The Critical Analysis Essay: An Introduction and Topic Resources

critical analysis essayA critical analysis essay involves reading a text critically and stating your evaluation, or opinion, of what the author was meaning. In order to write this kind of essay, there are two steps: reading critically and writing critically. When writing a critical analysis, your teacher has usually assigned a short piece of work like a poem or short story that you are required to read. Here are some tips on reading the author’s work critically. Boost your writing skills by refreshing your grammar.

Tips for Reading Critically

When writing creatively, there are a few things you should consider. Try to identify the purpose of the work, analyze the structure, and be sure to do your research for anything unfamiliar to you. Outline the work, write a summary, and evaluate how the author accomplished the purpose of the work.

Study Guides and Strategies offers an excellent page on critical reading including a worksheet that can be filled out and printed. Use this worksheet as a guideline while working on your essay. Study Guides and Strategies also lists some characteristics of critical readers, and you should consider applying those characteristics when reading through the work you’re analyzing.

Writing Your Critical Analysis Essay

Before you start your essay, it’s important to consider an outline. Not only will it help you stay on topic while writing, but it will allow you to get all of your thoughts down while they’re still fresh in your mind. An example outline is written below. Learn how to write better college essays.

 An Example Outline

 I. Background Information

A. Information about the work

1. Title

2. Author

3. Publication

B. Your main reaction to the work, your thesis statement

II. Summary of the Work

III. Analysis of the Work

A. Statement of the topic or purpose of the work

B. Evaluating the organization of the work

C. Evaluating the style of the work

D. The effectiveness of the work

E. Evaluating how the author treats the topic

F. Evaluating the appeal of the work to a particular audience

The Layout of Your Paper

Like all other essays, your critical analysis essay should include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The length of your assignment will decide how many body paragraphs you will have. You should include the background information within the introduction paragraph of your essay. This will introduce the work to your reader as well as your thesis statement.

Your summary of the work will be included in the body. Some teachers will request that you skip the summary as they have likely read the work themselves, but if you were asked to choose your own piece to analyze, you should include a summary. Your summary should be short, no more than a couple of paragraphs.

Once you have summarized the work, you should begin your analysis. Although much of your analysis is based on how you responded to the work, you should avoid using the statements “I think” or “In my opinion.” Pointing out your opinion will only lessen the strength behind it. Boost your proofreading skills to write a better essay.

Remember that your thesis is only as strong as the evidence to back it. Although most teachers allow external sources when writing critical analysis essays, most would prefer you use only the text itself as your only source. Not only does this encourage you to support your thesis with only the work itself, but it will also increase your critical reading of the work as you will analyze every bit of the writing to find a thesis you can prove.

Your conclusion should summarize everything you already discussed in your paper. Restate your thesis, summarize your analysis, and include any possible recommendations on improving the piece. Remember that your conclusion shouldn’t be much more than a paragraph or two. Also, don’t forget to cite any quotes or paraphrases.

How to Cite in Text

Depending on your teacher, you will need to follow MLA or APA format when citing your quotations and paraphrases of the author’s work. Most community colleges use only MLA style, and most universities or four-year colleges use APA format. Here’s a short summary on both MLA and APA.

Citing Works in Text with MLA Format

Because you will likely only have one work to cite, this will make citing your work easy. There are a number of ways you can cite within the text. The first is by stating the author’s name before citing:

As Robert Frost stated in his poem, “I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference” (17).

The slash is used to show a line break, which is common in poems. By stating the author’s name before the quote, you only need to write the page number within the parenthesis. Here’s another way you can quote an author’s work:

“I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference” (Frost 17) gives us a powerful image of the strength behind the choices we make.

 The author’s name is important to note only in the first quote when you have only one source. Because there is no mention of Robert Frost before or after the quote, it’s important to add his name within the parenthesis. Here’s another way to quote your source properly:

Robert Frost’s mention of the difference made by picking the road less traveled by gives us a powerful image of the strength behind the choices we make (17).

This is a paraphrased quote from Robert Frost’s poem, but you must still cite it because you mention another author’s work.

Citing Works in Text with APA Format

Again, citing a single work in a paper will make things much easier, but APA makes things a bit more complicated. MLA format only requires mention of the author and the page number. APA requires the author, year of publication, and the page preceded by a “p.” for reference. Using the same work from above, here’s an example of the first method of citing within text using APA format:

As Frost (1916) states in his poem, “I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference” (p. 17).

The author’s name is stated first, followed by the year of publication, and the page number follows after the quote. Here’s another method of citing using APA format:

 “I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference” (Frost, 1916, p. 17) gives us a powerful image of the strength behind the choices we make.

If you don’t plan to use the author’s name in something known as a signal phrase, it’s important to list it in the parenthesis with the year of publication and page number. Here are two examples of paraphrasing a work with APA format:

Robert Frost’s (1916) mention of the difference made by picking the road less traveled by gives us a powerful image of the strength behind the choices we make.

Picking the road less traveled by gives us a powerful image of the strength behind the choices we make (Frost, 1916, p. 17).

You will notice that the first example doesn’t have a page number. APA format allows it to be optional when paraphrasing. The second example is an example of paraphrasing in which the author is not mentioned by name.

Interested in learning more about proper writing and citation in both MLA and APA format, taking a course like this one in college writing essentials will teach you both.