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The Critical Essay - A Typical Structure
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Written by Sarah Brodie (edited by Lynne Hand)
A critical essay shows the personal opinion of the writer. A critical analysis can be about a book, a painting, a movie or any other such subject. A critique involves a thorough understanding of the subject being assessed and then evaluating it. For example, if the essay is about a book, read the book at least twice to understand its finer aspects before getting to critical writing. If necessary mark the portions of the book you will be focusing on in your paper. Even essays in this genre have a structure. If you stick to the following structure you should be able to write a reasonably good paper.
A critical analysis should begin with some background information about the subject being analysed. For the purpose of this paper let us consider the focus of the essay to be a book. The background information should contain details about the author, the title of the book, some information about the publication and a statement of topic and the purpose of the analysis. This first part should also contain your principle reaction to the book.
The next part of your critical treatise should contain a summary of the book being analyzed. This should be done in such a way that the essence of the book is brought out in a condensed form. This should serve to give the reader an understanding of the subject of your analysis. You should never take it for granted that the reader already has sufficient understanding of the subject in order to appreciate what follows.
The next part of the paper should cover such aspects as the way in which the book is organized, the style with which it has been written, its effectiveness, the manner in which the author has gone about supporting his topic and if this has been done in a manner as to appeal to the book's intended audience.
This part of the paper should discuss a few finer aspects of the book. If the book involves controversies briefly discuss these arguments. Also show if the book in question is of current value; if so in what ways. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Also show if the books strengths outweigh its weaknesses and what its net value to the reader is.
Whenever you make a critical statement back it up with evidence either from the book itself or from any other related outside source. If you do this your reader will not take your views lightly. Unsupported statements may appear as personal opinions and be treated flippantly.
While writing a critical essay, do not write in the first person. Avoid using phrases such as "I believe" or "in my view" and so on. Remember that a criticism does not mean that you focus on highlighting the weaker aspects of the book. Although the opinions you express are subjective, try to be as unflustered as possible. At the end of your work the reader should be able to say that the essay was written without even a tinge of bias.