- Identify the author's thesis and purpose
- Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
- Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
- Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
- Write a summary of the work
- Determine the purpose which could be
- To inform with factual material
- To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
- To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY
After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.
- I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
- A. Information about the work
- 1. Title
- 2. Author
- 3. Publication information
- 4. Statement of topic and purpose
- B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
- II. Summary or description of the work
- III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
- A. Discussion of the work's organization
- B. Discussion of the work's style
- C. Effectiveness
- D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
- E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.
Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.
Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What is the overall value of the passage?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.
Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.
Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.
Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.
Understanding the Analytical Essay Definition
Analytical essays come up often as writing assignments and term papers. Unfortunately many students find them difficult or intimidating, and don't perform their best when writing one. Of course some people just find that style of writing difficult, but often the problem is simply not understanding exactly what's required. It can help to understand the definition of an analytical essay, because then you have a better idea of what the markers will be looking for.
An analytical essay is a type of academic writing which separates out facts so the reader can understand them more easily, and discusses what these facts mean. It usually reaches a conclusion based on the discussion of the facts, and tries to persuade the reader to agree with that conclusion.
Understanding this definition properly needs another definition; academic writing. Academic writing is a style of writing that is used to pass on information in a reliable way. It should not include unsupported opinions, but should be based on facts. There are often strict rules about providing references so that readers can check you have used reliable sources and not misquoted them. You can give your opinion in your conclusion but you need to make clear that it is your opinion and it has to be supported by referenced information.
An analytical essay is a special kind of academic writing. Other types of essays can just pass on information, but to count as an analytical essay you need to add value by discussing what the information means. If you're just listing facts you're not doing it right, so look at how you can add analysis.
A good analytical essay has to follow a few basic principles. Here they are:
- Simplicity. The aim of the essay is to get information across. If it's too complex or filled with jargon it won't be accessible enough.
- Concision. The essay has to be concise - no longer than necessary. It shouldn't be padded with extra words to make it look more impressive.
- Direct. Euphemisms should never be used. Don't say "socially challenging" when you mean "criminal" and don't say "take a comfort break" when you mean "urinate." This is an adult style of writing and must be clear and unambiguous.
- Objectivity. If the essay is pushing your personal opinion it's not academic writing, so it's not an analytical essay. Only go where the facts lead.
- Verifiability. Don't include any facts that you can't support with a reference.
If you follow these principles and include good discussions and conclusions you're writing an analytical essay - in other words you've got it right!