Critiques

When college professors ask you to write a critique of a text, they usually expect you to analyze and evaluate, not just summarize. A summary merely reports what the text said; that is, it answers only the question, “What did the author say?” A critique, on the other hand, analyzes, interprets, and evaluates the text, answering the questions how? why? and how well? A critique does not necessarily have to criticize the piece in a negative sense. Your reaction to the text may be largely positive, negative, or a combination of the two. It is important to explain why you respond to the text in a certain way.

Step 1. Analyze the text
As you read the book or article you plan to critique, the following questions will help you analyze the text:

You may find it useful to make notes about the text based on these questions as you read.

Step 2. Evaluate the text
After you have read the text, you can begin to evaluate the author’s ideas. The following questions provide some ideas to help you evaluate the text:

Step 3. Plan and write your critique

Write your critique in standard essay form. It is generally best not to follow the author’s organization when organizing your analysis, since this approach lends itself to summary rather than analysis. Begin with an introduction that defines the subject of your critique and your point of view. Defend your point of view by raising specific issues or aspects of
the argument. Conclude your critique by summarizing your argument and re-emphasizing your opinion.

Source of information: Rosen, Leonard J. and Laurence Behrens, eds. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook. 1994.

Developed by The Center for Communication Practices at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.