Critical analysis refers to the skill required to evaluate an author’s work. Students are frequently asked to critically analyse a particular journal. The analysis is designed to enhance the reader’s understanding of the thesis and content of the article, and crucially is subjective, because a piece of critical analysis writing is a way for the writer to express their opinions, analysis, and evaluation of the article in question. In essence, the article needs to be broken down into parts, each one analysed separately and then brought together as one piece of critical analysis of the whole.
Key point: you need to be aware that when you are analysing an article your goal is to ensure that your readers understand the main points of the paper with ease. This means demonstrating critical thinking skills, judgement, and evaluation to illustrate how you came to your conclusions and opinions on the work. This might sound simple, and it can be, if you follow our guide to critically analyse an article:
- Before you start your essay, you should read through the paper at least three times.
- The first time ensures you understand, the second allows you to examine the structure of the work and the third enables you to pick out the key points and focus of the thesis statement given by the author (if there is one of course!). During these reads and re-reads you can set down bullet points which will eventually frame your outline and draft for the final work.
- Look for the purpose of the article – is the writer trying to inform through facts and research, are they trying to persuade through logical argument, or are they simply trying to entertain and create an emotional response. Examine your own responses to the article and this will guide to the purpose.
- When you start writing your analysis, avoid phrases such as “I think/believe”, “In my opinion”. The analysis is of the paper, not your views and perspectives.
- Ensure you have clearly indicated the subject of the article so that is evident to the reader.
- Look for both strengths and weaknesses in the work – and always support your assertions with credible, viable sources that are clearly referenced at the end of your work.
- Be open-minded and objective, rely on facts and evidence as you pull your work together.
Structure for Critical Analysis of an Article
Remember, your essay should be in three mains sections: the introduction, the main body, and a conclusion.
Your introduction should commence by indicating the title of the work being analysed, including author and date of publication. This should be followed by an indication of the main themes in the thesis statement. Once you have provided the information about the author’s paper, you should then develop your thesis statement which sets out what you intend to achieve or prove with your critical analysis of the article.
Key point: your introduction should be short, succinct and draw your readers in. Keep it simple and concise but interesting enough to encourage further reading.
Overview of the paper
This is an important section to include when writing a critical analysis of an article because it answers the four “w’s”, of what, why, who, when and also the how. This section should include a brief overview of the key ideas in the article, along with the structure, style and dominant point of view expressed. For example,
“The focus of this article is… based on work undertaken… The main thrust of the thesis is that… which is the foundation for an argument which suggests. The conclusion from the authors is that…. However, it can be argued that…
Once you have given the overview and outline, you can then move onto the more detailed analysis.
For each point you make about the article, you should contain this in a separate paragraph. Introduce the point you wish to make, regarding what you see as a strength or weakness of the work, provide evidence for your perspective from reliable and credible sources, and indicate how the authors have achieved, or not their goal in relation to the points made. For each point, you should identify whether the paper is objective, informative, persuasive, and sufficiently unbiased. In addition, identify whether the target audience for the work has been correctly addressed, the survey instruments used are appropriate and the results are presented in a clear and concise way.
If the authors have used tables, figures or graphs do they back up the conclusions made? If not, why not? Again, back up your statements with reliable hard evidence and credible sources, fully referenced at the end of your work.
In the same way that an introduction opens up the analysis to readers, the conclusion should close it. Clearly, concisely and without the addition of any new information not included in the body paragraph.
Key points for a strong conclusion include restating your thesis statement, paraphrased, with a summary of the evidence for the accuracy of your views, combined with identification of how the article could have been improved – in other words, asking the reader to take action.
Key phrases for Critical Analysis of an article
- This article has value because it…
- There is a clear bias within this article based on the focus on…
- It appears that the assumptions made do not correlate with the information presented…
- Aspects of the work suggest that…
- The proposal is therefore that…
- The evidence presented supports the view that…
- The evidence presented however overlooks…
- Whilst the author’s view is generally accurate, it can also be indicated that…
- Closer examination suggests there is an omission in relation to