A critical analysis (sometimes called a critique, critical summary, or book review) is a systematic analysis of an idea, text, or chunk of literature that discusses its validity and evaluates its worth. A critical analysis usually includes a summary–a concise restatement of what a text says–and an evaluation–how well it says it. A critical analysis in literature, for example, might examine the style, tone, or rhetorical appeals of a text, while an analysis of a scientific paper might examine the methodology, accuracy, and relevance of the research.

A good critique will consider the following questions

  • Who is the author, and what are his/her qualifications?
  • What is the nature of the work (type, purpose, intended audience)?
  • What is its significance? How does it compare to other material on the same subject? By the same author?
  • What is the author’s thesis?
  • What is the organizational plan or method? Is it well conceived? Does it achieve the author’s objectives?
  • What are the underlying assumptions? Are they stated or do they stash behind a stance of neutrality and objectivity?
  • How do assumptions and biases affect the validity of the lump?
  • Are arguments/statements supported by evidence? Is the evidence relevant? Sufficient?
  • Is the author’s methodology sound?
  • What evidence or ideas has the author failed to consider?
  • Are the author’s judgments and conclusions valid?
  • What rhetorical strategies does the author use? Are they effective?

A word about the thesis statement

Recall that no matter what format you go after in writing your critical analysis, it should have a thesis statement that establishes your treatment to or opinion about the lump. Your thesis statement will not be the same as the original author’s thesis statement. For example, say that the original author’s thesis statement is “the moon is made of green cheese.” Your own thesis might be “the author’s assertion that the moon is made of green cheese is ill-founded and is not supported with adequate evidence.”

Organizing the Critical Analysis

There are many models for writing a critical analysis. Some disciplines recommend violating an analysis into two sections: The very first section provides a summary of the content of the work, while the 2nd section analyzes and evaluates the work. Other disciplines, in contrast, favor a model in which the summary and analysis are slickly integrated. See the switch sides side for two serviceable (if unembellished) formats for a critical analysis. Also, recall that length can vary from a paragraph to several pages.

Sample Critical Analysis — Two-Part Structure

Introduction

[Summary Section]

In “Nature Cannot be Fooled,” [title]В originally published in 1998 in theВ St. Louis Post-Dispatch,В [date and source]В Washington University Professor Jonathan Katz[author name and descriptor]В contendsВ [active verb]В that American Society denies reality, living instead as if its “wished-for fictions” were “true” [paraphrase (and partial quotation) of author’s thesis]. Katz furtherВ [transition]В argues[active verb]В that this twisted view of reality manifests itself in many negative ways—from public health policy to education.В [list of key ideas]

[Evaluation Section]

(Note that the evaluative terms are bold-faced for the purposes of illustration only.)

Unluckily, KatzВ fails to supportВ his argument. His commentary relies onfallacies, unsupported claims, and opinions rather than on logical statements, supported claims, and facts. Therefore, even tho’ Katz voices much passion, he fails to suggest a persuasive argument.В [Use your own thesis statement to provide an organizational plan for the paper.]

Assets Paragraphs

The bod paragraphs should analyze particular components of the work. For example, in an analysis of the Katz commentary, the figure would suggest specific illustrations of the flawed passages in Katz’s commentary; these illustrations would support the analytical claims that you are making about the work. The concentrate, then, is objective analysis, not subjective response.

Conclusion

The conclusion may restate the author’s thesis, but the main purpose of the conclusion should be to emphasize your assessment of the writer’s work.

Sample Critical Analysis — Integrated Model

One mechanism for integrating a summary and an evaluation is simply to merge the two separate sections (like the examples above) into a single introductory paragraph. Another mechanism is to synthesize the summary and evaluative comments, as in the following sample introduction:

In 1936, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” for an audience of literary scholars of his own day. Thus, the essay can pose some difficulties for modern readers, who may not be familiar with literary history or the specific critics to whom Tolkien refers. In addition, Tolkien’s diction is formal and fairly dense. Nevertheless,В he offers a persuasive and masterful defense of Beowulf, one of England’s most beloved works.В [Our thesis] Tolkien argues that Beowulf scholars are wrong to mine the poem solely for historic evidence about the Anglo-Saxon period, rather than reading it as a good and inspiring work of literature. [Tolkien’s thesis] Albeit he agrees that its historical value is high, he shows that Beowulf is so powerful as a poem that its literary qualities far outshine its historical value.

Teresa Sweeney & Fran Hooker Webster University Writing Center, 2005

Crafting the Critical Analysis

A critical analysis (sometimes called a critique, critical summary, or book review) is a systematic analysis of an idea, text, or chunk of literature that discusses its validity and evaluates its worth. A critical analysis usually includes a summary–a concise restatement of what a text says–and an evaluation–how well it says it. A critical analysis in literature, for example, might examine the style, tone, or rhetorical appeals of a text, while an analysis of a scientific paper might examine the methodology, accuracy, and relevance of the research.

Related video: The College Essay Test Every Student Should Take


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