Steps in Writing a Critical Essay Successfully

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Steps in Writing a Critical Essay

A critical essay evaluates and analyzes another’s work, argument, or perspective. Criticizing or critiquing a work does not mean finding fault with it. To criticize an author’s writing (i.e., essay, short story, or book), you must identify and analyze the arguments or points he or she is trying to make. You then must evaluate the arguments. The goal of your examination does not necessarily inform your reader whether you agree or disagree with the writer’s points. Rather, your examination must evaluate the author’s arguments, base it on facts and support it with evidence. How do you accomplish this task? Let’s look at the steps in writing a critical essay.

  1. The first step in writing critically is reading critically. Read the work you will be criticizing completely to understand it as a whole.
  2. Read the work a second time, making notes of the author’s points and intentions. Write down the author’s points or arguments and note any evidence that supports them. Also highlight or jot down quotations that either persuade or dissuade you of the author’s arguments.
  3. Form your argument. Which points make you agree with the author? On which points do you disagree? Does the author’s evidence support the argument? Is it specific enough? Is it credible?
  4. To support your evaluation of the authors work, you will need to research secondary sources. The author’s writing is your primary source; secondary sources are peer-reviewed journals or literary criticisms about the writing. These sources can be found in Internet and educational databases. Read these articles, take notes, and make copies of any sources that contain relevant information or quotations that support your argument.
  5. Draft an outline of your essay. This outline should include your thesis statement, or one sentence stating your argument. You should plan to provide a short summary of the author’s work, but keep in mind that this is not the goal of your essay. The goal is to develop your argument. Outline your points or argument with references to both your primary source and your secondary sources. Note the use of any quotations to support your argument.
  6. Use your outline to draft your essay. Include an introduction with your thesis, a brief summary of the work, and the points of your argument. Each point should have its own paragraph with sufficient evidence and support from both the primary and secondary sources. Your conclusion should focus on how you have proven your argument, the significance of the argument itself, and any further research or analysis that may warrant further discussion.
  7. Compose a works-cited page that lists your primary and secondary sources. Each source that you used, either directly or indirectly, should be included. For every parenthetical citation included in your essay, a corresponding listing of that work should appear on your works cited page.
  8. One of the final steps in writing a critical essay is to proofread your paper for spelling and grammatical errors. You should do this after the paper has been completed for a day to approach your writing with a fresh view.


Adkins, W.D. (n.d.). How to write a critical essay. Retrieved July 9, 2010, from

University of Washington. (n.d.). Writing critical analysis papers. Retrieved July 9, 2010, from