A critique is an essay designed to evaluate a book, movie, poem or similar work of creativity. It's not the same thing as criticism, because it doesn't need to be negative, and it isn't strictly a review that advises the reader on whether a subject is worth reading or watching. Rather, it analyses the subject to reveal its overall meaning and purpose, citing particular sections or passages to illuminate hidden meanings or possible interpretations. Writing a critique essay takes training and experience, but most important it requires observation.
- Skill level:
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Read or watch the subject you intend to critique: the book, movie, poem or painting. Pay careful attention to your responses to it: the way it makes you feel, the ideas it engenders and the emotions it triggers. Ask yourself how it evokes those thoughts and feelings--what specific scenes, passages or thematic elements made you feel that way and how. Jot them down in a notebook to retain them in your mind. In addition to specifics, keep an eye on the overall thrust of the piece--the "bigger picture" covering the piece's greater meaning, story arc or message. If you can, read or examine the piece multiple times (which may not be possible with a novel or a long film) before sitting down to write your essay.
Organise your notes into a coherent order, giving you some basic structure for your essay. A basic critique follows a five-paragraph format: an introduction, three paragraphs discussing the meat of your thoughts and a conclusion. Prepare for that with a few sentences covering the main points you intend to make.
Write an introductory paragraph identifying the piece, the author and a basic summary of its intended purpose. Follow that with a brief summation of your thesis, which is the overall point you intend to make. Ideally, the introductory paragraph should be smart and compelling, to better induce the reader to continue reading the remainder of the essay.
Develop the meat of your argument in the next three paragraphs, though you can use more paragraphs if you think it is necessary. Include a summation of your subject if you like, but keep it brief--you don't want to simply regurgitate the piece. Focus on analysis rather than summation. Cite evidence to back up your thesis: the intended purpose of the movie or book, whether it succeeded in its task and particular passages or sequences that support your argument. Try to be as objective as possible and stay away from unfounded statements.
Write a closing paragraph summarising your main points and bringing the essay to an elegant conclusion. Keep it brief, but make sure it provides a sense of completeness to the piece.
Polish and edit your piece, going through it several times to tighten problematic passages and make sure your analysis is sound.
Tips and warnings
- Write your critiques in the third person. Stay away from "I," "me" or "mine" when you write; it interposes subjective feelings between your reader and the points you're trying to make. Using the first person may be acceptable with more casual critiques, but your personal opinion should always be backed up by objective evidence you can cite.