Steps for Writing a Critical Essay

Writing a critical essay requisitions and imposes an immense responsibility on the writer. This article aims to expound and illustrate the steps involved in writing a critical essay.

A critical essay is a form of detached comment, usually on a work of art. This is a form of writing, where the writer evaluates the work of art with an unbiased and unprejudiced perspective. Critical essay writing does not imply, that you have to criticize the work of art; it rather demands a contemplated, excogitated and a ruminated comment on it.

Writing a critical essay can become an arduous and time-consuming task. However, with practice and by using a few techniques, the process of writing a critical essay can become a fulfilling experience. Let's consider the steps involved in writing a critical essay.

Step 1: Study

The first step while writing a critical essay is to study the work under consideration. An exhaustive study, should be aimed at understanding the intent and extent of the work. A thorough understanding of the topic under discussion is absolutely essential, when we wish to make a comment on it. Only then will it be fair and just. A study will include the following steps:

Read the work under under consideration thrice if it's a written work of art. In case the work of art is a movie or a painting, you will have to see the movie as many times necessary or study the painting for as much time as required, to familiarize with and comprehend every aspect of it. If we consider a written work, a quick first reading should be aimed at getting a general idea about what the writer/ author wishes to talk about. A detailed second reading can then be undertaken that emphasizes on getting a thorough understanding of the topic. The last reading must then be taken up to find any point that has been missed out. However, this is just a guideline. In practice, one should continue to read as many times as necessary, in order to gain an in depth, thorough understanding until every point is clear.

The next step is to make a few notes, of the points of significance. For example, in case of a poetry, the points that can be noted are the style of writing, uses of figures of speech, choice of words; in short consideration of all elements of poetry; choice of punctuation marks, the idea discussed, and the approach and perspective taken by the writer. In this step, you may need to read the material a few more times.

A study of the artist's background may also be helpful to give you an insight on specific references to events, the perspective of looking at a subject and choice of specific words or the style of writing adopted.

Step 2: Writing

This step should be considered, only after the fastidious and meticulous study of the work and a certain level of acquaintance and recognition with the artist's background. The steps involved are:

Choice of subject
Choose the subject of your critical essay. Every work of art has numerous dimensions to be considered and each one of them can be a subject for your essay. For example, while writing a critical essay on the writings of some poet, say William Wordsworth, you can endeavor to write a critical essay on his overall style of writing, the significance of his writing in the literary world, the impact his writing had and how it helped to launch the romantic age in English literature, his choice of subjects and so on.

In fact, even if you take up one single poem of his, to write a critical essay on, say Daffodils, numerous options are available that can be the subject: like the aspects that makes the poem one of the best examples of a type of poem from the romantic age, the oft-written and even more often discussed, Wordsworth's style of writing, that includes a special rhyme scheme and is characterized by long sentences, or even the prominent use of imagery in this poem. There can be many more choice of subjects for this poem alone, and each has the potential to be extensive and exhaustive in nature.

Rough Draft
Make a rough draft of what you wish to write and the points that need to be included. In this step, you should decide the flow of the essay.

An introduction should include a mention of the artist. An important point to remember when writing a critical essay is that the artist needs to be given importance. The critical essay is more about the artist and his work than anything else. So, make sure that a brief sketch of his life and work is included. The introduction must also include the subject that the critical analysis is on and the reason why you chose that particular subject.

In this part, you should discuss the subject on a point-by-point basis, with one chapter or paragraph dedicated to each point. Clarity and consistency of thought, attractive presentation and a steady flow are the most points to be considered. Contradiction in the thought process or arguments presented should be strictly avoided. Additionally, it is always better to have a balance of positive and negative observations. However, this is not a rule and there have been exemplary critical essays written, that have talked only about the positive or the negative aspects of the work.

This part is a short summary of your take on the subject. A passing reference to the artist/ author is again necessary in this part. A clear and to the point summary is the best way to conclude any essay.

Step 3: Review and Finishing Touches

This is the step most often overlooked and one that, in most cases, determines the quality of the end-product. It is crucial and indispensable to take a review of the work for grammatical errors, spelling checks, language, points that may have been not elaborated properly, some messy connections between points that usually get incorporated, as a result of the eagerness to move on to the next point, or some minor changes that you may find necessary. This step, like the first step, includes a lot of objective reading, in this case, of your own work. The finishing touches should be added with sufficient care and such that, the framework of the original content should not be disturbed in any way.

Thus, every step in writing a critical essay is equally important and contributes equally to the overall quality of the essay and tests your writing skills. Critical essay writing is a fulfilling experience as your individual point of view can be put across. An unprejudiced view and a restrain that needs to be exercised from making any derogatory remarks is, however, of utmost importance. So, use the steps and tips mentioned above, and find joy in a process, which some may find monotonous or boring. Happy writing!

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