Invention: Writing the Critique

To critique a piece of writing is to do the following:

     1) describe:   give the reader a sense of the writer's
                    overall purpose and meaning

     2) analyze:    show how it is put together by dividing it
                    into its main sections or aspects

     3) interpret:  define the significance (meaning and
                    importance) of each part

     4) assess:     make a judgement of the work's worth or value

     Here are two structures for critiques, one for non-fiction
and one for literature.

The Critique Shape for Non-Fiction

Introduction --name of author and work --general overview of subject and summary of author's argument --focusing (or thesis) sentence indicating how you will divide the whole work for discussion or the particular elements you will discuss Body --objective description of a major point in the work --detailed analysis of the logic and relationships --interpretation of the concept --repetition of description, analysis, interpretation if more than one major concept is covered Conclusion --overall interpretation --relationship of particular interpretations to subject as a whole --critical assessment of the value, worth, or meaning of the work, both negative and positive

The Critique Shape for Literature

Introduction --name of author and work --brief summary / description of work as a Whole --focusing sentence indicating what element you plan to examine --general indication of overall significance of work Body --literal description of the first major element or portion of the work --detailed analysis --interpretation --literal description of second major element --detailed analysis --interpretation (including, if necessary, the relationship to the first major point) --and so on Conclusion --overall interpretation of the elements studied --relationship to the work as a whole --critical assessment of the value, worth, meaning, or significance of the work, both positive and negative
You may not be asked in every critique to assess a work, only to analyze and interpret it. If you are asked for a personal response, remember that your assessment should not be the expression of an unsupported or irrelevant personal opinion. Your interpretations and your conclusions must be based on evidence from the text and follow from the ideas you have dealt with in the paper. Remember also that a critique may express a positive as well as a negative assessment. Don't confuse critique with criticize in the popular sense of the word, "to point out faults."
Back to on-line resource file
Back to RWC home

Last updated Monday, 22-February-99 02:09:00 EDT.
All pages Copyright © 1998 Hunter College Reading/Writing Center.
Please contact WebMaster with any questions or comments.