Writing a Critique

In your academic career you will need to write a number of critiques. They are often assigned in courses where you must read journal articles and scientific papers, then give your professional appraisal of the reading. (Yes, you are a member of the professional academic community now, and this sort of work is your daily meat and drink.)

Here's how to do it.

How to Write a Critique¹

The critique is a rigorous critical reading of a passage. As such, it picks up where the objective summary leaves off. In fact, a critique often includes a brief summary so that its readers will be able to quickly grasp the main ideas and proofs of the passage under examination. Critiques come in all shapes and sizes, but a good way to get used to writing critically is to plan your earliest critiques along the following lines.

First, read the passage thoroughly. Make plenty of notes, ask lots of questions, and highlight or underline anything you may wish to quote in your paper. Spend some time on this step. It is impossible to adequately critique something if you don't fully understand it.

Next, write a summary. Identify the author's main point (thesis) and list the types of proofs he or she employs to persuade the reader to believe or accept the thesis. For example, does the author use historical anecdotes, quote noted authorities, provide statistical evidence, or appeal to a reader's sense of patriotism or generosity? These are all common types of proofs used in persuasive writing. You should also try to figure out why the author is writing, and to whom. Remember that the purpose of a paper and its intended audience can affect the way the paper is written.

Now, set your own agreement or disagreement with the author aside for a moment and investigate the validity of his or her argument.

Once you have examined carefully the passage you intend to critique, use the information you have collected to draft a response to the passage. Do you agree or disagree with the author's views and proofs? Be sure to discuss specific reasons why you agree or disagree with something. The critique's value as an academic document rests on your ability to say precisely why you agree or disagree.

Finally, draft the critique. You should include:

Once the critique is drafted, revise it, making sure you have emphasized the most salient points in your discussion. Check your sentence variety, your organization, and your word choice. Is the critique all it can be? Have you edited the critique to eliminate errors in spelling, sentence structure, and agreement?

If you follow these simple steps, your critique should be concise, correct, and effective.

1. Hughes, Brooke. "How to Write a Critique." BHughes CSUB|Home, California State University Bakersfield, 25 Feb. 2006, www.csub.edu/~bhughes/critique.doc. Accessed 3 Sept. 2018.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 8/18/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: callen@ashland.edu.