many also carry nationally syndicated columns H u m a n i t i e s

many also carry nationally syndicated columns H u m a n i t i e s

Attached Files:

Worksheet for Your Critique

What Is Critical Thinking, and Why is it Important?

It’s now time to look at the element that most distinguishes ENG 102 essays: critical thinking. You may be wondering just what it is, and why it ranks so high on the list. First of all, let’s look at what it’s not. It is not merely being critical, or looking at everything that’s wrong with a piece of writing or an idea. Instead, it involves, “analysis, thoughtfulness, complex thinking;” it means contributing your own meaningful point of view to the continuing debate. Critical thinking involves looking at an issue, thinking about it, throwing ideas around, thinking about who is impacted by it, thinking about how we feel and recognizing our own prejudices, considering all possible solutions, and drawing some meaningful conclusions.

As we move into the second half of ENG 102, we will deal more specifically with the process of critical thinking through the writing of a persuasive (or argument) essay. The process involves asking probing questions about an issue and even examining the thinking process itself. As writers, this means weighing your concerns about an issue against the consequences that your analysis and solutions will have on those affected. Furthermore, it means that if you carefully evaluate and present your material, your readers are more likely to approach it with a degree of mutual respect. They may not accept every argument you promote, but most reasonable and intellectually curious individuals are willing to give other points of view some consideration if those perspectives are thoughtfully and logically presented. This is the process and integration of critical thinking.

Right now, you may be thinking of critical thinking as something that must be demonstrated in your essays, but in reality, it should be in your mind a central part of why you’re in college. One of the most important functions of a college education is to help students become better thinkers and thus, better learners. The learning process never ends; at all ages, the most successful people are those who regard the world as endlessly fascinating , full of ideas to explore and things to learn. In our world of rapidly changing technology, we must keep flexible, active minds. To do that, we must exercise them, just as exercising and stretching our bodies will keep them flexible. Our minds will continue to be tested as new developments in our chosen fields ask us to evaluate our approaches to old problems, or to create new ones. Study after study shows that critical thinking skills will be needed more and more.

Preparing to Write a Critique

One of the best ways to sharpen your critical thinking skills is to examine the arguments of another person and then take a look at your own position on the issue being discussed. You may think you know how you feel about an issue, but putting those feelings into words on paper may be more of a challenge than you may anticipate. It may take some effort to make your position clear. You may even surprise yourself when you find out how strongly you really feel about something you may not have given much thought to previously. The essay that you will write as a result of this examination, called a critique, may also consider the writing style of the author, as well as that author’s biases and success in forming his or her own argument.

Before you write anything, however, you may be wondering what a finished critique looks like. One is included here.

Please read the following editorial, followed by a critique of this editorial.

” by Silas House, published in the Louisville, Kentucky Courier Journal.

Now that you have read a finished critique, it’s time to prepare to write your own. Before you begin, however, you must choose an appropriate piece of writing to critique or a persuasive lecture, say, from to critique.

**IMPORTANT: You should pick an essay or editorial with a definite point of view on the same subject that you intend to write your final paper about.

NOTE: You should not choose something purely informational, such as a front page news story, because a straight news article would not have a thesis with which you could agree or disagree.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Please think about the concept of “audience” as you search for your editorial. In other words, who do you imagine to be the assumed reader or viewer? How can you tell this?

Here are some likely places to find a persuasive piece of writing:

  • Look on the editorial page or section of the newspaper or columns or essays in magazines that are clearly opinion pieces and not just informational. Every newspaper has an editorial page, and many also carry nationally syndicated columns.
  • General interest news or sports magazines also publish pieces labeled as essays or opinion. These generally are regular features and include the author’s name and photograph. Some examples are the “My Turn” essays in Newsweek.
  • You may also subscribe to a special interest publication that might feature an opinion piece on an issue of interest to its readership.
  • You may also find opinion pieces on the website. Do a search for Persuasive Lectures.
  • Finally, be sure you find well regarded newspapers or magazines, and not just any available internet site, because the internet is so open, anyone can post anything, legitimate or not, so it’s important that you know who’s behind the posting.


  • You will find an editorial from a newspaper that is nationally known and well regarded, and read it carefully in preparation for writing a critique.
  • This editorial must be connected to the topic you are researching for your final paper, the topic that was approved in your proposal.
  • Newspaper editorials can be found by searching through the WVU databases. One excellent place to search is LexisNexis. Another is Ebsco’s newspaper source. Finally, another excellent place to search is to google the title of the newspaper, the topic you want to search, and add the word OPINION or EDITORIAL. If you are a fan of TED lectures, you may be able to find a persuasive lecture on about your topic.
  • You may wish to go right to the home page of major newspapers or magazines and use the newspaper’s search function. (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Dominion Post, Columbus Dispatch, Chicago Sun-Times, Time, San Jose Mercury News, etc.)
  • Your editorial should be approved by your instructor BEFORE you go ahead with this assignment.
  • Please email a link to the editorial to your instructor before completing the worksheet. Your instructor will approve the editorial.
  • Do not use letters to the editor. Do not use blogs. Do not use webpages.
  • Do get your editorial or lecture approved prior to writing the critique worksheet.

After you have found your article or TED lecture, send your instructor a link to it.

The next step is to read your article carefully, noting the author’s purpose and positions, noting the assumed “audience” for this piece of writing, and thinking about your reactions to assertions made by the author. You want to be sure you fully understand what the writer of the article is saying before you begin to critique it. Don’t hesitate to print it out, mark it, underline parts of it and scribble your comments on a sheet of paper.

For this week’s assignment, you will complete the worksheet that is attached, or copy and paste the questions below. You can save this as a word document called the Critique Worksheet. (Hint: next week, you will write a more formal paper about this editorial, which is one of the Major Projects for this course).

If you have carefully read the essay you have chosen, you should have no trouble deciding what the essay’s main and supporting points are. Completing the worksheet will provide you with a ready-made organization for writing an article critique for next week.

To avoid wasting your time, be sure you have the editorial or lecture you want to critique approved before you begin the worksheet.

After you complete the prewriting steps, you should have a clear idea of what you want to say in your critique.


Before you begin, try thinking about writing a critique like this: in essence, you’re a “reviewer” of the editorial itself, evaluating the success and the strategies of someone else’s argumentative essay.

So, how do you approach this assignment? Begin by writing down the title of the essay or media selection, and the author, and the date of publication. Provide a link to the article or lecture.

Then, complete the following work sheet (you can copy and paste this into a Word Document):

1. Read the essay once (or view the lecture) and then immediately turn over the paper, so that you’re not looking at it.

2. Then ask yourself some of the following questions and try to do a bit of prewriting.

  1. Did the essay “work” for you? Were you persuaded, moved, or touched by the writer’s words? In other words, did the author / speaker achieve his or her purpose—or fulfill his or her thesis—in writing this essay? (This is similar to your reaction at the end of a movie: either you liked it, or you didn’t, or your response fell somewhere in between.)

Initial Impressions:

  1. Now, jot down what you liked about the essay. In your mind, what “worked” for you? What was effective? Did some of the imagery catch your attention? Did some of the examples really stand out and persuade you to see what the writer was discussing? Do you remember the sections in the article where you were “in favor of” or liking the essay? (Remember, your personal opinion about the topic isn’t what matters so much here. Your job is to see if the writer fulfilled his or her goal. You can see a bad movie, with a plot that is so predictable that it bores you to ears, but the actors might have done a great job in portraying their roles. You make that kind of distinction here. What did the writer DO WELL in this essay? This is just like your instructor may point out what you have done well or the strengths supporting claims in YOUR writing.)




C. After that, ask yourself what you didn’t like about the essay. What stuck out in your mind? Were there claims that were not properly substantiated or supported to your satisfaction? Were there overgeneralizations? What sections were weak in your eyes? Does the argument hold up if it rests on a shaky foundation?




D. Now, still without looking at the essay, ask yourself if there were any areas that were “uncovered” or not mentioned that should have been addressed in the essay. What are these points?

  1. It is now time to take another look at that essay. In fact, you may want to read it again. Come up with your own conclusion about how effectively the editorial is written: this, then, will be your thesis statement, the framework for the rest of your essay.


Author’s Thesis:

Your Thesis (about how effectively the article has been written):

  1. After that, gather your evidence. By using your prewriting, be specific about the instances you are examining in term of strengths and weaknesses. Jot down exact lines from the essay to support your points. Be sure to provide proper explanations to show your reasoning: this is critical in demonstrating the critical thinking aspect of writing.

Take this opportunity to write down some details about what you liked about the essay. How does the author/ speaker support his or her claims. Discuss the evidence presented, and discuss the type of rhetorical appeal made by the author/ speaker. Cite exact lines, and then explain why you liked these sections.


Explanation (Reason You Liked This Material): Remember: it’s not about whether or not you agree with the author’s position. It’s about how successfully the author makes his or her argument)

2. Quotation:

Reason You Liked This Material: (Remember: it’s not about whether or not you agree with the author’s position. It’s about how well the author makes his or her argument)

3. Quotation:

Reason You Liked This Material: (Remember: it’s not about whether or not you agree with the author’s position. It’s about how well the author makes his argument)

What didn’t “work” for you in the essay or areas left uncovered:


Reason You Didn’t Like This Material: (Remember: it’s not about whether or not you agree with the author’s position. It’s about how well the author makes his argument)

Areas Left Uncovered



This will allow you to begin to examine the article critically, and to explain the relative success or failure of this article to be convincing. What were the rhetorical strategies the author used (Logic? Emotion? Ethics?)

Where did this article succeed and why did it succeed? Where did it fail, and why?

You will write your formal critique next week.

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