What is a critique?
A critique is a genre of academic writing that briefly summarises and critically evaluates a work or concept. Critiques can be used to carefully analyse a variety of works such as:
- Creative works – novels, exhibits, film, images, poetry
- Research – monographs, journal articles, systematic reviews, theories
- Media – news reports, feature articles
Like an essay, a critique uses a formal, academic writing style and has a clear structure, that is, an introduction, body and conclusion. However, the body of a critique includes a summary of the work and a detailed evaluation. The purpose of an evaluation is to gauge the usefulness or impact of a work in a particular field.
Why do we write critiques?
Writing a critique on a work helps us to develop:
- A knowledge of the work’s subject area or related works.
- An understanding of the work’s purpose, intended audience, development of argument, structure of evidence or creative style.
- A recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of the work.
How to write a critique
Before you start writing, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the work that will be critiqued.
- Study the work under discussion.
- Make notes on key parts of the work.
- Develop an understanding of the main argument or purpose being expressed in the work.
- Consider how the work relates to a broader issue or context.
There are a variety of ways to structure a critique. You should always check your unit materials or blackboard site for guidance from your lecturer. The following template, which showcases the main features of a critique, is provided as one example.
Typically, the introduction is short (less than 10% of the word length) and you should:
- Name the work being reviewed as well as the date it was created and the name of the author/creator.
- Describe the main argument or purpose of the work.
- Explain the context in which the work was created. This could include the social or political context, the place of the work in a creative or academic tradition, or the relationship between the work and the creator’s life experience.
- Have a concluding sentence that signposts what your evaluation of the work will be. For instance, it may indicate whether it is a positive, negative, or mixed evaluation.
Briefly summarise the main points and objectively describe how the creator portrays these by using techniques, styles, media, characters or symbols. This summary should not be the focus of the critique and is usually shorter than the critical evaluation.
This section should give a systematic and detailed assessment of the different elements of the work, evaluating how well the creator was able to achieve the purpose through these. For example: you would assess the plot structure, characterisation and setting of a novel; an assessment of a painting would look at composition, brush strokes, colour and light; a critique of a research project would look at subject selection, design of the experiment, analysis of data and conclusions.
A critical evaluation does not simply highlight negative impressions. It should deconstruct the work and identify both strengths and weaknesses. It should examine the work and evaluate its success, in light of its purpose.
Examples of key critical questions that could help your assessment include:
- Who is the creator? Is the work presented objectively or subjectively?
- What are the aims of the work? Were the aims achieved?
- What techniques, styles, media were used in the work? Are they effective in portraying the purpose?
- What assumptions underlie the work? Do they affect its validity?
- What types of evidence or persuasion are used? Has evidence been interpreted fairly?
- How is the work structured? Does it favour a particular interpretation or point of view? Is it effective?
- Does the work enhance understanding of key ideas or theories? Does the work engage (or fail to engage) with key concepts or other works in its discipline?
This evaluation is written in formal academic style and logically presented. Group and order your ideas into paragraphs. Start with the broad impressions first and then move into the details of the technical elements. For shorter critiques, you may discuss the strengths of the works, and then the weaknesses. In longer critiques, you may wish to discuss the positive and negative of each key critical question in individual paragraphs.
To support the evaluation, provide evidence from the work itself, such as a quote or example, and you should also cite evidence from related sources. Explain how this evidence supports your evaluation of the work.
This is usually a very brief paragraph, which includes:
- A statement indicating the overall evaluation of the work
- A summary of the key reasons, identified during the critical evaluation, why this evaluation was formed.
- In some circumstances, recommendations for improvement on the work may be appropriate.
Include all resources cited in your critique. Check with your lecturer/tutor for which referencing style to use.
Checklist for a critique
- Mentioned the name of the work, the date of its creation and the name of the creator?
- Accurately summarised the work being critiqued?
- Mainly focused on the critical evaluation of the work?
- Systematically outlined an evaluation of each element of the work to achieve the overall purpose?
- used evidence, from the work itself as well as other sources, to back and illustrate my assessment of elements of of the work?
- formed an overall evaluation of the work, based on critical reading?
- used a well structured introduction, body and conclusion?
- used correct grammar, spelling and punctuation; clear presentation; and appropriate referencing style?
University of New South Wales - some general criteria for evaluating works
University of Toronto - The book review or article critique
Personal Narrative: Speech Self Critique
- Length: 355 words (1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Personal Narrative: Speech Self Critique
During my demonstration speech, I was affected by my speech anxiety. Some of the viewable symptoms were the shaking of my hands and also the stuttering of speech. I was able to control myself and relax after I started getting into my information. I did use some of the suggested relaxation techniques to relieve my anxiety. Before I got up to speak I thought confident of myself to help give me courage and confidence.
While watching my video I did notice that I was able to understand and clearly know what the main point was. I spoke in a clear and a tone loud enough for everyone to hear. The speech was organized very well, so one idea or thought flowed to the next. I don’t think I need to change anything in regards to my central idea being clear. I was satisfied with that part of the speech.
I happened to notice that I did use verbal pauses during transitions. When I would go from one topic to the next I would use the word “um.” This was very apparent when I was viewing the video of myself. I would like to be able to complete a speech without having to use any verbal pauses. I typically would use these pauses after I got done completing with a particular topic. I would say that this is one of my major problems with giving a speech. Now that I can see exactly how much I use them, I can change that in the future.
I did use some hand gestures in my speech. For the first few minutes I did not use them, but as I moved through my material and got into the actual demonstration some hand gestures were used. I also noticed in the video that I was not always watching the audience. I use to think that I made good eye contact, but after watching the film I really only glanced at the audience. I believe that I could make significant improvement in this part of my speeches. While I was up in front of the class I thought that I was looking out at the audience more then what I actually did.
I was very satisfied with the volume of my speech.
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Personal Narrative Speech Critique Demonstration Transitions Contact Topic Confidence Always Minutes
I spoke clear and everyone in the class could clearly understand what I was saying. I did trip up on a few words, but overall it was very clear and pronounced.
Going into the speech I wanted to leave a very good conclusion. I was very satisfied with my ending; I think I had everyone thinking about juggling after I was done. I could even bet someone went back home and tried to juggle.
It did seem different to see myself performing a speech. I have never had this opportunity before. This gave me a good view of myself from the audiences’ point of view. Now I am able to see how I actually perform and how I can improve for future speeches. This has given me a new look at how my speeches are performed and what I need to improve them for future speeches.