Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (2023)

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To be a proficient student and a desirable candidate for a career of your choice—whatever that ends up being—you need to have solid writing skills and employ more than a few writing strategies.

One specific form of writing is critical writing. Critical writing is used in academia to a large degree—so you can’t avoid it if you want to be successful in college—but higher education isn’t the only field where you may employ the strategies for writing a critical text.

To be put into the category of critical writing, a piece of work needs to possess certain characteristics and be created for a specific purpose. Here, you’ll find out what critical writing is and get a glimpse at some examples of the form. You will also see what skills you need to practice to be a solid creator of critical pieces yourself.

What Is Critical Writing?

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Critical writing can be defined by its purpose, which is to comment on another piece of work by using various writing strategies. You can comment on a written or any other work, like an art or entertainment piece. That’s not where that purpose ends, though.

When you’re writing a critical text, you also want to arrive at an original conclusion on the topic or work you’re critiquing. For that opinion to be valid, you need to explain how you formed it and back up your statements with references. That said, research will play a huge part in your writing process.

Another characteristic of critical writing is to make complicated topics easy to understand for an average reader. When they read your essay, they should understand the topic without having to look it up further.

Since a critical text is your work, your aim is also to convince the reader to side with your views. Your views are subjective, but you have to be careful about how you use that subjectivity. It’s why backing your opinions with real-life examples and existing research is vital.

There are many forms of writing—like creative, persuasive, and argumentative—but in college, you will need to discern the difference between descriptive and critical writing.

Critical vs. Descriptive Writing

Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (3)Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (4)

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You have probably done assignments on descriptive writing since your first days at a school desk. Think essay topics like First Days of Fall in My Neighborhood or I Love My Best Friend Because, My Favorite Month of the Year, and so on. You had to use many adjectives and bring a person, a place, or an emotion to life in your essay. This is typical of descriptive writing.

Critical writing requires you to use a much more analytical approach to the topic of your assignment and as little description as possible.

Here’s a table to help you differentiate between the two forms of writing, which are both widely used in education:

Critical WritingDescriptive Writing
  • Analyzes events
  • Predicts future situations
  • Explains facts and evidence
  • Comments on what happened
  • Describes events
  • Reports situations
  • States facts and evidence
  • Records what happened

When you are writing a critical analysis piece, you are allowed some description. In fact, you should be as original and daring with your language as possible. That said, you must be careful not to be too wordy. Never include unnecessary points in your essay only because you need to reach the required word count. Recognizing the difference between fluff and creativity is a type of writing skill you’ll need to perfect if you want to write a successful critical analysis.

Where Is Critical Writing Used?

Writing a critical analysis is a fundamental practice in:

  • Academic writing. If you don’t end up writing critical texts for a living, you will likely do most of your critical writing in college. One of the most important values of higher education is to teach students to think for themselves. For these reasons, critical reading, thinking, and writing are an integral part of most college assignments
  • Journalism. Many forms of expression in journalism—like reports, articles, or commentary—are written with an analytical approach, which is a key aspect of critical writing. Critical writing in journalism is also termed interpretative journalism because the authors interpret events, people, and phenomena. They study them through extensive research and provide original conclusions and predictions
  • Media criticism. Anyone can comment on forms of art and entertainment today. Think film enthusiasts who write movie reviews on their blogs. That’s a form of critical writing. You also have professionals in various fields, like art, film, or music. They write critical pieces on the topics within their expertise, and their opinions are valued highly. When reading a review from anyone, whether it be an amateur or expert, you should still think critically and not take their word as gospel

Core Critical Writing Skills To Sharpen Constantly

Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (5)Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (6)

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The skills you need to develop to be proficient in critical writing are many and more. The good news is that a large portion of them fall under the broad category of soft skills that you need to possess.

Without further ado, here are the essential skills you have to use when writing a critical analysis:

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Critical reading
  3. Organizing your writing
  4. Self-evaluation
  5. Language proficiency skills
  6. Time management
  7. Citing sources

Question Everything You Read

Your first job as a critical writer is to examine the topic of your assignment with a critical mindset. Not only should you evaluate what you’re writing about but also question your resources. In other situations, the work you’re evaluating will be the only thing you need to review in your critical writing.

Whatever it is, you must be careful not to take anything you read at face value. Developing critical thinking skills is crucial for any aspect of life, not just while you’re in college and need to write an assignment.

Here’s how critical and noncritical thinking differ:

Noncritical ThinkingCritical Thinking
  • Accepting facts and statements without checking their validity
  • Allowing your personal biases to affect your conclusion on a topic or phenomenon
  • Letting emotions cloud your judgment and influence your viewpoints
  • Questioning whether what you are reading is credible
  • Recognizing and seeing past your individual beliefs for the sake of being objective
  • Using logic to form an opinion or arrive at a conclusion

Analyze Texts All the Time

Sharpening your critical thinking skills and improving your critical reading skills go hand in hand. If your goal is to improve how you write a critical analysis, you should make reading the material that falls under that genre a routine.

Find the material that is within your area of study and read as much as possible. In the process of writing itself, you will have to do a lot of research and refer to the work you’re critiquing constantly. To get better, you shouldn’t take up critical reading only when your school assignments require you to.

While you’re working on your critical reading skills, you should:

  • Skim and scan your material
  • Annotate what you’re reading
  • Determine if the source is relevant by checking who wrote it, when, and why
  • Evaluate the statements within the text by comparing it with other works

Don’t Write Before You Outline

Outlining your essay is important for any serious writing, but when it comes to critical analysis, it’s especially necessary to have a plan before you start crafting your sentences. If you want to write a solid critical piece, you should organize your ideas and determine where in the text you’ll put all your opinions and commentary.

Your outline should include the following information:

  • Title of your essay
  • The topic of each body paragraph
  • Sources you plan to cite and where in the text you’ll cite them
  • The main point you wish to make
  • The predictions on how the situation you’re writing about may develop in the upcoming period
  • Suggestions for further research

Know How To Improve

Besides reading other people’s critical work, you should also make it a habit to reread your own. Self-improvement cannot be achieved without self-reflection, which is why you need to open yourself up to acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. While this may sound like a self-help quote, in writing, nothing aids progress as much as learning from your mistakes.

Another trick is to find people who can give you feedback on your work. You must learn to appreciate constructive criticism if you want to improve. If you’re doing critical writing for college, your mentors will assess your work. Don’t neglect to go over every comment they give you. Besides your professors, see if you can find other people who will go over your writing.

Pay Attention to How You Use Language

You cannot create above-average written content if you don’t have control over your use of language. This refers to everything connected to language—from your vocabulary range to your sentence constructions. You should also employ different writing strategies to make your work affect your readers the way you want it to.

All the skills we mentioned will improve with practice. To improve in the long run, incorporate the conscious practice of each mentioned skill. For example, you can devote a practice to analyzing texts with a critical mindset one day. The other day, you can read the material with the mind to acquire new vocabulary.

Organize Your Time

Organization and time management skills are key to any effective writing, and critical analysis is no exception. Usually, if you’re writing a critical text, it will be a longer piece, which means you can’t put it off until the clock is ticking dangerously close to the deadline.

Being diligent with your assignments and with your practice to hone your critical writing abilities is a skill you can improve on if it’s not already your forte.

Bullet journaling is a fun way to organize your time and tasks. You enter your weekly or monthly goals and responsibilities into a notebook and track your progress. This practice will help you stay motivated to stick to your set goals.

Learn How To Cite Your Sources

You can’t write a critical paper if you don’t reference your sources in it, especially if you’re writing for college. When you’re not sure how to quote passages, include footnotes in your text, or add the list of references at the end of it correctly, you can lose much time on that technical aspect.

As with any other skill, doing it as often as possible will result in getting more efficient with citing your sources. You can start by getting familiar with the rules and norms of a specific citation style you need to use. It’s better than referring to it constantly while writing your assignment. Purdue Online Writing Lab is a popular student resource for learning citation norms.

Critical Writing Examples

If you’re a beginner at critical writing, you should first get familiar with the form by checking out how others have done it.

Here are some free resources where you can find examples of critical writing:

  1. Essaypro
  2. Australian College of Applied Psychology
  3. Your Dictionary
  4. Academic Help

Strategies To Employ in Your Critical Writing

Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (7)Critical Writing Definition and Strategies | UnifyHighSchool (8)

Credit: Jingda Chen

Besides the skills mentioned—that you should work on to write a better critical analysis—some strategies go into every good critical piece. You should get familiar with these strategies, employ them in your work, and learn to adapt them to your style.

Some of the most prominent strategies used in critical writing are:

  1. Thorough research
  2. Persuasive language
  3. Confident presentation of arguments
  4. Comparison of sources

Do Your Research Well

Doing research is the essence of and the first step in working on a critical writing assignment. The nature of your piece is such that you can’t write it without referring to both the work you’re critiquing and the additional sources you used.

Be careful not to do research only because you need a list of references in your paper. The more thorough you are with your research, the stronger your argument will sound—which is the purpose.

Learn To Use Persuasive Techniques in Writing

Skillful critical writers use persuasion covertly in their work to argue their point and influence the reader’s opinion on the subject they’re commenting on.

Even when the point isn’t to make your audience believe your argument, you will want to convince them to read your piece to the end. Also, when readers digest a solid critical piece, they may not necessarily agree with the final evaluation, but they should realize the validity of it, i.e., how you came to the conclusion you made and why you’re arguing your point.

Present Your Arguments With Confidence

What will influence your readers to buy what you’re saying is the tone of your writing. You can learn to write confidently by employing other strategies listed, like doing in-depth research on your topic.

How you use language, what phrases you put into your writing, and how you structure your sentences will also determine whether your paper sounds confident or not. This means that the skills and strategies of critical writing overlap, and working on one also means working on another.

Contrast and Compare

When you show your research in your writing, you have to think about how it affects your audience. For example, if you only state the facts you learned or quote your sources, you will not convince your reader you have indeed engaged with the subject material. What will make them believe your argument is seeing how you compare and contrast the different arguments in your paper.

How Would You Define Critical Writing and Its Importance?

You can benefit from improving your critical writing abilities to a great extent. It makes you a better conversationalist, a skilled judge of the world, and a more confident individual. It also makes you unafraid to express your voice in any sphere or situation in your life.

Considering the benefits of knowing how to think and write critically—and the importance of reading and writing skills in general—you’d think your high school education would put more focus on developing those skills. Usually, students are only introduced to the norms of critical reading and writing when they go to college, and they have a hard time closing the gap between their abilities and their workload.

It’s time American education was reformed to include the effective teaching of these fundamental skills in the mainstream curriculum.

If you have ideas on how you would bring the much-needed innovations in schools or you want to offer your definition of critical writing and tips on how to master it, write to us. We’ll be thrilled to hear your opinion and make room for your words on our blog!


What is critical writing and its strategies? ›

Critical writing is writing which analyses and evaluates information, usually from multiple sources, in order to develop an argument. A mistake many beginning writers make is to assume that everything they read is true and that they should agree with it, since it has been published in an academic text or journal.

What is the definition of critical writing? ›

Critical writing is an involvement in an academic debate. It requires 'a refusal to accept the conclusions of other writers without evaluating the arguments and evidence they provide' (University of Leicester.

What are the 4 types of critical writing? ›

The kinds of instructions for critical writing include: 'critique', 'debate', 'disagree' and 'evaluate'.

What are the key features of critical writing? ›

a balanced presentation of reasons why the conclusions of other writers may be accepted or may need to be treated with caution; a clear presentation of your own evidence and argument, leading to your conclusion; and. a recognition of the limitations in your own evidence, argument, and conclusion.

What is purpose of critical writing? ›

Critical writing is writing which analyses and evaluates information, usually from multiple sources, in order to develop an argument. A mistake many beginning writers make is to assume that everything they read is true and that they should agree with it, since it has been published in an academic text or journal.

What are the 7 strategies of writing? ›

Elaboration: 7 Writing Strategies
  • Describe a Place in Detail. ...
  • Use Specific Words to Paint Pictures. ...
  • Show How Something Feels, Smells, Tastes, Sounds or Looks. ...
  • Compare Two Different Things Through Simile or Metaphor. ...
  • Use the Exact Thoughts or Words from a Person. ...
  • Describe How Someone or Something Moves.

What are the four C's of strong writing? ›

To help me accomplish that task, I distilled the writing advice I've read and received over the years into the four Cs—clear, concise, correct, and compelling.

What are the benefits of critical writing? ›

Your critical reading of a text and thinking about a text enables you to use it to make your own arguments. As a critical thinker and writer, you make judgments and interpretations of the ideas, arguments, and claims of others presented in the texts you read.

What is the difference between descriptive and critical writing? ›

To summarise, when you are writing critically you are persuading the reader of your position on something whereas when you are writing descriptively you are just informing them of something you have read, observed or done.

What is critical writing called? ›

Most academic writing includes both descriptive and critical (also called analytical) writing. Descriptive writing simply describes and explains. In contrast, critical/analytical writing: analyses how things work together, or how things are linked, or how things are similar and/or different.

What is critical and example? ›

critical adjective (NOT PLEASED)

B2. saying that someone or something is bad or wrong: a critical report. The report is highly critical of safety standards at the factory. More examples.

What are the 3 basic writing techniques? ›

As explained in the USC Rossier infographic, “There are three writing capacities: writing to persuade, writing to explain, and writing to convey real or imagined experiences.” These three types of writing are usually called argument, informative, and narrative writing.

What are 3 writing strategies? ›

The 5 most popular and successful prewriting strategies are:
  • Brainstorming.
  • Clustering, or mind-mapping.
  • Freewriting.
  • Outlining.
  • Looping.
Dec 9, 2022

How do you engage in critical writing? ›

  1. Offer an overview of the critic's argument. ...
  2. Focus on a specific claim. ...
  3. Craft your response: build on/extend or diverge from/challenge. ...
  4. Present your own critical perspective: state the significance.

What is the first step in critical writing? ›

Prewriting – Deciding what to write about (the topic) and gathering information to support or explain what you want to say about your subject, and planning how to organize your ideas in a way that effectively develops the topic.

How do you start a critical paragraph? ›

Topic Sentence Begin each paragraph with the main idea/ topic sentence. This tells the reader what the paragraph will be about. Expand Make sure your reader understands the main idea by explaining or giving a definition of any abstract or problematic terms.

What are the 3 C's of critical thinking? ›

3C Thinking stands for critical, creative and collaborative thinking. Described simply, 3C Thinking is about helping students determine what to do with the knowledge they have at their fingertips, the things they observe around them, and the ideas they hear from others.

What are the 3 main critical thinking techniques? ›

Critical-thinking skills connect and organize ideas. Three types distinguish them: analysis, inference, and evaluation.

What are the 4 key critical thinking skills? ›

The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance. Let's explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they're so important to the critical thinking process.

What are the six principles of good writing? ›

The Six Traits of Writing are rooted in more than 50 years of research. This research reveals that all “good” writing has six key ingredients—ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

What are the 4 pillars of content writing? ›

We're going to talk about the four pillars of content writing at Beacon Digital: the client, the research, the experts, and, of course, the writing.

What are the challenges in critical writing? ›

The results indicate four main problems the participants' encountered in relation to critical thinking realization in their essay writing which include clarity of ideas presented, lack of critical analysis, lack of critical evaluation, and lack of precision.

What is the final step in critical writing? ›


Presenting ideas orally or in writing is crucial and is often the distinguishing feature between good results and average ones.

How do you write a good critical review? ›

The critique should be a balanced discussion and evaluation of the strengths, weakness and notable features of the text. Remember to base your discussion on specific criteria. Good reviews also include other sources to support your evaluation (remember to reference). You can choose how to sequence your critique.

What are the 3 main strategies in critical reading? ›

Top 5 critical reading techniques
  • Survey – Know what you're looking for! Before you crack open your book, take a few minutes to read the preface and introduction, and browse through the table of contents and the index. ...
  • Ask questions. ...
  • Read actively. ...
  • Respond to your own questions. ...
  • Record key concepts.
Apr 2, 2013

What are the 7 strategies in critical reading? ›

Critical Reading Strategies*
  • Annotating. One of the first strategies to begin with is annotating a text. ...
  • Contextualizing. ...
  • Reflecting on challenges to your beliefs and values. ...
  • Paraphrasing. ...
  • Outlining. ...
  • Summarizing. ...
  • Exploring the figurative language. ...
  • Looking for patterns of opposition.

What are the 5 writing strategies? ›

We often call these prewriting strategies “brainstorming techniques.” Five useful strategies are listing, clustering, freewriting, looping, and asking the six journalists' questions. These strategies help you with both your invention and organization of ideas, and they can aid you in developing topics for your writing.

What is critical strategy? ›

Critical thinking strategies allow us to objectively evaluate information and make informed decisions based on logic and reason. The critical thinking process is essential for success in many areas, from business to academia to parenting.

What are the 3 steps in writing a critical paper? ›

  • Characteristics of a Critical Essay.
  • Step 1: Organizing your Thoughts (Brainstorming)
  • Step 2: Researching your Topic.
  • Step 3: Developing a Thesis Statement.
  • Summer. Winter.
  • Smoking.
  • Claim.
  • Supporting Details.

What is the most useful critical reading strategies? ›

Outlining and summarizing are especially helpful strategies for understanding the content and structure of a reading selection. Whereas outlining reveals the basic structure of the text, summarizing synopsizes a selection's main argument in brief.

What are the five techniques in critical thinking? ›

5 characteristics of critical thinking
  • Open-mindedness.
  • Respecting evidence and reasoning.
  • Being able to consider different perspectives and points of view: in other words, having cognitive flexibility.
  • Not being stuck in one position.
  • Skepticism.
  • Clarity and precision.
Mar 14, 2022

What are the most common writing strategies? ›

11 Writing Strategies for Authors
  • Establish a routine. Giving yourself a set amount of time to write each day or a schedule of writing tasks will help get you writing in a more effective, consistent way. ...
  • Give yourself a question to answer. ...
  • Write fast. ...
  • Outline. ...
  • Go for a walk. ...
  • Freewrite. ...
  • Take notes. ...
  • Break it down.
Aug 17, 2021

What are the 4 writing strategies? ›

There are four different types of writing techniques in business:
  • Descriptive writing style. Descriptive writing immerses the reader into a story by creating a vivid picture of characters, settings and events in their mind. ...
  • Narrative writing style. ...
  • Persuasive writing style. ...
  • Expository writing style.
5 days ago


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