Essay 2 — Writing a Critique (analytical writing)
Writing a Critique
Assignment—Your assignment is to write a critique of THREE of the articles you
will have read for your final “research paper” which includes Essay 1. Ideally
these will be articles that you really engaged with, that you thought had something
interesting to say about your subject, and that made you think. (These DO NOT
have to be articles that you ultimately use or cite in your paper; just articles you have
A critique of three articles means that you will be submitting, basically, three
(very) short essays—and that’s what I want each critique to be: a short essay.
Below, I will give you some direct suggestions on how you can organize your critique
and discussion into a short essay.
What is a critique?
When you write a critique, you are writing in order to help someone else understand
the reading “as the author might wish it to be understood”—”on its own
terms.” This is not all a critique does, however: writing a critique ALSO means that
you are expected to “provide some thinking of your own” on the reading.
from Google:(noun) “a detailed analysis and assessment of something.” (verb)
to evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way
from cambridgedictionary.com:“a report
(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/report) that discusses
(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/discuss) a situation
(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/situation) or the writings
or ideas (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/idea) of
someone and offers (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/offer)
a judgment (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/judgment)
from collinsdictionary.com:A critique is a written examination and judgment of a
situation or of a person’s work or ideas.
(For more instruction on what a critique is and isn’t, please read carefully (and
possibly several times) “How to Write a Critique” on pages 41 and 42 of Writing
Analytically AND see the lecture notes provided in this module. Chapter 2 offers
strategies to help you assimilate (take in and understand fully) the information in
a reading even as you are seeking to find ways to respond to it. Remember:
“good reading starts by seeking to understand a piece on its own regardless of
your point of view on the subject” (WA 41).
What is the purpose of a critique?
To evaluate something thoroughly—a critique is NOT a criticism…they are
NOT the same thing.
To increase your reader’s understanding of a work (book, article, piece of art,
movie) by evaluating the work.
A critique informs AND evaluates the “worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth,
validity, beauty, or goodness of something.”
A critique provides information, interpretation, and evaluation.
The information helps your reader understand the characteristics and
features of the work. This includes what the article is about.
The interpretation explains the meaning of the work to your reader. This
REQUIRES that you thoroughly understand the article you will be critiquing.
The evaluation will provide your reader with your opinion on the article AND
you will present your reader with valid reasons that support (or justify) your
A good critique will identify both strengths and weaknesses in the piece
A critique does NOT simply restate the argument or ideas presented in the piece.
A good critique helps your reader “gain perspective” on the piece.
Think of writing a critique as a review or as giving feedback on the text…
Objectives (why write a critique?)
Writing a critique (or a review) requires a perfect blend of
good, careful accurate reading;
a fair understanding of and explanation of a text to a reader;
and a confident opinion on and willing engagement with the text (this
means that you are willing and able to not only understand what the text is
trying to say but also comment on and converse with the text…in any number
YOU, the writer, the “I” in the critique, MUST be present. This is not a
“report!” This is YOU thinking about and explaining and commenting on a text in
order to “help your reader understand it better” (among other things).
YOU will not be able to rely on what other people have said about your
articles. You can consult with and think about what other people have said on
your subject, but ultimately this is YOUR critique and it is YOUR ideas and
understanding I will be looking for.
In addition to your own original assessment and response to the articles, I want your
essay to answer, at some point, the three questions listed below (the questions
below can also be found on pages 41 and 42 of Writing Analytically):
1. Explain what is at stake in the piece. What, in other words, is opposed to what,
and why, according to the writer (implicitly, explicitly, or both), and why does the
writer think it matters?
2. Determine what the reading seems to wish to accomplish, which is not
always the same thing as that which it explicitly argues. Do this in the context of
what the chapter defines as THE PITCH, THE COMPLAINT, and THE MOMENT.
3. Try to figure out what the consequences of the piece might be. That is, if we
think in the way that the reading suggests, what might follow? What might we
gain? What might we lose?
Organizing Your Critique (in 3 – 4 paragraphs)
(please keep in mind this is only a suggestion for organizing your essay; however, the stuff I
suggest you include in your introduction should probably be there. The discussion you have in the
body of your critiques is up to you for the most part.)
Paragraph 1 (INTRO)—
title and author of the article you are critiquing
brief overview / summary of article
PITCH, COMPLAINT, MOMENT
Thesis—your assessment / evaluation of the article
Paragraphs (2 and 3)—(BODY) QUESTIONS and POINTS TO CONSIDER FOR
THE EVALUATION OF YOUR PIECE
What are the aims of the work? Were the aims achieved?
Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his or her purpose
If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly,
accurately, with order and coherence?
If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary
How well does the evidence in the piece seem to support its claims?
How well does the writer explain her reasons for saying the evidence
means what she says it does?
What types of evidence or persuasion are used? Has evidence been
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What are the piece’s strengths and weaknesses?
Final Paragraph (CONCLUSION)—your final thoughts on the matter, the
article, the subject. This is a good place to discuss what the consequences
of the piece might be. That is, if we think in the way that the reading suggests,
what might follow? What might we gain? What might we lose?
Essay 2 Submission Requirements:
MLA format and Works Cited page (including in text citations). Create a citation
for the article you are critiquing.
Each critique should be about 2 pages long and roughly 750 words. Please
submit ALL THREE critiques as ONE document—separate essays, but one
No outside sources are required, but feel free to incorporate (of course, ALWAYS
cite your sources) any resource you find that will help your “argument.”
Each critique will be graded separately (50 points each) and the scores will be
added together for a total score for the assignment (150 points). Your work will be
graded on how well your submissions…
Follow the directions of the prompt and fulfill the *basic requirements of the
Reflect a mature and thoughtful understanding of the text.
Provide original, creative, and thoughtful explanations of, responses to, and
evaluations of the text.
Express ideas clearly through overall essay organization and sentence style
Essay attempts to be a critique (as opposed to a summary of or retelling of the
article content, for example)
Essay attempts to address and discuss the pitch, complaint, moment, “what’s at
stake?” and “What are the consequences?”
Essay follows MLA format
Essay provides adequate documentation of sources when necessary
Examples of professional critiques:
(this is a review of the Jordan Peele movie US): “Us Doesn’t Live Up to Get
Out, But It Shows the Promise of Jordan Peele”
(This is a book review in the Wall Street Journal of Annie Murphy Paul’s book The
Extended Mind) “WSJ: The Extended Mind Review—Thinking Outside the
Examples of successful student-written critiques (NOTE: these
students were only required to write TWO critiques)