How to Write a Critical Essay Step by Step

How to Write a Critical Essay Step by Step

What does a critical paper entail? A critical essay is a type of academic writing that aims to examine, interpret, or appraise a specific piece of writing or other media forms. Particularly, this type of essay is usually read by the representatives of the academic community and normally supports a claim that a writer puts forward.

The purpose of a critical essay is to provide writers with an opportunity to enhance their critical writing skills. More specifically, this form of critical analysis should contain an insightful explanation or interpretation of the medium under scrutiny. Moreover, another task of the writer who prepares critical analyses could be to focus on a particular theme in a book or film and provide their opinion regarding its realization and development. Also, writing from a critical perspective presupposes the skill in identifying what the original author or director might have wanted to say or show to their target audience and in rendering that message in a manner that would be comprehensible for the new audience.


When writing a critical essay, a writer should reach the following goals:

  • presenting an objective interpretation of the original director's /painter's/ writer's work;
  • providing a detailed analysis of the consistency of the work being reviewed;
  • offering an in-depth evaluation of the original author's work and ability to maintain and reinforce their underlying concept or theme;
  • outlining the strong and weak points of an article or journal entry;
  • reviewing the work of the original author.

Steps to Write a Critical Essay

Composing a critical paper might seem a daunting task, but in reality, it is as complicated as any other type of writing. First off, ensure that you are aware of and understand the requirements and the main purpose of this essay. Frequently, students are bound to end up with a failure when they start writing without paying much attention to the assignment details.

Critical essay

Critical essay

  1. Step: figure out what is expected of you. If you experience difficulty comprehending the essence of the assignment, ask for clarification.
  2. Step: read and analyze the source material thoroughly to develop a clear understanding of its main theme, idea, argument, etc. The source material may be a book, an artistic work, or a film. It is crucial to find and consider all the details from the source material that might add value and incorporate them in your critical essay. If you are expected to judge a book or film, it is important that you read (or watch) the original work more than once.
  3. Step: jot down all the important information and thoughts that spring to mind when scrutinizing the source material. Taking notes is an essential stage of writing a critical paper. When analyzing your chosen form of media, make sure you put down the main ideas or concepts of the original work.
  4. Step: unveil the key challenges or problems in the work under discussion. Once you have reviewed the text, film, or painting, you will have to point out and talk about primary issues, challenges, or problems that might be brought up in the original work. As you identify these details, such elements as the main concepts or ideas will begin to surface. Thus, be prepared to make use of them.
  5. Step: offer resolutions to the issues outlined in your review. Your next task is to suggest how to resolve problems or patterns that you singled out previously. By now, you should be approaching the stage of creating a thesis statement.

Critical Essay Types

When a student is assigned to write a critical paper, he/she may be asked to stick to a particular type of critical analysis. There is a range of critical essay types, including psychoanalytical criticism, sociological criticism, reader-response criticism, etc.

The Structure of a Critical Paper

Irrespective of topic or type, every essay encompasses a set of essential structural elements, including the introduction (a thesis statement), the body, and the conclusion (or closing statement). An essay is considered "complete" when all of these sections are covered. However, before starting to wrestle with these parts, you should draw up an outline appropriate for a critical essay. Any type of critical analysis should presuppose the outline because it represents a sketch that will navigate you through the process and help you compose a well-organized piece of writing.

  1. The Introduction

The introductory paragraph of your critical essay should give a lucid insight into the topic under consideration. The introduction should be succinct yet elaborate enough to enable a reader to figure out the focus of your critique.

An effective thesis statement ensues from the following guidelines:

  • The thesis statement is traditionally put within the first few sentences of the introduction.
  • Get your message across as clearly as possible.
  • Avoid hackneyed phrases and cliches.
  • Be as specific as possible and always refer to the primary purpose of your writing.
  1. The Body

The main part of your essay should revolve around the thesis statement and communicate the main idea. Each paragraph must include supporting evidence either in the form of a claim or an argument with the purpose of backing up your thesis statement. Normally, the body of a critical essay is composed of three to six paragraphs.

  1. The Conclusion

In the concluding paragraph, you should mention your thesis statement, preferably in other words, and briefly outline the main argument. Another technique to use is to make your conclusion thought-provoking by providing your readers with food for thought in the final sentence. Your aim here is to arouse their interest and prompt them to dig deeper into the topic on their own.

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The Outline of a Critical Paper

Your outline will be similar to what is presented below, regardless of the topic you will opt for. However, just for demonstration purposes, imagine that you are asked to craft a critical essay the topic of which is "The Female Authority in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The outline would be as follows:


  • Clarify how women are depicted as the authority.
  • Elaborate on Nurse Ratched's character along with the other key characters.
  • Bring up an event in the book that shows women as corrupt and oppressive.


  • Discuss the differences between men and women.
  • Determine and explain why the females are superior while the males are inferior.
  • Expound on why the women in the book are regarded as manipulative and oppressive


  • Restate your thesis statement and summarize the main points.

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The outline presented above can be geared to the requirements of a specific critical essay type or topic. The secret lies in being attentive and always concentrating on the headings Introduction, Body, and Conclusion and to move on from here, embedding three or four central ideas in each of the headings and using it as the bedrock of your essay.

As soon as you have the outline at your disposal, you can kick off your rough draft. Try to write as fast as possible without paying much attention to grammar and formatting. Make sure you include each of the key concepts, challenges, or issues you identified in your preliminary review.

Your next step is your final draft. At this point, you have to be careful with the minor details like grammar, formatting peculiarities, spelling, and accuracy of information. Moreover, you can reach out to your friends or relatives and ask them to read your paper in order to make sure that it is written in a lucid and interesting manner at the same time.

Critical Essay Samples Online

In case you encounter writer's block or cannot move on with your writing for some other reasons, you can always benefit from the Internet and find tons of sample writings. They may help you hit on original ideas or give you an insight into what is expected of anyone embarking on a critical analysis. Note that online samples are only intended to set an example; on no account should you steal ideas from other authors and pretend they are your own.

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