How to Write a Critique Essay
rodrigo | March 15, 2013
WritePass - Essay Writing - Dissertation Topics [TOC]
This guide looks at writing a critique essay (also known as a critical essay). A critique essay looks critically at a particular subject, area or topic. It means evaluating information, comparing and contrasting theories and analysing situations. A critical essay does not mean being overly critical, it rather involves being able to challenge points of view and asking questions. Most further education courses involve writing essays of this type.
How to Prepare for Writing a Critical Essay
- Understanding the title is particularly important in a critical essay. You need to deconstruct what you are being asked.
- First look for the underlying task you are asked to do (are you to produce an argument, argue for a position, or analyse a concept?).
- Next, identify the content words in the question: what subject are you to write about?
- Also identify any limiting words in the question: what limits the scope of the essay?
- Plan by creating a concept or mind map of your current knowledge and what you need to expand (see figure 1 for example mind map)
- A useful time-planner for writing a critical essay can be found here:
How to Structure a Critical Essay
- Critique essays share the same structure as other types of essay, that is they should have an introduction, main body and conclusion. However, there are some features that distinguish the critique essay from other types:
- The introduction needs to include a thesis statement which identifies your position. You should also indicate briefly how you will argue for that position.
- The main body will present your argument logically and in a coherent way. You could use an appropriate paragraph structure for example starting each paragraph with a topic sentence (explaining the subject and main idea), follows this with one or more supporting sentence(s) (justifying the point you are making with evidence, critiquing opposing viewpoints) and end the paragraph with a conclusion which relates it back to the main question and thesis.
- The conclusion will summarise the main points of the essay, and relate the evidence discussed back to the original thesis. It may also consider the implications of the conclusions drawn, examine limitations, explore other relevant aspects and make suggestions.
Critical Essay Skills
- You will need to display skills in analysis and the ability to critique in essays of this sort.
- Analysis involves a systematic and thorough approach to your topic, breaking ideas down into constituent parts, looking at how ideas work in isolation and in the context of a wider theoretical framework, and asking questions.
- Critical skills involve interpretation, evaluation, judgement and justifying; the ability to compare with other ideas; understanding how phenomena can be interpreted in different ways; and assessing arguments in terms of evidence for and against.
- The ability to construct an argument is key to successful critical writing. You should develop a line of reasoning which backs up your position. You also need to be able to identify and critique opposing positions. You should present your reasoning in a way which is clear and well structured, and flows logically.
- There are a number of general critical questions which apply to any text. Keep the following in mind to hone your approach to essay writing:
- How is this known? What makes the writer think it is true?
- How reliable is this?
- What is really going on here?
- Why? How? When?
- What has been left unsaid?
- Which argument is stronger and why?
- What is the main argument here? Do I agree with it? (Why, Why Not?)
- Is this relevant?
- How will I use this information?
- How does this information relate to what I already know?
James Cook University (2013) ‘What is a critical essay’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
James Cook University (2013) ‘Guidelines for a critical essay’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
James Cook University (2013) ‘Critical Essay Planner’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
Palgrave (2013) ‘Skill development guide: writing a critical essay’,
[online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
University of Bristol Union (2009) ‘Critical Thinking’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
University of Sussex (2013) ‘Critical Writing’ [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
Tags: critique essay, essay writing
Category: Essay Writing Guide
Critique papers require students to conduct a critical analysis of another piece of writing, often a book, journal article, or essay. No matter what your major is, you will probably be expected to write a critique paper at some point. For psychology students, critiquing a professional paper is a great way to learn more about psychology articles, writing, and the research process itself. Students can analyze how researchers conduct experiments, interpret results and discuss the impact of the results.
While these tips are designed to help students writing a psychology critique paper, many of the same principles apply to writing critiques in other subject areas as well.
Start By Reading the Material You Are Going to Critique
The first step should always be to do a thorough read-through of the material you will be analyzing and critiquing. More than just a casual skim, however, your reading needs to be in-depth with an eye toward certain elements.
Following these steps can help you make better sense of the material as you assess what you are reading.
1. Read the introduction section of the article.
Is the hypothesis clearly stated? Is necessary background information and previous research described in the introduction? In addition to answering these basic questions, you should take note of information provided in the introduction and any questions that you may have.
2. Read the methods section of the article.
Is the study procedure clearly outlined? Can you determine which variables the researchers are measuring? Remember to jot down questions and thoughts that come to mind as you are reading. Once you have finished reading the paper, you can then refer back to your initial questions and see which once remain unanswered.
3. Read the results section of the article.
Are all tables and graphs clearly labeled? Do researchers provide enough statistical information? Did the researchers collect all of the data needed to measure the variables in question? Again, make note of any questions you have or any information that does not seem to make sense. You can refer back to these questions later as you are writing your final critique.
4. Read the discussion section of the article.
How do the researchers interpret the results of the study? Did the results support their hypothesis? Do the conclusions drawn by the researchers seem reasonable? The discussion section offers students a good opportunity to take a position. If you agree with the researchers conclusions, explain why. If you feel that the researchers are incorrect or off-base, point out problems with the conclusions and suggest alternative explanations. Another alternative is to point out questions that the researchers failed to answer in the discussion section.
Begin Writing Your Own Critique of the Paper
Once you have read the article, compile your notes and develop an outline that you can follow as you write your psychology critique paper. Use the following guide to help structure your critique paper:
Begin your paper by describing the journal article and authors you are critiquing. Provide the main hypothesis or thesis of the paper and explain why you think the information is relevant.
2. Thesis Statement
The final part of your introduction should include your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the main idea of your critique. Your thesis should briefly sum up the main points of your critique.
3. Article Summary
Provide a brief summary of the article, outlining the main points, results and discussion. Be careful not to get too bogged down by your summary. Remember, this section of your paper should highlight the main points of the article you are critiquing.
Don't feel obligated to summarize each little detail of the main paper. Focus instead on giving the reader an overall idea of the content of the article.
3. Your Analysis
In this section, you should provide your critique of the article. Describe any problems you had with the authors premise, methods, or conclusions. Your critique might focus on problems with the authors argument, presentation or on information, and alternatives that have been overlooked. Organize your paper carefully and be careful not to jump around from one argument to the next. Argue one point at a time. Doing this will ensure that your paper flow's well and is easy to read.
Your critique paper should end with an overview of the articles argument, your conclusions and your reactions.
More Tips When Writing a Psychology Critique Paper
- As you are editing your paper, utilize a style guide published by the American Psychological Association, such as the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
- Reading scientific articles can be difficult. Learn more about how to read (and understand) psychology journal articles.
- Take a rough draft of your paper to your school's writing lab for additional assistance.