Perhaps you’ve been asked to write a review of a book or a work of art. Or perhaps you’ve been asked to write about a proposed change in law or an event in history. Or you might have been asked to write about the ethics of a philosophy such as vegetarianism. All of these topics invite you to have an opinion and to make a critical analysis in support of that opinion.
A critical analysis usually contains:
A clear presentation of your own point of view on your topic
An evaluation of the arguments and evidence relevant to your topic
An acknowledgement of the limitations of your own presented evidence and arguments
Step 1: Critical Reading & Extracting of Content
Regardless of whether your topic is a book or a philosophical position, all subjects contain a main theme or idea. An accurate identification of this central theme will allow you to better position your own ideas and findings.
Of course, if you are going to challenge any existing theories, topics, or points of view it’s best that you read, fully understand, and digest the content of subject matter experts. In this case, skimming their works won’t be enough as you’ll miss out on important details and end up writing an obviously shallow and misrepresented analysis. (Trust us, instructors can almost always tell how closely you’ve read something because they themselves are experts in their subjects!).
Step 2: Processing Your Ideas
Once you’ve clearly understood what someone is trying to convey in a piece of work or even through a body of works, you can start deciding which parts of the main message you would like to focus on. You’ll probably have noticed there was an idea in the works that either resonated with you or you thought was really contrary to your beliefs and understanding of the topic. This is a good place to start your analysis.
Once you’ve identified an aspect of the idea you want to examine, you’ll need to start brainstorming all the reasons you have for supporting or rejecting the idea.
The next step is validating your arguments with research. Consider researching alternative opinions, reviews, and beliefs floating around the idea you’re tackling in your essay. Also, consider the following questions:
What is the significance of your findings?
What are the limitations to your arguments?
What are the consequences of your stated conclusions?
What are the suggestions for future research?
Step 3: Editing & Organising the Analysis
Structure is always important in any essay: it needs to have a clear and logical flow in arguments from the introduction to the conclusion. (To understand better why good essay structure is important, read our cofounder’s blog.)
If your essay is arguing in support of a particular point of view, you have two possible ways of presenting your ideas. The first is to state your point of view outright and then paragraph by paragraph explain your reasons for thinking this way. By the end of your essay, you need to have convinced your readers that there is no other way to consider your topic.
The second way of structuring your essay is less straightforward. You begin by describing the topic. Then you discuss all of the arguments that have been made that are opposite to your point of view. Working paragraph by paragraph you should explain the flaws in each of those arguments. This should lead you logically to the superiority of your own point of view or opinion.
Whichever approach you take, it is vital that you take into account opposing points of view or arguments. Otherwise, you risk not convincing your reader that your position is valid.
Useful samples and examples: