Chapter 8: Being Critical

8.2 Getting Started on Your Critique

Learning Objectives

  • Compose a concise summary of your article

Before You Begin Critiquing

As with any source you examine, you need to make sure you have a solid grasp on the ideas presented by the author. Before you start analyzing your source, it is helpful to compose a summary to confirm you understand what the source is all about and that you do not leave out any important points. Remember that if your audience does not have a strong understanding of the overall picture of the source, he or she may have difficulty following your critique.

Often what we share verbally when summarizing a source highlights the main points of our impression of the material; we capture all the necessary points, but we do so concisely. For Self-Practice Exercise 8.2, you will need to work with a partner to compose a succinct summary of your article.

Self-Practice Exercise 8.2

H5P: Critique Pre-Writing

For this exercise, you will spend some time ensuring that you really understand the article you intend to work with. It might feel repetitive, but ensuring you have a good handle on the content is critical to writing a good critique.

For this exercise, you will need the article you intend to use for your critique and your pre-writing exercises from chapter 7.

  • Briefly make note of any area you struggle with or have a reaction to. (This will help you later.) Make notes on what you think the main ideas are.
  • Compose a short paragraph summarizing your article (75 to 100 words).

Peer Review

For this exercise, you will work with a partner.

If you aren’t able to work with a classmate, you can also bounce ideas off a friend or family member and get them to help you talk through some of the same question prompts below.

  • Do not refer to your summary for this next part. Verbally summarize your article for your partner in 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Your partner will need to take very brief notes of the verbal summary you give.
  • Switch roles. Take notes for your partner in the space below.

Once you have both summarized verbally and taken notes for each other, show the summary paragraph you wrote in Part A to your partner.

Read the summary paragraph and compare it to the notes you took from the verbal summary.

Prepare feedback based on the following questions.

  • What were the differences between the verbal and written summaries?
  • Did the written summary contain anything unnecessary or miss anything important?
  • Which one was organized more logically?

Share your thoughts verbally with your partner, and be sure to ask questions to clarify your partner’s notes for you, too.

If it’s helpful, you can skip ahead to the document download page to export a version of the document so far and send it over to them.


Reflect on what you learned from working with your partner. Are there discrepancies in or issues with your summary? Revise your summary so you will have a composed paragraph you can insert into your critique later.

Now, let’s establish a working thesis for this essay. Remember, your thesis isn’t set in stone — we just need something we can work with for now. Consider the sample thesis above:

  • In Smith’s (2009) article, he effectively argues his case for the reinstatement of capital punishment in Canada.

This suggests you thesis should reference the article (Smith), say what it is about (bringing back capital punishment in Canada), and make a judgement about it (“effectively argues his case”).

Can you use that formula to establish a working thesis for this essay?

Later, you will need to decide on one of two formulas to follow when composing your critique. If you choose to use Formula 1, you will need to include an independent summary paragraph, which you have now already completed and may only require a little fine tuning. If you choose Formula 2, you will not include the summary as its own paragraph, but you will need to break it apart when you introduce the points you are going to discuss within the critique.

The following sections will discuss the different critiquing forms and what you can look for when deciding what points you would like to discuss in your critique.


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Writing for Success - 1st Canadian H5P Edition Copyright © 2021 by Tara Horkoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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