Last Updated 01 Jul 2021

How to Critically Analyse your Essay

Category Epistemology
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This guide will look at ways to improve the critical analysis in your essay. As explained in another of our guides, there are important differences between descriptive and critical / analytical essays. As critical analytical work attracts higher marks, it’s important to understand what makes a critical analytical essay and how best to write one. A critical analysis essay develops an argument, putting forward a particular point of view and dealing with objections. It uses descriptive material to gather evidence for the point of view it puts forward. It should be well structured and logical, clear and easy to understand

Types of Question to Ask in your Critical Analysis Essay

Writing a critical and analytic essay means asking the right sort of questions.

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Questions about theory.

  1. You need to discuss existing theoretical perspectives critically.
  2. How does the writer understand what she / he is trying to explain
  3. What is the theoretical background against which they write
  4. How does the theoretical background influence what they say

Questions of definitions.

Very often, definitions of seemingly unambiguous terms are confusing, and different authors use the term in different ways. It is often useful to unpick key terms. Are the concepts used clear, or are they vaguely defined and ambiguous

Questions of evidence.

  1. Consider the evidence that exists to support an author’s point of view.
  2. Is there enough evidence, and can the point the author is making be supported by the evidence
  3. Consider individual research studies.
  4. Is the methodology flawed or sound
  5. How was the population included in the research selected, for example.
  6. Were the conclusions drawn warranted by the actual data collected
  7. How was the data analysed

Questions of implication.

  1. Look at the implications of an author’s argument.
  2. Are they positive or negative
  3. Are there any absurd conclusions which can be drawn from their premises
  4. Do the author’s conclusions really follow from their premises

Structuring a Critical Analysis Essay

To a large extent, critical analysis essays share structure with other types of essay. For example, they will include an introduction, main body and conclusion. However, there are some features which you should note:

The introduction should identify the main thesis under discussion, preview the argument you will use, and explain the context. The main body should include a summary of current understanding of the field, before moving on to your argument. You might consider using a structure whereby each section of the main body considers a different point of your argument, first setting out the argument point before considering objections. Your conclusion should summarise the main points, and explain how you have demonstrated your thesis.

Tips for Improving Critical Analytic Essays

To summarise, there are several ways in which you can improve the critical and analytic qualities of your essay:

  • Make sure you understand what you have been asked to write about, and have identified the focus of the task. As well as understanding what question you’ve been asked, you need to analyse the language the question was framed in, read through any associated course material, and try and uncover the expectations your tutor has of your essay.
    Identify your personal point of view. What is your own perspectiveThat is, what is your position on the issueIt’s fine for your position to change, but you have to be clear at all times what it is. And your position should be supported by the evidence you present.
  • Understand how to persuade others that your point of view is right. That is, you need to know how to present an argument in a logical and well reasoned way.
  • You not only have to be able to argue for your point of view, you also need to show how your arguments are rooted in evidence. That is, you need to know how to first identify and then evaluate the evidence that’s available. This means the ability to do research effectively, quickly and appropriately.
  • You also need to be willing to engage in debate, that is, acknowledge points of view other than your own and show why (in your opinion, and backed up with argument and evidence) they are wrong.
  • Your essay should be well structured. You might have good arguments and plenty of evidence, but unless these are presented in a clear and cohesive way, you risk your essay sounding muddled and confusing, and convincing no-one.

Bibliography

  1. Palgrave MacMillan (2013) ‘Critical Analysis’ [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
  2. http://www.palgrave.com/skills4study/pdfs/critical%20analysis%20.pdf
  3. London School of Journalism ‘Writing Critical Analysis Papers’,
  4. [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from http://depts.washington.edu/pswrite/Handouts/CriticalAnalysisPapers.pdf
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