Critical review – What is it, parts, examples and how to make one

We explain what a critical review is, its characteristics, examples and how to do it. We also tell you what a descriptive review is.

A critical review can propose possible interpretations of a cultural product.

What is a critical review?

A critical review is an expository-argumentative text in which a cultural product (for example, a book, a film, a show, among others) is critically approached, in order to establish its importance, its possible interpretation or even the reviewer’s opinion. For this, the reader is offered arguments, comparisons, examples and even citations to the work or the opinions of third parties.

Individuals tend to go to critical reviews continuously, either in magazines and cultural consumption portals, or informally when an acquaintance is asked for his opinion on a film he has seen. With this, the person seeks not only to learn about the subject and the context of the reviewed work, but also to become familiar with what is said about it, and thus have greater conceptual tools with which to form their own criteria.

In general, critical reviews tend to be longer and more complex than ordinary or merely descriptive reviews, in which the reviewer does not take positions or offer interpretations. For this reason, critical reviews can themselves be pieces to be evaluated, interpreted or even reviewed. In the artistic and cultural world, this type of text usually belongs to the genre of criticism, that is, to texts that theorize or study artistic objects.

See also: Literary Review

Characteristics of a critical review

Broadly speaking, a critical review has the following characteristics:

  • It is a type of argumentative text, in which descriptions or information are also offered, given that it may be of interest both to people already familiar with what is reviewed and to those who are approaching the object for the first time.
  • Use arguments, opinions, examples, comparisons, quotes from third parties, digressions and numerous stylistic or literary devices to best express your point of view.
  • Its mission is to shed new light on the reviewed object, either through a formal, subjective or professional assessment, or through a broader reading that provides the reader with tools to form their own criteria.
  • It is usually longer than merely descriptive reviews, since it requires space to express the arguments convincingly.

It generally consists of a lax structure, little differentiated and without chapters or headings, which responds to the tastes of the reviewer and the profile of the publication in which it appears. A review typically consists of the following:

  • Header. Where the title of the review, the name of the reviewer and often the technical or superficial data of the reviewed object appear.
  • Introduction. A first part in which the reviewed object is presented and described, so that the reader has the basic data necessary to understand what is being discussed.
  • Developing. A second part in which the arguments, positions and interpretations of the reviewer are presented, extended and made more complex, offering the reader a deeper and more sustained vision of the reviewed object.
  • Closing. A last part, often optional, in which the writing is rounded off and certain conclusions are drawn, or the reader is provided with additional information that has not been covered in the previous parts of the review.

How to make a critical review?

The following scheme details in a simple way the steps to prepare a critical review:

1. Read and annotate

You can’t review something you don’t know, so the first step will always be to read the book, watch the movie or experience whatever the object to be reviewed is. It is advisable to do it more than once, in order to become aware of the details that may have escaped us the first time, or of the subtle themes that are not easy to grasp at first. In fact, this second opportunity can be accompanied by taking notes in a notebook, to write down the ideas that appear at the moment and be able to review and elaborate them later.

2. Document yourself

On very rare occasions we will be the first in history to talk about a specific topic, so it is always a good idea to investigate what has been said about the object to be reviewed, who has said it and how. This will allow us not only to avoid repeating what has already been said by others as if it were our own discovery, but it will also give us information to make our view more complex, to have more to say and, sometimes, it may even completely change what we understood. on the object to review.

3. Organize notes

At this point in the process, we will already have some notes and ideas of our own, some quotes taken from third-party texts and even the object to be reviewed (phrases from the book, speeches from the film, excerpts from the script). The next step will be to review and organize them according to what we want to say, so that we can gradually assemble an exposition, that is, a discursive thread, which will serve as a skeleton or basic pattern for writing our review.

4. Review

Once we know the order of the ideas, the quotes and the comments that we want to make, we must begin to write our review, following the established pattern, but allowing for improvisation and new ideas. Typically, the text is written in the order of its parts:

  • A general introduction about the object to review.
  • An enumeration of the remarkable ideas or features of the object.
  • An in-depth look at the most important or central ideas of the review.
  • The incorporation of examples, quotes or texts that support our central thesis regarding these ideas.
  • A conclusion or a set of them, which offer a totalization of what is exposed and give a meaning to the reviewed object.

Fifth step: review and correct

Like any text, a critical review deserves one or several rereadings and revisions, spelling and style corrections, comparison of citations to verify that they are identical to the original, and everything that can be improved or adjusted in our text. If the review is addressed to an academic journal, it is likely that we should make a minimal bibliography, detailing the texts that we have consulted in the second step. Once all these formal aspects are covered, our review will be ready to be published.

critical review examples

The following are some examples of critical review:

descriptive review

A descriptive review is a generally brief text in which a cultural object (book, film, or of any nature) is addressed in a more superficial and comprehensive way than in the critical review, without offering the reader a greater argument to support what has been said. . Its purpose is usually merely informative, operating as a first approximation to what is reviewed, so that the reader can get a general, quick and brief impression of its main aspects.

Continue with: Reading report

References

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