Use These Sentence Starter Tips to Strengthen Your Writing

Matt Ellis

In general, a sentence starter is a quick word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence to help the reader transition, such as the phrase “in general.” Without them, writing can be disorganized, disconnected, and therefore hard to read. But knowing which ones to add—and when —is not always obvious. 

In this article, we discuss sentence starters quite similar to “in this article.” We explain a bit about when and how to use them, and then give specific examples of sentence starters you can use in your writing, divided into categories for quick reference like “topic sentence starters for essays” or “good sentence starters for emphasis.” 

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What is a sentence starter?

Sentence starters are the words or phrases that introduce the rest of the sentence, typically set apart by commas. The words that start a sentence are some of the most important in writing: They introduce what the sentence is about so the reader knows what to expect. 

In longer academic writing texts, sentence starters are essential for unifying the entire work. Because each sentence essentially has its own individual topic, these writings frequently jump from point to point, sometimes abruptly. Sentence starters help ease the process for the reader by smoothing over jarring transitions and preparing the reader for the next topic. 

That principle also applies to paragraphs , which jump from topic to topic. Paragraph starters fulfill that same role, typically providing an organizational signpost via introduction sentence starters to bridge the gap between the previous and current topics. 

Although they’re common in fiction, sentence starters are most useful for nonfiction, in particular essay writing . While fiction unifies the writing through the narrative, nonfiction often incorporates a variety of facts, which sentence starters coalesce for the reader. In other words, if you think nonfiction is dry, imagine if it were merely a list of facts! 

When to use sentence starters

Sentence starters are not necessary for every sentence. In fact, using them too much can distract your reader. Here are some situations where a sentence starter works best: 

  • It’s unclear how one sentence is connected to others.
  • You’re introducing a new idea, such as at the beginning of an essay or of a paragraph
  • You’re presenting a conclusion or summary, for instance at the end of an essay.
  • You want to add emphasis to a particular sentence or point.
  • You want to write a hook to captivate readers.
  • The sentence requires certain context, such as background information.

There’s no hard rule for when to use sentence starters and when to avoid them. If you’re having trouble deciding, try rereading your last few lines and see how they sound. If your sentences flow together nicely, you don’t need sentence starters. If something seems off, jarring, or missing, try adding one to see if it helps. 

Below you’ll find examples of sentence starters relevant to specific contexts.

Topic sentence starters for essays

Topic sentences are like the sentence starters of an entire essay—they introduce what the paragraph or entire text is about so the readers know what to expect. 

  • This paper discusses . . .
  • In this paper . . .
  • Here, we discuss . . .
  • Below, you will find . . .

Conclusion sentence starters for essays

Conclusions and summaries always act a little differently than other sentences and paragraphs because they don’t present new information. When you’re writing a conclusion , remember that sentence starters can cue the reader that you’re about to “wrap things up” so they don’t expect any new points or evidence. 

  • In summary . . .
  • To summarize . . . 
  • Putting it all together . . .
  • In conclusion . . .
  • To wrap things up . . .
  • To review . . .
  • In short . . . 
  • All in all . . .
  • All things considered . . .
  • By and large . . .
  • Overall . . .
  • On the whole . . .

Good sentence starters for sequences or lists

Sentence starters are quite useful for lists of instructions or explaining a series of events. These items aren’t always related in obvious ways, but sentence starters link them together, and in the right order, so that your reader can organize them properly in their head. 

  • First . . ., Second . . ., Third . . ., etc. 
  • Subsequently . . .
  • After that . . .
  • Afterwards . . .
  • Eventually . . . 
  • Later . . .
  • Moving on . . .

Good sentence starters for comparisons

Use sentence starters to show that two things are related or alike. Although the topics may be similar to yours, your reader may not yet understand the connection. 

  • Similarly . . .
  • In the same way . . .
  • Along those lines . . .
  • Likewise . . .
  • Again . . .

Good sentence starters for elaboration or adding new points

For times when one sentence isn’t enough to fully explain your point, adding sentence starters to the subsequent sentences can tie them all together. 

  • Additionally . . .
  • Moreover . . .
  • Furthermore . . .
  • Even more important . . .
  • Just as important . . .

Good sentence starters for introducing examples

Especially for essays, you want to use evidence to support your claims. Sentence starters ease the transition from explaining the big picture to showing those same ideas at work in the real world. 

  • For example . . .
  • For instance . . .
  • To illustrate . . .
  • Specifically . . .
  • We can see this in . . .
  • This is evidenced by . . .
  • Consider the [case/example] of . . .

Good sentence starters for contrasts and abrupt transitions

Sentence starters work best at times when you must change topics abruptly. Without them, the text becomes jarring and scattered, so use them to keep your reader on the right path, especially when contrasting topics. 

  • However . . .
  • Although . . .
  • Otherwise . . .
  • On the other hand . . .
  • On the contrary . . .
  • Nevertheless . . .
  • Then again . . .
  • Conversely . . .
  • Notwithstanding . . .
  • In contrast . . .
  • Despite that . . .
  • Rather . . .
  • Still . . .
  • Instead . . .

Good sentence starters to establish cause and effect

It’s common to use two different sentences to discuss a cause-and-effect relationship, as in something making something else happen. Sentence starters can make this relationship clear and show which sentence is the cause and which is the effect. 

  • As a result . . .
  • Accordingly . . .
  • Consequently . . .
  • Due to . . .
  • For this reason . . .
  • Hence . . .
  • Therefore . . .
  • This means that . . .
  • That is why . . .

Good sentence starters for emphasis

In some situations, sentence starters aren’t necessary, but they help make a point stand out. Save these for the sentences you really want your readers to remember above all else. 

  • Above all . . .
  • As usual . . .
  • Certainly . . .
  • Indeed . . .
  • Undoubtedly . . .
  • Of course . . .
  • Obviously . . .
  • Namely . . .
  • Generally speaking . . .

Good sentence starters for references

If you’re citing an idea other than your own, like in research papers, it saves space to put the attribution in the words to start a sentence. Use these sentence starters before a quote or concept from another work. 

  • According to . . .
  • Based on the findings of . . .
  • As seen by . . .
  • As explained by . . .
  • With regards to . . .

Good sentence starters for historical or generally accepted concepts

Some sentences don’t make sense without context. This could be a popular, mainstream idea that the reader is unaware of, or some historical background that is not common knowledge. In these instances, sentence starters can provide that context without becoming a tangent. 

  • Traditionally . . .
  • Historically . . .
  • Customarily . . .
  • In the past . . .
  • Conventionally . . .
  • Initially . . .
  • Recently . . .
  • Until now . . .

Good sentence starters to show uncertainty or doubt

If you’re writing about facts, your reader will assume everything you write is a fact. In situations where something is unproven or uncertain, it helps to mention that there’s room for doubt so as not to misinform the reader. 

  • Perhaps . . .
  • Although not proven . . .
  • It’s possible that . . .
  • It may be that . . .
  • Arguably . . .
  • While debatable . . .

Ensure your sentences flow

In addition to using strong sentence starters, you want your entire essay to read smoothly and coherently. Grammarly can help. Our writing suggestions flag confusing sentences and provide feedback on how to make your writing clearer, helping you put your best ideas forward.

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33 Critical Analysis Examples

critical analysis examples and definition, explained below

Critical analysis refers to the ability to examine something in detail in preparation to make an evaluation or judgment.

It will involve exploring underlying assumptions, theories, arguments, evidence, logic, biases, contextual factors, and so forth, that could help shed more light on the topic.

In essay writing, a critical analysis essay will involve using a range of analytical skills to explore a topic, such as:

  • Evaluating sources
  • Exploring strengths and weaknesses
  • Exploring pros and cons
  • Questioning and challenging ideas
  • Comparing and contrasting ideas

I’ll explore some practical ways to conduct critical analysis (in essays or otherwise) in this article.


Critical Analysis Examples

1. exploring strengths and weaknesses.

Perhaps the first and most straightforward method of critical analysis is to create a simple strengths-vs-weaknesses comparison.

Most things have both strengths and weaknesses – you could even do this for yourself! What are your strengths? Maybe you’re kind or good at sports or good with children. What are your weaknesses? Maybe you struggle with essay writing or concentration.

If you can analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, then you understand the concept. What might be the strengths and weaknesses of the idea you’re hoping to critically analyze?

Strengths and weaknesses could include:

  • Does it seem highly ethical (strength) or could it be more ethical (weakness)?
  • Is it clearly explained (strength) or complex and lacking logical structure (weakness)?
  • Does it seem balanced (strength) or biased (weakness)?

You may consider using a SWOT analysis for this step. I’ve provided a SWOT analysis guide here .

2. Evaluating Sources

Evaluation of sources refers to looking at whether a source is reliable or unreliable.

This is a fundamental media literacy skill .

Steps involved in evaluating sources include asking questions like:

  • Who is the author and are they trustworthy?
  • Is this written by an expert?
  • Is this sufficiently reviewed by an expert?
  • Is this published in a trustworthy publication?
  • Are the arguments sound or common sense?

For more on this topic, I’d recommend my detailed guide on digital literacy .

3. Identifying Similarities

Identifying similarities encompasses the act of drawing parallels between elements, concepts, or issues.

In critical analysis, it’s common to compare a given article, idea, or theory to another one. In this way, you can identify areas in which they are alike.

Determining similarities can be a challenge, but it’s an intellectual exercise that fosters a greater understanding of the aspects you’re studying. This step often calls for a careful reading and note-taking to highlight matching information, points of view, arguments or even suggested solutions.

Similarities might be found in:

  • The key themes or topics discussed
  • The theories or principles used
  • The demographic the work is written for or about
  • The solutions or recommendations proposed

Remember, the intention of identifying similarities is not to prove one right or wrong. Rather, it sets the foundation for understanding the larger context of your analysis, anchoring your arguments in a broader spectrum of ideas.

Your critical analysis strengthens when you can see the patterns and connections across different works or topics. It fosters a more comprehensive, insightful perspective. And importantly, it is a stepping stone in your analysis journey towards evaluating differences, which is equally imperative and insightful in any analysis.

4. Identifying Differences

Identifying differences involves pinpointing the unique aspects, viewpoints or solutions introduced by the text you’re analyzing. How does it stand out as different from other texts?

To do this, you’ll need to compare this text to another text.

Differences can be revealed in:

  • The potential applications of each idea
  • The time, context, or place in which the elements were conceived or implemented
  • The available evidence each element uses to support its ideas
  • The perspectives of authors
  • The conclusions reached

Identifying differences helps to reveal the multiplicity of perspectives and approaches on a given topic. Doing so provides a more in-depth, nuanced understanding of the field or issue you’re exploring.

This deeper understanding can greatly enhance your overall critique of the text you’re looking at. As such, learning to identify both similarities and differences is an essential skill for effective critical analysis.

My favorite tool for identifying similarities and differences is a Venn Diagram:

venn diagram

To use a venn diagram, title each circle for two different texts. Then, place similarities in the overlapping area of the circles, while unique characteristics (differences) of each text in the non-overlapping parts.

6. Identifying Oversights

Identifying oversights entails pointing out what the author missed, overlooked, or neglected in their work.

Almost every written work, no matter the expertise or meticulousness of the author, contains oversights. These omissions can be absent-minded mistakes or gaps in the argument, stemming from a lack of knowledge, foresight, or attentiveness.

Such gaps can be found in:

  • Missed opportunities to counter or address opposing views
  • Failure to consider certain relevant aspects or perspectives
  • Incomplete or insufficient data that leaves the argument weak
  • Failing to address potential criticism or counter-arguments

By shining a light on these weaknesses, you increase the depth and breadth of your critical analysis. It helps you to estimate the full worth of the text, understand its limitations, and contextualize it within the broader landscape of related work. Ultimately, noticing these oversights helps to make your analysis more balanced and considerate of the full complexity of the topic at hand.

You may notice here that identifying oversights requires you to already have a broad understanding and knowledge of the topic in the first place – so, study up!

7. Fact Checking

Fact-checking refers to the process of meticulously verifying the truth and accuracy of the data, statements, or claims put forward in a text.

Fact-checking serves as the bulwark against misinformation, bias, and unsubstantiated claims. It demands thorough research, resourcefulness, and a keen eye for detail.

Fact-checking goes beyond surface-level assertions:

  • Examining the validity of the data given
  • Cross-referencing information with other reliable sources
  • Scrutinizing references, citations, and sources utilized in the article
  • Distinguishing between opinion and objectively verifiable truths
  • Checking for outdated, biased, or unbalanced information

If you identify factual errors, it’s vital to highlight them when critically analyzing the text. But remember, you could also (after careful scrutiny) also highlight that the text appears to be factually correct – that, too, is critical analysis.

8. Exploring Counterexamples

Exploring counterexamples involves searching and presenting instances or cases which contradict the arguments or conclusions presented in a text.

Counterexamples are an effective way to challenge the generalizations, assumptions or conclusions made in an article or theory. They can reveal weaknesses or oversights in the logic or validity of the author’s perspective.

Considerations in counterexample analysis are:

  • Identifying generalizations made in the text
  • Seeking examples in academic literature or real-world instances that contradict these generalizations
  • Assessing the impact of these counterexamples on the validity of the text’s argument or conclusion

Exploring counterexamples enriches your critical analysis by injecting an extra layer of scrutiny, and even doubt, in the text.

By presenting counterexamples, you not only test the resilience and validity of the text but also open up new avenues of discussion and investigation that can further your understanding of the topic.

See Also: Counterargument Examples

9. Assessing Methodologies

Assessing methodologies entails examining the techniques, tools, or procedures employed by the author to collect, analyze and present their information.

The accuracy and validity of a text’s conclusions often depend on the credibility and appropriateness of the methodologies used.

Aspects to inspect include:

  • The appropriateness of the research method for the research question
  • The adequacy of the sample size
  • The validity and reliability of data collection instruments
  • The application of statistical tests and evaluations
  • The implementation of controls to prevent bias or mitigate its impact

One strategy you could implement here is to consider a range of other methodologies the author could have used. If the author conducted interviews, consider questioning why they didn’t use broad surveys that could have presented more quantitative findings. If they only interviewed people with one perspective, consider questioning why they didn’t interview a wider variety of people, etc.

See Also: A List of Research Methodologies

10. Exploring Alternative Explanations

Exploring alternative explanations refers to the practice of proposing differing or opposing ideas to those put forward in the text.

An underlying assumption in any analysis is that there may be multiple valid perspectives on a single topic. The text you’re analyzing might provide one perspective, but your job is to bring into the light other reasonable explanations or interpretations.

Cultivating alternative explanations often involves:

  • Formulating hypotheses or theories that differ from those presented in the text
  • Referring to other established ideas or models that offer a differing viewpoint
  • Suggesting a new or unique angle to interpret the data or phenomenon discussed in the text

Searching for alternative explanations challenges the authority of a singular narrative or perspective, fostering an environment ripe for intellectual discourse and critical thinking . It nudges you to examine the topic from multiple angles, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the complexity inherent in the field.

A Full List of Critical Analysis Skills

  • Exploring Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Identifying Similarities
  • Identifying Differences
  • Identifying Biases
  • Hypothesis Testing
  • Fact-Checking
  • Exploring Counterexamples
  • Assessing Methodologies
  • Exploring Alternative Explanations
  • Pointing Out Contradictions
  • Challenging the Significance
  • Cause-And-Effect Analysis
  • Assessing Generalizability
  • Highlighting Inconsistencies
  • Reductio ad Absurdum
  • Comparing to Expert Testimony
  • Comparing to Precedent
  • Reframing the Argument
  • Pointing Out Fallacies
  • Questioning the Ethics
  • Clarifying Definitions
  • Challenging Assumptions
  • Exposing Oversimplifications
  • Highlighting Missing Information
  • Demonstrating Irrelevance
  • Assessing Effectiveness
  • Assessing Trustworthiness
  • Recognizing Patterns
  • Differentiating Facts from Opinions
  • Analyzing Perspectives
  • Prioritization
  • Making Predictions
  • Conducting a SWOT Analysis
  • PESTLE Analysis
  • Asking the Five Whys
  • Correlating Data Points
  • Finding Anomalies Or Outliers
  • Comparing to Expert Literature
  • Drawing Inferences
  • Assessing Validity & Reliability

Analysis and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom placed analysis as the third-highest form of thinking on his ladder of cognitive skills called Bloom’s Taxonomy .

This taxonomy starts with the lowest levels of thinking – remembering and understanding. The further we go up the ladder, the more we reach higher-order thinking skills that demonstrate depth of understanding and knowledge, as outlined below:

blooms taxonomy, explained below

Here’s a full outline of the taxonomy in a table format:


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! – I cannot even being to explain how hard it has been to find a simple but in-depth understanding of what ‘Critical Analysis’ is. I have looked at over 10 different pages and went down so many rabbit holes but this is brilliant! I only skimmed through the article but it was already promising, I then went back and read it more in-depth, it just all clicked into place. So thank you again!

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Academic Phrasebank

Academic Phrasebank

Being critical.

  • Being cautious
  • Classifying and listing
  • Compare and contrast
  • Defining terms
  • Describing trends
  • Describing quantities
  • Explaining causality
  • Giving examples
  • Signalling transition
  • Writing about the past

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As an academic writer, you are expected to be critical of the sources that you use. This essentially means questioning what you read and not necessarily agreeing with it just because the information has been published. Being critical can also mean looking for reasons why we should not just accept something as being correct or true. This can require you to identify problems with a writer’s arguments or methods, or perhaps to refer to other people’s criticisms of these. Constructive criticism goes beyond this by suggesting ways in which a piece of research or writing could be improved. … being against is not enough. We also need to develop habits of constructive thinking. Edward de Bono

Highlighting inadequacies of previous studies

Previous studies of X have not dealt with … Researchers have not treated X in much detail. Such expositions are unsatisfactory because they … Most studies in the field of X have only focused on … Such approaches, however, have failed to address … Previous published studies are limited to local surveys. Half of the studies evaluated failed to specify whether … The research to date has tended to focus on X rather than published studies on the effect of X are not consistent. Smith’s analysis does not take account of …, nor does she examine …

The existing accounts fail to resolve the contradiction between X and Y. Most studies of X have only been carried out in a small number of areas. However, much of the research up to now has been descriptive in nature … The generalisability of much published research on this issue is problematic. Research on the subject has been mostly restricted to limited comparisons of … However, few writers have been able to draw on any systematic research into … Short-term studies such as these do not necessarily show subtle changes over time … Although extensive research has been carried out on X, no single study exists which … However, these results were based upon data from over 30 years ago and it is unclear if … The experimental data are rather controversial, and there is no general agreement about …

Identifying a weakness in a single study or paper

Offering constructive suggestions.

The study would have been more interesting if it had included … These studies would have been more useful if they had focused on … The study would have been more relevant if the researchers had asked … The questionnaire would have been more useful if it had asked participants about … The research would have been more relevant if a wider range of X had been explored

Introducing problems and limitations: theory or argument

Smith’s argument relies too heavily on … The main weakness with this theory is that … The key problem with this explanation is that … However, this theory does not fully explain why … One criticism of much of the literature on X is that … Critics question the ability of the X theory to provide … However, there is an inconsistency with this argument.

A serious weakness with this argument, however, is that … However, such explanations tend to overlook the fact that … One of the main difficulties with this line of reasoning is that … Smith’s interpretation overlooks much of the historical research … Many writers have challenged Smith’s claim on the grounds that … The X theory has been criticised for being based on weak evidence. A final criticism of the theory of X is that it struggles to explain some aspects of …

Introducing problems and limitations: method or practice

The limitation of this approach is that … A major problem with the X method is that … One major drawback of this approach is that … A criticism of this experimental design is that … The main limitation of this technique, however, is … Selection bias is another potential concern because …

Perhaps the most serious disadvantage of this method is that … In recent years, however, this approach has been challenged by … Non-government agencies are also very critical of the new policies. All the studies reviewed so far, however, suffer from the fact that … Critics of laboratory-based experiments contend that such studies … There are certain problems with the use of focus groups. One of these is that there is less …

Using evaluative adjectives to comment on research

Introducing general criticism.

Critics question the ability of poststructuralist theory to provide … Non-government agencies are also very critical of the new policies. Smith’s meta-analysis has been subjected to considerable criticism. The most important of these criticisms is that Smith failed to note that … The X theory has been vigorously challenged in recent years by a number of writers. These claims have been strongly contested in recent years by a number of writers. More recent arguments against X have been summarised by Smith and Jones (1982): Critics have also argued that not only do surveys provide an inaccurate measure of X, but the … Many analysts now argue that the strategy of X has not been successful. Jones (2003), for example, argues that …

Introducing the critical stance of particular writers

Smith (2014) disputes this account of … Jones (2003) has also questioned why … However, Jones (2015) points out that … The author challenges the widely held view that … Smith (1999) takes issue with the contention that … The idea that … was first challenged by Smith (1992). Smith is critical of the tendency to compartmentalise X. However, Smith (1967) questioned this hypothesis and …

Jones (2003) has challenged some of Smith’s conclusions, arguing that … Another major criticism of Smith’s study, made by Jones (2003), is that … Jones (2003) is probably the best-known critic of the X theory. He argues that … In her discussion of X, Smith further criticises the ways in which some authors … Smith’s decision to reject the classical explanation of X merits some discussion … In a recent article in Academic Journal, Smith (2014) questions the extent to which … The latter point has been devastatingly critiqued by Jones (2003), who argues that … A recently published article by Smith et al. (2011) casts doubt on Jones’ assumption that … Other authors (see Smith, 2012; Jones, 2014) question the usefulness of such an approach.

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How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay: Examples & Guide

A critical analysis essay is an academic paper that requires a thorough examination of theoretical concepts and ideas. It includes a comparison of facts, differentiation between evidence and argument, and identification of biases.

Our specialists will write a custom essay on any topic for 13.00 10.40/page

Crafting a good paper can be a daunting experience, but it will be much easier if you have the right approach. In this guide by our custom writing team, you will find:

  • Different types of critical analysis;
  • Best ways to structure your essay;
  • Two excellent critical analysis essay examples.
  • 📝 Critical Analysis Definition
  • ✍️ Writing Guide
  • ✅ Critical Analysis Types
  • 📑 Examples & Tips

📝 What Is a Critical Analysis?

Criticism is the process of appraising things such as works of art and literature. It comes from the word meaning “able to make judgments”. A critical analysis essay is often referred to as a critical thinking essay, critical response paper, critical evaluation essay, and summary and response essay.

When we hear the word “criticism,” we often associate it with negative judgments. However, to criticize doesn’t necessarily mean to find faults. Even though criticism involves active disagreement, it strives to understand the meaning further and evaluate its efficiency. We call it constructive criticism .

In other words, critical analysis is an evaluation of a piece of work that promotes its better understanding . Have a look at this comparison and see what critical analysis is and what it isn’t:

Aside from art and literature, critical analysis is often used in theoretical research, nursing, and social work. In any of these areas, you have an opportunity to exercise your critical faculties.

Analysis in Writing: Definition & Examples

Analysis is a step you take before writing any paper. It’s aimed at evaluating and interpreting the sources. To do it, you break them down and study them in detail. You can learn more from this article on critical analysis by Southeastern Louisiana University .

In the following table, we’ve compiled several forms of analysis in writing and illustrated each type with a topic example:

What Is the Difference between Summary and Analysis?

Students often confuse analysis with summary and get a lower grade as a result. Here is how two notions differ. A summary is a brief restatement of the text’s main points that involves paraphrasing. An analysis is a detailed examination of the evidence that uncovers something new.

Check out this comparison to understand the difference better:

✍️ How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay

Now, we will show you the steps to writing a critical analysis with examples to guide you through this process. Keep in mind that the purpose of your critical analysis paper is to help readers understand a subject to a full extent.

Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.

The picture shows the 2 stages of critical analysis.

Critical analysis consists of two stages: critical reading and critical writing. Read on to learn more about them.

Critical Reading Examples & Definition

Critical reading a technique that involves discovering and evaluating the text’s meaning and incorporating it into what you already know. It’s the first stage of critical analysis.

According to Cleveland State University, critical reading occurs after you’ve skimmed the research material and decided where to focus your efforts. While you are reading, use the following techniques to stay on track:

  • Determine the central claim and identify how it is argued;
  • Look for the large patterns that give purpose, order, and meaning to arguments;
  • Contextualize the text within an original historical, political, or religious context;
  • Distinguish the kinds of reasoning and methodology the text employs;
  • Examine the evidence;
  • Recognize manipulations.

When it comes to recognizing manipulations, authors use three persuasive appeals to convince their readers of something: ethos , pathos , and logos .

Now, let’s apply the critical reading techniques to an actual text:

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The death estimates during the US invasions of Tokyo were exaggerated by a factor of ten to twenty. The wartime casualty estimates were based on inaccurate assumptions. The data was not updated to exclude the civilians’ deaths and justify the strategic decision to drop off an atomic bomb.

  • What is the text saying?  US bombs killed up to two million people.
  • What is the text doing?  The death estimates were exaggerated to downplay the casualties and emphasize the importance of dropping the atomic bomb.

When you are able to recognize these persuasive modes in your reading, you can master them in writing.

What Is Critical Writing: Definition & Techniques

Critical writing is a process of commenting on another piece of work using several writing strategies. It is the second stage of critical analysis.

Want to know how to write critically? Have a look at the following tips:

  • Take a critical stance: recognize that every text comes from a perspective and is subject to interpretation.
  • Pay close attention: look not only for the facts but also for explanations.
  • Think big picture : put your sources in context with the time it was written.
  • Bring yourself in: consider the connections between several texts and add your own perspective.

When it comes to the critical writing, certain strategies can be beneficial. Yet, others are better to avoid. We’ve compiled the most important dos and don’ts in the table below:

Want to learn more? Check out our article on critical writing .

Critical Analysis Essay Topics: How to Choose

Now that you’ve learned about critical analysis, there is a big question to answer: how do you choose the topic for your essay? It might require using a specific strategy to make the right choice.

Many students find it helpful to have a list of critical thinking questions to answer while brainstorming. We’ve prepared them for you:

  • Theme : How well does the author approach the central theme? Are the arguments strong enough?
  • Organization : Is this piece of work well-structured and easy to follow?
  • Audience : Who is the audience? Are there any manipulations the author is using to persuade the reader?
  • Tone : Is there a specific tone used by the author throughout their work? How does it affect the reader?
  • Bias and informational gaps : Does the author look at their work from several angles? Are there any contradicting arguments or missing information?
  • Word choice : Does the author invent new words? Is the vocabulary serious or silly, casual or technical? How does it affect the overall writing?
  • Logos : Does the author use logic to prove their point?
  • Ethos : Does the author have any proof of their credibility? Do they claim to be an expert? In what ways is the reader’s trust gained?
  • Pathos : Does the author use emotion to connect with the reader? Does the writing appeal to common beliefs and values?

Answering these questions will help you with deciding on critical thinking essay topics. If you want some additional inspiration, feel free to use our topic generator .

Critical Analysis Template

After carefully analyzing all of your sources, you can start writing your first draft using our critical analysis template. Use this outline to structure your essay and to ensure your arguments are related to your thesis.

The picture shows the main parts of a critical analysis essay.

How to Start a Critical Analysis Essay

To create an outstanding opening paragraph, you may want to start it with a hook. It can be a quote from your source or a rhetorical question. Be sure to make it catchy so that it will grab your reader’s attention.

After you’re done with the hook, write the following:

  • the work’s title and some background information,
  • an outline of the main ideas from your sources,
  • your thesis statement.

Here are two introduction examples for your inspiration:

What happens when there is a considerable wage gap between the upper and middle classes? The unsurprising reality forces poor people to use credit cards to pay off their debt. Credit card industries collect interest from those who can’t pay off their debt right away.

A romantic novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is about overcoming social stereotypes in the name of love. Its main character, Elizabeth Bennet, has to fight against her discrimination against wealthy men like Mr. Darcy to find love and be happy.

Critical Analysis Essay: Thesis

A thesis statement is what you are aiming to prove. Ideally, it should be the first thing you write because every other part of your critical analysis paper will be connected to it.

To create a strong thesis statement, you want to start with a broader idea of what you would like to critique. Then, you narrow it down. Choose a debatable thesis so you can back it up with evidence from your sources and anchor your entire paper around it.

The examples below will help you write your essay’s thesis:

People in positions of power are less likely to recognize the social injustice than marginalized groups of the civilian population.

In a 1989 American superhero film Batman, Tim Burton subverts the concept of heroism by refraining Batman from murder and making him morally ambiguous.

Critical Analysis Essays: Summary and Response

The body paragraphs of a critical essay consist of your source’s summary and a response with arguments.

The picture shows the 2 stages of analyzing sources for a critical essay.

A summary should present specific facts from your source to help your reader understand your arguments better. You can use these sentence starters to structure a summary:

  • The book is about…
  • The theme of the article is…
  • The author argues that…
  • The author concludes…
  • The main character is…
  • The main points are…

The main plot of Elizabeth Bennet’s plan to save her family from poverty intersects with stereotypes that romantic love and marriage don’t go together. She does not accept a marriage proposal from Mr. Darcy because she does not want to be walking proof that women marry for money. The rejected proposal leads Darcy to open up and change Elizabeth’s perception of him.

A response should present your main arguments that support your thesis statement. Each argument is a sub-thesis that connects to your central thesis. It’s crucial to discuss each point in detail and prove it with strong evidence.

Your arguments should be:

  • clear, informative, and persuasive;
  • well-researched and backed up with solid evidence;
  • connected to your thesis.

At first, Elizabeth Bennet sees Mr. Darcy only as a powerful man with wealth and high social status. For her, he represents a marriage of convenience that she is so desperately trying to fight against. After Mr. Darcy attempts to separate Jane and Bingley, Elizabeth gets proof for her ideas about powerful men who do everything in their power to destroy a loving relationship for a better financial suit.

Critical Essay Outline: Conclusion

The final stage of essay writing is to ensure you have proven your arguments. The goal of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your thesis and the essay’s main points. You may also want to leave them with some final statements for consideration.

Keep in mind that the concluding paragraph is not a place to introduce new evidence. Instead, you can do the following:

  • Restate your thesis;
  • Summarize your main ideas;
  • Talk about the work’s overall performance or outcome;
  • Identify potential opportunities for further research or investigation.

Elizabeth Bennet struggles with the societal association of marriage with financial stability. Eventually, she marries a rich man, Mr. Darcy, but she marries him for love rather than his money and social status. Her pride and prejudice towards him were destroyed by his acts of kindness and true love. Their relationship had a rough start, but both of them could get their happy ending by breaking out of old beliefs and habits.

✅ Types of Critical Analysis

Choosing the correct type of analysis will help you stay on track with your research objectives. It will give you the anchor to develop your essay around in a systematic manner.

Critical analysis can be categorized into 4 main types:

  • Literary analysis gives a critical evaluation of a literary text.
  • Article analysis reflects upon arguments presented in an article.
  • Media analysis essay interprets messages conveyed through visual media, music, or radio.
  • Cultural analysis interprets cultural phenomena and practices.

Literary Analysis: Definition & Characteristics

Literary analysis is an argument that expresses one’s critical evaluation of a poem, novel, short story, or play. A critique of literature has the same characteristics as other types of critical essays. The difference is the kind of information you can include in this type of essay.

Here’s how to analyze literature:

You will find more interesting info in our article on literary analysis essays .

How to Write an Analysis of an Article

Critical analysis of an article aims to analyze the writing strategies and techniques an author uses to develop their argument. The process is a little different than persuading the reader to accept a particular point of view. Here is a sample outline:

Critical Film Analysis: Types & How to Write

Film analysis goes beyond the plot structure and includes composition elements such as camera work, lighting, costume choices, etc. After watching the film at least twice, you can select what type of film analysis you will be performing. Check out the types and see what they’re about:

  • Semiotic analysis involves interpretation of signs and symbols within a film.
  • Narrative analysis examines the story the film seeks to tell.
  • Historical analysis is an examination of a film’s relationship to a cultural or historical context.
  • Mise-en-scène analysis is an analysis of compositional elements used in a scene or a single shot.

Once you’ve chosen a topic, use this outline to guide you through the writing process:

You can learn more from our article on film analysis .

How to Write a Cultural Analysis Essay

Critical analysis essay refers to your comment upon one specific cultural aspect that works or doesn’t work in a society. After you’ve chosen a topic for your cultural analysis paper, you can start drafting your outline. Here is how the structure of this kind of paper differs from others:

Critical Analysis Essay Topics

  • Critical analysis of qualitative research article. 
  • Rhetorical analysis of articles on qualitative studies in healthcare.  
  • American Exodus by James N. Gregory: Rhetorical Analysis. 
  • Critical analysis of religion and faith .  
  • Analyze the sonnet My Mistress’ Eyes by W. Shakespeare .  
  • Critical essay on issues of cognitive neuroscience.  
  • A Doll House as an example of feminist literature: rhetorical analysis.  
  • Conduct a comparative critical analysis of Judaism and Christianity.  
  • Rhetorical analysis of an Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf .  
  • Semantic meaning of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath .  
  • Critical evaluation of Seligman articles.  
  • Analyze psychological literature based on A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by E. Hemingway.  
  • Rhetorical analysis of literary devices and expressive means in A Good Man Is Hard to Find .  
  • Analyze the characteristic features of drama using the example of Death of a Salesman .  
  • Critical analysis of the most popular business strategies .  
  • Discuss the problem of childhood obesity in Active Living by Van Kann.  
  • Analyze IT strategies and planning.  
  • Critical analysis of a controversial art using the example of Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.  
  • Emotional impact of comedy films.  
  • Rhetorical analysis of Sophocles’ Antigone as an example of Greek drama.  
  • Influence of Socrate’s philosophy on the ancient Greek playwrights.  
  • Critical analysis of Sophocles’ plays.  
  • Different sets of values in Everyday Use by A. Walker .  
  • Analysis of corporate crimes using the example of Lehman Brothers’ scandal.  
  • Critical analysis of a scientific article based on Nursing Pain Management .  
  • Different interpretations of A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. 
  • Critical analysis of Longinus’ idea of sublime .  
  • The importance of a teacher’s role in Freedom Writers .  
  • Critical analysis of the efficiency of CBT. 
  • Rhetorical analysis of an article on a proactive care program.  
  • The concept of emotional intelligence : critical analysis.  
  • Evaluate implementation of Windsome’s risk management strategy to enhance the company’s response to stress.  
  • The importance of symbolism in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s .  
  • Critical analysis of Thomas Paine’s pamphlets.  
  • Rhetorical techniques used in Hamlet by W. Shakespeare .  
  • In-depth analysis of the modern world’s social issues in The Handmaid’s Tale . 
  • Social messages in Robinson’s and Kincaid’s stories.  
  • Analysis of rhetorical strategies used in Dwellings by Linda Hogan.  
  • Critical analysis of issues elucidated in A Loss for Words by J. Thurman.  
  • Discuss the problems of alienation and perception in The Things They Carried . 

📑 Critical Analysis Essay Examples & Bonus Tips

The following writing tips will help you understand how to apply your critical thinking skills in practice and write an excellent critical essay on your own.

Critical Essay Format & Free Samples

Looking for some tips on how to format your paper? This section reflects the latest guidelines for citing your sources with the latest APA 7th and MLA 9th publication manuals.

Before you dive into writing your critical analysis paper, get inspired with some compelling essay examples. The first is a film analysis example. You can download the PDF file below:

The Birds  by Alfred Hitchcock is a thriller that derives its suspense from the violence which stands on the borderline with divine retribution. The birds of the film are the symbol of the said violence and primary actors that contribute to the semiotic revelations of the film.

The following critical analysis essay is concerned with a literary work. You can download it below:

Feminism has been influential in various aspects of society for many decades. With the beginning of women’s emancipation, humanity has progressed not only in political and social life but also in science, culture, and literary studies. A feminist standpoint in literature research points to the limited portrayal of the characters in literary works, which showed the world mainly from a patriarchal perspective.

Here’s the list of critical analysis essay examples. You can check them out to get a better understanding of critical analysis and to gain some inspiration.

  • Managing Business Risks: A Critical Analysis
  • A Critical Analysis of a Research Study Conducted to Establish the Quality of Pain Management
  • Nursing Skills for Palliative Care: A Critical Analysis
  • Critical Analysis of Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
  • Nighthawks by Edward Hopper: Critical Analysis
  • Roosevelt and Obama: Critical Analysis of Two Speeches
  • “The Love of My Life” by T. C. Boyle Critical Analysis
  • Nursing Education-Practice Gap: Critical Analysis
  • Affordable Care Act: A Critical Analysis
  • Mother Tongue by Amy Tan: Critical Analysis

Bonus Tips: Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. It is about careful reasoning directed to a goal. The main components of this process include observing, wondering, imagining, experimenting, judging, and deciding.

This type of thinking is instrumental in conducting a critical analysis. To succeed at it, you need to be attentive, confident, and open-minded. Below are some questions that you can ask yourself while thinking critically:

  • Why are you being told this?
  • What are you not being told?
  • Who is telling you this?
  • How reliable is this information?
  • Are there any manipulations involved?
  • How else can you analyze the same material?

Critical thinking is a skill that develops with time and effort. However, you may encounter barriers that can prevent you from making accurate judgments. The following tips will help you overcome them:

  • Step back from your personal feelings and biases
  • Look for different ways to examine the data
  • Check your sources for reliability
  • Do your best to detect manipulations in arguments
  • Always conceptualize what you are reading
  • Challenge your worldview

Want to learn more? Feel free to check out our article on critical thinking essays .

Now you know everything necessary to write a perfect critical analysis essay. Feel free to share this article or leave a comment!

Further reading

  • How to Write a Critique Paper: Tips + Critique Essay Examples
  • How to Write an Art Critique: Examples & Strategies
  • How to Write an Analysis Essay: Examples + Writing Guide
  • How to Write a Book Review: Format, Outline, & Example
  • How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Outline, Steps, & Examples

❓ Critical Analysis Essay FAQs

When analyzing any literary text, it is essential to evaluate the work and use the theme to support your opinion. The response’s goal is to show the reader what the selection of the source and the theme means to you personally.

The purpose of a response to a literature essay is to inform your reader about something interesting and insightful you found in a literary work. It may focus on the characters, plot, or theme of the story.

In a critical essay, choose the formal language and avoid using “I” statements. Focus on the piece you are analyzing, its strengths, and weaknesses. Using the first-person singular will take away the reader’s attention from your argument to you.

A critical source is a source that interprets, analyzes, critiques, and adds to the discussion of the primary source. It is then integrated into critical writing. The best critical sources can be found through library catalogs and scholarly databases.

🔍 References

  • Critical Analysis: University of Wollongong
  • Some Suggestions on Critically Evaluating Your Reading in History: Carleton College
  • Criticism and Critical Analysis: Kansas State University
  • Resources for Writers: Analytical Writing: Drew University
  • Critical Thinking and Writing: University of Kent
  • Writing Critical Essays about Literature: Gallaudet University
  • Film Analysis: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Cultural Critique: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Writing a Critical or Rhetorical Analysis: Bellevue College
  • Writing Critical Analysis Papers: University of Washington
  • Critical Analysis Template: Thompson Rivers University
  • Writing Effective Summary and Response Essays: Colorado State University
  • Rhetorical/Critical Analysis: Houston Community College
  • Writing Critical Reviews: Queen’s University
  • General APA Guidelines: Purdue University
  • Using MLA Format:
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What Is a Critical Analysis Essay: Definition

critical analysis essay sentence starters

Have you ever had to read a book or watch a movie for school and then write an essay about it? Well, a critical analysis essay is a type of essay where you do just that! So, when wondering what is a critical analysis essay, know that it's a fancy way of saying that you're going to take a closer look at something and analyze it.

So, let's say you're assigned to read a novel for your literature class. A critical analysis essay would require you to examine the characters, plot, themes, and writing style of the book. You would need to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and provide your own thoughts and opinions on the text.

Similarly, if you're tasked with writing a critical analysis essay on a scientific article, you would need to analyze the methodology, results, and conclusions presented in the article and evaluate its significance and potential impact on the field.

The key to a successful critical analysis essay is to approach the subject matter with an open mind and a willingness to engage with it on a deeper level. By doing so, you can gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the subject matter and develop your own informed opinions and perspectives. Considering this, we bet you want to learn how to write critical analysis essay easily and efficiently, so keep on reading to find out more!

Meanwhile, if you'd rather have your own sample critical analysis essay crafted by professionals from our custom writings , contact us to buy essays online .

How to Write a Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis Essay Topics by Category

If you're looking for an interesting and thought-provoking topic for your critical analysis essay, you've come to the right place! Critical analysis essays can cover many subjects and topics, with endless possibilities. To help you get started, we've compiled a list of critical analysis essay topics by category. We've got you covered whether you're interested in literature, science, social issues, or something else. So, grab a notebook and pen, and get ready to dive deep into your chosen topic. In the following sections, we will provide you with various good critical analysis paper topics to choose from, each with its unique angle and approach.

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Critical Analysis Essay Topics on Mass Media

From television and radio to social media and advertising, mass media is everywhere, shaping our perceptions of the world around us. As a result, it's no surprise that critical analysis essays on mass media are a popular choice for students and scholars alike. To help you get started, here are ten critical essay example topics on mass media:

  • The Influence of Viral Memes on Pop Culture: An In-Depth Analysis.
  • The Portrayal of Mental Health in Television: Examining Stigmatization and Advocacy.
  • The Power of Satirical News Shows: Analyzing the Impact of Political Commentary.
  • Mass Media and Consumer Behavior: Investigating Advertising and Persuasion Techniques.
  • The Ethics of Deepfake Technology: Implications for Trust and Authenticity in Media.
  • Media Framing and Public Perception: A Critical Analysis of News Coverage.
  • The Role of Social Media in Shaping Political Discourse and Activism.
  • Fake News in the Digital Age: Identifying Disinformation and Its Effects.
  • The Representation of Gender and Diversity in Hollywood Films: A Critical Examination.
  • Media Ownership and Its Impact on Journalism and News Reporting: A Comprehensive Study.

Critical Analysis Essay Topics on Sports

Sports are a ubiquitous aspect of our culture, and they have the power to unite and inspire people from all walks of life. Whether you're an athlete, a fan, or just someone who appreciates the beauty of competition, there's no denying the significance of sports in our society. If you're looking for an engaging and thought-provoking topic for your critical analysis essay, sports offer a wealth of possibilities:

  • The Role of Sports in Diplomacy: Examining International Relations Through Athletic Events.
  • Sports and Identity: How Athletic Success Shapes National and Cultural Pride.
  • The Business of Sports: Analyzing the Economics and Commercialization of Athletics.
  • Athlete Activism: Exploring the Impact of Athletes' Social and Political Engagement.
  • Sports Fandom and Online Communities: The Impact of Social Media on Fan Engagement.
  • The Representation of Athletes in the Media: Gender, Race, and Stereotypes.
  • The Psychology of Sports: Exploring Mental Toughness, Motivation, and Peak Performance.
  • The Evolution of Sports Equipment and Technology: From Innovation to Regulation.
  • The Legacy of Sports Legends: Analyzing Their Impact Beyond Athletic Achievement.
  • Sports and Social Change: How Athletic Movements Shape Societal Attitudes and Policies.

Critical Analysis Essay Topics on Literature and Arts

Literature and arts can inspire, challenge, and transform our perceptions of the world around us. From classic novels to contemporary art, the realm of literature and arts offers many possibilities for critical analysis essays. Here are ten original critic essay example topics on literature and arts:

  • The Use of Symbolism in Contemporary Poetry: Analyzing Hidden Meanings and Significance.
  • The Intersection of Art and Identity: How Self-Expression Shapes Artists' Works.
  • The Role of Nonlinear Narrative in Postmodern Novels: Techniques and Interpretation.
  • The Influence of Jazz on African American Literature: A Comparative Study.
  • The Complexity of Visual Storytelling: Graphic Novels and Their Narrative Power.
  • The Art of Literary Translation: Challenges, Impact, and Interpretation.
  • The Evolution of Music Videos: From Promotional Tools to a Unique Art Form.
  • The Literary Techniques of Magical Realism: Exploring Reality and Fantasy.
  • The Impact of Visual Arts in Advertising: Analyzing the Connection Between Art and Commerce.
  • Art in Times of Crisis: How Artists Respond to Societal and Political Challenges.

Critical Analysis Essay Topics on Culture

Culture is a dynamic and multifaceted aspect of our society, encompassing everything from language and religion to art and music. As a result, there are countless possibilities for critical analysis essays on culture. Whether you're interested in exploring the complexities of globalization or delving into the nuances of cultural identity, there's a wealth of topics to choose from:

  • The Influence of K-Pop on Global Youth Culture: A Comparative Study.
  • Cultural Significance of Street Art in Urban Spaces: Beyond Vandalism.
  • The Role of Mythology in Shaping Indigenous Cultures and Belief Systems.
  • Nollywood: Analyzing the Cultural Impact of Nigerian Cinema on the African Diaspora.
  • The Language of Hip-Hop Lyrics: A Semiotic Analysis of Cultural Expression.
  • Digital Nomads and Cultural Adaptation: Examining the Subculture of Remote Work.
  • The Cultural Significance of Tattooing Among Indigenous Tribes in Oceania.
  • The Art of Culinary Fusion: Analyzing Cross-Cultural Food Trends and Innovation.
  • The Impact of Cultural Festivals on Local Identity and Economy.
  • The Influence of Internet Memes on Language and Cultural Evolution.

How to Write a Critical Analysis: Easy Steps

When wondering how to write a critical analysis essay, remember that it can be a challenging but rewarding process. Crafting a critical analysis example requires a careful and thoughtful examination of a text or artwork to assess its strengths and weaknesses and broader implications. The key to success is to approach the task in a systematic and organized manner, breaking it down into two distinct steps: critical reading and critical writing. Here are some tips for each step of the process to help you write a critical essay.

Step 1: Critical Reading

Here are some tips for critical reading that can help you with your critical analysis paper:

  • Read actively : Don't just read the text passively, but actively engage with it by highlighting or underlining important points, taking notes, and asking questions.
  • Identify the author's main argument: Figure out what the author is trying to say and what evidence they use to support their argument.
  • Evaluate the evidence: Determine whether the evidence is reliable, relevant, and sufficient to support the author's argument.
  • Analyze the author's tone and style: Consider the author's tone and style and how it affects the reader's interpretation of the text.
  • Identify assumptions: Identify any underlying assumptions the author makes and consider whether they are valid or questionable.
  • Consider alternative perspectives: Consider alternative perspectives or interpretations of the text and consider how they might affect the author's argument.
  • Assess the author's credibility : Evaluate the author's credibility by considering their expertise, biases, and motivations.
  • Consider the context: Consider the historical, social, cultural, and political context in which the text was written and how it affects its meaning.
  • Pay attention to language: Pay attention to the author's language, including metaphors, symbolism, and other literary devices.
  • Synthesize your analysis: Use your analysis of the text to develop a well-supported argument in your critical analysis essay.

Step 2: Critical Analysis Writing

Here are some tips for critical analysis writing, with examples:

How to Write a Critical Analysis

  • Start with a strong thesis statement: A strong critical analysis thesis is the foundation of any critical analysis essay. It should clearly state your argument or interpretation of the text. You can also consult us on how to write a thesis statement . Meanwhile, here is a clear example:
  • Weak thesis statement: 'The author of this article is wrong.'
  • Strong thesis statement: 'In this article, the author's argument fails to consider the socio-economic factors that contributed to the issue, rendering their analysis incomplete.'
  • Use evidence to support your argument: Use evidence from the text to support your thesis statement, and make sure to explain how the evidence supports your argument. For example:
  • Weak argument: 'The author of this article is biased.'
  • Strong argument: 'The author's use of emotional language and selective evidence suggests a bias towards one particular viewpoint, as they fail to consider counterarguments and present a balanced analysis.'
  • Analyze the evidence : Analyze the evidence you use by considering its relevance, reliability, and sufficiency. For example:
  • Weak analysis: 'The author mentions statistics in their argument.'
  • Strong analysis: 'The author uses statistics to support their argument, but it is important to note that these statistics are outdated and do not take into account recent developments in the field.'
  • Use quotes and paraphrases effectively: Use quotes and paraphrases to support your argument and properly cite your sources. For example:
  • Weak use of quotes: 'The author said, 'This is important.'
  • Strong use of quotes: 'As the author points out, 'This issue is of utmost importance in shaping our understanding of the problem' (p. 25).'
  • Use clear and concise language: Use clear and concise language to make your argument easy to understand, and avoid jargon or overly complicated language. For example:
  • Weak language: 'The author's rhetorical devices obfuscate the issue.'
  • Strong language: 'The author's use of rhetorical devices such as metaphor and hyperbole obscures the key issues at play.'
  • Address counterarguments: Address potential counterarguments to your argument and explain why your interpretation is more convincing. For example:
  • Weak argument: 'The author is wrong because they did not consider X.'
  • Strong argument: 'While the author's analysis is thorough, it overlooks the role of X in shaping the issue. However, by considering this factor, a more nuanced understanding of the problem emerges.'
  • Consider the audience: Consider your audience during your writing process. Your language and tone should be appropriate for your audience and should reflect the level of knowledge they have about the topic. For example:
  • Weak language: 'As any knowledgeable reader can see, the author's argument is flawed.'
  • Strong language: 'Through a critical analysis of the author's argument, it becomes clear that there are gaps in their analysis that require further consideration.'

Creating a Detailed Critical Analysis Essay Outline

Creating a detailed outline is essential when writing a critical analysis essay. It helps you organize your thoughts and arguments, ensuring your essay flows logically and coherently. Here is a detailed critical analysis outline from our dissertation writers :

I. Introduction

A. Background information about the text and its author

B. Brief summary of the text

C. Thesis statement that clearly states your argument

II. Analysis of the Text

A. Overview of the text's main themes and ideas

B. Examination of the author's writing style and techniques

C. Analysis of the text's structure and organization

III. Evaluation of the Text

A. Evaluation of the author's argument and evidence

B. Analysis of the author's use of language and rhetorical strategies

C. Assessment of the text's effectiveness and relevance to the topic

IV. Discussion of the Context

A. Exploration of the historical, cultural, and social context of the text

B. Examination of the text's influence on its audience and society

C. Analysis of the text's significance and relevance to the present day

V. Counter Arguments and Responses

A. Identification of potential counterarguments to your argument

B. Refutation of counterarguments and defense of your position

C. Acknowledgement of the limitations and weaknesses of your argument

VI. Conclusion

A. Recap of your argument and main points

B. Evaluation of the text's significance and relevance

C. Final thoughts and recommendations for further research or analysis.

This outline can be adjusted to fit the specific requirements of your essay. Still, it should give you a solid foundation for creating a detailed and well-organized critical analysis essay.

Useful Techniques Used in Literary Criticism

There are several techniques used in literary criticism to analyze and evaluate a work of literature. Here are some of the most common techniques:

How to Write a Critical Analysis

  • Close reading: This technique involves carefully analyzing a text to identify its literary devices, themes, and meanings.
  • Historical and cultural context: This technique involves examining the historical and cultural context of a work of literature to understand the social, political, and cultural influences that shaped it.
  • Structural analysis: This technique involves analyzing the structure of a text, including its plot, characters, and narrative techniques, to identify patterns and themes.
  • Formalism: This technique focuses on the literary elements of a text, such as its language, imagery, and symbolism, to analyze its meaning and significance.
  • Psychological analysis: This technique examines the psychological and emotional aspects of a text, including the motivations and desires of its characters, to understand the deeper meanings and themes.
  • Feminist and gender analysis: This technique focuses on the representation of gender and sexuality in a text, including how gender roles and stereotypes are reinforced or challenged.
  • Marxist and social analysis: This technique examines the social and economic structures portrayed in a text, including issues of class, power, and inequality.

By using these and other techniques, literary critics can offer insightful and nuanced analyses of works of literature, helping readers to understand and appreciate the complexity and richness of the texts.

Sample Critical Analysis Essay

Now that you know how to write a critical analysis, take a look at the critical analysis essay sample provided by our research paper writers and better understand this kind of paper!

Final Words

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critical analysis essay sentence starters

To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.

Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.

This article is suitable for native English speakers and those who are  learning English at Oxford Royale Academy and are just taking their first steps into essay writing.

Learn world-class essay writing and research skills on our Oxford Royale Summer School 2024

General explaining.

Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.

1. In order to

Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”

2. In other words

Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”

3. To put it another way

Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”

4. That is to say

Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”

5. To that end

Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”

Adding additional information to support a point

Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.

6. Moreover

Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”

7. Furthermore

Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”

8. What’s more

Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”

9. Likewise

Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”

10. Similarly

Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”

11. Another key thing to remember

Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”

12. As well as

Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”

13. Not only… but also

Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

14. Coupled with

Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”

15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…

Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.

16. Not to mention/to say nothing of

Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”

Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast

When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.

17. However

Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”

18. On the other hand

Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”

19. Having said that

Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”

20. By contrast/in comparison

Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”

21. Then again

Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”

22. That said

Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”

Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”

Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations

Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.

24. Despite this

Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”

25. With this in mind

Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”

26. Provided that

Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”

27. In view of/in light of

Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”

28. Nonetheless

Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”

29. Nevertheless

Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”

30. Notwithstanding

Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”

Giving examples

Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.

31. For instance

Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”

32. To give an illustration

Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”

Signifying importance

When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.

33. Significantly

Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”

34. Notably

Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”

35. Importantly

Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”


You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.

36. In conclusion

Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”

37. Above all

Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”

38. Persuasive

Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”

39. Compelling

Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”

40. All things considered

Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”

How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.

At Oxford Royale, we offer a number of  summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , politics , business , medicine  and engineering .

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  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

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critical analysis essay sentence starters

As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

  • Argumentative
  • Literary analysis

This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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critical analysis essay sentence starters

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Sentence Starters To Broaden Your Vocabulary in Analysing Argument

Zoe Douglas

June 8, 2022

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Writing an Analysing Argument (or Language Analysis) essay can be difficult, and sometimes selecting language that won’t sound repetitive is the tricky part. If you’re looking for ways to overcome that hurdle and make your writing sound more formal, then this is the blog for you. 

In these tables are simple sentence starters you can use to formalise and clarify your ideas in a non-repetitive way. This blog takes into account the most important elements of a Language Analysis, such as analysing visuals and connecting a technique back to the author’s intention (that is, what they want the audience to think/feel/do). 

Within these tables, I’ve included a sentence example for each phrase. The examples are in response to a fictional article by Samantha Pearson, What’s wrong with using online lingo in everyday life?. The article is about Gen Z's use of online lingo and argues that the concern surrounding its potential implications is unfounded. If you’d like to see the entire original article and an A+ essay written in response (along with a number of other sample articles and high-scoring essays), you’ll find all of this and more in How To Write A Killer Language Analysis .

critical analysis essay sentence starters

If you’d like to see a detailed guide on Language Analysis, including what you're expected to cover, how to prepare for your SAC and Exam and more, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .

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Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

critical analysis essay sentence starters

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  • Learn LSG's unique SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY strategy which has helped hundreds of students achieve A+
  • Includes annotated sample A+ essays (including responses to past VCAA exams)
  • Learn how to analyse single articles and visuals , and comparative analysis (analysing 2 or 3 articles/visuals together)
  • Different types of essay structures broken down so you understand what to do and what not to do with confidence

critical analysis essay sentence starters

From year 7-10 the traditional essays we have written have had an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. In these essays we write about characters, plot points and themes. Hence, it is understandable that upon entering English Language in year 11 or 12, it can be difficult to grasp a hold on how to write an essay without characters, plots or themes. To be precise, the requirement in an English Language essay is to ‘use key linguistic concepts and metalanguage appropriately to discuss/analyse/investigate…in an objective and systematic way” (English Language Study Design) .

What does this mean?

Essentially, in section C of the exam, you are required to present a discussion of a given idea. The word ‘discussion’ is defined as ‘a conversation or debate about a specific topic.’ In this sense, your essay is effectively a written conversation which needs to display an understanding of both sides of the topic.

In saying that, it is still important to form a contention, such as ‘indeed non-standard varieties are more acceptable in speaking than in writing in the Australian context’ however in arguing this contention, you must to explore both sides to show the examiner your understanding of language in Australian society.

The overarching idea of the essay is presented to you in the form of a prompt. For example, in the 2016 VCAA exam, a possible essay prompt given was: “In Australia today, variations from the standard tends to be more acceptable in speaking than in writing.”

In this prompt, the idea to be discussed is standard vs. non-standard Australian English. The main idea or topic forms an umbrella under which the essay is formed. This is the foundation of your essay. Each main argument will relate to this topic. In this example, standard vs non-standard Australian English is a topic from which an array of sub-topics can be extracted, the choice of which is to your discretion.

The sub-topics you choose to delve into will depend on your preferences and strengths. You may choose to discuss online-speak, ethnolects or Australian slang in relation to non-standard English, or legal and political jargon in relation to standard English.

Regardless of the choice of sub-topic, each body paragraph must explicitly link to three things; the prompt, the topic sentence and the contention. This is the criteria for your discussion. Ensuring clear links to these three will assure the examiner that you have confidence in the material you are discussing.

Your body paragraphs should be used to show the examiner how the ideas you have chosen to talk about relate to the prompt provided. Here it is necessary to use a combination of contemporary media examples, personal examples and linguist quotes as a means to prove the link between your chosen paragraph idea, your contention and the prompt. Try to find the most relevant examples which clearly demonstrate your line of thinking to the examiner. You don’t want to give them a reason to question the arguments you choose to present.

It is also important to be wary of this so that your essay flows in an orderly, sequential manner. Each idea presented within a paragraph and across the essay itself should follow a pathway, one leading into another. Use the ending of each body paragraph to come back to your essay prompt and reiterate your contention. This ensures you stay on topic and the examiner can clearly visualize your understanding of your topic.

In the end, your job in your essay is to present a discussion of a given prompt; an understanding of both sides. Use examples and explanations to show your examiner that you comprehend how the prompt can be debated.

Helpful Hints:

  • Writing the very first sentence of your essay can be difficult. Sometimes, to get yourself into the flow of writing, it can be helpful to integrate a linguistic quote into your first sentence. This also helps solidify your contention. For example:
  • “One’s idiolect, particularly lexical choices and accent can be strongly indicative of their unique identity and the social groups to which they belong; it is the most natural badge of symbol of public and private identity (David Crystal)”
  • Your topic sentence for each paragraph should contain a link to the essay prompt, to the topic of your paragraph and to your contention. A link to all three elements should be identifiable. Below is an example of a topic sentence for the given essay prompt. “The language we use is the best indicator of who we are, individually, socially and culturally. Discuss.”
  • Ethnolects are a quintessential indicator of cultural identity as they are strongly identifiable by their unique phonological characteristics.
  • This topic sentence shows a clear identification of the topic of the paragraph (ethnolects), a connection with the prompt, (cultural belonging) and a contention, (ethnolects are indeed indicative of cultural identity)
  • Rather than introducing linguist quotes with expressions such as “in the words of…” or “as said by…” using linguist quotes discretely where they are integrated as part of the sentence will improve the flow of your essay. Consider this example.
  • “The use of the interjectory ‘reh’ expresses the cultural identity individuals associate themselves with and is part of the language they use as ‘a means to an end of understanding who [they] are and what society is like (David Crystal).”
  • Not all your contemporary essay examples need to come from news articles or social media. Students can often get caught up doing aimless research trying to find examples through research which really isn’t all that necessary. You should try to find examples of language use in every-day life. Perhaps consider other school subjects you study and the jargon you used within these subjects. You can quite easily discuss this use of language in your essays. Here is an example of a student using the metalanguage from VCE Accounting as an example for their essay.
  • Jargon and taboo language are often used to express social identity as they are demonstrative of social groups one wishes to belong to. Jargon terms such as, ‘equity,’ ‘profit margin’, ‘cash flow statement,’ ‘debt ratio’ and ‘accrued’ belong to the financial and accounting semantic field. Their use suggests the individual is knowledgeable in business and finance and further suggests they are likely to be working in the business sector. The use of jargon in one’s vernacular can therefore provide hints of the individual’s social identity and is significant to their individual identity.

Link to David Crystal interviews to pick out quotes and ideas for your essays:

Link to Kate Burridge on TED Talk talking about Euphemisms; a good source for examples of euphemisms and how they are used in society. This can be used as foundation for a paragraph in your essays:

For many VCE Students, Language Analysis is most commonly their ‘weakest’ section out of all three parts of VCE English. Throughout my years of tutoring, when I’ve asked these students  why  they struggle, they usually blame the difficulty in grasping the  most  important component of Language Analysis:

Understanding  how   the author  intends  to persuade their readers.  

You’ll see that I have italicised the words, ‘how’ and ‘intends’ in the above statement to highlight where your focus needs to be. If you’re currently trying to get your head around Language Analysis, or if you don’t understand where you’re going wrong, don’t worry. We’re going to look at the incorrect assumptions students make about Language Analysis, how to avoid it and also what you  should  do instead! So first, let’s have a look at a couple of common student errors. Students (including yourself perhaps) may believe that:

1. Language Analysis is about  finding  language techniques that persuade readers.

Stop right there! This certainly isn’t a treasure hunt ( but that would be pretty awesome right? ). If an essay was just about identifying language techniques, everyone would get an A+ ( we wish! ). Once you’ve had some practice under your belt, you’ll notice that anyone can find rhetorical questions, inclusive language and statistics, so there is a lot more to it than simply pointing out language techniques. Also, steer clear from throwing in all the possible language techniques you’ve found in an article too, because it’s not a competition about who can find the most techniques and even if you did, it doesn’t guarantee you an amazing score on your essay.

2. Language analysis is about  if  authors successfully persuade their readers.

Sorry to tell you, but this definitely isn’t it either. Our job as the student isn’t to figure out whether or not the author successfully persuades their reader. You can’t really speak for all the people reading an article if they do or do not agree with the author’s contention. Just like if you see an advertisement on television for MacDonalds, you can’t tell if the next person who watches the ad will be persuaded to go out and buy a Big Mac meal. That’s why at the end of the day, it’s not up to you to figure out the extent to which the author persuades their readers. So in that case, what should you be doing instead?

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention.

Let’s break up the essential parts of analysing language so we can pinpoint exactly the part that is most problematic and also how we can finally get a strong grasp of how to be successful in this area:

The  TEE  rule

—Technique  – what  persuasive technique  is used?

—Example  – which  text  that shows it?

—Effect  – what is the  intended impact  on readers’ attitudes?

1. Technique 

There are so many persuasive techniques around, once you’ve got your hands on a bunch of language technique lists then you’re pretty much set in this area. Be wary however, as I have mentioned in the past (and above)  how simply ‘labelling’ language techniques is not enough for you to do well in language analysis.

This is quite frankly, the easiest part of Language Analysis! All you need to do is quote your evidence! Straightforward? If quoting is not your forte, you can check out:  how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

3.  Effect 

Ok, this is the core of most students’ issues. We already know that the author is trying to persuade readers but here, we’re going to look how their choice of words or phrases creates a certain  effect  on readers so that they will be encouraged to agree with the author. When thinking about the effect, the best way is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes – you are after all, a reader! So in order to understand the effect think about the following three points:

  • What readers may feel – emotions
  • What readers may think – thoughts
  • And what readers may want – wishes

Example 1: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

—Think about it realistically. If someone said this to you, how would you feel? There must’ve been a time where you were complimented (whether it be about your clothes, how you did something well, or how friendly you are with others), and you used this experience to your advantage. Each time you analyse a language technique, contemplate on what emotions, thoughts or wishes emerge as a result. When someone gives you a compliment, you probably feel flattered, or maybe even proud. And this is exactly what you need to include in your analysis! You should garner these everyday experiences as a trigger to help you understand how readers may respond to a certain technique. So if we broke it down via the TEE formula:

T echnique: Compliment

—E xample: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

— E ffect: You feel feel proud and as a result want to assist your friend.

And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:

Analysis: The compliment, “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!” encourages the listener to feel a sense of pride and this in turn, may encourage them to assist their friend.

Example 2: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

Again, think about the three points – how do you feel? What do you think of this scenario? What do you want as a result? You probably feel sorry for the puppy and want to save it from this situation.

—T echnique: Appeal to sympathy

—E xample: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

— E ffect: You may feel that it is unfair for the puppy to be in such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation.

Analysis: Through the appeal to sympathy, “the pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air”, readers may believe that it is unfair for the puppy to be subjected to such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation and thus, may be persuaded to take action to prevent further harm to pets.

Ultimately, focus on the potential effect language can have on the reader and as a result, how this may encourage the reader to agree with the author. If you do that, then you’re definitely on the right track. If this study guide has helped you gain further insight into Language Analysis, then you may be interested in my upcoming workshop where I spend a few hours offering advanced advice on Language Analysis! No matter what scores you have been attaining in Language Analysis, whether high or low, my workshop is loaded with tips which will undoubtedly help you achieve the best you possibly can. You are welcome to register here:  VCE English Intensive Spring Break Workshop . Join the Facebook event  here  today to keep updated on all the latest information in the lead up to the workshop and invite your friends!

Updated on 11/12/2020

[Modified Video Transcription]

Hey guys, welcome to another week of Lisa's Study Guides. Thank you so much to everyone who came to the VCE expo that happened last Thursday through to Sunday. It was so great meeting so many of you - I really did not expect this many of you to rock up and say hi, but I'm so grateful that you did. So, thank you again so much! It just reinforces that what I'm doing is being really helpful to you guys, and I'm so glad! I'm going to keep going with this. I'm going to keep making sure that I offer you guys amazing English tips on this channel. So, hit that subscribe button below ( check out our YouTube channel here ), if you do support, and make sure you tell your friends about it as well, because the more love we can share, the more we help each other out.

Today we're going to be talking about tones . You might be interested in looking at tones because you are analyzing articles, but sometimes we're also looking at tones when it comes to the author's writing style when it comes to texts. 

So, What Is a Tone and Why Is It Important? 

A tone is essentially the attitude that an author takes towards their piece. What is really important is that you realise that there's a difference between tone and mood .

Mood has to do more so with the reader's response to an article, whereas tone is the approach that the author has towards the piece. 

It's definitely tricky trying to identify tones, but there are a few things that you can ask yourself to help steer yourself in the right direction. 

First thing is: does the author have a positive or negative attitude towards a certain idea? For example, if the author says, 'I can't wait to go to this party' (said in an enthusiastic tone), as opposed to saying, 'I can't wait to go to this party' (said in a sarcastic tone), who do you think is more excited about the party? Probably the first one. In this case, it's been a little bit easier because you see visually how I approached it, but if you just listen to what I've said, the first tone is immersed with a lot more enthusiasm, whereas the second one is sarcasm. Just remember that even though I said it was enthusiasm and sarcasm, if you yourself interpreted it differently than that is okay. 

Remember with English, as always, there's not always that one perfect answer. Everyone interprets things differently. It's just a matter of you being able to back it up with your own evidence and your own explanation of why you've come to this certain tone.

So, any form of human emotion can ultimately be translated into a tone. So, whether that is being nostalgic, honoured, sentimental, condescending - these are all tones. And, there are actually so many tones that I've linked a link down below that goes to my blog (if you’re reading this you’re already on our blog!) that includes 195 tones you can choose from. I've also separated these turns into positive, neutral and negative tones and divided them yet again, depending on the type of emotion in order to help steer you in the right direction in picking out a tone amongst all the many, many tones that are available out there. 

One more additional tip is that authors can also change their tone . So these can be called tonal shifts , or shifts in tone. An author might not start a book with the same tone and finish it with that same tone - so much has happened throughout the entire book or the event, or maybe even if it's just an article, depending on what they're talking about, they can change their tones. Don't get tripped up by that, acknowledge that sometimes throughout a piece there will be modifications. And, if you're able to pick that up, then that goes a really long way when showing off your efforts to your teachers or examiners. 

So, just as a heads up, these tips that I've spoken about are all in our ebook How To Write A Killer Language Analysis . If you're keen to find out more about tones, then go ahead and check it out . There's more there, more examples to help test you, to see whether you're on the right track, more questions that you need to ask yourself to find the right tone and what you can do with tonal changes. I'm also going to do something a little bit different today, I'll write down three different sentences and I want you guys to interpret them your own way and tell me what tones do you think they are? I think this will be a fun exercise to bring our community together. And I'd just love to see what you guys have to say. I'll check in with you guys next time! Alright, let's see what different tones you identify from these sentences:

1. Check out my new shoes, I just got them yesterday!

2. It was long since I had returned to this place; the memories washed over me wave after wave. 

3. It is imperative that we initiate fair laws for all workers!

List of Tones for Language Analysis

We've all struggled with identifying tones for language analysis. So, I've compiled an assortment of tones you can choose from, categorised into their 'intensities'! For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .

critical analysis essay sentence starters

We’ve all been doing Text Response essays from as young as Year 7. At this point in VCE, we should be feeling relatively comfortable with tackling themes and characters in our essays. However, the danger with just discussing themes and characters is that we often fall into the trap of simply paraphrasing the novel, or retelling the story. So how do we elevate our essays to become more sophisticated and complex analyses that offer insight?

Before reading on, make sure you've read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

An important distinction to be aware of is that the expectation of Year 11 English was geared more toward themes and characters. However in Year 12, teachers and examiners expect students to focus on the author’s construction of the text . By keeping in mind that the text is a DELIBERATE CONSTRUCTION, this can help eliminate retelling. A good guideline to follow is to include the author’s name at least once every paragraph.

Some examples are:

- (author) elicits

- (author) endorses or condemns

- (author) conveys

Move beyond talking about character and relationships. How are those characters used to explore ideas? How are they used to show readers what the author values?

To explore the text BEYOND characters, themes and ideas, tackle the following criteria:

Social, cultural and historical values embodied in text

In other words, this means the context in which the text was written. Think about how that influenced the author, and how those views and values are reflected in the text. How does the author create social commentary on humanity?

For a more in-depth look into this issue and how to get it right in your essays, read Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English .

Linguistic structures and features

These involve the author’s use of symbols, metaphors, subtext, or genres. Consider why the author chose those particular words, images or symbols? What effect did it evoke within the reader? What themes or characters are embodied within these literary devices? Metalanguage is essential in VCE essays, so ensure you are confident in this field.

If the text is a film, it’s important to include why the director chose certain cinematography techniques . Comment on the mise-en-scene, camera angles, overview shots, close ups, flashbacks, soundtrack, to name a few. Or if it’s a play, examine the stage directions. These contain great detail of the author’s intentions.

How text is open to different interpretations

“While some may perceive… others may believe…” is a good guideline to follow in order to explore different angles and complexities of the text.

Skilful weaving in of appropriate quotes

This is how to create a well-substantiated essay. To weave in textual evidence, don’t simply ‘plonk’ in sentence long quotes. Instead, use worded quotes within your sentences so the transition is seamless.

Do you know how to embed quotes like a boss? Test yourself with our blog post here .

Strong turn of phrase

Ensure your essay is always linked to the prompt; don’t go off on an unrelated tangent. Linking words such as “conversely” or “furthermore” increase coherence within your essay. Begin each paragraph with a strong topic sentence, and finish each paragraph with a broader perception that links back to the topic and the next paragraph. To see what this looks like in practice, check out What Does Improving Your English Really Look Like? for multiple sample paragraphs.

This is also where having a wide range of vocabulary is crucial to presenting your ideas in a sophisticated manner. Create a word bank from assessor’s reports, sample essays, or teacher’s notes, and by the end of the year you’ll have an extensive list to choose from. Also, referring to literary devices contributes to a great vocabulary, exhibiting a strong turn of phrase!

Consider the topic

critical analysis essay sentence starters

What does it imply? Find the underlying message and the implications behind the prompt. There is always tension within the topic that needs to be resolved by the conclusion of your essay. A must-know technique to ensure you actually answer the prompt is by knowing the 5 types of different essay topics, and how your essay structure changes as a result. The How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook is a great way to learn how to identify the type of essay topic you have in front of you immediately, and start writing an A+ essay.

Finally, simply enjoy writing about your text! It will help you write with a sense of personal voice and a personal engagement with the text, which the teachers and assessors will always enjoy.

We’ve explored themes, literary devices and characters and development amongst other things over on our After Darkness by Christine Piper blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!

Here, we’ll be breaking down an After Darkness essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Let’s get into it!

The Prompt: 

‘While Ibaraki clearly suffers the consequences of his actions, it is those closest to him who pay the highest price. Discuss.’

Step 1: Analyse

This is a theme-based prompt, and the keywords are: suffer, consequence, actions and highest price . You want to explore both the evidence that supports the statement and also any evidence that may offer a contradiction to the statement. From here you can find the definition of the keywords to help develop some questions to explore.

Step 2: Brainstorm

To suffer is to be affected by or subject to something unpleasant. 

  • Is Ibaraki the only one who suffers? Who else suffers? Kayoko, Johnny, Stan, Sister Bernice.
  • How do characters deal with their suffering differently? Kayoko and Sister Bernice abandon their relationships with Ibaraki, Johnny becomes agitated and spiteful, Stan becomes depressed. 

A consequence is a result of an action. 

  • Are the consequences negative or positive? Johnny being outspoken in the internment camp angers the traditionalist Japanese, but creates a sense of kinship amongst the half-blood Japanese. 
  • Can characters overcome these consequences or learn from them? Ibaraki eventually learns from his mistakes and grows as a result. 

An action is the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 

  • Is it Ibaraki’s actions, or lack thereof that lead to consequences? It is often his silence and obedience that cause trouble. For example, not telling Kayoko about his work leads to the failure of their marriage.  
  • Is it only Ibaraki who makes mistakes? Sister Bernice ignores her religion to confess her love for Ibaraki. 
  • What are the factors that cause the characters to act in the way that they do? Ibaraki’s guilt and fear of authority and judgement prevent him from speaking up on multiple occasions.  

Highest price refers to Ibaraki’s suffering being above all else. 

  • Is this true? Ibaraki loses his dignity, his friends, his wife, his unborn child, his family, his job and his freedom. However, he does partially regain these.  
  • Who suffers the most? Kayoko has a miscarriage and her marriage to Ibaraki fails. Stan is assaulted by other internees and is eventually killed by a guard. Johnny becomes an outcast in his community and is bullied by other internees.  

At this point, you can begin to group your ideas and evidence from the text to support your claims.

Throughout the novel, Piper uses a variety of literary devices including dialogue, simile and foreshadowing to convey her message of every action having a consequence . The most prominent of these is her use of imagery and metaphor which she uses to illustrate Ibaraki’s guilt and the way it impacts his actions. However, the story is not only centred around Ibaraki. Piper also highlights that people will often face consequences no matter what decision they make. She does this through her use of foil characters (characters who are used to highlight a particular trait in another character). For example, Ibaraki’s fear and obedience are emphasised by the courage of Kayoko and Johnny Chang. These characters, alongside Ibaraki, face suffering as a result of their actions. 

From these ideas, the main themes I am going to explore are what factors affect the character’s actions, and how the consequences of these actions can lead to negative, but also positive change. 

Step 3: Create a Plan

Paragraph 1:

  • Whilst the novel centres around Ibaraki’s actions and their consequences, he is not the only character that makes mistakes and is forced to face the repercussions.

Paragraph 2:

  • It is not necessarily Ibaraki’s actions, but lack of action that often results in the suffering of those around him. Consider the reasons for his lack of action: his blind devotion to authority, his fear of judgement, his ongoing guilt and regret from previous situations.
  • Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, but it is not the only factor.

Paragraph 3:

  • Ibaraki may pay the highest price for his actions. The structure of the storyline to include a chapter from Ibaraki’s perspective years later indicates that these consequences have ultimately led to positive change.

Now it is time to write the essay!

Set during the Pacific War, Christine Piper’s After Darkness explores the difficulties and misfortunes many face during wartime. Depicting the rise and fall of Japan’s war efforts (1) , After Darkness highlights that all actions have consequences of varying severity, particularly those of protagonist Dr Ibaraki Tomokazu. Throughout the novel, Ibaraki’s lack of action perpetuates the suffering of those closest to him, however, this is shown to be one of many factors and often initiates positive change within him, allowing his character to develop. Fundamentally, After Darkness highlights that change can only occur if people face the repercussions of their actions. (2)

Annotations (1) In the introduction, it is important to introduce the text with context . As After Darkness is predominantly set in 1942 during wartime in both Japan and Australia, it is important to include this in the introduction in order to explore the essay topic with a complete understanding. 

(2) Another key part of the introduction is to briefly introduce the topics you will discuss throughout the essay.

Throughout the novel, Piper emphasises the idea that all actions have consequences, however, this idea is not limited to Ibaraki. Across the three novel strands, protagonist Dr Tomokazu Ibaraki’s suffering as a result of his mistakes is depicted through both his internal and external dialogue. Ibaraki makes many significant mistakes throughout his lifetime, one of these being his failure to perform a dissection of a child when working at Unit 731. Despite ‘not [being] [him]self’ (3) when asked to perform the operation, Ibaraki is promptly fired. His termination of employment is not the only consequence of his failure, as shame continues to take over his confidence. This is illustrated when he was ‘unable to go on’ during an operation in Broome, despite being in a completely different scenario. Through Ibaraki’s flashback of ‘Black dots on a child’s belly’, Piper indicates the torment and lasting effects of consequences on an individual (4) . Whilst the novel centres around his mistakes, it is revealed that Ibaraki is not the only character who is forced to face the repercussions of their actions. Despite acting as foils for Ibaraki and presenting many different qualities, Australian internees Johnny Chang and Stan Suzuki also struggle immensely to overcome the results of their behaviours. Johnny Chang’s outspoken nature is often shown to cause disruption among the camp, for example, labelling the imperialist Japanese as ‘emperor worshipping pig’s.’ In standing for his beliefs, Johnny creates a tense division within groups, leading to the half Australian internees being treated like ‘outcasts’. Conversely, Stan’s introverted behaviour results in his eventual death (5) . Piper’s contention that all actions have consequences is arguably enforced strongly through Stan’s death, as it results from the failure of many characters to act. Ibaraki’s inability to open up, Johnny’s selfishness and Stan’s loss of self are inevitably all factors leading to his eventual demise. This is ultimately reinforced when Johnny states ‘It should’ve been me Doc’, indicating he has finally realised his role in the tragedy.

Annotations (3) In order to embed quotes , words, prefixes and suffixes can be added to ensure the sentence flows correctly. However, you must indicate that you have edited the quote by placing your changes in square brackets. Here, the original quote was ‘not myself’ but it has been changed to fit the sentence. 

(4) Whilst it is important to include quotes, it is even more important that you analyse how the author uses the quote to convey a message. In this case, the example of one of Ibaraki’s many flashbacks is used to bear Piper’s belief that one cannot escape the repercussions of their actions.

(5) Comparison is a powerful way of exploring the author’s ideas throughout the text. Here, Johnny’s outspoken nature is contrasted with Stan’s ‘introverted behaviour’, yet both concede repercussions. This supports the idea that all actions have consequences, no matter their nature.

Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, however, it is not the only factor. After Darkness shows the faults in many of Ibaraki’s actions, suggesting his mistakes lead to the misfortunes of many of those around him but this is only partially true. Stan Suzuki’s death is a pivotal moment in the novel where Ibaraki begins to truly express his emotions and open up about the pain he feels (6). Ibaraki realises that he ‘could have done something’ when opening up to the investigators of Stan’s death, leading to the conclusion that Ibaraki is to blame. Piper illustrates that suffering results as a combination of factors through the later revelations of Johnny’s escape attempt and the instability of the ‘trigger-happy’ guard who shot Stan. This idea is reinforced through the breakdowns of Ibaraki’s close relationships with Kayoko and Sister Bernice. Whilst Ibaraki’s emotionally distant nature catalysed the loss of these significant relationships, it was not the only factor. Both Kayoko and Sister Bernice are structured with similar characteristics in the novel, one being their confidence and strength in their beliefs. Nevertheless, both women lack this characteristic when it comes to their relationship with Ibaraki (7) . Ibaraki admits his separation from Kayoko is his ‘greatest regret’, and whilst the first-person perspective does not give an insight into Kayoko’s side, she is shown to lack her usual self-assuredness. Similarly, Ibaraki’s allowance of ‘silence [to] stretch between…’ him and Sister Bernice is hurtful and a failure on his behalf, yet she still willingly confesses her feelings, aware of the risks involved. This is evident when ‘her eyes dart away from [his]’, implying she is ashamed of her statement as it contradicts her religion and the terms of their work relationship and friendship. This results in an abrupt end to their friendship as the embarrassment of the repercussions of her actions overwhelm Sister Bernice. Whilst the series of mistakes that Ibaraki makes throughout the novel show that his actions cause grief for both him and the people around him, they also highlight that the misfortune of others is not always the fault of one individual.

Annotations (6) Referring to specific events in the text is extremely useful to support your ideas and claims. However, it is important that you avoid over-explaining the event, as this will lead to you retelling , rather than analysing the text. See How To Avoid Retelling the Story for more tips. 

(7) An often-overlooked literary device is the use of foils . A foil is a character that is used to highlight a particular trait in another character, often a flaw. In this case, Piper uses the similarities between Kayoko and Sister Bernice, and the ultimate failure of their relationships. This highlights Ibaraki’s repetition of his mistakes, which we can attribute to his ongoing guilt. 

Ibaraki ultimately pays the highest price for his actions; although this is shown to result in positive change. Through her descriptions of Australia and Japan, Piper uses the juxtaposition of light and dark imagery to illustrate how suffering can lead to learning and growth. Facing racism in Broome when labelled as a ‘Bloody Jap…’, trauma from his experiences in Unit 731 and hardship during his internment at Loveday, Ibaraki is constantly a victim of circumstance. Even so, the pressures and torment of these events force him to seek the support of others. The colourful descriptions of the ‘pink spur of land crested with green’ foreshadow the positive change to come for Ibaraki (8) . This becomes evident when Ibaraki finally opens up to Stan in the infirmary about his separation from Kayoko. Ibaraki’s development as a character continues as he learns to trust despite the unfair circumstances of being interned. Although memories of trees haunting the river’s edge ‘like lost people’ and the bark of red trees appearing ‘like blistered skin’ continue to plague Ibaraki’s conscience, they force him to confront his past and in turn begin to heal. Through the retrospective novel, Piper describes Japan as where ‘darkness crowded the corners’ and Ibaraki worked ‘in the basement’, indicating his misguided obedience and attachment to silence. This not only illustrates (9) Ibaraki’s trauma, but emphasises his drastic development through his experiences. The importance of the consequences Ibaraki has faced throughout his lifetime are reinforced in the final pages of the novel after he reads Sister Bernice’s letter and has an epiphany. The discovery that he had ‘clung to the ideal of discretion’ creates a sense of hope for Ibaraki’s future and emphasises his newfound understanding of life through the consequences he has faced. (10)

Annotations (8) Ensure you don’t just randomly place quotes throughout the essay, but instead, analyse them to give them meaning. An easy way to do this is by including the quote , its connotations and what emotions or ideas they provoke, followed by why the author has used it. In this case, the quote was the ‘pink spur of land crested with green.’ Its connotations were positive such as colour, happiness, and hope. These connotations were used to foreshadow positive change. 

(9) Using a variety of vocabulary such as ‘illustrates’, ‘explores’ and ‘demonstrates’ shows that you are not only identifying what the author is doing but that you understand how and why they have done it in this way. This is ultimately the goal of a text response essay. 

(10) It is important to ensure the flow of your essay to show sophistication in your writing. It is not only the ideas you have, but the way in which you convey and explain them that ultimately indicates your understanding of the text. A simple way to do this is to use a summary sentence at the end of each topic that subscribes to the idea and links to the previous or following paragraph. 

Essentially After Darkness highlights the necessity of facing consequences for our actions to promote learning and growth. Whilst Ibaraki and many other characters suffered as a result of their behaviour, Piper asserts that Ibaraki is not the overall perpetrator but ultimately pays the highest price of all. (11)

Annotations (11) Just like the introduction, the conclusion is a brief summary of the discussion topics throughout your text response. Most importantly, after exploring all of the evidence you must form a stance in relation to the essay topic. Many students believe that this needs to be a simple and definite yes or no, which is not the case. Instead, I have suggested that Ibaraki is not the only one to blame for other character’s suffering, but that ultimately, he paid the highest price. Check out 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion if you need more help finishing your essay off with a bang!

If you found this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide which includes 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals!

After Darkness is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Updated 14/12/2020

  • Introduction
  • Definition of Metalanguage
  • Examples of Metalanguage in VCE English

1. Introduction

Although it appears on criteria sheets, many students never really understand the term  metalanguage . Strangely, it is something that is rarely addressed in classrooms. While the word may be foreign to you, rest assured that metalanguage is not an entirely new concept you have to learn. How come? Because you have been unknowingly using metalanguage since the very beginning of high school.

It's a word that is more and more frequently thrown around as you get more advanced in high school. And, it's something that becomes tremendously important in your final year of high school, because the more you include metalanguage discussion in your essays, the more intricate your discussion becomes and the more unique it also becomes.

So, let's find out exactly what metalanguage is.

2. Definition of Metalanguage

Metalanguage is  language that describes language .

So, instead of maybe using the word, "He was sad ", we might say something like, "He felt sorrowful " . The choice in words changes the meaning that is interpreted by the reader, just slightly, but there is still a difference. So, when it comes to studying texts or reading articles, and trying to analyze what the author is trying to do, we look at metalanguage as a way to help give us insight into the ideas that they're trying to portray.

The simplest way to explain this is to focus on part 3 of the English exam – Language Analysis. In Language Analysis , we look at the author’s writing and label particular phrases with persuasive techniques such as: symbolism, imagery or personification. Through our description of the way an author writes (via the words ‘symbolism’, ‘imagery’ or ‘personification’), we have effectively used language that describes language.

Now, if we look at the bigger picture, our analysis of an author’s language can be applied to Text Response, and even Reading and Comparing. To learn more about why metalanguage is important in Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response . Otherwise, for those interested in Comparative, head over to our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

3. Examples of Metalanguage in VCE English

  • Grammar and punctuation
  • Characterisation
  • Foreshadowing

For example

  • Achilles is  characterised as a foetus, for his position is ‘chin down, shoulders hunched’ as though he is inside a womb. ( Ransom , David Malouf)
  • In the first scene of All About Eve* , Mankiewicz foreshadows Eve's sinful and regretful actions, as a sorrowful expression is emphasized as she accepts her award

As you can see, the word 'foreshadows' pushes us in a new direction. Rather than just saying what has already happened or telling your teacher or examiner something that they already know, it forces you to actually analyze what's in front of you and to offer your own unique interpretation of why this metalanguage or why this technique has been used.

*If you happen to be studying this text, check out our All About Eve Character Profiles .

  • Mise-en-scene
  • Camera angles

When Terry leaves Friendly’s bar, the thick fog symbolises his clouded moral judgement as he decides whether he should remain ‘D and D’, or become a ‘rat’. ( On the Waterfront , Elia Kazan)

  • Stage direction
  • The miniature set Zac creates is designed with a white backdrop, symbolising his desire to wipe away reality since he ‘can’t stand real things'. ( Cosi , Louis Nowra)

In Medea , the motif of animals emphasizes the inhuman and bestial nature of Medea, highlighting how she defies natural norms.

This student has actually given us an analysis of why animal motifs are used. And that is to highlight how Medea defies natural norms, because of her inhuman and bestial nature.

4. Conclusion

As indicated earlier, you should be familiar with many, if not all the terms mentioned above. Take note that some metalanguage terms are specific to a writing form , such as camera angle for films. If you need help learning new terms, we have you covered - be sure to check out our metalanguage word banks for books and our metalanguage wordbank for films .

As you discuss themes or characters, you should try and weave metalanguage throughout your body paragraphs . The purpose of this criteria is to demonstrate your ability to understand how the author uses language to communicate his or her meaning. The key is to remember that the author’s words or phrases are always chosen with a particular intention – it is your job to investigate why the author has written a text in a particular way.

Hey guys, welcome back to Lisa's Study Guides. Today, I'm really excited to talk to you about metalanguage. Have you guys ever heard of metalanguage before? It's a word that is more and more frequently thrown around as you get more advanced in high school. And, it's something that becomes tremendously important in your final year of high school, because the more you include metalanguage discussion in your essays, the more intricate your discussion becomes and the more unique it also becomes. So, let's find out exactly what is metalanguage. Simply put, metalanguage just means language that analyses language. When authors write anything, we make certain decisions when it comes to writing. So, instead of maybe using the word, "He was sad", we might say something like, "He felt sorrowful". The choice in words changes the meaning that is interpreted by the reader, just slightly, but there is still a difference. So, when it comes to studying texts or reading articles and trying to analyse what the author is trying to do, we look at metalanguage as a way to help give us insight into the ideas that they're trying to portray.

Metalanguage comes in really handy, especially if you're somebody who struggles with retelling the story - I have a video on how to avoid retelling the story , which you can watch. Metalanguage essentially takes you to the next level. It prevents you from just saying what happened, and forces you into actually looking at how the ideas and themes are developed by the author through the words that they choose to use. So, let's have a look at a couple of examples to give you a better idea. I'm going to show you two examples. One uses metalanguage and one doesn't, and you'll see how a massive difference in how the student understands the text is really clear.

Number one, foreshadowing.

In the first scene of All About Eve , Mankiewicz emphasizes Eve's sorrowful expression as she accepts her award.

In the first scene of All About Eve , Mankiewicz foreshadows Eve's sinful and regretful actions, as a sorrowful expression is emphasized as she accepts her award. As you can see, as soon as we put in the word foreshadows, it pushes us in a new direction. Rather than just saying what has already happened or telling your teacher or examiner something that they already know, it forces you to actually analyse what's in front of you and to offer your own unique interpretation of why this metalanguage or why this technique has been used. So, in this case, it's foreshadowing. ‍ Let's have a look at another one, motif.

In Medea , Euripides commonly refers to animals when describing Medea's actions and temperament.

See how, in the first example, it was really just telling you what we might already know through just reading the book, but when it comes to the second example, this student has actually given us an analysis of why animal motifs are used. And that is to highlight how Medea defies natural norms, because of her inhuman and bestial nature. So, those are some examples of metalanguage. There are so many more different types of metalanguage out there...

Whether you’re analysing at one article or two, there are plenty of things you can write about. In this, we’ll look at the structure of articles, the placement of different arguments and rebuttals, and other things you can use to nail your essay!

There are four main parts of an article:

What: The arguments that support the contention

When: Their placement in the article

How: The language techniques used to support them

Why: The overall effect on the reader

Try to address all these elements of the article in your essay, as it’ll ensure you’re not leaving anything out.

WHAT: Arguments

The arguments an author uses can usually fall into one of three categories - ethos, pathos, or logos.

Ethos arguments are about credibility, for example, using quotes from credible sources or writing about a personal anecdote.

Pathos arguments target the emotion of the reader. Anything that might make them feel happy, angry, sad, distressed and more can be classified as this kind - for example, an argument about patriotism when discussing the date of Australia Day.

Logos arguments aim to address the intellectual aspects of the issue, and will often have statistics or logic backing them up.

It’s important to mention the different arguments used in the article and it can be useful to take note of the category you think they fit into best. It’s also helpful to mention the interplay between these elements.

WHEN: Structure

Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them.

If an author places their rebuttal at the beginning of the article, it can set up the audience to more readily accept their following opinions, and separates them from contrasting views from the get go. You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam , where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.

The placement of a rebuttal towards the end of the article can have the effect of the author confirming that their opinion is correct by demonstrating why opposing opinions are not, and can give a sense of finality to the article. It’s sometimes used when the author’s contention is a little controversial, as it’s less aggressive than a rebuttal placed at the beginning.

In some articles, the author won’t include a straightforward rebuttal at all. This can imply that their opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and must be supported - as it’s the only opinion that exists. Check out the 2018 VCAA exam for an example of this kind of article. ‍


An author’s contention is the main claim they’re trying to prove throughout their article.

Placing their contention at the beginning is the most direct method, and has the effect of positioning the reader to the author’s beliefs from the outset.

A contention placed at the end of an article can have the effect of seeming like a valid, logical conclusion to a well-thought through discussion. To see this in effect, you can look at the 2014 VCAA exam , where the article leads up to the author’s final contention that the governments needs to ‘invest in the next generation of technology’.

The contention can also be repeated throughout the article. The author may have chosen to present it in this way in order to continue reiterating their main point in the audience’s minds, aligning them to their views. An article that uses this technique is on the 2016 VCAA exam , as the author repeats multiple times that a ‘giant attraction’ must be built to encourage visitors and put the town ‘on the tourist map’.

The different ways an author orders their arguments is also something worth analysing.

A ‘weaker’ point might be one that the author doesn’t spend much time discussing, or that isn’t backed up with a lot of evidence. In comparison, a ‘stronger’ argument will generally have supporting statistics or quotes, and may be discussed in detail by the author.

If an author starts with their strongest point and ends with their weakest, they may be attempting to sway the reader’s opinions to align with their own from the beginning so that the audience is more likely to accept their weaker points later on. Take a look at the 2017 VCAA exam to see this kind of technique, as the author’s arguments - that ‘superfluous packaging’ will cause irreversible environmental damage, that the changes they want to implement are easy, and that students should prepare their own snacks rather than have takeaway - get less developed as the article continues.

On the other hand, ending with their strongest point can give the piece a sense of completion, and leave the reader with the overall impression that the article was strong and persuasive.

Want to learn more about these different article components and see how different A+ essays incorporate these elements? If so, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook for all of this and more!

HOW: Language

This refers to the different persuasive language techniques used in the article and their effect on the reader.

The main thing to remember is that the study design has changed from Language Analysis to Analysing Argument . This means you’ll need to focus on the language in relation to the argument - such as how it supports the author’s contention - rather than on the language itself.

If you’re after some more resources, you can look at some Quick Tips or this video:

WHY: Effect

There are many different ways you can describe what the author is trying to do through their article, but they all come down to one thing - persuasion, that is, the writer of the article is trying to get their audience to agree with them. Linking different arguments, their placement and the language that supports them to the overall authorial intent of the article is a great way to enhance your essay.

For some more information on this area, check out this blog post !

We’ve explored creative writing criteria, literary elements and how to replicate the text over on our The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing blog post . If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to creative writing, I highly recommend checking it out!

For many students, writing creative pieces can be slightly daunting. For some, it is about unleashing the writer within as the boundaries and thematic constraints that exist in Text Response are lifted. For others, it can be an opportunity to discover new writing styles, branching out from the generic T-E-E-L structure.

Formats of imaginative pieces include:

  • short narratives,
  • a personal diary entry ,
  • chronicling the character's thoughts,
  • and monologues.

Writing in an imaginative style allows you to draw from your own morals, views and feelings. You can weave in personal anecdotes, experiences, and metaphorical language which gives one's writing that pizazz and individualist factor!

Moreover, you can showcase how you have perceived and interpreted the characters within the novel/film, the landscapes they inhabit. Alternatively, you can step into different personas. For example, for the topic of conflict, I can write as an injured army medic, a doctor, a foreign correspondent and a war photographer.

However, imaginative writing also has many pitfalls students tumble into (do not despair; you can get out of it!):

1) Don't get too caught up in emotions and flowery language.

Great imaginative pieces are not only graded on how good your story telling skills are. More importantly, your teachers would be grading on the palpable links to the themes of the text and prompt you have been given.

In Year 11, when I wrote an imaginative piece, I went overboard with the flowery metaphorical language. My teacher said ‘Overall, the piece is good however, at some parts it sounded like purple prose.’ When I read it over now, I shudder a little.

2) In Reading and Creative, there is greater emphasis on extrapolating themes and ideas from your studied text.  

So, those radical and out-of-the box ideas and views you have in relation to the text can now be used.

For example, the overarching themes in  Every Man In This Village Is A Liar  encompass the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, inequality (the unequal status of women in Middle East), the effect of war on the physical body and the human psych and, how the media portrays war and violence. The starting point to planning any context piece is to use quotes and ideas within your text. Infer meaning from those quotes and main ideas and ask yourself:

  • 'Does it hold a great degree of relevance to issues prevalent today?'
  • 'Can I link it to my sac/exam prompt?' 

So, here's an example of planning a creative piece. Two of my favourite quotes from  Life of Galileo  are:

'Science is the rightful, much loved daughter of the church.'
‘Our ignorance is limitless; let us lop off a millimeter off it. Why try to be clever now that we at last have a chance of being less stupid.’

In essence, this conveys the overarching theme of science vs. religion, and how Church and the inquisition exploit the peoples' views through their own ignorance. Their fear of change, pioneering and gaining of new knowledge stems from the prospect of chaos if society's entrenched values are uprooted. I interpreted this as 'ignorance is not bliss' and instead, it breeds fear in people. This is in relevance with the tragic events that has occurred in recent years - acts of terrorism, and/or racially motivated attacks. In the context of our modern society, religion and science still maintain an intriguing and tumultuous relationship. As the advancement of technology and ethics are not at equilibrium, this is where controversy arises. Conversely, we now have to consider whether this relates to the prompt:

A person never knows who they truly are, until tested by conflict.

Possible idea for this example:

"Is it ethical to administer a new drug capable of rewiring and regenerating brain function at a neuronal level to someone who has sustained extensive brain damage? Is it deemed humane to potentially change a person's character? At what personal cost will this have? - Playing god."

Tips to achieve A+ in creative writing

1. ensure it is related to the text..

A lot of students believe that the reading and creating essay is exactly the same as the old context essay. However, there is a significant difference! While a creative context essay does not have to link to the text in any way and only needs to explore a certain idea (e.g. encountering conflict), the reading and creating essay needs to offer a relevant interpretation of the text as well as show understanding of the text’s messages and how the text creates meaning .

The easiest way to write a creative response that links clearly to the text is to write about a scenario that is related to the plot line. You can do this by writing a continuation of the storyline (i.e. what happens after the end?), or by filling in gaps in the plot line which the author did not explicitly outline (what happens behind the scenes that caused the outcome?) In this way, your response will be completely original and still demonstrate an understanding of the world of the text.

2. Write in a way that shows understanding of how the text creates meaning.

When creating your response, be aware of the features present in your text (such as characters, narrative, motifs etc) that you can use in your own essay. For example, if the text is narrated from a first-person perspective, you may also mimic this in your essay. Or, you could tell it in first-person from another character’s point of view to demonstrate another interpretation of the text. You may also include motifs from the text into your own response. But be careful when making decisions about structure, conventions and language. If the text is written in very formal and concise language, it is probably not a good idea to use slang. Similarly, if the text is a play, structuring your response as a script might be a better choice than writing a poem!

3. Explore the explicit and implied ideas and values in the texts.

Lastly, remember that whilst it is a creative response, your purpose is NOT to tell a nice story but to explore the ideas, values and messages left by the author! There will always be various interpretations regarding these values, and you can express your understanding of the text through your portrayal of certain characters, or through the events in your response. For example, if you were studying Measure for Measure and wanted to explore how human nature cannot be restrained or limited by law and punishment, you could write a continuation of the play in which the city of Vienna has reverted to its original state of moral decay.

4. Show, don't tell

Creative essays are great because they offer interesting and unique stories; however, there is one common downfall that occurs in writing. Some students create pieces that are  too  straightforward. Rather than using vocabulary, imagery and symbolism to express a point, they simply write down a statement that sums up what they wish to say. Your aim is to invite the reader to  experience  the story through your words. This can be done through the character’s thoughts, feelings, actions etc. Thus the well-known phrase among writers, ‘ Show, don’t tell’ . Keeping this idea in mind turn you into a much more successful writer – and you’ll see the difference!

Tell: Katie was very happy.

Show: Katie’s face lifted. Little wrinkles appeared around her bright eyes, her dimples made an appearance that dug into her cheeks as a big grin emerged to show her perfect teeth.

Tell: She felt horrible for the weeping children.

Show: Guilt throbbed inside her as she stared at the weeping children. Her heart pounded against her chest, her hands trembling beside her still body, her brain screaming at her to do  something .

Tell: I was scared.

Show: I hear my breathing; heavy, and rapid. I shut my eyes tightly. I can feel goosebumps running up my arms and down my back.

To test whether or not you are ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, think about whether or not your sentence leaves room for questions. In Example 1, ‘Katie was very happy’ would leave the reader thinking – what thought or action showed that she was happy? Whereas ‘show’ demonstrated that she was happy without directly stating it.

The key is to go into the finer details of your story!

Finally, have fun and enjoy the process of planning a creative narrative, let your imagination run a little wild and rein it in with your knowledge! Hopefully these tips were helpful and you are now more confident and informed on the Reading and Creating response! 

This blog post was written by Amanda Lau, Rosemary Chen, and Lisa Tran.

For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .

[Video 1 Transcription]

Hey, guys. You can see that I am holding a stylus, which means we're doing something different today. Today's the first time that I'm going to be analyzing an article. Because I know that a lot of you are actually studying analyzing argument or basically language analysis, where you get an article, usually it's called material, and you have to analyze what persuasive techniques the author is using. Now, this is actually my favorite part of the English course. So I don't know why it took me so long to do this, but I'm actually really excited to start this sort of segment. If you do enjoy what you've watched at the end of this video then give me that like. Because I'll really appreciate it because I'll know if you guys actually do like it or not, and I'll make more of these if so. Basically, the way I'm doing this is very much like how I teach my students inside my tutoring sessions with them. I'm going to be going through the article with you and highlighting language techniques we see and then interpreting them. So, trying to understand why it's persuasive or trying to understand why authors try to use these persuasive techniques to persuade people to agree with their argument. Now, obviously, it's not going to be exactly like a tutoring session because I didn't want this video to be too long. So, I'm going to go through it a little bit of haste, but hopefully still with enough detail for you to be able to take away and be able to do more of it on your own. I'm going to be looking down because I have a stylus on me, which I borrowed from my lovely nephew, Alex. Thank you, Alex. And actually uses this computer for school. Lols. I have attached the PDF to this article in the description box below. Now, this is a very old article from VCAA, back in the year 2000. Now, the reason why I chose such an old article was because: one, it's still really relevant despite its age. The things that we're doing today, in today's study design, is still very much so similar to what they did back in the day. The second thing was, I didn't want to do an article that I felt a lot of you had already done. I wanted to be able to offer you something new and bring something new to the table, basically. So before we get started, what I want you to do is download this article in the description box below. Make sure you have a read of the article, and then try to analyze it on your own before we actually get started. This way you can compare the things that you've found versus the things that I found, and I think you might be very surprised to see that we'll probably have different interpretations. The focus of today's video is really just to identify language techniques and to try to understand why they've been used. There are other elements of the criteria that need to be covered and they will be in due time. But that's just something that I wanted to focus on first because I want to make sure that you guys have got the fundamentals down pat. As always, reading background information is critical for your understanding of the issue. As you can see here, we've got a report of Ms. Smith, principal of Anyton Secondary College, to the annual general meeting of the school council. So it's clear from her report that she is very concerned this year at the rising level of absenteeism among the middle school students. Also, it says, "How can students learn if they're not in class?" In the end, she writes: "So I urge the school council to devise a policy that will enable us to put an end to this epidemic of truancy. We need to take a firm line to ensure all our students are in school." Okay.  So now that we've read the background information and we understand the context of the situation, let's now move into the first article. So the first article has been written by a parent, Tom Frost. So automatically, we can see that he is a parent, which goes to show that there are some credentials there. So credentials, basically, is what's the title of the person who's writing the article. The fact that he is a parent goes to show that he is someone who is actually invested in the education of students, so we as readers may be more inclined to believe him or trust him because he obviously has a child at that school, and so he wants the best for that child. So, let's hear what he has to say. "I'd like to speak against the proposal of the principal, Ms. Smith, to come down on truancy like a ton of bricks." Okay. So, automatically, we can see that he has labeled truancy and Ms. Smith's proposal like a ton of bricks. Now, if we think about a ton of bricks, to me, a ton of bricks is an idiom. An idiom is like a saying. So it's related to the idea that something is a burden, and so he's making truancy seem like a burden, so something that's not a good thing. So, from the get-go, he makes Ms. Smith's proposal of a policy on truancy something that has negative connotations. Next, he says, "Let's not get too carried away with this truancy issue." The fact that he uses let's is inclusive language. This should be quite easy for you guys to pick up. Whoops. If only I knew how to spell language. Okay, fine. I'll spell it properly. So, why do we actually use inclusive language? Inclusive language usually involves words like let's, we, our. And these create the sense that there is a collective responsibility that we hold. So, potentially as readers, we could even be parents ourselves who feel like we need to get involved in the issue in order to actually have an impact on what's happening here. The fact that he doesn't just say, "Ah, I'm not going to get carried away with this truancy issue," and he says, "Let's not get carried away," automatically includes you on his team and so may make you more inclined to support his idea. To add onto the sense that there is quite a bit of credibility, he says, "I've got three kids here." So, I believe that that compounds his credentials; his authority in this matter. So, as a parent, he should know what's good and what's not so good for his children, unlike the principal who is just an authoritative figure. He then goes on to say, "I'm not sure they need to be chained to their desks all day." This is a great one. This is a metaphor. This metaphor of the children being chained to their desks all day, it doesn't sound great, does it? To be chained to something implies that you've been imprisoned or that maybe it's even likened to slavery. So if we're thinking of kids as being imprisoned and enslaved, obviously, this is something that we definitely don't want, and so he really pushes us from supporting Ms. Smith's policy and feeling sympathetic to these students. Seven days a week itself also compounds on this metaphor. I would say that by saying it's seven days a week, he really leaves no room for there to be argument. To me, this is exaggeration. Why? Because students are only at school five times a week, so to say seven days is already an exaggeration. But he does this in order to really stress this idea that this policy is definitely a no-go. None of us would want our children... We're not parents, but let's just say, if we're in the position of a parent reading this article, none of us would want our children to be chained to desks seven days a week, would we? He goes on to say, "Is it so bad to wag school?" Here we have a rhetorical question. Sorry. I switched from a thicker pen with exaggeration back to the normal one because I think it's a little bit too thick. Rhetorical questions are generally put there in order to get you thinking. And rhetorical questions tend to have an obvious answer that you should be agreeing to. So, when he says, "Is it so bad to wag school?" it's not the same as openly asking, "What do you think about wagging school?" where you're then open to the opportunity to support it or not to support it. Whereas, the way that he phrases it, "Is it so bad to wag school?" is already urging you to say, "Ah, of course not." So, at the same time, he belittles this issue. He dismisses the issue of wagging school and turns it into something that is just to be thrown away; something that shouldn't really be a concern of parents. So, at the same time there, I'm going to say that there's belittling there. He then goes on to say, "After all, most of us have wagged school without coming to grief or causing trouble, haven't we?" That's generalization, right there. Whoops. Why can't I write on this side? Generalization is done when we want to make it sound like something is super common. By saying "Most of us," he collectively involves everyone to make it seem as though everyone has wagged school before, so really, what's the issue? Next, he says, "In our house." Okay. This, I believe, really draws upon family values. By now including his home, he is saying that this is an issue that just goes beyond just kids wagging school or kids not being at school. It's a family value. "The fact that they don't go to school is something that they call mental health days." He puts a positive spin on the negatively connotated truancy, and because a lot of people are advocates for mindfulness, meditation, and looking after ourselves, this is something that may encourage readers to agree with the author. Okay, continuing on. "Seems to me there are good reasons why kids play truant." Play is a really interesting word choice. By using the word play, it definitely dumbs down the issue and makes it seem something super lighthearted. Because when kids play, of course, it's just fun. It's joyful. And so, he's making this issue of truancy, basically, a game. So again, it's like it's not a serious issue and it underplays the principal's point of view. If we skip ahead a little bit, he even says, "I can see from your nods." So here, again, it's like the collective response. He's already indicating, through his speech, that everyone pretty much agrees with him and so should you. Then there's rubbish. Rubbish has negative connotations. You get reminded of words like waste, garbage, and nonsense, which undermines the idea of independent and flexible learning, as though it's something that actually isn't really that helpful. He then continues to say, "Kids decide to find out about life firsthand." What he's saying here is that kids actually need to experience things themselves. Let's move into our final paragraph. He says now, that "School started out as places to educate kids and then became kind of a childcare for big kids." The imagery there... I would say imagery, you don't have to use imagery. You could say negative connotations. You could say metaphor. You could label it whatever you want. For me, I get this picture of a childcare with really old kids that are like teenagers running around in the cradles, kids in cots, playing with little games, and it's just nonsensical. In addition to this, by saying that school is like a childcare, he suggests that school isn't really a place that has children's best interests at heart; now they're part of the remand system. Remand is legal jargon. I actually didn't even know what this word meant, so I had to look it up. But if you use jargon, you're using words from a certain field that most people won't be familiar with. So lawyers, obviously, will be really familiar with terms like being on being on bail, custody, defense, prosecution. Words like that, that say, for me, as an everyday person who might only know a little bit about the law, because I've watched quite a few legal dramas on TV, that's when it becomes jargon; when it's vocabulary that's beyond just the everyday person. So, here you could say that it's legal jargon and that he is now creating the picture of a school, not as a place for education, but a place where people are in custody. So, they're in custody of the school, which sounds terrible, doesn't it? He goes on to keep using inclusive language. So, that is some repetition that is used throughout his piece. To sum up, he says, "You hear all these things about drop-in centers, buddies, big sister programs, peer support, and other schemes. Why can't we try some of these than hounding students endlessly?" Rhetorical question. It's interesting that he has now offered alternative solutions. This is something that may encourage other people to agree with him because he's not just slamming down the principal's suggestion, but he's offering his own solution to the problem. Which implies that he has carefully thought this through, and he has thought about other ways they can improve on absenteeism. Moreover, you could even say that maybe the principal hasn't been doing her job because if she had been trying drop-in centers, buddies, big sister program, maybe she wouldn't be at this point where she's trying to enforce the truancy policy. That's just where I'm going to leave it today. I didn't want this video to stretch out too long for you guys, so I didn't go into as much detail as I could have. But that's to say that there are plenty more language techniques for you guys to pick up. It's your job now to have a read of it again and see if you guys can find anything else. I'm going to respond to every single one of you who has analyzed something and left it in the comment section below. I also wanted you guys to know that I have an online course called How to Achieve A+ in Language Analysis. If you're somebody who struggles with language analysis and you've found this video helpful, or you've liked my teaching style, then I encourage you to check it out. I've just updated some of the videos for 2018 so that it's up to date, and I share with you all the secrets that I discovered when I achieved A+ in my own language analysis SACs and in the exam when I was in year 12. I'll put it down in the description box just down below. And next week, we're going into part two of this article, where we're going to analyze Rosemary Collins' letter, so I'll see you guys then. Bye!

[Video 2 Transcription]

Hey guys, welcome to part two of the article that we'll be analyzing today on the topic of truancy. If you haven't watched my previous video where I analyze the first article in this language analysis, then I'll just put it in the card up above. But if you have, then you're ready to join me on this next part. Last week, we looked into Tom Frost's speech, whereas this week we're going to be looking at Rosemary Collins. I will be looking down here, so don't mind me, and I'll be annotating live for you guys as we do this. So just to reinforce on what I said last week, I can't possibly go through every single language technique here with you, especially because I don't want this video to be too long. So I'll just be choosing the ones that stand out to me, and I'll be sharing with you the language technique that it's called or how I would call it, and why I think the author might use that in an attempt to persuade the audience. So let's begin here with Rosemary Collins. So Rosemary herself is... I thought I can expand it. That's cool. All right. So Rosemary herself is a parent. We know that because of this down here. So she automatically uses her credentials from the get-go. So as somebody who uses their credentials, we may be more inclined as the audience to agree with what she's saying because, one, she's a parent, so she has a child at the school, and so therefore has their best interests at heart. Now, unlike the first article, what we can see here is an image. It's a key and on it says, "Key Educational Consultants," and it has the address. I think this image is really interesting because keys are usually indicative of safety, of the answer, or something that is trustworthy. So it definitely shines a positive light on Rosemary Collins, who is some sort of Key Educational Consultant. So not only is she a parent, but she seems to hold quite a high position when it comes to something involving education. She is a consultant herself, so maybe that means that she shares her advice with other people and people actually pay her for this, so therefore maybe we're more inclined to support her point of view. Additionally, we could also identify a pun here. Further credibility. The final thing I would say here is that there as a pun. So with key, it's not only the physical key, but it's the key as though it's the answer. So as you can see just from the one image, we've been able to find at least three different language techniques. So don't be afraid to go into this much details, teachers actually love this. So we've already established that she's writing as a parent and we've talked about that. Now she goes on to talk about how she's a consultant, so I feel like we've touched on that, so I won't go into that again. But then she goes on to talk about how it is a complex issue and that it will not be solved by a punitive model of discipline, one which is both ineffective and... Woops my camera turned off. Sorry, lost the battery. So let's make this super quick. By saying punitive model of discipline, punitive itself means punishment, so here essentially she's saying that it's a form of punishment, which actually reminds me of Frost's comment earlier, that students would be chained to their desks. So you call that negative connotations, if you would like to. One of my favorite ones. One of my favorite language techniques to use. Okay, the word alienating is interesting as well. School should be a place that's welcoming, it should be inclusive, comforting, but not alienating, going against everything that school should represent. So the portrayal of this discipline model is a negative one. So if we jump ahead into the next body paragraph, I'm just going to group a few things together. She uses research and statistics, particularly in Victoria as well. So we know from early on that she is a researcher, so that's credible within itself, because she is someone who's experienced in the field and someone who has done her research and she's knowledgeable. She uses statistics, and statistics itself is seemingly factual, it's something that we can't refute and, therefore, we may be more inclined to agree with her based on those facts. Moreover, she includes the fact that they're in Victoria, so this means that it's relevant and applicable to us as readers because pretty much all the students who'll be doing this article will be from Victoria. Because it affects us directly, we might be more inclined to therefore agree with what she's saying. She also mentioned that students who do not attend school regularly are disengaged socially and educationally. So what this does is it absolves students of the blame, as though it's not their fault. There is a reason why they don't show up at school. And so the concern and the focus should really be on that, rather than just punishing them even more and therefore alienating them even further. This might connect with parents who especially don't want their children to be unfairly blamed. In her last sentence, she says that students absent from school due to an impediment are equally deserving of attention according to their needs. So again, this is reinforcing the fact that it's not the student's fault, but we need to work harder at lifting them up, so that they do receive equal attention. And it's implied that this hasn't been happening. She says our school. In our last video, we talked about inclusive language and how that encourages people to agree. She talks now about a holistic approach to absenteeism. So like Frost, she offers her own solution to the matter, rather than just slamming down the principle's policy. Now we're looking at something that is about the entire community. So if we go ahead with a holistic approach, it's as though everyone wins and as readers, we might be more inclined to agree with this because we always want the best for everyone's interests. She elaborates by talking about alternative curriculum options, positive community service experiences. So by offering her own solution, she now is encouraging readers to agree with what she's saying. And she ties it in with four other students going to show that it's not just a one-size-fits-all. Every student is different and so, therefore, the way that we go about helping them should be different as well. Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry. I just realized that I forgot to annotate the articles. I'll do that in a second and attach the PDF to this annotated version for you in the comment section below. The last thing I would want to talk about is how she mentions, "I would be happy to be part of a working group." So she's not just talking, but she's actually going to walk the talk. Therefore, we should trust her judgment because even she is a willing participant of her own solutions. So if that's the case, then we're more inclined to agree with her. Lastly, she concludes with her credentials. So of course that ends up on that high note to ensure that we do trust for her and to show that she is somebody who is deserving of our trust. So that ends off my analysis of this particular article. If you wanted more information or you like the way that I teach language analysis, then you might be interested in my online course, How to achieve A+ plus in Language Analysis. It's had over 300 students participate and an overall rating of 4.5 stars, so I'm really happy to say that I believe this course has been doing really well at helping those who struggle in language analysis. So if you're somebody who struggles from the basics of not knowing how to identify a language technique to somebody who is unsure of how to explain how it persuades or somebody else who struggles with analyzing the argument and seeing how the argument comes together and develops, then I would strongly encourage you to go ahead and check it out. Otherwise, there are plenty of language techniques that I haven't covered just yet. And I'm sure that you guys have interpreted some of the language techniques I've found here differently. I'd absolutely love to hear what you guys have to say. Leave it in the comment section below, and let's all work together to do well in language analysis over this next term. Can't wait to see you guys next week. Bye!

[Video 3 Transcription]

Hey guys. So what am I talking about? So recently, I released a new segment where I talk about analyzing argument and I analyzed an actual article with you. I haven't done it before, but from what I can see, you guys are actually really enjoying it. I want to remind you guys that I am doing a analyzing argument livestream next Friday, the 27th after school at 5:00 PM. So if you have any questions for me I encourage you to start asking away. I'll put the link to the livestream below for you guys so you can hit that link and then go and set up a reminder for yourself. There's also a chat section there for you to actually start answering your questions. So do that because you know, I need questions to start off with, to answer. If you get in early, then I'll probably start off with yours. So heck yeah, let's answer this. Asa has asked me, "Hey, Lisa. This video was super helpful, but I was wondering if next time you could include a section where you translate annotations and put it into a paragraph. I know in order to get a high mark you shouldn't be focusing too much on the techniques, but rather in a more holistic way. It'd be pretty cool to see which ones out of the bunch you annotate you choose to include in your analysis. Thank you." I eventually wanted to get up to this point and talk more about structuring an essay and how to organize it in a body paragraph. But I was trying to figure out what to do for this video. Then I thought, "You know what, why not just do it now?" Obviously, with analyzing argument or language analysis, however you want to call it, it's a big section in the exam and there's a lot to cover. So I'm not going to go into too much detail about how I actually structure the essay for language analysis, because I think that is most suited to an entire video in itself. But I thought I would at least just create one paragraph for you guys just to give you a little bit of an idea of how I would go about it so you can walk away from this video with a little bit of extra knowledge to help you with your language analysis. So basically, in the paragraph that I've created, you'll see that I don't use every single language technique that I have found, and that's the whole point. You want to be at that skillset where you can find so many language techniques, but you're so good that you know that you can't analyze absolutely everything, so you go and choose the gems out of the lot. So choose the ones that you think will help you set yourself apart from other students. For example, I always try to encourage my students not to necessarily always talk about stats or rhetorical questions or inclusive language, because those ones are super obvious. They're the ones that everyone can find. So of course, you don't just strategize your essay and choose techniques that you think no one else is going to write about. Because, what if that rhetorical question is actually a really strong one where you could elaborate and say something really insightful about it, right? So it's all a balancing game. Let's just get into the paragraph and give you guys a look. What I do is I base paragraph according to ideas. Now, every single author who creates an article has a main contention, but what we're after now are the smaller ideas that the author makes in order to support that overall contention. One idea that I have chosen to talk about is the idea of what school has become, or the current school culture. In my paragraph, I have included a few language techniques that I believe fit into this overall idea. So Frost highlights the current and unpleasant school culture in an effort to rile support from other parents. You can see here that this is the idea that I'm focused on. His use of the metaphor, chained to their desk all day, suggests how children are being imprisoned by their schooling. Especially since it's seven days a week. This may deter parents from supporting the principal's absenteeism policy, as they feel as though their children are spending more than enough time at school. You can see here that I've included one language technique, and it's the metaphor. The main reason why I've included this metaphor is because the idea that children are chained to their desk all day really reflects the school culture and attitude of Frost's child school. Next I say, Frost compounds this idea of trapped children through highlighting that school is now a childcare for big kids, rather than a place to educate kids. The childcare works to portray the school, and by extension the principal, as incompetent at their job of raising an independent next generation. As a result, disgruntled parents may resist the idea of a truancy policy as it becomes apparent that more times at school is unlikely to equal better outcomes for the child. I've inputted a second language technique here, and I've really focused on the idea itself though. I'm emphasizing the fact that this school, as it is right now, is just not a good place to be. You can see that I'm being consistent with this idea, because I start off the sentence with, "Frost compounds this idea," showing the link with my own sentences. Then I move on. Moreover, Frost's declaration that school is now a remand system may further encourage parents to support his case, as it is implied that children are being held custody by the school. His passion may strike a chord with other parents who feel alienated by the seemingly impenetrable school culture, with which they find it difficult to contribute or influence. So I finished off this paragraph with a third and final language technique. As you can see here, what I am focused on more as a writer of this essay is the idea of school culture. With that, I try to find language techniques that work with it. I don't do it the other way around, where I base it off a language technique and try to cram, I don't know, just ideas into a language technique or try to make it work that way, because it's going to be a lot tougher for you. Focus on the ideas and see which techniques fit into it. Now, I found more techniques I think than the three, that could have fit into this body paragraph, but I felt like these three pointers were probably the strongest ones and the ones where I felt like I could really show off my analytical skills. So I talked about a metaphor. I talked about how the place is a childcare. The betrayal of the school, lack of childcare and the idea of trapped children or imprisoned children, I worked off this idea. Then I worked off this idea even further by talking about a remand system, which is legal jargon for custody. It's like these children are just being condemned to this school, which is something that no parents would want. And so, I really emphasized that. So yeah, that's pretty much it. I hope that answers your question, Asa. I only used three language techniques, but it's not about the quantity. It is about the quality of the work that you're portraying. Sorry, I keep looking down because I've written my stuff here for you guys, but you'll notice that these language techniques don't come one after another in the article, they're kind of all over the place. This is really important to enable you to be able to go and find different techniques from different areas of the article, rather than just confining yourself to, "Oh, this author has written this one paragraph. Let me try to find all these techniques in this one paragraph and transport that into one paragraph in my essay." You know? To sum up, main messages are, focus your paragraphs on an idea. It's not about quantity, it's about quality of your language techniques. Try to find the ones that are going to show off your skill. And fourth, you don't need to find language techniques in a chronological order. You can pick them out wherever you please. That's it. If you find this interesting or if you're not being taught this at school or you feel like the advice that I'm giving you is actually really helpful, then I'd encourage you to go and check out my study guide that I created with two other girls who achieved a study school of 50. So we have an entire section there about analyzing argument, from analyzing itself, language techniques, essay structure, writing up the essay, then showing you high essay responses with annotations to ensure that you know what you're doing. So I've got you covered, all right? Don't stress. So I will see you guys next week for the livestream. It will be on Friday the 27th at 5:00 PM. So as usual, I'm your Friday girl. I'm always here on Fridays and you guys can ask me any of your questions related to analyzing argument then. Speak to you guys then. Bye!

If you'd like a comprehensive explanation of everything you need to know to ace your SAC or exam, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook.

Photograph 51 & The Penelopiad are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of our most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

We've explored themes, characters and literary devices amongst other things over on our Comparing The Penelopiad and Photograph 51 blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text pair, I highly recommend checking it out!

Here, we’ll be breaking down a Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad comparative essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

The Prompt:

‘You heard what you wanted to hear.’ ( Photograph 51 ) 

‘Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.’ ( The Penelopiad ) 

Compare the ways in which both texts suggest there is power in storytelling. 

The first step is to deduce what type(s) the essay question is (for a refresher on the 5 types of essay prompts, check out this blog ). I usually find that a process of elimination is the easiest way to determine this. The prompt doesn’t explicitly include the keyword ‘How’, so it isn’t how-based. There are also no characters mentioned in the prompt, so we can rule out character-based. There’s no metalanguage included, so it isn’t metalanguage-based either. However, the prompt does mention the themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’, so yes, it is theme-based. There are also two quotes (one from each text) included as part of the prompt, so it’s also quote-based.

Now that we’ve determined what types of essay prompt are relevant here, the next step is to identify its keywords: ‘the ways’ , ‘both texts ’, ‘power ’ and ‘storytelling’ . 

The inclusion of ‘the ways’ tells us that we must consider different examples from ‘both texts’ where Ziegler and Atwood show us there is ‘power in storytelling’ . The thematic words ‘power ’ and ‘storytelling’ are especially important in your selection of evidence and also your three distinct paragraph ideas, as singling out the thematic keywords will make sure you do not go off-topic. 

Let’s look at the common themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ that are central to the essay topic, and more specifically, how there is power WITHIN storytelling. In the case of Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad , a common representation of storytelling that is present in both texts is that truthful storytelling is subjective. This means that both Atwood and Ziegler posit that those in power throughout history have been afforded the ability to shape the historical narrative to best fit their interests. Both texts are also set within patriarchal societies - 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece. Therefore, our overall contention in response to this topic can be: 

Both texts suggest that the ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout history .

This opening line addresses ‘power in storytelling’ in a specific way that brings in the contexts of both texts. Each of your paragraphs should fall somewhere under this umbrella of thought - exploring the dynamics of the patriarchal systems within both texts in relation to storytelling. Who tells the story? How does it benefit them? Why not others? 

It is now time to develop the three main ideas that will form your essay structure. It is important to remember that each paragraph should include a discussion of converging and diverging ideas. Try to only use one or two examples from each text in a paragraph, as this way, you will have more time and space in your paragraphs to analyse your literary techniques and quotes. As the old saying goes, show don’t tell! 

P1: Both texts give women a voice through the retelling of their stories from a different perspective. 

Convergent Ideas: 

  • Photograph 51 serves as a correction to the history of the discovery of the helix structure. 
  • The Penelopiad inserts the female perspective into the famous myth of The Odyssey , giving reasoning and depth to the female voice.

Divergent Ideas: 

  • Rosalind’s story is primarily told by the male scientists as the play retells the events, injected with commentary from the male scientists.
  • The Penelopiad is a first-person recount from Penelope herself, therefore she is given more agency and control of the narrative.

P2: However, women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their subjective truth and perspective is often undermined.

Convergent Ideas:

  • Predominantly, the narration is told from the male perspective as male scientists narrate Rosalind’s life. Her story is still subject to male opinion.
  • The Maids interrupt Penelope’s first-person narrative through the 10 interludes from the maids’ perspective. In doing so, they cast doubt on Penelope’s retelling of the narrative and offer a more truthful perspective.
  • Rosalind’s story is often interrupted by other male scientists, therefore more directly illustrating that men have more control over the subjective truth. Despite Rosalind’s story being central to the novel, Ziegler still demonstrates the difficulty women face in being believed and accredited for their contribution to history.
  • Penelope’s story is not interrupted by men like Rosalind’s is. Therefore, there is a lack of male dominance in this aspect of the tale. However, the theme of patriarchal dominance is instead illustrated through the lack of authority that the maids have. Despite their account of the events in the tale being the most accurate, their low social status limits the power of their voice in a patriarchal society.

P3: In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately control their own narrative and how they are remembered, amplifying their own greatness by omitting the potential blemishes on their character.

  • The male scientists deflect the blame for discrediting Rosalind by instead blaming her cold personality instead of their own deception and inability to cooperate with a woman.
  • The execution of the maids is dismissed in the trial of Odysseus as Odysseus’ actions are justified in the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece.

Divergent Ideas:

  • The male scientists’ reputations remain untarnished at the conclusion of the narrative, aside from personal guilt and shame. They achieved the scientific success they set out to achieve and were remembered as heroes.
  • Unlike the untarnished reputation of the male scientists, the maids curse Odysseus at the conclusion of the narrative.

The ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout the retelling of history (1) . This is a result of the dominance of patriarchal systems, which inherently give men more agency in society to dictate the narrative for the next generations to remember (2) . Both Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Ziegler’s Photograph 51 criticise this power imbalance in historical storytelling and deliver the female perspective in two different eras of history. Each text recognises that the lack of voice women are granted in society undermines and suppresses their contribution to history (3) . Ultimately, both authors question the objectivity of the legacies that men have left behind, casting doubt on the narratives that they have shaped by introducing the underrepresented female perspective (4).

Annotations (1) A ‘universal truth’ or broad thematic statement is a great way to start an essay. This is your overall contention that does not mention the specifics of the texts - it purely deals with the themes of the topic. 

(2) As seen here, your second sentence can be used to back up the universal truth in a way that is more specific to the texts and the ideas you’re going to discuss. In my second sentence, I’ve included more information about the societal power structures that are present within the texts and how men have more power to dictate historical narratives. 

(3) Then, you signpost the three ideas that you’re going to discuss within your essay in a clear, precise and summarised way. Here is where you can mention textual details such as the titles, authors, forms and setting (i.e. 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece).

(4) I have finished off my introduction with an ‘Ultimately’ sentence that discusses the authorial intent of both authors. This offers a broader in-depth look at the topic as a whole, as it acknowledges the author’s intentional decisions about the text. 

By writing narratives that focus on the female perspective in history, both texts afford the female protagonists power through the representation of their voice. Atwood and Ziegler address the imbalance of female input in history and aim to rectify that through representing the contributions women made in both narratives. Photograph 51 , through the form of a play that retrospectively reenacts the events leading up to the discovery of the helix structure, cements Rosalind Franklin as the true genius behind the 'secret of life'. This honour has been credited to Watson and Crick solely throughout history, with them being given recognition of the 'Nobel' and having their names 'in textbooks'. Ziegler firmly details how the key to their success is the 'photograph she took of B', which Watson exploits to eventually win the race to construct the model. Similarly, The Penelopiad is also a societal correction to the lack of female representation in the narratives presented (4) . Written as a first-person narration, Penelope’s aim as a narrator is to be given the opportunity 'to do a little story-making' in this retrospective novel, inserting her perspective into the well-known myth of Odysseus and The Odyssey (5) . The characterisation of Penelope is subverted in Penelope’s retelling, as the generalisation of her character being only recognised for her 'smart[s]', '[her] weaving', and '[her] devotion to [her] husband' is challenged. Atwood contends that Penelope is also determined, self-sufficient and tactile through the narrative voice she grants Penelope as the main protagonist of the text. Rosalind in Photograph 51 is not the narrator of her story, which limits her agency in the telling of her truth in comparison to Penelope, who is able to shape her story the way she wishes (6). Underpinning both of these texts is Atwood and Ziegler’s authorial intention to contend that there is an underrepresentation of female contribution to history, and therefore utilise their texts to give power to female characters in patriarchal systems (7) .

Annotations (4) The transitional sentence between texts can be less jarring and clunky if you introduce your example from Text B in a similar vein to the discussion of Text A. As seen here, I have used my discussion of how Ziegler represents Rosalind in a manner that is seen as a historical correction to then transition into how Penelope also serves the same purpose.

(5) The explicit stating of the first-person narration style in The Penelopiad directly addresses the keywords of 'the ways' from the essay question. By incorporating different textual examples like narration and characterisation (as seen in the following sentence), I’m able to analyse multiple ways that the authors suggest there is power in storytelling.

(6) It makes it easier to discuss your divergent idea if it is directly linked to the converging ideas you’ve already mentioned, just as I have here in pointing out the difference in protagonists and narration. This means you don’t have to waste time re-explaining things from the texts!

(7) I conclude with a more broad statement that references the authors’ intentions in order to finish with a more in-depth exploration, just like the end of the introduction.

Women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their version of the truth is often undermined. Despite the main motivator for the texts being to empower the women by giving them a voice, both texts also recognise the limitations of a patriarchal society by illustrating the challenges the protagonists face in having their voices heard. By viewing the past through a retrospective lens in The Penelopiad , Penelope is finally able to deliver her perspective, encapsulated in the opening line of 'now that I’m dead I know everything'. (8) The notion that Penelope had to be dead and free of the restraints placed on her voice whilst she was alive in patriarchal Ancient Greece demonstrates the complete lack of authority the voices of women have in establishing themselves in history. This is echoed in the same retrospective retelling of Rosalind’s story in Photograph 51 , as the play begins with Rosalind stating that 'this is what it was like', establishing that the events that follow this initial line are a snapshot into the limitations she had to face as a woman in the male-dominated scientific field. It also references that the interjections of the male scientists as they commentate on her life were 'what it was like', as male opinion majorly shaped the suppression of Rosalind’s success throughout the play. On the contrary, (9) Penelope’s recount of the story is less interrupted by interjections of other characters, specifically those from men. However, the maids deliver ten interludes throughout The Penelopiad . These interludes are another example of female voice being represented in the text, but often being dismissed due to their crudeness or sarcastic nature in their casting of doubt over both Penelope and Odysseus, as they taunt Penelope’s decision to 'blame it on the [...] poxy little sluts!' and blemish Odysseus’ name by characterising him as the 'artfullest dodger' or 'blithe lodger', in reference to his infidelity. Despite the maids being the most authoritative in terms of true Greek theatre, (10) as they deliver the truest and most objective judgement of events, they are 'forgotten' and are not served true justice as a result of their low social status and gender that limits their voice in a patriarchal society. The female perspectives in the texts are truer representations of history in both contexts, yet because of limitations regarding their gender in the two patriarchal systems, they are overshadowed by the male recounts of history.

Annotations (8) To strengthen your essay, it is important to also use evidence that is not strictly dialogue or themes from inside the text. In this line, I use a literary device - retrospective storytelling - to back up the analysis I am talking about.

(9) Starting your discussion of the divergent ideas is easy with the use of phrases such as ‘on the contrary’, ‘unlike this…’ and ‘however’. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time on filler sentences. Be efficient!

(10) By further strengthening my analysis with a range of examples (e.g. mentioning the historical importance of genre, such as Greek theatre in this instance), I’m able to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of not only the texts and their context . 

In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately have more control over their own narratives and shape them for their own personal glorification of character. The omission of immorality and emphasis on male achievement by the men narrating the story is a clear indication that despite the selfish choices they make, men are still able to shape their legacies in their favour. Watson and Crick in Photograph 51 are depicted as 'arrogant' and duplicitous as they extort their 'old friend[ship]' with Wilkins for personal gain, pressuring him into 'talking about his work' to further progress towards notoriety. The conclusion of the play, with Watson and Crick accepting the honour of the Nobel Prize and claiming it as the 'finest moment' of their lives, illustrates that the motivation of personal success justifies the immoral actions of men as they are remembered fondly as scientific heroes without the blemishes of their characters. Similarly in The Penelopiad , Odysseus is revered as a hero through the intertextual reference of The Odyssey, a myth detailing the legend of Odysseus and his 'cleverness'. Penelope’s recounting of the 'myth of Penelope and Odysseus' sheds light on her ingenuity in the tales of Odysseus, showing that she 'set the whole thing up on purpose', referring to the deceiving plan that Odysseus had been awarded all the credit for in the original retelling of their story. Additionally, in the 'trial of Odysseus', Odysseus’ character is evaluated in the setting of a court, as the maids have demanded justice for Odysseus’ unjust execution of them. However, the judge overturns this decision as it would serve as a 'blot on an otherwise exceedingly distinguished career', encapsulating the idea that men in a patriarchal society will omit personal errors in favour of presenting themselves and other men as heroes of their narratives. However, unlike the untarnished male success of Photograph 51 , the maids curse Odysseus so he would 'never be at rest' in the conclusion of the narrative, as Atwood makes the final statement that men throughout history should be held accountable for the immoral actions they make (11) .

‍ Annotations (11) By concluding with a specific reference to the authorial intent of this specific idea explored throughout the paragraph, you ‘zoom’ back out and show your reader the bigger picture. 

At the end of each text it is evident that, regardless of the representation and voice that is given to the female characters, the deeply entrenched patriarchal systems in both timelines negate this power in favour of the male voice (12) . Ziegler’s play asserts that Rosalind’s 'groundbreaking work' should 'cement her place in history', and aims to give her recognition from a relatively more progressive, feminist society. Atwood’s conclusion also is representative of giving women more recognition for their achievements, like giving credit for Penelope’s 'intelligence' as an esteemed character trait in contemporary society. Both characters cast doubt over the previously revered male heroes in both texts, and further criticise the lack of female representation in those heroic stories. In conveying both Penelope and Rosalind’s stories, the authors call for a further critique of past and future accounts of human achievement. 

‍ Annotations (12) In this conclusion, I have chosen to focus on comparing the authorial intentions of Atwood and Ziegler in relation to the topic. In doing so, it can summarise my contention that I introduced earlier in the essay. By starting my conclusion with an overall statement regarding the ending of the two texts, I draw on the readers’ preexisting ideas of how they felt at the end of each narrative.

If you’re studying Photograph 51 and My Brilliant Career, check out our Killer Comparative Guide to learn everything you need to know to ace this assessment.

‍ Nine Days by Toni Jordan is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

  • Main Characters
  • Themes, Ideas and Values
  • Literary Devices
  • Essay Topics  
  • Essay Topic Breakdown

1. Summary  

Jordan’s novel traces the tumultuous lives of the Westaway family and their neighbours through four generations as they struggle through World War II (1939-45), the postwar period of the late 1940s and 50s, the 1990s and the early 2000s. Composed of nine chapters and subsequently nine unique perspectives of life, their family home in Rowena Parade, Richmond, becomes the focal point for Jordan’s exploration of femininity, masculinity, family and Australian society. ‍

2. Main Characters

Kip westaway.

'Mr. Husting always says first impressions count' (p. 5)

'Mr. Husting holds his other hand out flat and instead of an apple there’s a shilling.' (p. 6)

'I own the lanes, mostly. I know the web of them, every lane in Richmond.' (p. 21)

'When they put me in the grave, I know what it’ll say on the stone, if I get a stone, if they don’t bury me like a stray cat at the tip' (p. 29)

'I didn’t say goodbye to Dad! On account of a book' (p. 158)

'This photo won’t be out of my sight from now on. You’ve given me my sister back, Alec.' (p. 260)

Francis Westaway


'The toughest gang in Richmond! And they want me, Francis Westaway!' (p. 155)

'I see a purple jewel hanging on a gold chain. It’s a beaut, the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen…There’s no way I’m sharing this. It’s mine.' (p. 174)

'Do you understand how sensitive a reputation is? It’s up to me to be respectable. I’m the eldest. It’s my responsibility.' (p. 200)  

Connie Westaway

'Ma sitting with her dress lifted up to her face, Connie on her knees beside her, holding her arms, cooing soft like Ma is a baby.' (Kip, p. 35)

'We women do what’s expected. You [men] can do almost anything you care to think of.' (p. 280)

'It seems that all my life I’ve had nothing I’ve desired and I’ve given up having desire at all. Now I know what it feels like to want and I will give anything to have it' (p. 285)

'I thought we’d have more time than this. We’ve only just made it.' (p. 290)  

Jean Westaway

'Those moments, when [Kip] reminds me of Tom. I have to leave the room. The fury rises up my legs and up my body like a scream and it’s all I can do not to let it out.' (p. 212)

'We all die alone' (p. 212)

'This is not how I imagined it to be. Children. Mothering.' (p. 212)

'And for things like this, for girls like Connie and saving her future, there is a respectable woman who runs a business in Victoria Street' (pp. 221-222)

'I’d never of done it with boys but Connie, she was different.' (p. 239)

'we’re respectable people.' (p. 218)

Tom Westaway

‘Kipper’s old man…dropped off the tram in Swan Street somewhat worse for a whiskey or three and hit his head. Blam, splashed his brains all over the road. A sad end.’ (Pike, p. 24)

‘As a girl I had plenty of suitors, but none like Tom. Best behaviour in front of my father, children all brought up in the church by him.’ (p. 212)

Stanzi Westaway

‘The parcel is for Stanzi: inside is an old-fashioned coin, dull silver, with a king’s head on one side. It has a silver chain threaded through a hole in the middle. Stanzi looks like she’s about to cry.’ (Alec, p. 254)

‘She doesn’t mean to be hurtful. She is worries for me, that’s all…if she really thought I was in terrible trouble, she would be gentler.’ (Charlotte about Stanzi, p. 126)

‘the oblivious insouciance of the entitled’ (p. 51)

Charlotte Westaway

‘I say the question over and over: should I keep the baby?’ (p. 142)

‘The herbs are evidence of an understanding of our place in the universe…an acknowledgement of the delicate balance in our bodies…’ (p. 116)

‘There was only one place I could go: my sister’s’ (p. 124)

‘They contain all the hopes of the human spirit, all the refusal to quit, to keep believing people can feel better’ (p. 116)  

Alec Westaway

‘Yet here I am. Away from home in a world of strangers. Alone. Forgotten.’ (p. 241)

‘This waiting for my life to start, it’s driving me mental.’ (p. 244)

‘I don’t sketch. Instead I concentrate on the scene the scene in front of me so I can remember it later.’ (p. 251)

Libby Westaway

‘All the things I remember, everything about my life, our family, my childhood: it’s all real because Libby knows it too.’ (Alec, p. 273)

Jack Husting

‘I can see both sides.’ (p. 80)

‘Just let me kiss you, Connie. I’d die a happy man.’ (p. 284)

Ava and Sylvester Husting

‘If we have to send boys to fight…it’s layabout boys with no responsibilities, the Kip Westaways of the world, who ought to be going.’ (Ava, p. 102)

‘That shilling. Our little secret. Gentlemen’s honour.’ (Sylvester, p. 8)

Annabel Crouch

‘You’re a good girl, Annabel.’ (Mr. Crouch, p. 177)

‘I’d like to compliment their dresses, but I don’t know what to say.’ (p. 190)

‘He is killing himself, I know that. I won’t have him for much longer.’ (Annabel, p. 207)

‘No mother, no brothers. Working your youth away, looking after an old man.’ (p. 179)

‍ 3. Themes, Ideas and Values

‘Family house, family suburb, family man’ (Charlotte about Kip, p. 140)
‘Stuck here…looking after your old man. You should have a family of your own by now.’ (Mr. crouch to Annabel, pp. 178-179)

The theme of family is a recurring one that develops over time. Jordan’s inclusion of other families such as the Crouches, the Churches, the McCarthys and the Stewarts stands in contrast to the Westaways. The juxtaposition of family life in this way allows the reader to see how such factors like wealth, class and reputation can affect the family dynamic especially within the war period. The idea of family is strained by the pressures of war because with many families' sons and husbands away it left the other family members to adopt other roles - not only physically, but the conventional emotional roles of traditional families of the time are redistributed, specifically within the Westaway household. Jordan postulates that the role family plays in providing emotional/physical support is of far greater importance than the necessity to abide by society's idea of what family should look like.  

Women and Reproductive Rights

‘I tell her about shame and the way it’s always the women who wear it. I spare her nothing. I say loose women and no morals and I say bastard and I say slut.’ (Jean, p. 220)
‘You don’t have to have it, you know.’ (Stanzi, p. 132)
‘Your body, your choice…That’s what our feminist foremothers fought for’ (p. 134)
‘What if he wanted to know his child, doesn’t he have the right?’ (pp. 133-134)

Jordan highlights the controversial issues of premarital sex, abortion and the rights of women within the mid 20th and early 21st century. Indeed, it is this theme of women that becomes inextricably linked with the effect of a damaged reputation. When Connie falls pregnant, Jean implores that she has an abortion, in secret of course, in order to preserve her and her family’s reputation within the small community. The issue of abortion is later revisited when Charlotte becomes pregnant in the 1990s, where the contrast between the time periods becomes evident; while unplanned pregnancy is greatly stigmatised in the 1940s, the 1990s offers Charlotte a far wider array of options. It is through Jordan’s depiction of the two cases – Connie’s horrific backyard abortion, and Charlotte’s adjustment to parenthood – that she suggests the perceptions and attitudes towards morality, reputation and women have shifted over time, emphasising the importance of reproductive rights in the development of women.


‘I remember coming home from school once, crying. I would have been around six or seven. I was picked last for some team. That was me, the kid without a father.’ (Alec, p. 262)
‘”Westaway,” Cooper says. “Get in. For once in your life, do not be a pussy.”’ (p. 267)

Within the parameters of her text, Jordan articulates how men conform or reject masculine tropes in an effort to fit into society. Toughness, bulling and unsavory activity are presented as the characteristics of a man through such depictions of Mac and his gang. In its connection to the war period, the novel partly focuses on the notion that in order to be classified as a man he must first go through struggle and hardship as presented in the group of strangers taunting Jack, ultimately bullying him into certain ideals of masculinity which prove toxic and consequential - Jack dies as a result. It is Jordan who advocates for a balanced personality of both ‘masculine’ and 'feminine’ characteristics as suggested in the character development of Kip; evolving, learning and devising a true meaning of what it means to be a man outside of its conventional brutality.

Attitudes Towards Asia

‘She is with a customer or sweeping the floor with a broom made from free-range straw that died of natural causes or singing Kumbaya to the wheatgrass so it is karmically aligned.’ (Stanzi, p. 50)
‘The fear of the Nips coming made him a better man.’ (Annabel, p. 178)
‘always wanted to go to India [to study yoga] at a proper ashram.’ (pp. 132-133)
‘She makes her eyes go big and round like some manga puppy’ (p. 264)

Through both overt and subtle language, Jordan makes reference to the attitudes towards Asia which were prevalent at the time, specifically within the war period that saw many Australians ‘[fearing] the nip’. The derogative slang used for the Japanese represents a lack of understanding and fear (the bombing of Darwin and attack on Sydney left many feeling particularly vulnerable to the Japanese). Exacerbated by the fact that Japanese culture was not widely understood and was often misrepresented, the Japanese were stereotyped as brutal and inhuman. Over the course of the novel, attitudes towards Asia dramatically shift especially within the early 1990s of Stanzi and Charlotte's generation. The philosophical ideas of the east are often referenced by characters like Charlotte as she draws on them to make sense of her own complex life. The novel sees another shift in ideology represented through Alec as his generation's perception turns to a more commercial view. Asian culture has earned a place in mainstream media and western life without such gruesome and violent connotations as were previously held during the time of World War II.

By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here !

4. Literary Devices

  • Throughout her perspective driven text, Jordan makes many references to classic novels which help create a literary context for the narrative and lend themselves to the evolution of the characters throughout the course of the text.
  • Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers – Kip’s characteristic trait of heroism when he sees the gang waiting for him and says ‘on-bloody-guard, d’Artagnan’ (p. 22)
  • Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn – both coming-of-age stories about young men struggling within a tough world, only getting by on their wits and strength.
  • Brontë sisters' Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights – their reference is used in discerning a customer’s knowledge on the texts, but reveals only a surface level understanding due to the novels carrying a certain cultural value.
  • Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – referenced by Jack Husting in relation to his adventures in the country. Its use pertains to how Jack feels out of place in his home town after leaving a boy and returning a grown man.
  • A historical novel that plays with ideas of placing invented characters into a reconstructed world of the past.
  • Uses elements of both realism and impressionism to create the text.

Realist Elements:

  • A strong focus on everyday life within a particular society with reference to real historical detail.
  • Incorporates a logical and strong foundation of context that can be easily digested and believed by the reader.
  • Can use an omniscient narrator (all-knowing).

Impressionist Elements:

  • Each chapter offers detail and presents a vivid interpretation of specific events.
  • Sensory experiences are emphasised by the use of descriptive and poetic language.
  • The linear flow of the narrative is disrupted by its construction in a non-chronological order, thereby forcing the reader to piece the whole narrative together at the end.
  • Varied depending on the character’s perspective and time of perspective.
  • Language is used to historicise each chapter through use of slang, colloquialisms, formal and proper English.
  • The novel revolves around the Westaway’s family home in Rowena Parade, Richmond over the course of four generations.
  • Rather than them move or the location change it evolves, paralleling the growth and evolution undergone by each of the Westaway family members.
  • Inspired by a photograph in the collection of Argus war photos held at the State Library of Victoria, Jordan uses this image capturing a private and intimate moment to establish the premise for each of the book's chapters.
  • Titled Nine Days and composed of nine unique perspectives on life at a given time, Jordan offers insight into the emotional livelihood of each narrator and attaches both intimate and historical significance to their stories. ‍

5. Essay Topics

  • Toni Jordan’s Nine Days describes a world in which life in the 1930s and 40s was much harder than life in the 21st century. Do you agree?
  • In Nine Days , older Kip’s point of view is very unrealistic. To what extent do you agree?
  • Toni Jordan’s Nine Days shows us people can choose whether they end up happy or not. Discuss.
  • The mood by the end of Nine Days is ultimately uplifting and positive. Do you agree?
  • There is more tragedy in Nine Days than there is joy. To what extent do you agree? ‍
  • Nine Days , by Toni Jordan, shows the best and worst of Australian culture. Discuss
  • Jordan suggests that appreciation of family is integral to personal happiness. Discuss.
  • 'Your body, your choice.' What do the different experiences of Connie and Charlotte reveal about changing societal attitudes towards women?
  • There are many characters who are largely hidden figures within the text. What significance is produced by including and excluding different perspectives?

6. Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy - a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response because it’ll dramatically enhance how much you can take away from the following essays and more importantly, your ability to apply this strategy in your own writing.

‍ Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are: Step 1: A nalyse Step 2: B rainstorm Step 3: C reate a Plan

‍ THINK How-based prompt: How does Nine Days explore the relationship between the past and the present ?

This is a ‘how’ essay prompt, so in our planning, we need to identify the ways in which the author accomplishes their task. When analysing your question it is important to know what the question is asking of you, so make sure you highlight the keywords and understand their meaning by themselves and in the context of the question. For example, this question is not just asking about the past and present, but rather the connection between the two - so if you discussed the past and the present separately you wouldn’t be answering the question.

Brainstorming is different for everyone, but what works for me is focusing on the key idea, which here would be the relationship between the past and the present, and listing my thoughts out. Not all the ideas will be as equally relevant/good, but I like to have things written down to then improve or simply not use in favour of other ideas.

Past → Present: Westaway family home, the house changes as the family grows Past → Present: Connie’s tragic abortion compared to Charlotte’s options in the 1990s, women’s rights evolving over time Past → Present: Melbourne becoming more multicultural, Alec’s chapter reveals how Melbourne has changed compared to chapters set in earlier times Past → Present: Kip teaching Alec to cherish those in front of us after seeing Connie’s picture Past → Present: Second World War contrast to 9/11 and war in Afghanistan

Now that I have all my ideas listed out I choose my strongest three to flesh out. There are different things that make an idea strong, but the things I consider are: - Do I have enough evidence to support this idea? - Is the idea substantial enough to turn into a whole paragraph? - Do I have an author’s views and values statement? - Can I include context or metalanguage into this idea?

Using the questions above, I decided to use the following ideas: - Westaway family home, the house changes as the family grows (symbolism) - Kip teaching Alec to cherish those in front of them (focus on characterisation) - Melbourne becoming more multicultural (can talk about historical context)

Contention: Through the use of setting and characterisation, Jordan’s Nine Days reveals how the past and present are interconnected. P1: Westaway home embodying the familial connection P2: The past is not completely separate from the present, it teaches us lessons that are pertinent to contemporary life (Alec) P3: Melbourne becoming more multicultural

If you found this helpful, then you might want to check out our A Killer Text Guide: Nine Days ebook which has an A+ sample essay in response to this prompt, complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essay achieved A+! The study guide also includes 4 more essay topic breakdowns and sample A+ essays, detailed analysis AND a comprehensive explanation of LSG’s unique BBT strategy to elevate your writing!

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