How to Write a Critique Essay

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A critique essay is your personal evaluation of written works, artwork, movies, plays, music, TV shows, public presentations, digital media or other forms of artistic expression. You should use credible references to support your review, but most of the analysis is your personal assessment of the work. A critique essay focuses on both the positives and negatives of a particular text or visual presentation. Your goal is to critique the work without showing favoritism or bias toward the author, creator or subject matter, and to provide a thorough examination of the work.

1 Necessary Notes

Take notes as you read the text or examine the work. If it's a written piece, such as a transcript, book, poem or essay, make a copy so you can write on it. For example, you might highlight sentences that bring up questions, underline phrases that catch your attention or make comments in the margins. If you can't write on the document, take notes on a separate piece of paper and provide details, such as page numbers and paragraphs, so you have reference points once you start writing. Notes will help you organize your thoughts, and they'll reduce the amount of time you spend re-reading and re-examining the material. The quality of the work often determines whether your critique has a positive or a negative slant.

2 A Concise Thesis

Start your essay by introducing the piece and give a brief one- to two-page summary of the work. State your thesis at the end of the introduction. Your thesis should focus on strengths and weaknesses, and it should provide a brief outline of the assessment. For example, your thesis might say, "The playwright provides sufficient details to support her ideas, and she uses sound judgment, but the story lacks emotional appeal." Or, "The author clearly articulates her point and presents valid arguments, but she doesn't consider alternative viewpoints or opposing ideas. It's best to start with positive comments before you make any negative remarks.

3 Plenty of Details

Reflect on the work and create a fine-tuned assessment. Support your points using examples from the piece, including text, dialogue, descriptions, setting, themes, plot, tone, characters and mood. If you're critiquing a visual piece, such as a painting, drawing or computerized presentation, use details about the layout, colors, angles, fonts, dialogue, designs and themes to support your analysis. Assess the organization of the work, including the structure and scope. Answer questions in your critique, such as "Is the word choice interesting, appropriate and compelling?" "Does the author or creator cover all the bases?" "Are the themes clearly defined and understood?" and "Is the tone appropriate for the subject matter?"

4 Unmistakable Errors

Offer input on the correctness of the work. Artwork and other creative pieces might not qualify for correctness examinations, but written works usually do. Proofread the piece for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, punctuation errors, vocabulary concerns or formatting issues. You don't have to list each mistake, but make sure your explanations are clear. For example, you might say, "The author often forgets necessary commas, making it difficult to understand items in a series," or "The writer has a large number of run-on sentences that make it difficult to understand where one point ends and another begins." Conclude your critique with a brief recap of your main points.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.