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Characterictics of a Critical Essay

"Critical" here is not used in the sense of "to criticize"--to find the faults in. Instead, "critical" is used in the same way "Critical Thinking" is used. A synonym might be "interpretive" or "analytical."

1) It is an argument, persuasion essay that in its broadest sense MAKES A POINT and SUPPORTS IT.

2) The "point" or "thesis" of a critical essay is interpretive in nature. That means the point is debatable and open to interpretation, not a statement of the obvious. The thesis statement is a clear, declarative sentence that comes at the end of the introduction. (for more, see Introductions)

3) Since the author of a critical essay can typically assume an informed audience, plot summary is not necessary and inappropriate.

4) Organization: Like any essay, the critical essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. As the author supports his or her point in the body of the essay, the author should "divide up the proof," which means to put only one primary support per paragraph. (for more see Organization)

5) Support:

a) The primary source for support in the critical essay is from the text (or sources). The text is the authority, so using quotations is required.
b) The continuous movement of logic in a critical essay is "assert then support; assert then support." No assertion (general statement that needs proving) should be left unsupported (with specifics, often from the text(s)).
c) In general, for each assertion you need at least three supports. (see Development)

6) A critical essay will always "document" its sources and clarify where outside information came from (following the rules of MLA Documentation Style).

7) Whenever the author moves from one main point (Primary Support) to the next, the author needs to clearly signal to the reader that this movement is happening. The topic/transition sentence must link back to the thesis as it states the topic of that paragraph. (see Coherence)
Sample Critical Essay
-- Second Sample Critical Essay --Third Sample Critical Essay with Research (in MLA Format)

Examples of Parts of a Critical Essay


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