment raising the legal age of marriage to 18 in 2017. Collective action and strategic litigation have also improved child-marriage laws in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

We’re also teaming up with local leaders to reform discriminatory laws and ensure that women and girls have access to legal information and services so they can exercise their rights. For instance, in the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, a landmark case challenged Tanzania’s policy of banning married and pregnant girls from school. The government has since announced a U-turn on this policy, which impacts 1 in 4 adolescent girls in the country. And we are supporting the establishment of “women for women” legal-aid clinics to connect women and girls to lawyers who can support them at no cost.

Next, we are supporting grassroots organizations that are transforming their communities.

Grassroots organizations like Kakenya’s Dream are part of a movement of organizations on the ground that have proven their ability to change hearts and minds.

In Nepal, the Janaki Women Awareness Society teaches young girls about their own rights and how to push for them within their families. Their approach is to coach girls through the process of self-advocacy and help them avoid marrying until they are ready. In Uganda, Resilient Women’s Organization (RWO) runs a shelter for girls who have escaped gender-based violence, are experiencing crisis pregnancies, or have removed themselves from abusive circumstances. Without RWO, these girls and young women would have no place to turn.

Finally, we’re working to equip girls and families with the most powerful tool to prevent child marriage: an education.

Keeping girls in school, particularly secondary school, is one of the surest ways to prevent child marriage. And educating girls in one generation can delay marriage across several generations. Today, more than 100 million girls are out of school, and it’s critical that their families and communities see their education as a basic right and important investment in our shared future. When girls are educated, they succeed. And in turn, we all do.

In the years since Miriam first met Dr. Ntaiya, she’s not only completed school, she’s married a man she loves — a man she chose. They’re raising livestock and harvesting sugarcane to earn money. And they’re raising a family together, too.

There are millions of stories like Miriam’s, and each of these girls deserves the same chance to live a life worthy of her dreams. That is only possible in a world without child marriage. We hope you’ll join us in taking action to end this practice and unlock a more equal future.

To fund grassroots organizations like the ones mentioned in this story, visit the Girls Opportunity Alliance and Girls First Fund . To learn more about ending child marriage visit Girls Not Brides . To find out more about our ongoing work to advance gender equality, visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , The Clooney Foundation for Justice , and VOW for Girls .

Contact us at [email protected] .

how to be more critical in writing


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    how to be more critical in writing

  2. Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2022]

    how to be more critical in writing

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    how to be more critical in writing


    how to be more critical in writing

  5. Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2022]

    how to be more critical in writing

  6. How to Improve Your Critical Thinking for Higher Grades

    how to be more critical in writing


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  1. Academic writing: a practical guide

    Academic writing requires criticality; it's not enough to just describe or summarise evidence, you also need to analyse and evaluate information and use it to build your own arguments. This is where you show your own thoughts based on the evidence available, so critical writing is really important for higher grades.

  2. Academic Phrasebank

    As an academic writer, you are expected to be critical of the sources that you use. This essentially means questioning what you read and not necessarily agreeing with it just because the information has been published. Being critical can also mean looking for reasons why we should not just accept something as being correct or true.

  3. Critical writing

    Being critical in your writing means engaging in academic debates and research happening in your subject area. The sources you select, the way you show how they agree or disagree with other pieces of evidence, and the way you structure your argument will all show your thought process and how you have understood the information you have read.


    to trigger critical thinking' (see section 2) as a basis for a critical approach to what you read. 5 Page 12Being 'critical' in your assignments Two drafts of an assignment This section shows how a student moved from a 'descriptive' approach in their writing to a more critical and analytical approach.

  5. Critical writing: Descriptive vs critical

    When writing critically, you are developing a reasoned argument and participating in academic debate. Essentially you are persuading your reader of your position on the topic at hand. This is about taking the information you have described and using it in some way. This could be writing things like: why it is relevant to your argument,

  6. Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2023]

    To get how to write a critical analysis, you should consider our tips: Examine the subject at least twice. Read the book or watch the movie (and so on) that you've chosen, preferably a couple of times. If you don't have time or desire to do it twice, study it once and take detailed notes. Mark the places you will talk about.

  7. How To Write a Critical Analysis in 5 Steps (With Tips)

    Focus on making your introduction engaging to attract your audience's attention and encourage them to continue listening or reading your critical analysis. 3. Write your body Write body paragraphs that address the main points outlined in your introduction.

  8. Critical Writing Definition and Strategies

    Without further ado, here are the essential skills you have to use when writing a critical analysis: Critical thinking Critical reading Organizing your writing Self-evaluation Language proficiency skills Time management Citing sources Question Everything You Read

  9. PDF A short guide to critical writing for Postgraduate Taught students

    What is critical writing? As Example 2 suggests, critical writing is more complex, and involves more discussion, analysis and evaluation than does descriptive writing. Examples of critical writing 'It could be argued that...'; or activities include: suggest that...'.Engaging with evidence Open minded and objective enquiry

  10. Effective Methods to Improve Critical Writing Skills in College

    Placing yourself in a supportive environment will be a great start. Study together with like-minded people, and work together with them. This can help to make your critical views interesting, as you intertwine them with the modern world. Make sure you read and share both the good and bad sides you find in the literature.

  11. Critical writing

    Academic writing requires criticality; it's not enough to just describe or summarise evidence, you also need to analyse and evaluate information and use it to build your own arguments. This is where you show your own thoughts based on the evidence available, so critical writing is really important for higher grades.

  12. Read and Write Critically

    What do the terms 'critical' or 'criticality' mean? In an academic context, reading and writing critically means asking questions of the text as we read, and asking questions of the knowledge claims. We then need to decide what is worth commenting on, and what is not, and express these comments in writing. Which questions should I ask?

  13. How to Ditch Descriptive Writing and Conquer Critical Writing

    Critical writing and thinking can be confusing, and writing in this style can feel completely alien. But staying safe with descriptive writing is holding you back and preventing you achieving those higher essay grades. Certain essay questions require critical thinking so if you're not engaging in it you're losing out on a lot of marks.

  14. How To Write A Critical Essay, with Samples

    The goal or purpose of a critical essay is to provide readers with an explanation or an interpretation of a specific idea or concept that an author, painter, or director included in their work. Additionally, writers can be asked to situate a certain theme in a book or film within a broader context.

  15. How to write critically

    Critical writing involves: analysing information to understand a problem or topic from more than one perspective; making logical connections between ideas; offering your own perspective on the topic based on your evaluation of the available evidence How is critical writing different from descriptive writing? Example paragraphs

  16. Critical writing

    In order to write critically, you need to use a range of sources to develop your argument. You cannot rely solely on your own ideas; you need to understand what others have written about the same topic.

  17. The Need to Improve Your Writing

    Writing requires a facility with the language. Sentences must make sense. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation must satisfy rules and conventions. On a broader level, remarks must follow each other in an orderly fashion. The trip from opening to closing must be as bump free as possible. Done poorly, the path we create leads down rabbit trails and ...

  18. How to write a critical essay

    It is important to plan your critical essay before you start writing. An essay has a clear structure with an introduction, paragraphs with evidence and a conclusion. Evidence, in the form of...

  19. Critical Thinking and Writing: Critical Writing

    In order to be considered critical, academic writing must go beyond being merely descriptive. Whilst you may have some descriptive writing in your assignments to clarify terms or provide background information, it is important for the majority of your assignment to provide analysis and evaluation. Description:

  20. Descriptive vs Analytical/Critical Writing (+ Examples)

    Descriptive writing focuses on the what, while critical/analytical writing focuses on the so what. Analytical writing should link the discussion back to the research aims, objectives or research questions (the golden thread). Some amount of description will always be needed, but aim to minimise description and maximise analysis to earn higher ...

  21. Critical writing: What is critical writing?

    Critical writing needs critical thinking. While most of this guide focuses on critical writing, it is first important to consider what we mean by criticality at university. ... Making your thinking more critical with questions. This page has so far demonstrated the importance of asking questions in all of your academic work and learning ...

  22. "10 Tips for Medical Professionals on Writing Effective Research Papers"

    Use a structured format: The paper should be structured using a standard format, such as Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRaD). This makes the paper easy to read and understand ...

  23. Grammarly's ChatGPT upgrade won't just improve your writing, it'll do

    The writing assistant Grammarly already uses AI in several ways to help it act as a clever tool. Not only can it pick up common grammar and spelling mistakes, but it can also recommend ways to ...

  24. How to Write a Critical Essay

    If you are assigned to write a critical essay, you must follow a particular way of arranging the text. Usually, you must create a paper following one of the three academic formatting styles: APA. MLA, and Chicago/Turabian. Each format has its unique aspects in arranging sources, citations, fonts, paragraphs, and more.

  25. How to Write a Critical Essay [Ultimate Guide]

    Step 3: State a Thesis. Your critical essay should have a one-sentence thesis with two components: a claim and details sustaining it. Based on the information you've gathered from the subject of evaluation (a book, a movie, etc.) and secondary sources, write a thesis that will specify your essay's direction.

  26. How to write more effectively #shorts

    HKS Professor Todd Rogers has a 5 point checklist on how to write more effectively and get a better response from your audience, whether you're a policymaker...

  27. How do I do "show, don't tell" in writing? : r/writing

    The best ways of showing are by giving concrete vivid details, using the 5 senses, and using action and dialogue that can show emotion and evoke emotion within the reader. Also, understand that 'telling' is sometimes better than showing. We don't need to see a flashback to a previous scene if that scene happened a chapter ago.

  28. Ending Child Marriage Is Critical for a More Equal Future

    Today, more than 100 million girls are out of school, and it's critical that their families and communities see their education as a basic right and important investment in our shared future ...