Writing a comparative critique is an essential part of a person's college education. Critical writing and analysis is even more important for someone interested in pursuing further degrees in graduate school. The process compels the student to sharpen and fine-tune her critical and analytical skills and avoid the pitfalls of simply digesting information passively from a textbook. Comparing two topics allows the student to approach the topic from more than one perspective.
Select a topic, issue or problem to address. If the comparative critique is a college assignment, the professor may assign a topic or may suggest the student select a topic that relates to the course. The goal of a comparative critique is to focus on two things that are related, such as two characters in a novel, two authors, two political or literary theories and so forth.
Pick a frame of reference for the critique. The frame of reference may be a particular philosophical framework, such as Marxism, phenomenology, feminism or analytic philosophy, a literary criticism framework, such as hermeneutics or post-structuralism, or a psychological framework, such as psychoanalysis. The framework provides a context and tools for the critique. For example, a feminist critique may compare and contrast the way women are portrayed in two historical novels.
Present the rationale and grounds for selecting the two topics or issues. In other words, consider why the particular comparison is important. The goal is to convince the reader that a critical comparison has something important to contribute to the discussion.
Make a list of similarities and differences shared by the two objects of the study. For example, the Republican and Democratic parties share a number of things in common, such as belief in representative and democratic forms of government, a belief in the separation of powers, a commitment to the principles of the Constitution and a belief in the capitalist economic system. However, there are a number of disagreements, as well, over the role of state intervention in the economy, the government's role and responsibility in regards to the economically disadvantaged and so forth.
Develop a strong thesis statement. The thesis should one or two sentences of the introduction. One way to do this is to state or pose a problem with the first sentence and then answer the problem with the second sentence. State your position in clear, strong and unambiguous language. The thesis tells the reader why the comparison is important, the essential steps and arguments used in the comparison and the conclusion reached by the comparison.
Write a rough draft of the critique. Avoid the trap of thinking everything has to be clearly worked out in your mind before writing. The writing process helps to think through and clarify the ideas of the critique. Allow the rough draft to sit for a day or two. Approach it with a fresh mind. Carefully proofread it and make improvements to the form and content.
Write the final version of the critique based on the revisions of the original draft. Conclude the critique with a summary that touches on all the essential points of the critique.
Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.