What is a Critical Essay?

Critical Essay, Definition, Format, Structure, Outline, Types

What is a Critical Essay?

A critical essay can be defined as,

“A form of essay writing which provides an analysis, interpretation, or evaluation of a text, book or literary work of another author”.


“A composition which elucidates a critique, review and an objective analysis of another work (book, play, painting, music, movie etc.)”

A critical essay can either be  summary of the contents of the reviewed material or a personal opinion and analysis of the writer about the content The usual format of a critical essay is in the form of argumentative analysis and it is primarily targeted for academic audiences.

Critical Lens Essay

A critical lens essay can be defined as,

“A critical lens essay is a frequently used term in schools and on New York State Regents Examinations where the essay evaluates the validity of a quote along with its explanation by making use of standard  literary techniques and devices.”

Format (Outline) of a Critical Essay

Abstract: Summary of the Writer’s Approach
  • Main idea of the work.
  • Brief analysis of thesis topic/thesis statement/hypothesis or the main concept.
  • Important ideas and facts on which the thesis is based.
  • Evaluation of the message which the work’s author has conveyed to his/her audience.
  • A brief description of the main theme/concept/idea.
  • Background analysis /information on the subject of thesis.
  • Presentation of the thesis statement or main topic.
Body: Analysis and Evaluation
  • Objective analysis of the facts, data, theory and the angle of approach used in the work under study.
  • Evaluation of the logical consistency, imaginative techniques and the manner of presentation.
  • Comparative analysis of the work under study with contemporary or standard works in the same genre.
  • Evaluation of the scope of the main concept.
  • Summary of the main points of evaluation discussed in the introduction and body paragraphs.
  • Re-statement for the thesis topic/thesis statement/main concept.
  • Personal viewpoint and objective analysis.

Various Techniques of Literary Criticism

While writing a critical essay, you will be required to use either of the following types of literary criticism techniques for evaluating the main concept, thesis topic or problem statement:

  • Objective Analysis
  • Traditional Criticism
  • New Criticism
  • Sociological Criticism
  • Rhetorical Criticism
  • Stylistic Criticism
  • Metaphorical Criticism
  • Psychological (Freudian) Criticism
  • Moral Criticism
  • Biographical Criticism
  • Feminist Criticism
  • Historical Criticism
  • Marxist Criticism
  • Mythological (Archetypal) Criticism

Developing the Structure of a Critical Essay

The structure of a critical essay essentially follows the following standard structural outline. For a more elaborative point of view, you can build up more elements depending on the requirement of your essay paper.

  • Statement of Position
  • Defense of Position
  • statement of Alternate/Contemporary Viewpoints
  • Summarization
  • Analysis & Evaluation
  • Conclusion

Style & Grammar Guide for Critical Essay Writing

Writing Style & Transitional Words

The writing style for a critical essay is essentially objective and analytical. some of the phrases that can help you in formatting transitional sentences for your paragraph writing and sentence making are listed below:

after all, all in all, all things considered, briefly, by and large, in any case, in any event,

in brief, in conclusion, on the whole,

in short, in summary, in the final analysis,

in the long run, on balance, to sum up, to summarize, finally

Grammar & Punctuation

The voice for writing critical papers is passive voice with the a tone that stresses on factual presentation of data, facts and information.