If you have been doing the exercises and following through the process I’ve outlined in this chapter then you should be well on your way in the process of writing an effective critique. As you work on the writing assignment for this chapter, put to work your new knowledge of the process of critiquing.
Critique a selection of writing you have found in your research as part of the ongoing research project. The main goal of this critique is to provide a detailed review of the particular selection of writing that will help your audience learn about your position on the writing selection and also to help your audience decide for themselves whether or not the writing selection is something they might be interested in reading.
Questions to consider as you write your first draft
- If you are asked to choose your own text to critique, did you spend some time carefully considering possibilities? Why did you select the text that you did? Why did you rule out others?
- As part of your close reading, did you write both about and “in” the text that you are critiquing? What sort of marginal notes did you make? What are some of the key phrases or ideas that seemed important to you as you read that you underlined or noted with post-it notes in the margins? What kinds of questions about your reading did you write down as you read?
- How did you explain the main points of the text you closely read? What do you see as the main points of the text?
- Did you use a dictionary to look up words that you didn’t understand and couldn’t understand in context? Did you look up any complex or abstract terms? Did the dictionary definition of those terms help further your understanding of the word and the context where they occurred? Did you look up any terms that you saw as particularly important in different dictionaries? Did you learn anything from the different definitions?
- When you finished your close reading, what was your opinion of the text you closely read? Beyond a simple “good” or “bad” take on the reading, what are some of the reasons for your initial opinion about your reading?
- What criteria seem most appropriate for the text you are critiquing? Why? What would be an example of a criteria that would probably be inappropriate for this text? Did you consider some of the criteria that are similar to the tests for evidence I suggest in chapter one?
- Have you explained for the reader somewhere in the first part of the essay what your main point is? In other words, do you introduce the criteria you will be using to critique your text early on in your essay?
- Have you noted key quotes and passages that would serve as evidence in order to support your criteria? What passages are you considering quoting instead of parphrasing? Are there other reasons you are turning to as support for your criteria?
- Have you written a summary of your text? How familiar do you think your audience is with whatever it is you are critiquing? How has that effected your summary?
Review and Revision
Considering the recommendations of classmates in a peer review group and of other readers is especially important for this project. After all, if the goal of a critique essay is to give readers an idea about what it is you think of a particular reading, their direct feedback can help ensure that you are actually accomplishing these goals.
Here are some questions you and your classmates want to consider as you revise your critique essays (of course, you and your teachers might have other ideas and questions to ask in review too!):
- Do your readers understand (generally speaking) the text that you are critiquing? Of course, how much your readers understand the essay you are critiquing will depend on how familiar they are with it, and as the writer of the critique, you will probably know and understand the text better than your readers. But do they understand enough about the text to make heads or tails of the critique?
- Is there too much summary and not enough critique? That is, do the comments you are receiving from your readers suggest that they do fully understand the article you are critiquing, but they are not clear on the point you are trying to make with your critique? Have you considered where you are including summary information in different parts of your essay?
- Do your readers understand the main point you are trying to make in your criteria? Have you provided some information and explanation about your criteria in the beginning part of your essay?
- Do your readers seem to agree with you that your criteria are appropriate for whatever it is you are critiquing? Do they have suggestions that might help clarify your criteria? Do your readers have suggestions about different or additional criteria?
- Are you quoting and paraphrasing the text you are critiquing effectively? Are there places where your readers have indicated they need more information from the critiqued text? Are there places where your readers think you might be relying too heavily on quotes or paraphrases from the critiqued text and wish they could read more about your opinion?
- As your readers understand the article you are critiquing and the points you are making about it, do you think you have created any interest in your readers in actually reading the article themselves?