How to write a critical writing essay

Many students often are perplexed on how to write a critical writing essay. A critical writing essay is a common assignment in middle school and high school. There are four main steps to writing this paper: pre-writing, brainstorming, rough draft, and final copy.


First, students should find 3 articles on the topic they are going to write about and read them all carefully…

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Next, it’s time to come up with other ideas unrelated to the article that you just read. This will help make your argument stronger by adding more detail to support it…

Rough Draft:

Finally, it’s time to put together a rough draft. Make sure you include details from both articles in your paper. For example: “Dolphins are very intelligent because… (summary from article 1) and …(summary from article 2), which shows that…”.

When writing a paper, it is important to have strong transitions. Instead of just saying: “This shows that dolphins are smart”, show the transition in this way: “…showing how dolphins use their flippers to help them see underwater, also showing their high intelligence”. This gives your reader a better understanding of what you’re trying to say.

Look over all the steps before you start writing your paper to make sure you do not forget anything!

The outline below will give you an idea on how to organize your thoughts when writing your critical essay…

Title Page (with name and teacher’s name/date due)

Purpose of Paper:  Why am I writing this paper…

Goal Statement: What am I trying to prove with my essay…

Introduction – Begin with a question that relates directly to the topic, such as “Can dolphins be taught how to speak?” or “What is intelligence in dolphins?” and then explain what you are going to write about. This should include the main idea of your paper.

Pre-writing (Click here for more details)

Brainstorming/Outlining:  After reading a few articles on your assigned topic, it’s time for some pre-writing. Start by brainstorming 100+ ideas related to your topic. This will help get your creative juices flowing before you begin writing. Then, quickly outline and organize your thoughts.

Final Copy – Writing the final copy of your essay is the most important part because it will either get you an A or F. Write your paper in 3-4 paragraphs, each with its own topic sentence and a body containing at least 4 sentences that back up your topic sentence using details from all of the articles you read (citing them at least once per paragraph). Also include a strong concluding statement that leaves readers wanting to know more about this subject.

Issues with Critical Essays:   When writing a critical paper, it’s easy to stray off topic or become too descriptive. Make sure to stay on task by reading over what you write after every few sentences before moving on! If you find yourself getting off track, go back and work on it some more. It’s better to take your time than rush through it.  

Another problem is not including enough details from the articles you read. Make sure to include a lot of direct quotes or paraphrasing when describing things dolphins do because this will really bring your essay together! Also make sure that you are using words correctly by looking up any vocabulary words you don’t know before writing them in your paper (at least one per paragraph). If too many sentences use incorrect vocabulary, it will distract readers and hurt your grade.

Finally, make sure to proofread at least 3 times before handing in your final copy…the first two for grammar mistakes/typos, the last to make sure you included everything.

POST-WRITING STEPS: Correcting Grammar and Spelling Mistakes, Citing Sources, Editing for Style and finally, Proofreading…

Adding Details:   After writing a draft of the paper, it’s easy to forget details that are important. Here is a list of things I include in my critical writing essay to make it longer…


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