Writing Mini-Lessons: Critical Review, A Beginner’s Guide
- Choose a book or short piece to review. Reviewers write about every kind of written work, including novels, how-to guides, news articles, biographies, poetry, children’s books, and more.
- Take notes while reading. Start with the title, the author, the publisher, and the publication date.
- If it is informational text, list the contents.
- If it is fiction, describe the main characters and the plot.
Look for multiple short passages that you can quote in the review as a way of illustrating the writer’s style and simultaneously providing evidence for what you have to say.
- Form an opinion. Is the work exceptional, good, bad, appalling, mixed?
- Draft the review. Reviews often contain these parts:
- Introduction: Engage the reader creatively. Include a few opening sentences that announce the author(s) and the title, and briefly explain the topic of the text. This is the place where the genre of the piece may be noted. Present the aim of the text and summarize the main finding or key argument. Conclude the introduction with a brief statement of your evaluation of the text. This can be a positive or negative evaluation or a mixed response.
- Description of Contents/Summary: Present a summary of the key points along with examples. You can also briefly explain the author’s purpose/intentions throughout the text and you may briefly describe how the text is organized. In a review of fiction, the setting, character development, and basic storyline should be included, as well as any statement of the theme and/or mood of the piece. The summary should only make up about a third of the critical review.
- Critique: The critique should be a balanced discussion and evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, and notable features of the text. Remember to base your discussion on specific criteria. Good reviews also include other sources to support your evaluation (remember to reference) and excerpts and quotes from the text.
- Comparison and/or Writing Style: Tell how the piece is like or different from other similar works by the same author or other authors. Note the writing style of the author and evaluate its effectiveness.
- Conclusion: This is usually a very short paragraph. Restate your overall opinion of the text. Briefly present recommendations, possibly including the “type” of person most likely to enjoy the piece. If necessary, some further qualification or explanation of your judgment can be included. This can help your critique sound fair and reasonable.
- Share the review with a trial reader. Ask for suggestions that would make the review clearer or more interesting.
- Make any necessary revisions. Revise for clarity of your message; for order of sentences, ideas, quotes, or paragraphs; and for strong word choice and effective figurative language.
- Edit for correct conventions.