Helpful hints for Writing a Critical
See page discussing MLA Format (i.e. using proper header, etc. )
See page listing more specific hints for the Research Paper
First and foremost, remember that this is a Critical response paper,
NOT a Personal response paper.
You must maintain an academic perspective throughout your paper. You
are presenting an argument and supporting it with evidence from the text
or other sources. Therefore, AVOID the following types of statements:
"It seems to me," "I think," "I believe," and "It is obvious that." In
fact, avoid using the first person (and second person, for that matter)
It must contain a strong thesis statement in a strong introductory
Be sure your first paragraph is an overview of the contents of your
essay. It's almost like an outline for your reader that is written in complete
sentences. Sometimes it's helpful to go back and refocus your first paragraph
after you've finished your essay.
The body of the essay should be filled with information related to your
Your thesis sentence should present a point that you will prove.
Do NOT make announcements ("This paper will compare Coleridge and Shelley
in terms of their use of nature") or ask questions (Who is the real villain
of Frankenstein? Let's find out.").
You also need to make sure you introduce both the author and work to
be analyzed as early as possible.
Be sure to use quotation marks for titles of shorter works, such as
poems and short stories, and italics for titles of longer works, such as
plays, epic poems and novels.
Avoid using references to the dictionary (Webster's defines love as
. . . ").
Each paragraph has a topic sentence and a concluding sentence.
You should use evidence within your paragraphs which further explains what
your topic sentence introduced. Don't forget to clearly express your
own opinions. Avoid repeating yourself.
Use past tense to discuss historical or biographical events, but present
tense when discussing literature.
Avoid plot summary! Use quotes from only those sections of the
text immediately relevant to your discussion!
Each time your read a text, the events "occur" all over again. Therefore,
as you describe these events, always use present verb tense: "Victor
creates a creature out of dead body parts." "The other mariners appear
to come back to life after they have been dead for a while."
Evidence is needed in your paper.
Be sure to "back up" all your points with either examples from the
text, citations from the text or your outside resources.
Using proper MLA format, include parenthetical citations with proper
punctuation and a Works Cited page.
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are critical to your reader.
Be careful when quoting verse--Use slashes to show line breaks and cite
by line (or act.scene.line for plays).
Introduce and explain all quotes. This means you should avoid
beginning or ending a paragraph with a quote and you should never place
quotes back to back without discussion in between them.
Also, avoid using quotes as the subjects of sentences!
"xxxxxx" means that . . . [awkward]
When he says, "x x x x x," he means . . . . [also pretty awkward]
Avoid plagiarism !! See Policy
DO NOT USE A COVER PAGE !!
Good grammar will make your ideas clearer to your reader.
Proofread your paper. Check for spelling errors. USE SPELL-CHECK !
Don't use "in which" when you mean "that."
Don't use "that" when you mean "who" (i.e. when referring to people)
Use Punctuation to show Possession: "Shelley's book" not "Shelley
Do not use run-on sentences. Again, it's better to make shorter clearer
sentences than long confusing ones.
Commas are often needed when you do write a longer sentence (but don't
Try to use smooth transitions between one paragraph and the next.
A strong conclusion leaves your reader fulfilled and your paper complete.
Briefly sum up your thesis. Perhaps your final thesis has a little
more content than the thesis in your introductory paragraph because the
reader now knows where you are coming from.
Don't be afraid to make your final paragraph REALLY COUNT in some way.
Again, it gives the reader something to remember you by.