A critical analysis examines an article or other work to determine how effective the piece makes an argument or point. These reviews are usually applied to articles or books, but you can also analyze films, paintings, and other less traditional works. While you can examine the author’s use of rhetorical appeals, your focus for a critical analysis should be on the overall ability and effectiveness of the article. Keep reading to learn more about the different steps involved in writing a strong critical analysis.
Part One of Three:
Critical Reading Edit
Identify the author’s thesis. Determine what the author is arguing for or against. 
- The thesis of an academic article might be easier to identify than the thesis of a creative work, movie, or painting. If critiquing a work of fiction or creative nonfiction, in either written form or film form, identify one main theme of the story. For a painting, analyze what the the painter may be trying to establish.
- Ask yourself what the context of the argument is and why the author may have felt the need to argue it.
- Ask yourself if the author offers a solution to any problems they raise in their thesis. If so, ask if this solution is realistic.
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Note all main ideas. Identify the main ideas of the work in order to analyze its structure. 
- In an academic article, the main ideas can usually be found amongst the topic sentences of each paragraph or section. For works of fiction or paintings, you will need to ask yourself what evidence the author presents in an attempt to explain his or her thesis.
Research unfamiliar material. Use a dictionary and encyclopedia to briefly look up words and other material that you know little to nothing about.
- More in-depth research is not usually necessary. The only exception would be if the entire work is built around an unfamiliar concept, at which point, you should consider reading other articles that describe the concept more clearly in order to provide context to the piece you are analyzing.
Describe the work in your own words. One option is to make an outline of the work, while the second is the write a brief summary. An especially thorough reading of the work will include both.
- If writing a summary of the work, it only needs to be one or two paragraphs. Try to phrase the summary in your own words as much as possible.
Identify any appeals used. The three basic types of appeals are pathos, logos, and ethos.
- Pathos is an attempt to appeal to a reader’s emotions. Works meant to entertain generally rely on pathos.
- Logos is an attempt to use logic and reason to sway a reader’s perspective or opinion.
- Ethos is an appeal to credibility. An author who explains why he or she should be trusted based on personal, professional, or academic merit is using ethos.
Evaluate how well the author conveyed meaning. Determine how effective the author’s appeals were from your own perspective as a reader.
- Ask yourself if you had an emotional response to an emotional appeal. Did you become happy, upset, or angry at any point? If so, ask yourself why.
- Determine if the author’s attempts at logic and reason were enough to change your mind. Also ask yourself if the material was clear, accurate, and cohesive.
- Ask yourself if you believe the author to be credible. Determine why or why not.
Part Two of Three:
Writing an Effective Analysis Edit
Choose several noteworthy areas to analyze.  Review your critical reading notes and identify several observations that you can expand on in greater detail.
- For a critical review, you will usually focus on how effective an author’s appeals at pathos, logos, or ethos were. You can focus on one area if it appears stronger than the others, or you could look at two or three appeal types as they apply to a particular main idea used in the work.
- Alternatively, you can examine the author’s overall ability at making his or her point. Your analysis can examine how well the author’s research was performed, how cohesive the work is as a whole, how the author’s use of structure and organization impacted the work, and other similar matters that stand out to you.
- Divide each major point into a separate paragraph. No matter which areas you choose to write about, each major thought should be given its own paragraph. For more complex ideas, you may need to expand your discussion into several paragraphs.
Balance positive and negative.  Most critical reviews will be a mix of positive and negative.
- If your critique includes more positive elements than negative, begin with the negative before defending the article with the positive.
- If your critique includes more negative opinions than positive, identify the positive elements first before defending your opposition with the negative.
- If you have both negative and positive remarks to make about the same point or aspect, you can write a mixed paragraph that reflects this. To do so, you will usually end up stating the positive aspect first before explaining why the idea is limited.
Identify any controversies surrounding the topic. If the author chose to write about a disputable matter, include information about the other side of the issue and explain how the author did or did not succeed in arguing against it.
- This is especially significant when specific points or issues from the other side are mentioned directly in the article.
- Even if the author did not specifically mention opposing opinions, you can still mention common oppositions in your critical analysis.
Explain why the topic is relevant. Convince the reader of your essay that he or she should care.
- Let the reader know that the topic is relevant by contemporary standards. An article can be considered relevant if the subject has implications for the current day and age, but it can also be relevant if a notable writer or thinker is the author.
Avoid turning the focus inward. Even though much of this is subjective, you should keep your tone academic instead of personal.
- Avoid phrases like “I think” or “in my opinion.” In fact, you should stay away from the first person completely. By identifying something as your own personal opinion, you actually end up weakening them in an academic sense.
Do not focus on summary. You need to provide enough summary about the work for your critique to have sensible context, but the majority of the essay should still contain your thoughts rather than the author’s thoughts.
Part Three of Three:
Organizing the Review Edit
Introduce the work being analyzed. Include both bibliographical information and more in-depth information.
- Specify the title of the work, the type of work it is, the author’s name, and the field or genre the work addresses.
- Include information about the context in which the article was written.
- Clearly state the author’s purpose or thesis.
- The overall introduction should only consume roughly 10 percent of your paper’s total length.
Include your own thesis. Your thesis should be a brief statement that summarizes your overall evaluation of the work being critiqued.
- A thesis that is both positive and negative is common for a critical review, but it can also be strictly positive or strictly negative.
- Note that your thesis statement is technically part of your introduction.
Summarize the work. Quickly sum up the key points the author of the original article mentioned in his or her defense.
- You can provide a limited number of examples, but be brief. Overall, the summary should take up no more than one-third of your essay’s body. Less is usually preferred.
- You can also briefly describe how the text is organized.
Break into your critique. The critical analysis itself should form the majority of the body and should conform to the guidelines mentioned.
- The analysis plus the summary should form roughly 80 percent of the overall essay.
- Each separate idea should be addressed in its own paragraph.
Conclude with your final judgment. In your concluding paragraph, clearly restate your thesis or overall opinion of the analyzed work.
- You should also use this space to briefly present recommendation on how the analyzed work could be improved. Improvements can include ideas, appeals, and research approach.
- The conclusion should only take up about 10 percent of the overall paper.