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How to Write a Thesis Based Critical Essay

by Soheila Battaglia, Demand Media

    In college you are often asked to write a critical essay about a work of literature or a social or political issue. Before you write, you will need to compose a thesis statement that clearly and specifically declares your position. The rest of the essay will provide critical analysis and evidence to support and prove the thesis.

    Prewrite

    Before writing the essay, you should brainstorm on the topic to get ideas for the content. Methods of brainstorming include free writing, cluster maps and lists. The value of brainstorming lies in having a judgment-free space to put down everything that comes to mind in relation to the essay's prompt. If you don't yet have a thesis statement, this process can help you formulate your thesis, and if you already have a focus, brainstorming can give you ideas for the reasons and analysis you will provide.

    Thesis Statement

    The thesis statement of your critical essay poses your main argument and provides readers with a snapshot of the rest of the essay. According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it also "tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion." Therefore, your thesis statement should connect to a larger issue and communicate the significance of its point. For example, you can write: "If we stop using factory farming to produce food then we can save money in health care costs and save lives in the future."

    Critical Analysis

    A key element of a critical essay is critical thinking: analysis, reflection and explanation of the issue. John Carroll University states that a critical essay involves "evaluating information, theories or situations" and "analyzing information, posing questions and challenging information." Since the thesis is driving the essay, the analysis should directly support the essay's single main idea. Forms of analysis include explaining how things happen, why they happen, who they affect and why they matter.

    Examples

    The analysis in your essay should be fortified with evidence. Specific examples from the real world allow the reader to see how something has or has not worked in the past and help explain the paper's concepts and arguments. Evidence can be quotations and passages from a text, statistics, charts or anecdotes. After you provide a specific example, explain how it relates to the main idea of the paragraph as well as the overall thesis statement of the essay.

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    About the Author

    Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

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