Critical Essay Writing Guide for Students

Critical essays are one of the most common types of assignments that students are asked to write in almost all the stages of their academic journey. For you to write an excellent critical essay, you need first to understand the meaning of a critical essay.

What is a critical essay?

A critical essay gives an analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of a specific given text. That text can be a book, an article, film or paintings. In writing a critical essay, you are expected to interpret the piece of writing given in your own perspective and support your arguments with the relevant research and evidence. The principal goal of a critical essay is to help students to refine their writing skills as well as develop analytical skills for different types of texts. A critical paper should serve the readers with a thought-provoking description or the writer’s interpretation of the material being analyzed.  Specifically, writing an excellent critical essay requires you to weigh the original aim of the author in writing a text and the type of message he/she intends to pass to the audience and explain that in a manner that the new audience will understand.

Any piece of academic writing should contain your individual opinion; therefore, ensure your critical essay has a thesis statement or a central idea. Generate a thesis statement with two sentences. In the first sentence, provide a general insight about your article while on the second sentence describing the purpose of the text you are analyzing. Ensure your thesis statement is strong enough and if possible support it with research and evidence.

A critical essay can have any of the following objectives;

  • To criticize the author of a particular book, text, article or work of art
  • To present the strengths and weaknesses of a written text Critical Essay writing guide for students
  • To offer an objective view of the original author or painter of a piece of art
  • To analyze the consistency of the author’s original work
  • To thoroughly assess the author’s capability to initiate and maintain their primary argument or concept.


Critical essay writing guide

This section offers step by step guide on how to start and end your paper.

  1. Understand the nature of your o your essay and be sure of what you are required to do. in case you are not sure, seek clarification
  2. Read to understand the material you are expected to analyze. You will be asked to analyze all or a part of the provided text. Be keen to consider everything and read every sentence to ensure that you don’t lose crucial information. You will achieve this by reading the source material more than once.
  3. When reading your source materials, take note of all critical ideas and concepts that will guide your analyses.
  4. Identify the specific challenges contained in the source material that can be critiqued. Read actively and take notes of any limitations that emerge and that will enhance your analysis.
  5. Now you have identified problems in your source text. You need to ask yourself, how can these problems be solved? Brainstorm on various solutions and note them down. After this step, you will be prepared to develop a thesis statement and to start writing your critical essay.

The structure of a critical essay

Like any other essay, a critical essay follows a standard structure which includes an introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. Each of these sections must be completed to make your essay complete.

Introducing a critical essay

In this section, provide a clear description of the topic under study. Provide your thesis statement concisely but be thorough to allow your readers to understand your focus. To write a strong thesis statement;

  • Embed your thesis statement in the first few sentences in the introduction
  • Avoid cliché sentences
  • Be clear and concise as possible
  • Go direct to the principal objective of your paper, avoid too many unnecessary wordings

Writing the body

Include a series of paragraphs here each with a specific point. Ensure all your paragraphs support your thesis statement either by presenting an argument or by offering a claim. Support all your arguments with evidence from reliable sources. A standard critical essay will contain between three to six paragraphs unless the instructions state otherwise. Be elaborate enough to enable your reader to understand your point of view.

Writing the conclusion

In this section, restate your thesis statement and summarize your key arguments. Express your own views about the author’s work. Let your ending inspire your readers to want more from that topic. Your aim here is to incite your readers to want to learn more or dig deeper at their own time.  An excellent conclusion should inspire your readers to think creatively. You can achieve this by ending your essay with the following;

  • A call to action, for instance, advising readers to research more on an idea that you have not elaborated enough
  • with a question that you need your readers to answer
  • With a prompt that will stimulate desire in your readers to know more about something.




How to Write a Book Report

Writing a book report for the first time might be challenging to students especially those without prior knowledge on how to write an outstanding book report. A book report requires you to analyze a large amount of information with very few words and space to discuss the writer’s major themes, the characters, and the plot of the story with an objective eye. This guide will equip you with the necessary tools that will enable you to write not only the most outstanding but also a clear book report. We will provide you with excellent tips on how to write the best book report and how to logically organize the writing process to make your paper more appealing. To begin with, what do you understand by a book report and what makes it different from a book review?

A book report

A book report gives an informative account of a piece of writing by presenting the author’s point of view, analyzing the specific features of a piece of writing and providing a personal opinion about the authors perspective. Book reports share some similarities with book reviews, but the two have some differences. Let us compare the two;
Book report focuses majorly on summarizing a piece of literary work more than conducting an evaluation of the same. Mostly these assignments are assigned to middle and high school students and take different forms. These essays include different elements depending on the grade level of the students.
Book reviews, on the other hand, give a critical evaluation of a fiction or non-fiction work whereby you are expected to provide a summary of the content, assess the value of the material and give your individual opinion about the reader’s point of view. You are expected to either recommend or not to recommend the book or piece of writing to other potential readers. In most cases, book reviews are college assignments, but professionals can also write them. Typically, book reviews are published in academic or scientific journals, magazines or newspapers.

Writing a book report

A book report is meant to help students to improve their analytical and communication skills as well as help them learn how to express their thoughts clearly and logically. Writing a book report will enable you to open your mind to various opinions and help you to look at things from different perspectives and arriving at a concrete conclusion. A well-written book report contains three key elements;
• Summary of the plot
• Analysis of the theme
• character analysis
These are the major components of a book report, and your primary objective should be to discuss and analyze these elements. Despite the nature of your essay, be sure to include some aspects that you will use to convince your reader that the book was interesting to you even if you did not like some aspects of the book. For instance, if you are a reading a fiction book and you don’t like the style that the author has used in writing his/her book; present your dislike in a positive manner such that your reader will sympathize with you.
Steps to be followed when writing a book report
1. Select a book that you would like to write a report on. Identify some essential elements that are necessary for you to get started. Some basic information you will need to have is the title of the book, the genre, the author, publisher and year of publication. Identify the various aspects of the book that have sparked your interest.
2. Read the book carefully while making notes. While reading, keep track of the major themes, characters and their specific features, critical events in the story and the story settings. This will apply if you are reading a fictional work. When reading a non-fiction book, identify the main ideas and be ready to discuss them.
3. Select specific direct quotes from the book or text that you will include in your report to back up your arguments.
4. Organize your notes into sections and categorize your ideas under specific headings and subheadings. Ensure you have sufficient points under each category.
At this point, you are ready to start writing your paper.
Start with writing an introduction to your book report. The introductory paragraph will contain information about the author, the title of the book and the year of publication. Include a sentence that explains the subject of the text as well as giving a brief overview of the meaning.
Write the body of your paper by presenting an extended summary of the text. In this section, identify the author’s primary thesis, and provide your remarks about the tone and writing style of the author. Be detailed enough to give your audience an overview of the text that you are reporting.
Conclude your essay with a few sentences about the impact of the text on you and state whether you recommend or do not recommend the article for further reading. In this section, provide a summary of your ideas and opinions you have developed about the book in the course of your reading and analysis.