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Critical Response Essay: Purpose & Examples

Critical Response Essay: Purpose & Examples
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  • 0:04 The Critical Response Essay
  • 0:40 Summarizing the Text
  • 1:10 Analyzing the Text
  • 1:52 Structuring Your Essay
  • 3:25 Example
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millie van der Westhuizen

Millie is currently working in tertiary education, whilst completing her master's degree in English Studies.

In this lesson, you will learn about the purpose and format of a critical response essay. This is followed by an example of how the structure of such essays work towards achieving their purpose.

The Critical Response Essay

Have you ever read a very in-depth review of a movie or book? If so, you've seen a general example of a critical response essay. So, what sets the critical response essay apart from other kinds of essays? Well, the critical response essay represents an analysis, alongside some commentary, on another author's writing. This may be either factual or fictional writing. In such analyses, technique is considered alongside content in order to interpret the relationship between these two. These essays usually follow a set structure, which we'll be looking at in this lesson.

Summarizing the Text

The first step in writing a critical response essay is to summarize that which you are analyzing. Working through the text, identify the main points and arguments contained in the work. Perhaps try to summarize these main points as you move through the text. When working through a non-fiction text, consider what evidence or support is given for each point. With both nonfiction and fiction, you should also reflect on how the work is structured and how this works towards achieving the text's purpose.

Analyzing the Text

Once you have gone over the text, reflect on whether its purpose was achieved and whether this purpose was meaningful. With nonfiction texts, evaluate the validity and effectiveness of supporting evidence. Also, consider the balance of the writing, in terms of whether more or less information was needed within each section.

Once you have reflected on the content of the writing, take some time to consider the style and structure of the text. Was the information organized in a way that helped or hindered your understanding? Did the structure suit the nature of the text? And, finally, consider whether the language and style of the writing was in any way noteworthy, or specific to the text's purpose.

Structuring Your Essay

Regardless of the topic on which you're writing, all critical responses follow the same format. First off, an introduction is used to establish your main argument regarding the work analyzed. After this, a brief summary of the work is presented so that the reader, who is perhaps not acquainted with the text, will know what the text is about.

Find a way to connect this content-focused section with your analysis by starting off with commentary on the content. In the case of non-fiction texts, this should include a sense of whether sufficient evidence was provided and whether the text achieved its goal.

Follow this paragraph with a comment on the style and structure of the text that you're analyzing. Even when a text makes use of a traditional structure, it is still worthwhile to consider whether there was space for improvement. With fictional texts in particular, a reflection on style will most likely include some thinking around the literary devices employed.

End the body of your essay with sections containing your response to the work. Remember that you should always apply critical thinking in this kind of essay. This means that you should always be able to back up any statement you made.

Your conclusion should bring all of the points you have made together in a manner that supports the main argument of your writing, as set out in the introduction. This helps the reader understand your logic. You might find that, in writing the conclusion, you realize that this logic might be easier to follow if you restructure the order of your body paragraphs. When this is the case, don't hesitate to do so, but remember to check that your linking sentences still make sense.

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