In English literature, a critical thinking essay is a bit different. In other subject areas, critical writing could be about analyzing, evaluating and providing your perspectives concerning existing works. But in literature, the critical essay is specifically about analyzing how an author tackles particular themes.
Still, most literature students falter because they lean too much towards summarizing the writing they’ve been given to use as a source.
Others choose to load their critical writing with definitions and explanations of how the source used literary devices.
All these are symptomatic of a poor critical thinking paper. So, in this post, we’ll see the two aspects that novice critical essay writers overlook in their writing.
We’ll then go over the tips that would help your article to avoid being too descriptive or lack the depth of critical analysis required in literature.
In literature, what’s a critical thinking essay?
What does a story say? How does it say it? These are some of the questions you could consider when analyzing a text critically.
Remember, literature works are usually a display of advanced language use. Thus, your writing would also come under close scrutiny because it indicates how well you can use English to express yourself.
A critical thinking essay on literature is also a show of your creativity. Let’s say you’re analyzing Edgar Allan Poe’s short story: “The Cask of Amontillado.” Your essay’s topic, for one, should clearly indicate what themes you’d be addressing. It should be captivating. And creative, like in these critical thinking essay samples.
In literature, the critical thinking essay should also be limited to a particular aspect of the text under analysis. Let’s go back to Poe’s short story, for example.
If you’re evaluating how Poe used irony in his piece, then you would declare what part of the story you’re looking at to expose the use of irony. In this case, a right approach would be to say that you’re analyzing how irony was used to develop the theme of salvation.
Analyzing vs. summarizing
Dictionary.com defines “analyze” as:
To examine critically, so as to bring out the essential elements or give the essence of
And “summarize” as:
To make a summary of; state or express in a concise form
Very well, the definitions are self-explanatory. But, how can you write a critical essay on a piece of text without discussing the actions or parts of the plot then? You may ask.
Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely include some aspects of summarization in your essay. But you should do it in a manner that doesn’t hurt the general flow of your writing.
One way to do that is by using quotes from the source. But in a way that leaves your sentences grammatically correct, yet still incorporating your analyses into the writing.
Also, check out our article about critical thinking essays ideas!
Planning your essay on critical thinking
As I’d mentioned before, novice writers overlook two critical phases when writing their articles: the planning and the writing.
The planning part, especially, receives little attention because it seems boring. “I’d already read the text meant for analysis, I should thus start writing.” They say. Yet in only five steps, the planning phase could make all the difference. Let’s see how:
Make sure you thoroughly understand the instructions. In most cases, you’ll be given the guidelines you should use for your writing. Follow them to the letter. Or ask where you don’t understand.
Revise the literary devices. Think imagery, personification, allusion, etc. You need to know what these are. They’re what you’ll look out for in your source text.
Take a bit of time to refresh your memory of their usage. It’ll go a long way in making the analysis easier.
Choose a source that interests you. If your professor allows it, selecting the work to critique will give you a significant advantage. Critical thinking essay topics are like research questions—the more familiar you are with one, the better your chances of producing excellent analyses.
Read, then re-read the source text. I can’t emphasize this enough: read the text your critical thinking paper is based on several times.
That way, you’ll internalize all the intricacies of the plot. See, reading a piece over and over will make you start forming new opinions. Some that will make your critical essay stand out.
Pick a theme that interests you. As with choosing the source, selecting the critical thinking essay topics gives you an advantage too. If that’s difficult for you, ask an essay helper how it’s done.
You’ll discover that the broad themes will give you the opportunity to exercise your critical thinking skills. That’s because they have many critical thinking essay samples written on them. And that’s a good reference point for your own writing.
Writing the critical literature essay
You should know this by now: your essay should have three main parts, the intro, body, and conclusion.
Although it’s standard practice to write the three sections sequentially, try starting with the body.
Yes, you’d still need to have outlined your thoughts first and come up with the thesis statement first. But if you start writing with the body straightway, you’ll find the flow comes more quickly. And it will be simpler to write the remaining parts too.
Ask your favorite essay helper—that’s how she manages to churn excellent articles after good pieces.
The format guidelines: Always, always stick to the provided formatting requirements. In language courses, MLA is the standard format. Double-space your lines and use the Times New Roman font (12 points), among others.
The audience: When writing a critical thinking essay, always assume that your audience is familiar with the source text you’re analyzing. That way, you’ll save yourself from endless summarizing in favor of assessing the source critically.
The order of analysis: Since you’re tackling a theme in your evaluation, don’t bother picking the plot apart chronologically. Just stick to the sub-themes you’ve settled on to dictate the order in your writing.
Your opinion of the author: Your critical essay shouldn’t be a review of the author’s writing skills. You’re focusing on particular themes—remember? Tell your audience what you think of the usage of literary devices. Mention their effectiveness. But don’t get personal. Don’t attack the author.
Get students beyond summary with these open-ended interpretive and evaluative questions that lead to beginning an essay.
Questions cover the basics of studying literature (narrative point-of-view, symbolism, character development, irony, theme, setting, cultural commentary, etc.).
Also included are pages to copy down significant quotes and passages from a text, then students also use this packet to begin developing a working thesis statement.
This can be used for independent learners or as a guide to classroom discussion.
See my other products that offer more tools for studying literature and writing the analytical essay.
Close Reading a Novel: Thinking critically to begin writing an analytical essay by Charles Adam Coe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.