Critical essays are just one form of critical writing at higher education level - but a very common one. Argument is central to critical essays so you need to read this in conjunction with the other sections in Critical writing.
Before going any further - make sure you are familiar with the assessment criteria for all your written work. (Ask tutors or at the school office if you are not sure of where to find these.) Try underlining key features of each marking category so that you have a good sense of what assessors are looking for.
You'll find that it's not just what you say that counts, it's also how you say it. Your essay should be well structured with coherent organisation of ideas and overall fluency of argument. The writing style needs to be formal and as objective as possible.
This is a basic structure for academic essays. Always check with your tutors for subject and school specific advice.
Academic essays need to conform to a basic structure. In the previous pages a comparison was made between writing an argument and going on a journey. A critical essay presents this journey/argument within the particular structure of:
Always consider how to make the reader's journey through your essay as direct and logical as possible. Define key terms and be consistent in your use of language. Signpost key stages in your argument through your use of language (e.g. An important point here is...) and place these signposts where your reader is most likely to notice them (e.g. start of a paragraph).
Sorting out your ideas and evidence and making a fairly detailed plan is central to achieving a well-structured argument.
Make sure you provide details of all your references and draw up a complete bibliography. For help visit the referencing section of S3.
The style you adopt should reflect the reasoned and 'objective' tone of the argument. You are trying to persuade your reader of the validity of what you argue. Check with your tutors about particular issues such as use of 'I' etc. but, in general, aim for formal language that conveys your message as clearly as possible.
While much of your writing in a critical essay will be reasoning your case, you'll also need to include other kinds of writing, such as description and explanation, as necessary (for example, to provide background context, summarise, define terms, explain a problem etc.). These are there to support your argument - don't let them take over!