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Critical Analysis

A critical analysis involves analysis and judgment. Like a film review, that both deconstructs a film and tells us whether we should see it.

Literary Criticism: Handout
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What is Critical Analysis?

Critical analysis is a type of analysis. An important distinction between a typical analysis and a critical analysis is that critical analysis requires you to take a stance on the thing you're analyzing—you present an argument, backed by the analysis you’ve done, to judge (or recommend, or critique) the work.

Diagram for critical analysis: cartoon thumbs up and down next to the word "critique", underneath is a plus sign leading to the word "analysis", with a diagram for analysis underneath with a cartoon cookie with arrows leading out to different ingredients, such as flour, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and flour.

    For example, if you're analyzing a film's theme, you might examine certain scenes and snippets of dialogue to explain how they further the film's message.

    A critical analysis goes one step further—you'll also makes a judgement about that them, about whether it's "good" or "ethical," "well-developed" or "effective." You might say something about the impact it should have or whether audiences should see the film or skip it.

    Key point:

    • Analysis = Examine a "thing" to understand how it functions.
    • Critical Analysis = Examine a thing to understand how it functions and make a judgement about its impact or value.
    So Where Do I Start?

    One common place to start is to examine your subject closely—say, a book, an artwork, or a play—and decide what effect it has on you or on other people who experience it.

    • Does it give you a certain feeling?
    • Does it offer you information?
    • Does it send a message?
    • Does it try to persuade you to do something?
    • Is it moral?
    • Is it unethical?
    • Is it beautiful and well-constructed?
    • Is it worthwhile?
    • What consequence might it have on its peers? On consumers? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    Any one of these questions can help you formulate your critical claim, the thesis you'll ultimately try to argue.

    • Example: "Schindler's List is a good film because it offers a profound and terrifying reminder of the dangers of complacency and racism."

    Reminder: criticism can be subjective, especially when it involves your perception and interpretation. Not everyone agrees with every film critic, and that's okay. A critical analysis gives us a window into how you consume, experience, perceive, and value whatever it is you're analyzing, which then, hopefully, elevates our appreciation and understanding of the thing itself.

    Reminder about Analysis

    Since any critical analysis is an argument, it’s important to explain how and why you got to your conclusions. This is where analysis comes in.

    Analysis is the process of breaking something into its parts and examining them to understand their function. For instance, for the thesis of a critical analysis on a film, you might say, “this film effectively portrayed the boredom of office life with its use of bleak gray colors, droning soundtrack, and dryly funny dialogue.”

    Here, the colors, soundtrack, and dialogue are all parts of the film, and you’re making a claim about the effect they have. In the rest of the paper you’ll describe and explain this effect, using evidence from the film to make your connections. This requires you to clearly explain how and why bleak colors or a droning soundtrack actually do, in fact, portray the boredom of office life. If not, you're simply making claims and hoping your audience trusts you. Without analysis, you have no evidence.


    To recap, critically analyzing something means identifying its value or impact, then breaking down its components to explain how and why those components contribute to value or impact you identified.

    Doing so will allow you to better understand that specific thing, and allow you to contribute meaningfully to the conversation surrounding the thing itself.

    Professional Example:

    Barbie: Critical Analysis

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    Short Review on Analysis

    Analysis Short.mp4

    Longer Dive into Analysis

    Analysis .mp4

    Are you ready to chat with us about critical analysis? Consider these questions to help you in your consultation:

    • Have I clearly identified a “whole”?
    • Have I clearly outlined the “parts” that make up the whole?
    • Have I clearly explained how each part “functions” in connection to the whole? Does my writing clearly show why that part matters, and
    Check out these additional Resources!