Writing the Critical Response
A critique is an analysis of and a commentary on another piece of writing. It
generally focuses on technique as well as on content. A critical response essay (or
interpretive essay or review) has two missions: to summarize a source’s main idea
and to respond to the source’s main ideas with reactions based on your synthesis,
as well as elements of argument and rhetorical analysis.
Your essay should be 1000 words minimum and should contain evidence of thorough
critique. All critical responses include the following basic elements:
• Analysis: Evaluate the evidence: sufficient (enough evidence, examples),
representative (large enough pool/sample), relevant (accurate correlations),
accurate, claims fairly qualified
• Analysis/response: Where did the author succeed? Fall short? What could have
been done to strengthen the argument? What is your reaction to the argument?
The first step to writing is to read actively and thoughtfully, seeking answers to
the following questions as you go:
• What are the main points, ideas, or arguments of the work (book, article,
play essay, etc.)?
• How is the work organized?
• What evidence/support does the author give?
• What is the primary purpose of the work?
Analyzing (interpretation and evaluation)
To help you generate content for your analysis, consider the following questions:
• Does the work achieve its purpose? Fully or only partially?
• Was the purpose worthwhile to begin with? Or was it too limited, trivial,
broad, theoretical, etc.?
• Is any of the evidence weak or insufficient? In what way? Conversely, is the
evidence/support particularly effective or strong?
• Can I supply further explanation to clarify or support any of the main
points, ideas, and arguments?
• Are there sections you don’t understand? Why?
• Was there any area where the author offered too much or too little
• Is the organization of the work an important factor? Does its organization
help me understand it, hinder my understanding, or neither?
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