Writing a critical analysis will give you, the observer, the ability to closely examine written articles as well as other forms of work in an effort to decide whether the written work or piece in question adequately makes its argument or point in a clear, concise and well-presented manner.
A Critical Analysis is normally aimed at written work but can also be used to analyze artwork, media, film and a plethora of other mediums used to present arguments and ideas by authors and artists.
While the author or artist may use what is known as Modes of Persuasion, we will explore these further soon; to influence and sway your interpretation of the work in question, it is important for you to remain an impartial observer and disregard personal feelings and opinions on the subject matter of the analyzed piece. It is the author or artist’s overall ability and effectiveness at making his or her argument clear that is the focus of a Critical Analysis.
The following guide will break down and explore the three steps required when writing a strong, concise and credible Critical Analysis. You may use this guide as a continuing reference to help build your confidence in constructing a Critical Analysis correctly in the future.
Critical Reading and Things to Consider
DETERMINE THE AUTHOR OR ARTISTS ARGUMENT OR IDEA
Determining the idea or argument behind a written or academic article may be easier to pinpoint quickly. When you are presented with an artistic or creative work though, like a painting, a movie or a sculpture, determining the idea or argument behind the piece may be a little more difficult. When this is the case, it is up to you, the reviewer, to determine the one main argument that is clearly being presented in the work analyzed. This can be open to interpretation but should be thoroughly researched before deciding.
Explore the content presented for review and ask yourself why is the argument being made by the author or the artist. What will the author or the artist achieve by presenting this argument or idea? What drives the author or artist to create their work? Is it political? Academic? Financial? Societal?
Does the author or artist include valid solutions to the argument made in their work? Are the solutions offered by the author or artist seem plausible and can they be put into practice effectively? What are the possible outcomes of using the solutions offered by the author or the artist?
These are all questions you should ask and explore before and during building content for and researching your Critical Analysis.
DETERMINE THE CORE IDEAS PRESENTED BY THE AUTHOR OR ARTIST IN ORDER TO ANALYZE THE ARTICLE OR WORK
When you are analyzing a written academic article, the core idea or argument usually presents itself within the first few sentences of each segment or paragraph. This makes it easy for you to pinpoint the argument being made.
When you are faced with less conventional work like art, film and media, it is up to you to ascertain the idea or argument being presented by the author or the artist. While this may be a little more difficult at first, it allows for many interpretations and avenues to explore. This is an area where further research should be undertaken by the reviewer.
FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH THE MATERIAL ANALYZED
Further research may occasionally be necessary when performing a critical analysis. If you find yourself working on an unfamiliar topic, this is especially important. Make sure to use previous articles, research, and information to gain a greater understanding of the subject matter you will be analyzing. This will add strength to your analysis and ensure it is thorough.
It is also important to employ the use of a good dictionary and thesaurus to gain a better understanding of unfamiliar words and terminology. This will allow you to perform a more thorough analysis. This will also add strength and credibility to your analysis.
PREPARE AN OUTLINE OR A SUMMARY IN YOUR OWN WORDS
Ensuring you use your own words, present a summary of one to two paragraphs in length. It is important that you be brief and to the point while also indicating what will be covered in your overall analysis.
Although a thorough analysis will contain both an outline of the overall work presented as well as its summary, it is ok to forgo the first part in an outline and focus on a summary only.
IDENTIFY THE APPEALS USED BY THE AUTHOR OR ARTIST’S WORK
There are three BASIC argumentative appeals used to convey an argument or idea, and you should familiarize yourself with all of them before conducting your analysis. It is prudent to remember that appeals can sometimes be used in a less than credible way by the author or artist to sway an argument, and your opinion, in their favor. It is extremely important that you remain impartial and unemotional when performing your Critical Analysis.
The three basic argumentative appeals were introduced by Aristotle and are as follows:
- Pathos. Pathos is used when the author or artist tries to gain an audience’s favor for their point through empathy and emotional arguments. Appealing to the audience’s emotional side can sway their view on the subject matter being argued.
- Logos. Logos implies the use of logic and reason to convince the audience in the author’s or artist’s argument. In other words, logos means presenting an argument based on logic and reason to sway the reader’s opinion in their favor. Logic can be based on facts or common sense.
- Ethos. Ethos is used by the author or artist to establish his or hers credibility to gain the audience’s trust and sway the argument in their favor. Ask yourself during your analysis, does the author or artist’s work convey credibility to the audience? Does the authors or artists work seem trustworthy and reliable? Is the author or artist reputable in their chosen field?
DETERMINE IF THE AUTHOR OR ARTIST HAS COMMUNICATED THEIR ARGUMENT CLEARLY
Did the work under analysis provoke an emotional response in the audience? Which emotions are brought forth? Why did the audience react with certain emotions? How did the author or artist connect with the audience emotionally? What tools did they use to achieve this? Identify points made by the author or artist based on logic and reason. What were they? Where they enough to sway the audience’s view in the author or artist’s favor? How was this communicated to the audience by the author or artist? Is there available proof to support their argument? If there is, incorporate it into your Critical Analysis; this will again help create balance and provide credible evidence.
Was the author or artist able to convey credibility to the audience? Did the author or artist gain the audience’s trust? How did they do this? What tools did they use? Explain your reasoning and provide examples.
How could the author or artist convey these? Provide examples found in the work under analysis. Are their results and sources readily available? This is an area where further research can and should be utilized and included.
Writing a competent analysis
Identify several areas you will focus and expand on
Now your analysis will focus on the author or artist’s effectiveness in conveying the three basic appeals, Pathos, Logos and Ethos.
You can choose to focus on one appeal and how effectively the author or artist used it in communicating their argument.
You can also focus on a particular portion of the overall work and explore how more than one appeal applies to that portion.
Another method used in a Critical Analysis is to look at the writing or work as a whole. Does the author or artist clearly state their argument in their work? Is their research thorough, reliable and credible? Is the overall article or work well constructed? Are sources provided by the author or artist credible?
Each thought you explore in your Critical Analysis should be given its own paragraph.
If the idea is more involved, allocate several paragraphs to thoroughly explore and expand on it. This will allow for a better and more balanced analysis.
Evenly convey the positives and the negatives found in the work under review
A successful Critical Analysis will always contain a fair and even balance of negative and positive observations by the reviewer.
It is prudent for you, as the reviewer, to remain unbiased and unemotional while conducting your analysis. This will provide an unbiased evaluation, therefore making your analysis stronger and more credible.
If you believe your analysis has become more negative in its tone than it is positive, lead with the positive and follow up with the negative.
If you find yourself in the opposite position and you believe your analysis is heavily positive in tone, lead with the negative and follow up with the positive.
If your overall analysis is fairly balanced, maintain a mixed approach. Traditionally, though, lead with your positive observations and follow up with your negative ones.
Remember to remain balanced and impartial while researching and completing your final Critical Analysis.
Highlight any controversy associated with the work analyzed
Address whether the argument is a controversial topic, currently? Research and include opposing arguments and views on the topic and discuss if the author or artist was able to sway the audience from the opposition’s view. How did they do that? What tools did they use to sway the audience’s view or opinion?
It is also important to address the opposing arguments already mentioned in the writing or work by the author or artist. Further, investigate these and discuss whether the author or artist was able to present a strong enough argument for their perspective. What were those arguments? Did the author or artist address them fairly? What tools did the author or artist employ to address them?
If the author or artist did not include opposing arguments, as the reviewer, you must research, include, and explore them in greater detail. Question why the author or artist may not have included the arguments against their work. This will add a more even-handed perspective to your overall final analysis.
Address why the topic is important and currently relevan
Does the author or artist address why or if the topic is relevant and current? Explore this in your analysis. Does the topic address current issues? Does the topic influence daily life? Business? Environment? Society? Explain in your own words why it does or does not.
Is the author or artist currently influential in his or her chosen field? Could his or her work have influence in their field or argument to a greater extent? Give examples of their past influence if any.
Will further discussion of the topic or work have far-reaching effects or implications for the chosen subject in the future?
Ignore your personal opinion when constructing your Critical Analysis
While it can be hard when performing a review, try to avoid using personal beliefs or opinions in your Critical Analysis.
I think, I feel, and in my opinion have no place in a credible and serious Critical Analysis and can end up lessening the strength of your final analysis as well as yours and its credibility.
Remaining impartial while conducting, writing and presenting your critical analysis; while difficult, it is crucial to its and your credibility.
Focus on the project and your Critical Analysis as a whole
While it can be easy to get lost in the summary of your Critical Analysis, remember you must devote equal time and energy to all of its parts. While the summary is extremely important, your overall analysis will come together as a whole to show your conclusions, research and the effectiveness of the work analyzed.
Do not forget that the majority of the analysis will be YOUR thoughts on the author’s or artist’s work. This may be difficult while remaining impartial but is very important.
STRUCTURE THE CRITICAL ANALYSIS
To begin with, your introduction should include the work’s title and the author’s or artist’s name. Discuss in detail the type of work analyzed and the field it addresses.
Remember to include context, purpose and bibliographical information involved with the work. This will add further credibility to your analysis.
Your introduction should be only 10% of your overall analysis.
Now is the time to introduce your own theory on the work analyzed. This should be included in your introduction and should always be in your own words as stated previously.
Provide a brief and concise summary of your overall evaluation of the work you analyze.
Remember it is important to address both the negative and positive points about the work you are reviewing to maintain a good balance in your final analysis.
Construct your summary
When constructing your summary, make sure to reference the key points addressed in the author’s or artist’s work.
Examples of each point you summarize should be provided but should be kept brief.
Feel free to refer to discuss the structure of the writing or work presented and whether this aided or hindered the effectiveness of the argument presented by the author or artist.
Remember your summary should only be one-third of your overall analysis.
Construct your critique
Your critique will be the main body of your final Critical Analysis. Remember to refer back to the guidelines covered in this text to help construct your final analysis.
Remember it is important to remain impartial and unemotional throughout your analysis. This will help ensure you maintain a balance of positive and negative in your final critique.
Separate each idea into its own paragraph. This allows a clear and concise delivery of each point being addressed in your analysis.
Remember to be thorough and use extra paragraphs if necessary. This will give you the opportunity to properly explore each point and idea and provide balance to your analysis.
This section should take up 80% of your overall analysis.
Construct your conclusion
In what will be your final paragraph, restate your thesis and your resulting findings from your overall Critical Analysis. This will tie all your previous work together and will reinforce your final analysis as well as add to your credibility.
Provide the author or artist examples for further improvement in the analyzed text or work. Include ideas, possible solutions, opposing arguments, further research or appeals the author or artist might incorporate into their work to strengthen or expand it further.
Remember your conclusion should only be 10% of your overall analysis.
Do not forget to proofread
Obvious as it may sound, too many students ignore this stage. However, as you write any kind of academic work, you will – want it or not – make typos. The easiest way to spot all of them is to start proofreading some time after the first draft is finished – that is, if your time allows it.
More than that, coming back to revise your paper the day after you wrote it gives you a chance to spot not only mechanical but also logical errors. One more way to achieve the same purpose is to ask someone else to revise the paper with you. Another person will (most likely) offer you some valuable feedback on your writing and structure. Sure, the best way to make sure your analysis is truly polished up to perfection would be to consult a professional proofreader. But, it could also be your fellow student.
What to do if you are running out of time?
As it often happens, students delay writing their critical analysis papers until the last moment. We’ve all been there, so no one is judging. The question remains, though – what to do when you are running out of time?
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