What Is a Critical Essay?

The Critical Essay
Addressing the Academic Community

This is it: the moment you have been building toward since the beginning of the semester; you are now going to address the larger academic communitycollege professors and studentsto present your analysis of your semester-long controversial story.

The critical essay is the standard genre of essay used in the academic community; it is the basis of most term papers. To understand the standards and practices and purposes of this genre, we have used the previous writing assignments to get to know the standards and practices and values of the community that uses the genre to share ideas and to present those ideas persuasively.

What Is a Critical Essay?

A critical essay presents an argument grounded in extended study and analysis of a subject. It marshals evidence, analyzes that evidence, and reasons through the evidence to arrive at specific conclusionsinsightsthat extend the audiences understanding of a shared subject.

In a critical essay, a member of the academic community brings his or her expertise on a subject to bear, to deliberate carefully the evidence on a subject, framing that evidence in terms that define its significance to the reading community and helping the community to arrive at a new understanding of that subject.

Your Purpose

In this essay, you will present to your readers, college professors and students, your critical insight into the subject of your controversial story. Your audience is motivated to read your essay because, as academic readers, they value critical thinking and writing as a way to understand contemporary issues and solve contemporary problems.

Essay Prompt

In an essay, share with professors and students your insights into your controversial story. Your essay should draw on the reading, thinking, and writing you have done since the beginning of the semester, to present the specific and concrete evidence you have discovered and to draw from that evidence some new insight into the issue at the heart of this controversial story. Your goal is to help the academic community understand this controversial story in some new and vital way.

Building on What You Know to Help Your Audience Know

You are writing this essay for an academic audience: a group of scholars and readers who seek information that can ground critical thinking as they deliberate the important issues of their times.

By now you have figured out that you will have to put to work everything you have studied so far in this class. You understand the standards of academic writing: these standards have been established through our text, our class discussions, your workshops, your own writing, and your own reading practice.

You also understand your controversial storyyou have followed that story, reading and writing to develop your own expertise and understanding. Now you are going to share that understanding with the larger academic community. You will present the best evidence and information you have, documenting that evidence using MLA as the standard format for documentation.

You may synthesize parts of earlier essays to re-examine your ideas so that they work together now in a coherent and unified accounting of your subject. You do not need to cite your own essays, yet you do need to cite the original sources of your information, including your personal interview(s). Yes, there is a citation format for personal interviews!

Required format: (1500+ words), double-spaced, 12-point font, 2017-MLA formatting and citation.

You may look at these student essay samples (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. to get a better idea of how to write your critical essay.

Due Dates:

thesis statement and works cited page (work-in-progress) due Sunday, April 23, 2017 before 11:59 PM–this is part of Week 11 Discussions forum;
the first/rough draft, Wednesday, April 26, 2107 before 11:59 PM (for peer-review workshop and part of Week 12 Discussions forum);
peer-reviewed completed handout, Saturday, April 29, 2017 before 11:59 PM;
the final draft, Sunday, April 30, 2017 before 11:59 PM (Canvas and Turnitin only)
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