Spring 2016 – ENGL102
• Draft for peer review due Thu Feb 11
• Evaluation draft due Tue Feb 16
For the evaluation paper, you will write a critical analysis. A critical analysis paper
asks the writer to make an argument about a particular essay or group of essays.
The goal is two fold: one, identify and explain the argument that the author is making,
and two, provide your own argument about that argument. One of the key
directions of these assignments is often to avoid/minimize summary – you are
not writing a book report, but evaluating the author’s argument.
These nine articles deal with writing in general. Elbow and Fish discuss the teaching
of writing; Didion, Goldberg and Hood explore pre-writing activities; Orwell and Lutz
look at rhetorical situations; and Baron and Shipley & Schwalbe focus on
applications of writing. For this assignment, choose one of the sets of readings from
above (e.g., Elbow and Fish, or Orwell and Lutz).
Potential points of criticism
Sometimes it can seem intimidating to “criticize” an article; after all, they are
professors and professionals. However, part of this exercise is to expose the fact that
even though these authors are highly qualified, they are still advancing an argument
and providing evidence—their aim is to persuade you that their argument is true, not
to just present facts. Once you recognize that these authors are making arguments,
you can analyze whether or not you find their argument compelling. Following are
some possible questions you could ask to evaluate arguments:
• Theoretical questions – How does the author understand the situation?
What is his/her theoretical background? How would this influence their
view of the situation?
• Definitional questions – Are all the concepts in the text clear? Does the
author define a concept vaguely to allow it to travel across different
situations? If a concept can relate two seemingly different situations, is
the concept meaningful?
• Evidence questions – Does the author’s evidence support his or her
argument? Does s/he have enough specific evidence to prove the more
general point? Does the author underemphasize or ignore evidence that
is contrary to his/her argument? Is the evidence credible? Can you
identify a bias in the evidence?
• Implication/Policy relevance questions – What are the implications of
this argument? Are those implications positive or negative? How has the
author dealt with this issue?
• Other approaches – Is the author’s argument consistent throughout the
text? Or, does the conclusion seem to offer a different argument than
he/she presented in the introduction? Does the author’s background
have important implications for their argument? Do the specific language
choices of the author betray a certain ideology or bias, or frame the
argument in a certain way?
Structuring a Critical Analysis Paper
Most critical analysis papers begin with a short summary of the work and then
dive in to the argument. Since most of these paper assignments are short, it is
important to be concise in all parts of your analysis. Writing an outline (and
following it) is crucial to remain focused on your argument and avoid summary
or irrelevant description. Following is a sample outline for a critical analysis
o Identify the work being criticized
o Present thesis, the argument about the work
o Preview your argument — what are the steps you will take to support
• Short summary of the work
o Does not need to be comprehensive — present only what the reader
needs to know to understand your argument
• Your argument
o Your argument will likely involve a number of sub-arguments — minitheses
you attempt to prove to support your larger argument’s truth. For
example, if your thesis was that the author’s presumption that the world
will soon face a “clash of civilizations” is flawed because he inadequately
specifies his key concept, civilizations, you might support this by:
§ noting competing definitions of civilizations
§ identifying how the examples do not meet the example of
§ argue that civilization is so broad and non-specific that it is not
o This should be the bulk of the paper.
o Reflect on how you have supported your argument. Point of the
importance of your argument. Note potential avenues for additional
research or analysis.
You should write no less than 4 pages (approx. 1,000-1,200 words), double-spaced,
standard 12-point font, with 1” margins. Make sure you include your name on your
first page. Use a standard citation/documentation style (use the standard style in
your discipline, or default is MLA).
Your work will receive feedback on argumentation (originality, depth of critical
thought), organization, evidence, and grammar/mechanics. Save your paper in
.doc(x) or .rtf format following this file naming convention: lastnamefirstname_evaluation
(e.g., my paper would be beach-david_evaluation.docx).
To submit your paper, follow these instructions:
• Click on the assignment name in Coursework
• Scroll down to Attach File
• Click on Browse My Computer
• Select your file (be sure the file name follows the above convention)
• Click Open in the file window
• Click Submit
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