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.




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