How to Write a Critique Including a Definition and Example

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A critique is a formal analysis of a body of work, whether it's a performance, concept, argument, poetry, book, or research paper. Critiques examine and interpret the work and form conclusions based on the results. Learning how to write a critique can help you better express your opinions after analyzing a body of work. In this article, we define a critique, explain how to write one, explore the various sections in one, explain the different reasons for writing one, and provide an example.

What is a critique?

A critique is a formal analysis and evaluation of your own or someone else's writing, artistic work, or performance. In composition, some people also refer to a critique as a response paper. You can refer to a critique as a peer review when another expert in the field writes it. Publishers conduct peer reviews to determine whether to accept articles for publication in scholarly journals.

Related: How to Write a Critical Analysis (With Examples and Tips)

How to write a critique

If you'd like a career in literature, learning how to write a critique may interest you. When you're ready to write your critique, follow these steps:

1. Ensure that you understand the task or prompt

Before you begin writing your critique, make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the standards. Examine the assignment or prompt and, if necessary, ask questions to ensure that you understand the rules. Instead of merely summarizing the work you're critiquing, most critiques require you to assess it thoroughly. A criticism assignment to examine a piece of work usually comes with well-defined criteria and questions to ask, such as:

  • What's the nature of the body of work to analyze?

  • Who wrote or composed the body of work?

  • Why did they write or compose the piece?

  • Did they organize the piece logically?

  • Who is the intended audience?

  • Why is the piece significant?

  • How does it relate to other pieces on the same or similar subject?

  • What's the objective of the body of work or composition?

  • What are the best qualities or strengths of the piece or composition?

  • Has the author clearly linked the theoretical framework to the problem it discusses?

  • What are its weaknesses?

  • Does the author thoroughly explain their assumptions or only imply them?

  • What are the qualifications of the person or people who wrote the body of work?

  • What's the method or design for the composition or piece?

Knowing the criteria for the critique you're writing ensures you cover all aspects necessary to critique a piece or composition successfully.

Related: Complete Guide to Creating a Professional Writer Resume

2. Do your research

Experiencing content for a critique is more intense than casual reading. It may be necessary to study the body of work very thoroughly. It's also a good idea to do some research to see what other people have said about the subject and how this work relates to similar bodies of work. This can help you understand the broader context or topic in the text and allow you to examine the body of work more effectively.

If you're analyzing a study on a new asthma medicine, for example, you might research existing asthma therapies and their efficacy. When reviewing a movie, you might get insight by comparing it to other movies by the same director or similar movies in the genre.

Sections in a written critique

Your critique typically comprises three sections: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Consider the following for each section:

Introduction

Introduce the subject of the critique and the author succinctly. Provide context for the key argument you're presenting by outlining the major points and how the author implements them. For instance, if you're reviewing a book, you may highlight the author's use of symbolism to convey thoughts on more abstract subjects. Clearly state what you understood from this and how you want to address it. This is the thesis statement for your paper.

Body

The body may become the focal point of your critique. The body of your review may address a variety of topics. You can use the following guidelines to write the body of your critique:

  • Create critical evaluations: As this section comprises most of your critique, you can devote one subsection to each subject you choose to explore.

  • Organize your ideas: Consider structuring your critical assessments systematically. For instance, you may arrange them according to the author's strengths and weaknesses or the various themes and components they use throughout their body of work.

  • Cover more than the essentials: You may have had an instant reaction to a book's themes, which elicited an emotional response in you, and this is likely to be the focus of your evaluation. But you may also consider the author's use of styles and tactics.

Conclusion

The primary purpose of the conclusion is to provide your overall judgment of the work. Ascertain that your conclusion does the following:

  • Provides an overall assessment of the work: In a sentence or two, it provides your opinion on whether the author fulfilled their objective.

  • Commits to your critique: If applicable, it clearly indicates any areas that require improvement. It's important to emphasize that this is constructive feedback, not a complaint.

  • Lists any sources you used to write your critique: It lists any sources in the style specified in the criticism criteria.

Different uses of critiques

There are three main classes of critiques: academic critiques, reviews of published work, and critiques on completed manuscripts or works-in-progress prior to publication. In all these instances, the structure of your review might be similar, but you can always consider your target audience. Here's some more information about these types of critiques:

Academic critique

When you write a critique for a composition course or in response to a piece of art, some people refer to it as a response paper. If you're evaluating the work of another student, you may refer to this as a peer response. Typically, these forms of evaluations are useful in academic contexts, most notably in English classes or courses.

Reviews of published work

Reviewing an existing corpus of work that's publicly accessible is also a kind of criticism. You may write book reviews for a publisher, newspaper, or for personal enjoyment. College courses like English or literature might also require you to write reviews.

Feedback on completed manuscripts or works-in-progress

These are critiques for the author or producer of a work. When written by an expert in the subject, you may refer to the critique as a peer review. Usually, academic journals use this form of evaluation to decide whether an article is acceptable for publication. Peer reviews provide a more detailed examination of a body of work. Additionally, people perform this type of critique on larger, more valuable works like academic studies but not on magazine articles.

Related: How to Be an Editor (With Steps and FAQs)

Example of a critique

To help you apply the concepts and steps described above, the following is a condensed example of a critique of an academic article:

Hunter Allen researched the influence of anxiety on college students at all levels in the essay "Anxiety among students: Increased anxiety levels among new students." He contended that students in their first year had greater levels of anxiety than those in their later college years. There are earlier reports of this by researchers, so Hunter's paper further validates these. His study of a representative sample of students demonstrates the level of anxiety that newer undergraduate students experience.

Allen used a sample of 50 new and current college students to study the impact of anxiety on students during different years of their studies. He collected several relevant details, including demographic information, previous histories of anxiety and measurements of anxiety at several time points during the study. He discussed the important topic of student mental health and its impact on college-aged individuals.

Allen's study found that newer students experienced significantly more anxiety than students who had been in college for one year or more. Out of the 50 students analyzed, all but two new college students had higher anxiety ratings than those in their later years of college. This shows how starting college has a negative impact on anxiety levels.

While Allen's findings were certainly significant for the 50 students he studied, his sample size was very small, making it difficult to generalize these findings. In addition, the students he analyzed all attended the same college in California, which limits the ability to generalize these findings across all student populations.

Overall, Allen's work contributes to our understanding of the effects of higher education on the mental health of younger individuals. Further research like this is necessary to analyze college students' anxiety levels more thoroughly and effectively demonstrate the impact of starting college on these levels.

Explore more articles