The essay is an argumentative text. In it, it seeks to establish an opinion or personal idea about a topic and offer data or statements that confirm the validity of that idea or opinion.
So, when you write an essay, be it of any nature (academic, scientific, philosophical, literary or critical), what you seek is to offer your own perspective on something of reality and argue about it to convince your readers of the validity of what you say.
Well, one of the types of essay that exist is the critical essay:
Argumentative text in which a favorable or unfavorable opinion is presented about something after analyzing it.
This means that the critical essay is a type of essay in which one thinks in favor or against an object or idea, having as main arguments the characteristics or parts of that object (painting, book, product, musical piece, object of design etc.) or that idea (may be political, economic, philosophical, literary or scientific idea).
For example, if you want to make a critical essay about Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, which is in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the main source of the arguments will be the painting itself.
In order to perform a critical test it is necessary to follow certain previous steps.
5 steps to follow before writing your critical essay
A good critical essay is the result of a mind with analytical capacity and discipline for the reflection and ordering of ideas; all this, added to the verbal skill to present them convincingly.
Any text, of any kind, requires previous work, that is, written texts are the result of processes of reflection, research, analysis and, of course, planning prior to writing.
The steps to follow before writing your critical essay are the following:
Let’s start with the obvious. Identify or choose the book, the artistic work, product or idea on which your critical essay will treat.
Do a complete reading, a detailed observation or a careful analysis of the object of your criticism. In order to criticize something, you must know it well.
Identify the elements on which you will concentrate your criticism and which you will develop in your essay. To do this, make notes about it, ordered according to criteria established by yourself as important with respect to the work or idea.
Find opinions made by professionals regarding your object of criticism. If your opinion is the same as someone else’s, you can mention it and state your reasons, if it is different, you can also mention it and argue why.
Make a writing plan in which signs the order in which the arguments and ideas will appear, according to the general writing model of a critical essay that I present below.
The critical trial parts
For centuries, many centuries, the basic structure of a text remains practically the same. Aristotle in his Poetics would establish it to remain fixed until now. The critical test is not, then, the exception.
In this part you must present the topic on which you are going to present your critical opinion.
It is important that it is clear what work, what text or what idea is your object of criticism and, in addition, that you state very clearly your opinion or position on it.
On the other hand, an interesting recommendation is that you start the text with an open and controversial question that will stand up to the presentation of your topic and opinion, so that with it you can open the discussion with your possible readers at the same time.
In this example, both the topic and the critical opinion are clearly established by way of question and answer. It is not the only way, but it is an option that can be followed with good results.
On the other hand, if your critical essay will be extensive, it is recommended that at the end of your introduction you signal the later sections of your essay and that of what, roughly, they will have to deal with.
This is the most important part of the critical test, therefore, it must occupy most of it.
In this part you must present the arguments (ideas, data, statements) that serve to verify the validity of your critical opinion on the topic or work that you have decided to talk about.
If the essay is short, it is enough that you present the arguments ordered in paragraphs, in which you present the arguments; but if it is extensive, it is advisable that you organize it by sections in which you present the arguments by blocks according to their type, origin or purpose.
This is the last part of your critical essay and, as in any essay, it is time to make a recapitulation or synthesis in which you make sure to show your readers how your arguments have allowed you to verify that your critical opinion is positive or negative, is valid with respect to the subject of the one that treats the test.
Above all, if your essay was extensive, it may happen that the reader loses the thread of the relationship between your various arguments, examples or reflections and your hypothesis or opinion, therefore, it is important that your conclusion integrates them effectively.
It is a text of a subjective nature, which does not mean that it is arbitrary or badly argued. Therefore, you must have an adequate amount of perfectly ordered and related arguments.
It must be written in the first person, due to its subjective text nature.
As in any text made with honesty, the quotes are written in quotation marks, to indicate that they are the authorship of another person. If they are not textual quotes, but paraphrasing, (the idea is taken from someone else) you must indicate from whom and from where you take it, according to the criteria established by some citation model such as APA or MLA.
It is recommended that you begin the paragraphs with a phrase or thematic sentence. This means that the first affirmation of the paragraph serves as a synthesis of everything that will be said in it; all in order to allow a clearer reading of your essay, because this way your reader will be able to identify and follow your ideas more easily.
The title and subtitles must have a characteristic typographical mark that differentiates them from the rest of the text and that you must decide or adapt to the style requirements of the journal where you are going to publish it or the teacher who requests it: it can be in bold, small caps or centered.