How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature


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How to Write a Poetry Analysis Essay Step-by-Step?

Skip to content Skip to navigation. Text version Writing a critical review Critical reviews require careful planning and drafting just like any other assignment. Plan your approach Read your assignment instructions carefully in order to: determine your exact criteria; find out what proportion of your review you should dedicate to summary and evaluation; and know whether the summary and evaluation should be presented as separate sections or a combined section.

Evaluate the text Judge the quality or value of the text for other researchers, or to practitioners in the field, or to students. Consider the merits of the text in the short term as well as the long term. Consider the merits of the text in comparison to other related text. When evaluating the text you could answer some of the following questions: Is the question the text tries to answer relevant, interesting, new, or useful?

Critical essay writing : Skills Hub: University of Sussex

To who, and why? You know what you're going to talk about, but you don't know what you're going to say about it. So the most important thing about the plan is to decide what your main points are and to express them in complete sentences -- not just what are you going to talk about but what are you going to say about it? Once you've got that sequence of key points expressed in complete sentences you should have a pretty good summary of your essay. And that should be able to stand alone as an answer to your essay question.

Once you've decided on your sequence of key points, then you can start to flesh out your plan by listing the evidence that you're going to include for each key point. What examples are you going to draw on? What pieces of evidence or empirical work or theoretical work are you going to use to actually support each of those key points? Once you've actually done that you've got a really good framework for writing your essay: you know what your main argument is, you know what each key point is that you're going to use to support that argument, and in turn you know what key bits of evidence or examples or theories you're going to use to make each of those key points.

One final point about the plans.

If you look at your plan and you find that you've got nine, ten or even more key points then think again about whether they really need to stand separate from each other as different points. In an essay, and even in longer essays like 4, word essays, you'll usually only need to have a handful of key points. Remember the main objective is to support the main line of argument that you want to present to the reader. That doesn't mean that you have to cover absolutely everything that you've read. My next guideline for writing an essay is to make sure that you give it to someone else to read.

It's really important to get a second opinion on your essay and sometimes when you've been working on an essay for a long time it can be really hard to adopt a fresh objective stance and look at your essay. So find someone, maybe a friend that you can bribe to read your essay, maybe a family member, long suffering flat mates - whoever you can.

Get someone else to read the essay and to try and extract the main points. So that would be a good sign that you've accomplished what you wanted to accomplish in the essay. OK, my final guideline for writing an essay concerns originality. You'll probably see in most of the assessment criteria for essays in different subjects across the university that originality is one of the markers of first class essays.

Can you show originality and flair in the way that you write your essay? Do I just say what my opinion is about the subject matter? Originality in an academic essay is all about the way that you interrogate the material in front of you and the way that you put the material together.

How to Write a Literature Review

Regarding the second point -- about how you put ideas together and how you put your points and evidence together in your essay -- that's a really important opportunity to show your originality. But it's about how you put the argument together.

Formatting Your Assignment Correctly

That's where you can really show your originality. Have you taken these theories, these different bits of evidence, the different readings that you've done, have you put them together in an interesting and innovative way to answer the question? That's how a student shows originality in an essay!


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One mistake students often make with an essay is to start writing too soon. There is research and thinking to do first and putting words on the page comes later.

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Writing Critical Essays about Literature

Another big mistake is to write an essay at the last minute. You will lose marks if it doesn't flow well, words are spelled wrong or your punctuation is sloppy because you didn't allow time for editing and proofreading. The word 'critical' can seem negative — it is associated with condemning, disparaging, judging or finding fault.

Skills Hub. How do I reference quotes and ideas? Being organised Prioritising tasks Planning your time Dealing with distractions.

How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature
How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature How to Write Critical Essays: A Guide for Students of Literature

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