Steps for Writing Critiques
(from Behrens and Rosen’s Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, 12th Edition)
1. Introduce. Introduce both the passage under analysis and the author. State the author’s main argument and the point(s) you intend to make about it. Provide background information to help readers understand the relevance of the passage. This background information may include one or more of the following:
* an explanation of why the subject is of current interest
* a reference to a possible controversy surrounding the subject of the passage or the passage itself
* biographical information about the author
* an account of the circumstances under which the ...view middle of the document...
Remind the reader of the weakness and strengths of the passage.
1. Clearly Defined Terms. The validity of an argument depends to some degree on how carefully an author has defined key terms. Take the assertion, for example that Americans must be grounded in “family values.” Just what do people who use this term mean by it? The validity of the argument depends on whether the author and readers agree on a definition of “family values” – as well as what it means to be “grounded in” family values. So, the success of the argument—its ability to persuade—hinges on the definition of the term. Thus, in responding to an argument, be sure you and the author are clear on what exactly is being argued. Unless you are, no informed response is possible.
Also, note that in addition to their denotative meaning (literal meaning), many words have a connotative meaning (suggestive, associative, or emotional meaning). For instance, the denotative meaning of “home” is simply a shelter where one lives. But the connotative meaning—with its associations of family, belonging, refuge, safefy, and familiarity—adds a significant emotional component to this literal meaning.
2. Fair Use of Information. Information is used as evidence (proof) in support of arguments. When you encounter such evidence, ask yourself two questions: (1) “Is the...