Critique writing is a major part of any discipline. It includes analyzing and evaluating an author's work to provide a clear and comprehensive assessment of the text (which may be in the form of books, essays, journal articles etc.). Whether for academic purposes or other than that, one hallmark of the critique is to not only provide opinions and judgements but to generally give the reader much more analysis than summary.
Contrary to book reviews, which generally offer more of the later (assuming that the reader is unfamiliar with the text being discussed), in critique writing the writer usually assumes that the reader has either read the selection themselves or is at least familiar with the subject and issues being addressed. This assumption facilitates (or makes room) for the more in-depth and analytical nature of the critique.
When writing a critique
many people tend to focus on the evaluation portion of it. This is, in essence, the heart of the critique. The evaluation is where the reviewer not only shares his/her opinions but also makes a firm and sound judgment on the work based on precise observations and interpretations.
If aiming to properly construct an evaluation its wise to first gain a thorough understanding of the stages that lead to it.
The basic stages of a critique
Most critiques can be broken down into a few simple stages. The first of them being the reading stage. This is when you read and then reread the material being criticized to ensure that you have a complete understanding of it. Proper reading is one of the most vital stages of the process; oftentimes neglected. Sometimes when reading people may not take out the time to review things that they do not understand or reread the information to obtain a better grasp on all the presented concepts and ideas. This can be very harmful as the result may be a critique that offers opinions that are not based on a full understanding of the issues or those that lack evidentiary support.
The next stage of the process includes summarizing the piece of writing in your own words and then working to develop a concise thesis statement
. Your thesis statement should be decisive and explain what your critique will cover in one to two sentences. As you construct the thesis statement you may choose to highlight two or three specific areas of discussion; which essentially are the main things that you would like to address about the article. Suggestions for this include the author's argument and whether or not it was presented in a logical manner, or the appropriateness of word usage and vocabulary etc.
After identifying these key components (which should all come together in your introduction) you will begin working on the body of your paper which includes the analysis and assessment stages of the process. The analysis stage is when you dissect a piece of writing into different sections. This will be based on what you chose to focus on in your thesis statement. After you discuss the makeup of those sections with examples and illustrations, you will then interpret them and move on to your evaluation or assessment.
Expressing your opinion: the assessment stage
The assessment stage of the critique includes making a judgment or claim on the text based off of the points and evidences brought to light in the analysis and interpretation sections of the critique. For instance, you may find that the author insufficiently presented a particular issue based on several 'gaps' or 'holes' found when analyzing the text. If this is the case you would first state your opinion and then explain how you came to that particular conclusion.
The assessment stage also can be broken down into a few smaller sections. For example, you may choose to start off your evaluation with...
- specific judgments based on the areas identified in your thesis statement
- evidence to back up each statement
- an explanation of how the evidence proves your point
- wrap everything up with a general statement about the work
This final statement (number four) may come at the end of the body of your work or possibly in the conclusion section. Some people may choose to primarily end their paper before the conclusion as the conclusion is oftentimes used to summarize as well as unite positive and negative aspects of the work. In addition to this, another concern is that your audience may not read your conclusion at all! This does happen from time to time so to be on the safe side it may it may be best to include your final statement (about the quality of the writing) in the body of your paper.
*Remember that critique writing is not solely based on expressing your opinion. Any thoughts that you harbor about the author or his work must be tastefully communicated to the reader with proper support evidences, examples, and illustrations.
Key words used in critique writing
Selecting the right words to express your opinion in critical writing
can be difficult at times. Its important to clearly convey your message while at the same time not appear bias or excessive in your views for or against the author. Neutral but effective words that are appropriate and useful to your audience are often the best means of expression. For critical writing a few keywords that are used frequently are as follows;
examples - argument -objective- logical -reasoning- evidence - support -sources- organization - describe - connect - facts - opinions - flawed - fallacy - development - accurate - relevant - insufficient - fallacies - statistics
Though this list is not very exhaustive it should give you a general idea of the terms that can be implemented into a critical writing piece.
In addition to the above mentioned stages for writing a critique, the role of effective note taking should also be emphasized. Note taking during the reading stage is crucial to the development of unique and intriguing points of discussion. Often times the first thoughts that come to mind are the best ones for generating engaging critical conversations.