How to Write a College Critical Thinking Essay

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Critical thinking essays help college students develop analytical abilities while crafting a sound argument. Unlike review and narrative essays, critical thinking essays require students to add their own thoughts, contemplate the meaning and value of a particular text and analyze significant issues. Professors generally grade these essays based on writing skill and the capability to develop a coherent, thoughtful argument.

Choose your topic. Many college professors require students to write critical responses to literature, opinion chunks and essays. If your essay is a response to something you’ve read, cautiously read the lump at least twice, and outline its main points. Then select a specific argument or idea to analyze in your paper. If you’re permitted to pick your topic, choose an issue that you can boil down to a few basic arguments. Select a single argument or philosophy that you can exhaustively analyze in a brief essay. For example, you might argue that Shakespeare’s influence can be seen in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

Develop a thesis. Your thesis is your central argument, and your entire paper should be based upon your thesis. A strong thesis gives specific information about the topic you’re addressing as well as your primary arguments. Give your primary reasons for your arguments and, if you are responding to a text, a brief statement of the author’s arguments. For example, you might argue, “Kant argues that ethics are based on a categorical imperative, but this categorical imperative does not provide guidance for all ethical dilemmas.” This statement provides a succinct summation of the argument and hints at the direction the paper will take.

Outline your paper by focusing on arguments that support your thesis. Draw on evidence if you are required to do research. If your paper is merely analytical, you’ll need to provide logical arguments in favor of your point or analysis of the point to which you are responding. If you’re comparing a work of literature to another work, attempt listing similarities and differences in your outline. Stay away from tangential points and emotional ploys. Stick to the most compelling evidence and arguments that support your thesis.

Draft the assets of your paper. If you’re responding to a text, summarize the main arguments in the very first few paragraphs. If you’re developing an argument of your own, outline your ideas in the very first paragraph or two. Devote each subsequent paragraph to a distinct argument or lump of evidence in favor of your point. Anticipate protestations. Outline the criticisms another person might have of your argument, and explain why these criticisms don’t apply.

Add a concluding paragraph that summarizes your arguments. Your conclusion should recommend any future research or point to any unresolved issues. For example, you might state: “Kant’s categorical imperative could not anticipate the ethical dilemmas of today, but a slight tweak to his argument can help it remain relevant.” This conclusion outlines a potential direction for future research and scholarly work and reminds the reader of your central argument.


  • Cite your sources using the citation style required by your professor. You’ll have to cite any information from outside sources you used on a works cited page, and you may be required to use in-text or parenthetical citations.


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