The word "criticize," has by definition and perception largely negative connotations attached. Students may dread having their creative writing critiqued in a group setting. However, a fair assessment of any text, object, place or experience deeply analyzes all component parts and then renders judgment. When writing a critique essay, your readers need to understand how and why you arrived at your conclusion. A thorough and analytic critique provides them with an understanding of the critic’s values.
Describe Author and Work
Describe the work and its creator in the first paragraph. Do not assume that readers know the work or author prior to reading the critique. It is necessary to place the work in context so the reader has a sense of what is happening. Determine if the text is a first outing for the author or the latest in a long series. Does the author have a reputation or expertise in a certain field? Is the work controversial or well-known or little-known, and why? What is the intended audience for this work? By answering these questions, the reader has a stronger base of information to add clarity to the rest of the critique.
Write an accurate summary of the work’s main ideas in the second paragraph. Do not mingle your own evaluation with this summary. Instead, use the summary to explain the most important ideas the author tried to convey in the entire work and any other literary details that might guide or enlighten your reader.
In this section, critique the author’s presentation. Ask yourself a series of questions as you write the critique. Did the author present accurate and relevant data in a logical manner? Did the author clearly define important terms or jargon? Did the author offer sound interpretations? Focus in this paragraph, on whether the author achieved his or her purpose for creating the piece of writing.
State Your Opinion
Here, you will state both your own agreements and disagreements with the author. Develop your ideas by explaining why you agree and disagree with the author’s ideas. To further support your critique, cite other critics who support your interpretation.
In the last paragraphs, compose the conclusion that restates the main agreements and objections to the work. This conclusion is often the shortest paragraph in the critique but may also be the most important as it sums up the entire critique. In the closing, do not mention any new idea that does not already appear in the body paragraphs. The final paragraph is included to give an overview of the entire essay by restating its main ideas.
- Document in instructor-recommended citation style all quotes, paraphrases and summaries.
- Write a detailed summary of the text before writing the critique.
Patricia Hunt first found her voice as a fiction and nonfiction writer in 1974. An English teacher for over 27 years, Hunt's works have appeared in "The Alaska Quarterly Review," "The New Southern Literary Messenger" and "San Jose Studies." She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from American University and a doctorate in studies of America from the University of Maryland.