How to Write a Cogent Critical Essay
A critical essay, like a comparative essay, is about exercising your judgement in order to evaluate something. The most important rule is not let your biases interfere with your critique. This is easier said than done. Your choice of topic itself reflects your preference or bias for it, yet the idea is to justify your opinions with facts and present views opposed to yours as well.
For instance if you are critiquing American environmental policy in the period 1980-1995, it isn’t just enough for you just to state your thesis, such as “not enough attention was paid to important issues”. You would first have to get well-acquainted with the subject i.e. read up on various experts’ view on the issue, both for and against you opinion and incorporate them in your essay. You could acknowledge some merits in the argument provide by those who are opposed to your thesis while adding additional information to strengthen your point of view in the critical essays, like tackling the oft-quoted argument that environmental protection is no good if it ends up costing jobs and lowering efficiency for companies or that global warming is overrated.
You must also come up with an original perspective based on data that is available. For example, if you consider the number of (and severity of) environmental laws that were passed in European countries and Canada during this time, it would place your thesis in a global context. Mention notable initiatives taken by corporations and other governments. Highlighting alternatives always enhances the quality of your essay.
Organize your essay well. For instance in the above sample essay topic you could state your thesis, experts’ view and then deal with the impact of each administration in 1980-1995 on American environmental policy.
Like an informative essay, this type of essay also realizes heavily on data, but it requires more insight. Your professor already know what various critics think about the issue, he/she wants to know what you think and how convincingly you can put that across without letting your prejudices interfere. This is what makes a critical essay such an integral part of developing the student’s thought process. You cannot win over someone else with your argument if they sense that it stems from some belief that has no rational justification. It’s like those movie critiques that you lose interest in if the writer’s praise seems fawning or the vitriolic censure seems personally motivated.
Hence, in the process of examining an object critically, you examine your own thought process and world view as well, examining each opinion to ensure that it has some credible and factual foundation.
Also, remember to cite the sources of any data or opinion that you use. Getting “inspired” from other people’s opinions is acceptable but quoting them without attribution is not. Such essays are particularly graded on their citations, so choose the most reliable and relevant ones.
In the conclusion, restate your thesis within the context that you have placed it in and summarize the supporting and opposing mentioned in the critical essay with special emphasis on the former.