How to write a Critical Analysis Essay that Scores an A

author By Mary Boies

A critical analysis essay is a common assignment that comes in the forms of article analysis, rhetorical analysis, movie/film analysis, literary analysis, process analysis, or causal analysis.

Critical essay writing guide

As a student, you agree that writing critical analysis essays is arduous, time-consuming, and requires the application of critical thinking and problem-solving. 

When writing a critical analysis essay or doing critical analysis, you will be examining theoretical concepts, organization, flow, content, concepts, and ideas presented in a written piece. In addition, you will be formally comparing and contrasting facts, differentiating facts using evidence, evaluating arguments, and spotting bias in an assigned piece.

Our custom essay writing editorial team has put together this exhaustive guide to help you write a powerful critical analysis essay. We set you up with the right steps to take, all the information you need to know about a critical analysis essay, different types of critical analysis essays you will encounter, and a critical analysis essay outline.

What is a Critical Analysis Essay?

Before we take you through the steps of writing a critical analysis essay, let's begin by defining it to understand what it is.

A critical analysis essay is an academic essay or paper that evaluates and interprets a piece of work such as a book, essay, thesis, painting, advertisement, concert, or short story to increase the understanding of the reader. It entails critical reading, critical analysis, and critical writing using both objective and subjective tone to present arguments based on the thesis or theme of the author.

When assigned to write a critical analysis essay, you can analyze an event, article, book, music, poem, film, or social issue. You will tell the reader about the subject and help them understand the meaning and purpose of the work.

When writing a critical analysis paper, you should think deeply, compare and contrast ideas, examine theoretical concepts, contextualize the ideas and meaning, and identify bias.

Types and Purpose of Critical Analysis Essays

There are many forms of critical analysis. You might have written a few critical analysis essays before without your knowledge. However, as long as you are required to read, listen, or watch the evaluation and interpret a piece of work, your academic writing task entails critical writing. Below are some common critical analysis essays you will most likely write:

As long as you are writing either of these essays, you can follow the steps discussed in this guide to writing the paper successfully. However, you should systematically approach critical writing because it is a fragile process that can often confuse you. Besides, you must keenly read and research widely to successfully write a critical analysis essay with all aspects in your Rubric.

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9 Major Steps to Writing a Critical Analysis Essay

Given the understanding of critical analysis, learning how to perform a critical analysis and write an essay is imperative. Remember, your critical analysis should enlighten your audience about the strengths and weaknesses of a given piece of work.

Critical reading and critical writing are the two main steps in writing a critical analysis paper.

Critical reading occurs during the pre-writing stage, where you study a text, watch a film, and listen to a song or speech with attention to the little details.

Critical writing occurs during the writing phase, where you comment on the text, film, speech, song, or poem based on your perspective and the analysis items specified in the essay prompt. We will cover each of these in-depth to make it clearer.

Here are the nine critical steps you need to write a perfect critical essay.

1. Read the critical essay prompt

It is generally accepted that a critical analysis essay entails systematically and logically evaluating a piece of work such as a song, book, essay, movie, painting, film, or poem to increase the readers' understanding.

It entails subjectively writing opinions about the presentation, organization, content, credibility, relevance, and every other aspect of a piece of work. And to effectively write a critical analysis essay, you should begin by understanding what your instructor, tutor, or professor wants.

Go through the instructions from class to determine the word count, the works to focus on, the scope of the essay or the topics to use, and every other aspect of the assignment. Then, read the Rubric to plan your essay well as you read through the essay prompt.

2.  Choose the reading or piece to analyze critically

As you read the prompt, you will decide the piece of work to choose for your essay. Sometimes there is no room to choose, but rather you are told to read a given text and write an essay about it.

Either way, choose a text that you can read and analyze within the deadline of your assignment. Focus on texts that are widely read and whose summaries are online.

It is not even necessary to read the entire text in most cases. Instead, you can read through the summaries, skim through the whole text, and write a powerful critical analysis essay. The same applies to movies and songs.

3. Critical Reading

With the literary work selected, the next step is to read it critically. Critical reading entails reading with a third eye such that you evaluate the meaning of the text and incorporate it into the knowledge you have learned in class.

The first step entails skimming through the text, reading summaries and analyses online, and deciding what aspects of the work to focus on. Some of the things to focus on when performing a critical reading include:

As you critically read through the text and research it, ensure that you take structured notes that you will use in the critical reading phase.

4. Choose a thesis

After reading through the piece of work, you need to state your thesis statement. The thesis statement is your controlling idea or the major argument. It should be a claim about the author's point of view and writing style or creator of the piece you are analyzing.

When writing the thesis, present the perspective you will back up with evidence from the text and credible scholarly sources. The essay entails analyzing a piece of work both objectively and subjectively. Therefore, select a thesis statement that anchors your entire critical analysis essay, not just some aspects.

The thesis statement is your reaction to the piece or source you are analyzing. Ensure you balance your arguments to win your readers' trust, even when presenting your personal opinion in the critical analysis essay.

The thesis should have a claim and supporting details that sustain the claim.

Example of a thesis: The imagery in Dylan Thomas's poem "Fern Hill" reveals the ambiguity of humans" relationship with nature

5. Choose the title for your essay

With the thesis in place, select a perfect essay title and write it down. The essay title creates the first and lasting impression on your readers. It resembles a window to your mind and how you express yourself.

Choosing the correct essay title gives a good impression on your readers. It sets your paper's scene, tone, arguments, and flow.

You can save this for the end, but having a preliminary title you can tweak later is good. Your essay title should be simple, creative, 5-8 words long, and reflect part of your thesis statement.

6. Write a critical essay outline

With the thesis and title in place, the next step is to outline your ideas. Writing an essay outline helps in mapping out the structure of the essay. It helps in organizing points in the essay. Organize what goes into your essay's introduction, body, and conclusion.

Regarding the introduction, choose an appropriate hook statement to open your critical analysis essay, focus on organizing the background information section, and write the thesis statement.

When it comes to the body paragraphs, choose appropriate topic sentences that each reflect the main idea in the body paragraph.

Outline the supporting facts, evidence, and examples from the text. Next, write your conclusion sentence and choose the transition words to include in your essay. Finally, outline what your conclusion will look like. And at the end of it all, you will have a structure for your critical analysis essay to guide your critical writing process.

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7. Write the first draft (Critical writing process)

Critical writing encompasses evaluating and commenting on a piece of work using effective writing strategies.

As part of critical analysis, critical writing entails taking a critical stance, being attentive to details, bringing the bigger picture into perspective, and connecting ideas to one's subjective opinion. To perform successful critical writing, you must conduct in-depth research to establish a connection between facts in your chosen piece and scholarly literature.

You should adopt persuasive writing skills, including using ethos, pathos, and logos to present your arguments. You should also have a balanced approach that considers even the contrary evidence. You should compare and contrast ideas, facts, and evidence and draw conclusions based on credible evidence.

We prefer beginning with the body paragraphs, not the introduction because doing so helps you write a watertight critical analysis essay.

The body of the essay is where you support your thesis. For example, an excellent critical analysis essay has body paragraphs discussing a single idea.

Your first body paragraph should summarize the piece of work that you are analyzing. The second, third, and nth paragraphs should focus on themes, organization, and the flow of ideas, concepts, or facts from the piece.

Each body paragraph must have a topic sentence, supporting facts, and a concluding sentence. Besides, you must include transition words for essays suitable for your current work. As you write, connect the ideas to the concepts from class. The topic sentence should briefly summarize the paragraph and tie it to your thesis.

The number of body paragraphs can vary depending on the scope of your essay. You can structure your essay based on the assigned word count so that you envision what falls into the body paragraphs.

We find writing the introduction after the body paragraphs a better idea because it lets you write a comprehensive introductory paragraph with the most important aspects of your paper. When writing an introduction of a critical analysis essay, you should ensure that it will engage your readers.

The opening paragraph should begin with a hook, which can be a shocking fact, quote, statistic, or anecdote. You should then provide background information on the work you are analyzing, including the author's name, the title, and relevant information about the work.

Your introduction should then end with a thesis statement, one or two sentences outlining your main claim about the author's thesis. Sometimes, you can spice up the essay by outlining how you argue out the thesis, which is often called signposting in essay writing.

Related Reading: Rules for formatting paragraphs.

Finalize your essay using a powerful conclusion. The conclusion should be a summary of your entire analysis.

To get a good grade, your conclusion needs to close the loop of your essay. Therefore, it should be linked to the introduction. You must rephrase and present the thesis as the first sentence in your concluding paragraph.

You should then summarize your main arguments as detailed in the body paragraphs. Again, refrain from including new ideas. Finally, wrap up the paper by reminding your reader of your purpose, including a call to action, or leaving them final words that resonate with their elevated state.

8. Revise, edit, and Proofread the Critical Essay

After your critical writing phase, you must turn the first draft into a final one you can submit for grading. Again, it is best if you take a break.

Most successful students begin writing their essays early enough so that they have adequate time to edit and proofread their work.

When writing, you aim to write and edit later. After a few days off, you will have developed an objective mind, shed off the boredom of writing, and set yourself up to edit your essay critically.

Read through your essay severally, noting the different areas that need tweaking.

Next, pass your essay through a plagiarism checker to assess any similarity with published and submitted papers.

Use editing programs such as Grammarly, Ginger, or Hemingway Editor to spot your writing mistakes further and fix them.

As you revise the paper, read it out loud to yourself and determine areas that sound ambiguous. Then, you can cancel and improve the paragraphs to ensure adequate flow. This is also the time to proofread, reword, and rephrase your essay title.

Ensure every claim and argument is backed with credible, relevant, and valuable evidence. Where there is personal opinion, find a way to blend in objective analysis.

Finally, check your essay for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. You can hire a professional editor to proofread and edit your essay for you at this stage. This raises confidence when submitting your paper.

9. Countercheck against prompt or RUBRIC

Finally, you need to countercheck your critical essay against the Rubric and the prompt, which are your most accessible critical analysis essay checklist.

First, conduct a self-analysis to determine if you have met the requirements. Then, you can ask your teacher, friend, or mentor for their insights about your work and make further improvements.

Finally, if everything is okay, submit your essay before the deadline.

Best writing practices for Critical Writing

Writing a perfect critical essay depends more on your critical thinking, reading, and creativity. First, you must analyze texts or other pieces of work and then form arguments supporting the essay's claims. Below are some tips we consider best practices when writing a critical analysis essay, even if it is a critical essay that is part of a larger exam like SAT. These tips can be generalized to writing other formal essays as well.

  1. Always read the instructions. Before beginning the essay, read the prompt and sometimes the Rubric to understand your requirements. Only then can you plan your essay well.
  2. Read smartly. When reading a text, listening to a song, or going through lines in a poem, focus on the specific details. You should take notes of these details to help you grasp what the text is about, how the author presents the claims, controversies in the text, and the main ideas.
  3. Read examples online. It is critical to go through critical essays written by different authors as a source of inspiration when writing yours. You will be able to identify different approaches, writing styles, and lenses of analysis, which will help you structure your paper, organize your claims and arguments and write a masterpiece that wows your professor.
  4. Write your essay early enough. Immediately you are assigned a critical essay, begin writing it early. Most students who succeed in college complete their assignments 85% of the assigned deadlines. The other 15% is always helpful in revising, editing, and proofreading the paper. Therefore, writing a critical essay at the last minute is not intelligent. Instead, starting early allows you to gather evidence, write an essay outline, select a good thesis, and write an essay that meets the marking instructions.
  5. Avoid the use of first-person. There are instances when "I" and "we" are permitted in academic writing; this is not one of them. As much as it is subjective, your writing should be objective. When expressing your subjective opinion, use the third person to back up your claims, arguments, and statements using examples, illustrations, and evidence from scholarly sources.
  6. Cite and reference appropriately. Critical essays are primarily written in APA, MLA, or Chicago. Ensure that the in-text citations are correctly placed depending on the assigned writing and formatting style. Complete bibliographic information is also provided and arranged in ascending alphabetic order. Also, check if there is a need to add footnotes and endnotes and do them as per the citation and formatting style.
  7. Proofread, revise, and edit your essay. Before submitting the critical essay, constantly revise it for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Also, check the plagiarism and remove anything likely to bring similarities. Finally, read it aloud to yourself and correct any ambiguous places.
  8. Never summarize a source. Any essay is an advancement of a scholarly discussion which means reading from different sources, cross-comparing the ideas by different authors, and drawing examples and evidence you can use to support your claims and arguments in an essay. Do not summarize a single source. It should be an interpretation ad evaluation of the story, poem, song, or whatever piece of work it is. Your writing must demonstrate critical reading, analysis, and writing.

Related: Writing a critical dissertation literature review.

Critical Analysis Essay Outline

A typical critical analysis essay adopts the five-paragraph structure comprising an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

The introduction briefly introduces the readers to the chosen work, attracts and keeps them, and informs them about the thesis statement. As you craft the introduction, body, and conclusion, check samples of critical analysis essays written in the past.

You can request your professor to send them to you for analysis so that you can get inspiration from the samples.

The body paragraph is where the show takes place. You will support your thesis using facts, evidence, and examples here. Each paragraph has to contain a single idea. You can follow the PEEL format of writing body paragraphs. Use relevant in-text citations to support your arguments.

The conclusion then summarizes the entire paper. But first, let's look at the systematic breakdown of the structure of the critical analysis essay.

  1. Introduction
  2. Hook Statement - Rhetorical question, statistical fact, or anecdote.
  3. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work. Information about the work
    • Title
    • Author
    • Publication information
    • Statement of topic and purpose
  4. Thesis statement indicating the writer's main reaction to the work
  5. Body Paragraphs
  6. Summary or description of the work
  7. Interpretation and/or evaluation
    • Discussion of the work's organization
    • Discussion of the work's style
    • Effectiveness of the work
    • Discussion of the topic's treatment (Analysis)
    • Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
  8. Conclusion
    • Restate the thesis
    • Summary of the main points
    • Closing words of the final statement

The completion of a critical essay outline culminates in the writing process. So, when writing, write first and edit later. And while at it, ensure that the details from your outline guide the process.

Final Remarks

The mention of a critical essay assignment should not bother your peace and well-being. Reading through this guide has now simplified the critical writing process. Whether you are undertaking self-critical analysis or performing analysis on works by others, you are now set up with the right knowledge on how to write a critical essay that scores an A or, if it's for publishing, one that attracts massive readership.

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When assigned to write a critical analysis of an article, artwork, painting, book, or short essay, you now understand that it is mandatory to undertake critical reading before critical writing. In addition, we have shared a basic critical analysis essay structure you can adopt when writing your essay, further simplifying the work.

You must apply critical thinking, where you conceptualize, evaluate, and synthesize concepts based on a piece of work. If you are not conversant with the process, you can hire a professional essay writer to help you. We will give you a non-plagiarized critical analysis essay. EssayManiacs is the best place to get someone to do your paper fast. If that sounds like what you want, place an order by clicking the order now button on our homepage. Let us help you build success in papers.

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