Improve Your Paper by Writing Structured Paragraphs

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In academic writing, effective paragraphs serve as building blocks to construct a complex analysis or argument. Paragraphing helps readers to understand and process your ideas into meaningful units of thought.

What do paragraphs do?

Imagine reading this page without paragraph breaks. Paragraphs create order and logic by helping your reader recognize the boundaries where one point ends and another begins.

How long should a paragraph be?

In a first draft, it may make sense to set a goal for length. For example, you can set a goal of writing four to six sentences per paragraph: in that number of sentences you can announce an idea, prove that idea with evidence, and explain why this evidence matters by linking it to the overall goal of your paper.

In the final version of your paper you may have a shorter paragraph or two. Short paragraphs call a lot of attention to themselves, so they can effectively emphasize a point. Too many short paragraphs, however, may indicate that your ideas are not developed with evidence and analysis.

You’ll generally read and write longer paragraphs in academic papers. However, too many long paragraphs can provide readers with too much information to manage at one time. Readers need planned pauses or breaks when reading long complex papers in order to understand your presented ideas. Remember this writing mantra: “Give your readers a break!” or “Good paragraphs give one pause!”

Kinds of sentences in a paragraph

Thinking about paragraphs rigidly in terms of length may lead to formulaic writing. Instead, as you revise your draft think about how each sentence is functioning in your paragraph, and whether your paragraph has sufficient functional sentences to make its point.

Transition sentences guide your reader smoothly from the topic of the preceding paragraph into the topic of your new paragraph. Writers sometimes begin with a transition sentence before introducing the topic of the new paragraph.

A topic sentence states the main idea of a paragraph. Beginning a paragraph with a topic sentence ensures your reader recognizes early in the paragraph what larger idea the paragraph is going to demonstrate. Expert writers may not introduce the topic until the middle or end of the paragraph, and often imply their topics without ever writing a topic sentence.

Body sentences develop the topic of the paragraph. These sentences work to analyze data or quotations, describe a text or event, set up a comparison, showcase evidence, and sometimes they enumerate the logical points for readers to give them a sense of a paper’s bigger picture. In body sentences, you need to consider how much quoted data or evidence will demonstrate or prove your point.

Linking sentences relate back to the paper’s main argument by showing how the idea of that paragraph matches the overall goal of the paper.

Concluding sentences may bring a section to its end before you move on to a new section of the paper.

Some sample paragraphs

Undergraduate art analysis.

Notice how the writer develops the idea in the body sentences, as promised in the first sentence, and concludes her paragraph by offering a keen, close observation of specific details.

In order to understand how Manet’s work echoes or communicates with Titian’s, one must first consider the similarities between their paintings. To begin with, both take a nude woman as the subject. More than that, however, Manet directly copies the composition of Titian’s Venus; the overwhelming similarity in color and the figures’ arrangement in each painting prove this. Both women are lying in the same position with their heads on the left-hand side of the canvas. Both women have their left leg crossed over the right. Both women have flowers and accessories. Other key elements unite these paintings, as well: the arrangement of the sheets on the bed; the green curtains; the servants; and the small animal at the foot of the bed. All these features clearly indicate that Manet echoes Titian. If one stopped at the similarity in the composition, it would appear that both paintings communicate the same thing; both would be a celebration of the beauty of the human figure, and Manet’s voice would have added nothing new to the conversation; it would have no additional meaning besides venerating the masterful work of Titian. ( Used with permission .)

Undergraduate literary analysis

In this paragraph from a 2012 Lewis Prize-winning English essay, UW–Madison undergraduate Abby Becker organizes her sentences savvily. She first transitions her reader into her topic, then introduces the source of evidence for that paragraph before analyzing that source and returning to the topic with the new critical perspective that her analysis suggests.

In order for a political or social revolution to occur, connections must be formed. More means of communication lead to more opportunities to make connections. In Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel, J. Ward Moorehouse focuses on making business connections but never forms any relationships. He explains at a party that “he had come down in a purely unofficial way you understand to make contacts” (249). In business and politics, making contacts denotes an impersonal, removed way of dealing with people. This type of communication does not result in connections. Moorehouse’s connections are for his own political personal gain. There may be a connection but no insight or true relationship. Moorehouse views people as a tool to advance his own business and political agendas demonstrating that connections with people are often made out of selfish, egotistical motives.

Magazine profile

From a September 2006 The Atlantic article , by Marshall Poe, describing Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia, and collaborative knowledge. Notice how the first sentence introduces a philosophical issue that the body sentences define and link to both Wikipedia and Wales’s own personality.

Wales was an advocate of what is generically termed “openness” online. An “open” online community is one with few restrictions on membership or posting-everyone is welcome, and anyone can say anything as long as it’s generally on point and doesn’t include gratuitous ad hominem attacks. Openness fit not only Wales’s idea of objectivism, with its emphasis on reason and rejection of force, but also his mild personality. He doesn’t like to fight. He would rather suffer fools in silence, waiting for them to talk themselves out, than confront them. This patience would serve Wales well in the years to come.

From Spontaneous Gestures Influence Strategy Choices in Problem Solving (2011). UW-Madison Psychology Professor Martha Alibali et al. present empirical research on how children use physical gestures to acquire mathematical problem-solving knowledge. Notice the clarity of expression in the first paragraph’s topic sentence: the writer provides sufficient set-up to prepare readers for the data which comes at the end of each paragraph.

We predicted that participants in the gesture-allowed condition would be less likely than participants in the gesture-prohibited condition to generate the parity strategy, because the availability of gesture would promote use of perceptual-motor strategies instead. This was indeed the case; the proportion of participants who used the parity strategy on at least one trial was .74 in the gesture-allowed condition and .91 in the gesture-prohibited condition, _2(1, N = 85) = 4.17, p = .04 (Fig. 1). Once they generated the parity strategy, most participants (89%) used it on all subsequent trials.

Mechanical engineering

From Mounting methodologies to measure EUV reticle nonflatness (SPIE Proceedings 7470, 2009), by the lab of UW–Madison Professor Roxanne L. Engelstad. Notice how Battula et al. signal the practical consequence of their findings and also suggest that another result would be possible depending on further research.

Unfortunately, to map the entire reticle with a single measurement, a 12 in. beam expander is needed. With such a large optical system, the expander must be held rigidly, not allowing it to tip or tilt. Since the UW-CMC mount must remain vertical to be effective, it cannot be used in this scenario. Consequently, the application of this mount is limited. Thus, a number of new designs have been proposed by industry to address the alignment issues and provide for other options, such as automated handling. Three of these designs are described and evaluated in the following sections.

Literary studies

From Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color (2012), by UW–Madison Professor Sherrard-Johnson. Notice how the first two sentences give crucial background information in order to set up the topic sentence.

In Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, Jeff Wiltse examines how U.S. swimming pools were transformed from interracial single-sex spaces in which class and gender were more important than race to “leisure resorts, where practically everyone in the community except black Americans swam together.” His study then follows what he calls the second social transformation—”when black Americans gained access through legal and social protest” and “white swimmers generally abandoned them for private pools.” The various iterations of West’s story, which discuss the span from 1950 to 1980, fall between these two moments in social and legal history. I am particularly intrigued by how the national history of segregated bathing areas informs the local, particular event described by West. Does the exclusion of blacks from the high beach parallel the segregation of public pools? In the early twentieth century, public bathing spaces were notoriously violent. The Chicago Riot in 1919 was touched off when white bathers threw rocks at black teenagers who had drifted into a white beach on Lake Michigan. Northerners’ use of pools during the Progressive era reinforced class and gender but not racial distinction. Working-class folk did not swim with the upper classes, but they were not as concerned about color. Following the Great Migration, the concerns about intimacy and sexuality that have always been latent in conversations about public space (in particular the public space of the pool) were directed at blacks. The peculiar democracy of the beach—in bathing suits it is more difficulty to determine class‐worked against black Americans. Wiltse marks this shift between the years of 1920 and 1940. The social changes that took place during this period shape West’s complex politics. (26)

Legal writing

Former UW–Madison School of Law Professor Arthur F. McEvoy wrote this model paragraph as part of a memorandum on effective writing. Notice that each of the body sentences illustrates and develops the main idea or topic sentence.

The ideal paragraph contains five sentences. The topic sentence almost always comes first and states as clearly as possible the point that the paragraph makes, just as the first sentence of this paragraph did. The three middle sentences of the paragraph follow the topic sentence in some rational order and substantiate it with examples, analysis, or other kind of development; if written clearly, middle sentences may employ conjunctions or subordinate clauses to put across complex ideas without breaking the basic form. Every well-written paragraph ends with a “clincher” sentence that in some way signals completion of the paragraph’s point and places it in context, either by restating the topic sentence, relating the topic back to the thesis of the writing as a whole, or by providing a transition to the paragraph that follows. While good style may require a writer to vary this basic form occasionally, the five-sentence model captures the Platonic essence of the paragraph and most effectively accomplishes its purpose, which is to state a single idea, in sequence, discretely and comprehensively.

how to write a paragraph pdf critical thinking

Writing Process and Structure

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Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

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how to write a paragraph pdf critical thinking

Writing to Think: Critical Thinking and the Writing Process

“Writing is thinking on paper.” (Zinsser, 1976, p. vii)

Google the term “critical thinking.” How many hits are there? On the day this tutorial was completed, Google found about 65,100,000 results in 0.56 seconds. That’s an impressive number, and it grows more impressively large every day. That’s because the nation’s educators, business leaders, and political representatives worry about the level of critical thinking skills among today’s students and workers.

What is Critical Thinking?

Simply put, critical thinking is sound thinking. Critical thinkers work to delve beneath the surface of sweeping generalizations, biases, clichés, and other quick observations that characterize ineffective thinking. They are willing to consider points of view different from their own, seek and study evidence and examples, root out sloppy and illogical argument, discern fact from opinion, embrace reason over emotion or preference, and change their minds when confronted with compelling reasons to do so. In sum, critical thinkers are flexible thinkers equipped to become active and effective spouses, parents, friends, consumers, employees, citizens, and leaders. Every area of life, in other words, can be positively affected by strong critical thinking.

Released in January 2011, an important study of college students over four years concluded that by graduation “large numbers [of American undergraduates] didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education” (Rimer, 2011, para. 1). The University designs curriculum, creates support programs, and hires faculty to help ensure you won’t be one of the students “[showing]no significant gains in . . . ‘higher order’ thinking skills” (Rimer, 2011, para. 4). One way the University works to help you build those skills is through writing projects.

Writing and Critical Thinking

Say the word “writing” and most people think of a completed publication. But say the word “writing” to writers, and they will likely think of the process of composing. Most writers would agree with novelist E. M. Forster, who wrote, “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” (Forster, 1927, p. 99). Experienced writers know that the act of writing stimulates thinking.

Inexperienced and experienced writers have very different understandings of composition. Novice writers often make the mistake of believing they have to know what they’re going to write before they can begin writing. They often compose a thesis statement before asking questions or conducting research. In the course of their reading, they might even disregard material that counters their pre-formed ideas. This is not writing; it is recording.

In contrast, experienced writers begin with questions and work to discover many different answers before settling on those that are most convincing. They know that the act of putting words on paper or a computer screen helps them invent thought and content. Rather than trying to express what they already think, they express what the act of writing leads them to think as they put down words. More often than not, in other words, experienced writers write their way into ideas, which they then develop, revise, and refine as they go.

What has this notion of writing to do with critical thinking? Everything.

Consider the steps of the writing process: prewriting, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, seeking feedback, and publishing. These steps are not followed in a determined or strict order; instead, the effective writer knows that as they write, it may be necessary to return to an earlier step. In other words, in the process of revision, a writer may realize that the order of ideas is unclear. A new outline may help that writer re-order details. As they write, the writer considers and reconsiders the effectiveness of the work.

The writing process, then, is not just a mirror image of the thinking process: it is the thinking process. Confronted with a topic, an effective critical thinker/writer

  • asks questions
  • seeks answers
  • evaluates evidence
  • questions assumptions
  • tests hypotheses
  • makes inferences
  • employs logic
  • draws conclusions
  • predicts readers’ responses
  • creates order
  • drafts content
  • seeks others’ responses
  • weighs feedback
  • criticizes their own work
  • revises content and structure
  • seeks clarity and coherence

Example of Composition as Critical Thinking

“Good writing is fueled by unanswerable questions” (Lane, 1993, p. 15).

Imagine that you have been asked to write about a hero or heroine from history. You must explain what challenges that individual faced and how they conquered them. Now imagine that you decide to write about Rosa Parks and her role in the modern Civil Rights movement. Take a moment and survey what you already know. She refused to get up out of her seat on a bus so a White man could sit in it. She was arrested. As a result, Blacks in Montgomery protested, influencing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr. took up leadership of the cause, and ultimately a movement was born.

Is that really all there is to Rosa Parks’s story? What questions might a thoughtful writer ask? Here a few:

  • Why did Rosa Parks refuse to get up on that particular day?
  • Was hers a spontaneous or planned act of defiance?
  • Did she work? Where? Doing what?
  • Had any other Black person refused to get up for a White person?
  • What happened to that individual or those individuals?
  • Why hadn’t that person or those persons received the publicity Parks did?
  • Was Parks active in Civil Rights before that day?
  • How did she learn about civil disobedience?

Even just these few questions could lead to potentially rich information.

Factual information would not be enough, however, to satisfy an assignment that asks for an interpretation of that information. The writer’s job for the assignment is to convince the reader that Parks was a heroine; in this way the writer must make an argument and support it. The writer must establish standards of heroic behavior. More questions arise:

  • What is heroic action?
  • What are the characteristics of someone who is heroic?
  • What do heroes value and believe?
  • What are the consequences of a hero’s actions?
  • Why do they matter?

Now the writer has even more research and more thinking to do.

By the time they have raised questions and answered them, raised more questions and answered them, and so on, they are ready to begin writing. But even then, new ideas will arise in the course of planning and drafting, inevitably leading the writer to more research and thought, to more composition and refinement.

Ultimately, every step of the way over the course of composing a project, the writer is engaged in critical thinking because the effective writer examines the work as they develop it.

Why Writing to Think Matters

Writing practice builds critical thinking, which empowers people to “take charge of [their] own minds” so they “can take charge of [their] own lives . . . and improve them, bringing them under [their] self command and direction” (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2020, para. 12). Writing is a way of coming to know and understand the self and the changing world, enabling individuals to make decisions that benefit themselves, others, and society at large. Your knowledge alone – of law, medicine, business, or education, for example – will not be enough to meet future challenges. You will be tested by new unexpected circumstances, and when they arise, the open-mindedness, flexibility, reasoning, discipline, and discernment you have learned through writing practice will help you meet those challenges successfully.

Forster, E.M. (1927).  Aspects of the novel . Harcourt, Brace & Company.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2020, June 17).  Our concept and definition of critical thinking . https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-concept-of-critical-thinking/411

Lane, B. (1993).  After the end: Teaching and learning creative revision . Heinemann.

Rimer, S. (2011, January 18).  Study: Many college students not learning to think critically . The Hechinger Report. https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article24608056.html

Zinsser, W. (1976).  On writing well: The classic guide to writing nonfiction . HarperCollins.

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Critical thinking

Critical writing.

Students sometimes receive feedback such as "your essay is too descriptive" or "you need to show more critical analysis". While some description may be necessary – for instance if you are providing background information – most university assignments require you to produce work that is analytical and critical in its approach.

Your tutors want to know what you think

Your writing needs to show your interpretation of the evidence and source material, how you have used that information to demonstrate your understanding, and your subsequent position on the topic. Being critical in your writing means engaging in academic debates and research happening in your subject area.

The sources you select, the way you show how they agree or disagree with other pieces of evidence, and the way you structure your argument will all show your thought process and how you have understood the information you have read.

Use evidence to strengthen your position

Always keep your reader in mind and try to anticipate the questions they would ask — refer back to the Critical thinking questions (PDF) to help you with this. You can use evidence to help you strengthen your position, answer readers' questions, and "neutralise" opposing points of view.

Remember to keep descriptive statements to a minimum — there is no need to provide large amounts of background or historical information.

Make sure you move from description to analysis and evaluation . Give your interpretation of the facts, and explain the significance, consequences and implications of the statements you have made.

See our advice on structuring a paragraph for more information on how to attach analysis and evaluation to each point you make.

Descriptive vs critical writing examples

The following examples demonstrate the difference between descriptive writing and critical/analytical writing. They are taken from: Cottrell, S. 2003. The Study Skills Handbook . 2nd ed. London: Palgrave.

State what happened vs identify its significance

To write critically you will need to not only describe what happened, but also identify the significance of what happened.

Descriptive example

"The data shows that the incidence (new cases) of asthma rates in children under 15 years old increased rapidly from 1977, peaking in 1993 and then declining, though rates still remain significantly higher than pre-1976 levels."

Critical example

"The trend, from 1977 until 1993, of a rapid rise in rates of asthma diagnosis in children under 15 years, suggests that one of the causal factors was particularly prevalent during this time, but has since declined in importance or effect."

Explain the theory vs show its relevance

Descriptive writing will explain what the theory says. To write critically you need to go further and show why that theory is relevant.

"Carl Rogers' theory of a person-centred approach focuses on the freedom of the individual to determine what values should be used to measure successful personal outcomes or benefit, and is particularly relevant for social workers when wanting to take into account the diverse needs of the client group."

"Carl Rogers' theory of a person-centred approach is particularly suitable for social workers wanting to work with a client group with diverse needs because it allows the client to determine what values should be used to measure successful outcomes, rather than those externally determined by, for example, the service, state or dominant culture in society."

Note the method used vs indicate its appropriateness

Rather than simply noting the method used, which is the descriptive approach, a critical writer will show how appropriate that method was.

"In addition to competency-based questions, the candidates were asked to complete an in-tray exercise, which required them to allocate different priority levels to tasks, as an appropriate method to measure their likely performance in the actual job."

"In addition to competency-based questions, candidates were asked to complete an in-tray task prioritisation exercise. This was because it was considered a more effective way to measure likely performance in the actual role as the majority of the job would involve similar tasks, with little interaction with customers and therefore less requirement for highly developed communication skills."

You can apply our critical thinking model to your own work; use our Judging your own work (PDF) questions to help you decide if your writing is critical. These questions will take you through the description-analysis-evaluation stages. Take a look at further examples of descriptive writing vs. critical/analytical writing (PDF)

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Humanities LibreTexts

2.1: Breaking down critical thinking into categories

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WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING?

  • Critical thinking is a set of skills designed to help the thinker analyze, assess and question a given situation or reading.
  • Critical thinking skills push the thinker to reject simplistic conclusions based on human irrationality, false assumptions, prejudices, biases and anecdotal evidence.
  • Critical thinking skills give thinkers confidence that they can see issues which are complex and which have several answers and points of view and that opinions and insights can change with new information.

WHAT DO CRITICAL THINKERS DO?

  • Consider all sides of an issue
  • Judge well the quality of an argument
  • Judge well the credibility of sources
  • Create convincing arguments using sound evidence and analysis
  • Effectively recognize and use ethos (ethics), pathos (empathy) and logos (logic) in argument

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

People will listen to and respect critical thinkers with these abilities because…

  • Considering all sides of an issue means they are open-minded, informed, and mindful of alternatives and other points of view.
  • Judging well the quality of an argument means they can effectively identify and evaluate another’s reasons, assumptions and conclusions and not be fooled into believing false or unsubstantiated claims.
  • Judging well the credibility of sources means they can recognize and present the most reputable, trustworthy and convincing evidence.
  • Creating convincing arguments using sound evidence and analysis means they can formulate plausible hypotheses and draw conclusions which are thoughtful and verifiable.
  • Effectively recognizing and using ethos, pathos and logos in argument means they construct well-crafted points using a balance of morality and ethics, consideration and empathy for others, as well as sound and logical reasoning.

HOW DO I USE CRITICAL THINKING?

Breaking down into categories how to analyze a topic or text (one written by you or another author) will help you examine it thoroughly and critically. Use these questions to assist you:

Clarity: Is it understandable and can the meaning be clearly grasped?

  • Is the main idea clear?
  • Can examples be added to better illustrate the points?
  • Are there confusing or unrelated points?

Accuracy: Is it free from errors or distortions—is it true?

  • Do I need to verify the truth of the claims?
  • Is credible evidence used correctly and fairly?
  • Is additional research needed?

Precision: Is it exact with specific details?

  • Can the wording be more exact?
  • Are the claims too general?
  • Are claims supported with concrete evidence?

Relevance: How does it relate to the topic or assignment?

  • Does it help illuminate the topic or assignment?
  • Does it provide new or important information?
  • Who does the content have the most relevance for?

Depth: Does it contain complexities and delve into the larger implications?

  • What are some of the complexities explored?
  • What are some of the difficulties that should be addressed?
  • What are the larger implications or impact?

Breadth: Does it encompass multiple viewpoints?

  • Do I need to look at this from another perspective?
  • What other people would have differing viewpoints?
  • Do I need to look at this in other ways?

Logic: Do the parts make sense together and are there no contradictions?

  • Do all the points work together logically to prove one clear argument?
  • Does one paragraph follow logically from the next?
  • Does the evidence directly prove the main points?

Significance: Does it focus on what is important?

  • Is this the most important aspect to consider?
  • Which of the facts or points are the most important?
  • Does it examine a larger significance?

Fairness: Is it justifiable and not self-serving or one-sided?

  • Do I have any vested interest in this issue that can affect my reaction?
  • Is personal bias or a hidden agenda driving the point?
  • Are the viewpoints of others sympathetically represented?

Use this chart to help you apply these critical thinking categories to a particular text or topic:

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How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: The Complete Guide

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by  Antony W

September 13, 2022

how to write a paragraph pdf critical thinking

Are you looking for a detailed guide on how to write a critical thinking essay step-by-step? Maybe you have an idea to get you started by you want to be sure you have the right lead?

You’ve come to the right place.

Critical thinking is a complex system that involves conceptualization and evaluation of information and presentation of observation and analysis based on objective reasoning. The application of critical thinking in life dimension lowers the chances of making mistakes and guides humans towards finding, and possibly believing in, some kind of truth.

When it comes to critical thinking essay writing, you’ll have a topic to read and analyze critically. In the end, you should demonstrate that you not only understand everything there is to know about the topic but that you can also present an objective analysis that presents a well-researched theory.

Keep reading this guide to learn exactly how to write a critical thinking essay in the shortest time possible.

What is a Critical Thinking Essay?

A critical thinking essay is an assignment in which students have to demonstrate their analytical abilities. For it’s worth, critical thinking essays should enable you to read attentively, employ methodical doubt, identify flaws in arguments, work with concepts, and articulate thoughts clearly and reasonably.

The foundation of a critical thinking essay is the ability to ask and respond to the appropriate questions. Tutors typically evaluate both the text’s quality and the manner in which a student develops arguments about a certain subject.  

Learning how to write a critical thinking essay is the best way to hone your critical thinking ability. Doing this will assist you in developing the ability to work efficiently with information, arrange it, filter out dubious material, and draw conclusions.

How is a Critical Thinking Essay Different from Other Essay?

A critical thinking essay is essentially different from other types of essays in that it asks students to read a text and examine it through the lens of the author. In other words, producing a critical thinking essay demonstrates students’ comprehension of material and their ability to make sense of what they have read, observed, or heard.

How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay

There following is a step-by-step guide to help you write a critical thinking essay: 

Step #1: Choose a Topic

The initial step should be to choose an appropriate topic. If it is a school or college project, you will most likely receive the subject from your professor. If your teachers do not assign a topic, you may choose one.

The best themes for critical thinking include books, a film, art, or a law. You can demonstrate your knowledge by giving your perspectives on contentious issues and explaining why you support your assertion.

Step #2: Research

Conduct research on the subject and learn about its distinguishing characteristics. What makes your theme unique? By emphasizing the solution to this question, you can write an entirely distinctive critical thinking essay.

Step #3: Write the Essay

Create an outline.

Not only does an outline assist you in organizing your thoughts, but it also assists you in directing your train of thought in the appropriate direction. Additionally, it assists you in organizing your essay in such a way that it has a natural flow or rhythm.

Keep in mind that thoughts come in various ways, but an outline can help you discipline them.

Create a Thesis Statement

The introduction includes a thesis statement. A thesis statement must be compelling. Your thesis statement should be debatable, and you should be able to present adequate evidence to back your response. The thesis statement should serve as the anchor for the remainder of the essay.

Choose the Most Persuasive Evidence

Choose the most persuasive evidence from the outline’s researched list. To weed out the most vulnerable pieces of evidence, ask these questions and keep only those that respond. Which ones best support your thesis? Which of the shards of evidence will be most recognizable by subject-matter experts? Which one has the most authors and specialists advocating for the same cause? The responses will assist you in framing your topic.

Write the Body of the Essay

If you want to discuss a recent incident that affected you, you will need to conduct research to fill out the essay. Not only should you consider meeting the word count specified, but you should also include facts and pieces of pertinent information in your essay.

While expressing your opinion, discuss both the positive and negative aspects. Write about whatever evidence you come across and do not conceal any aspect of your research and provide all sides of your subject.

  • Is the issue a representative of contemporary or postmodern themes?
  • Does the topic have a connection to any historical event?
  • What questions arose as you observed or learned about your subject?
  • Create a list of these questions and respond to them in the body paragraphs.

Write a Strong Conclusion

A conclusion paragraph summarizes your points. Your conclusion should emphasize what you’ve attempted to demonstrate or prove to your readers. Prior to writing the final paragraph of your essay, take some time to think about what you have just written in order to conclude your work effectively. You can motivate the reader to take action, summarize the key points, or explain how the subject affects the reader. Make every effort to relate back to previous ideas and connect them into a unified argument.

Some Tips to Help You Write Better

  • Take a break after you finish writing the essay. By taking a brief break, you can recharge your brain. Then carefully check your document for typos, grammatical flaws, wordy sentences, and other errors that could jeopardize your work.
  • Invite a friend or family member to read your critical thinking and provide helpful feedback.
  • Cite all sources, including quotations, figures, and theoretical information that you used in your essay.
  • To alleviate stress, begin writing in advance. Typically, last-minute writings have poor grammar and organization.
  • Attempt to begin as soon as possible and produce an excellent critical thinking essay!

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline

Critical thinking is the process of evaluating and analyzing information. People who use it in everyday life are open to different opinions. They rely on reason and logic when making conclusions about certain issues.

Our specialists will write a custom essay specially for you!

A critical thinking essay shows how your thoughts change as you research your topic. This type of assignment encourages you to learn rather than prove what you already know. In this article, our custom writing team will:

  • explain how to write an excellent critical essay;
  • introduce 30 great essay topics;
  • provide a critical thinking essay example in MLA format.
  • 🤔 Critical Thinking Essay Definition
  • 💡 Topics & Questions
  • ✅ Step-by-Step Guide
  • 📑 Essay Example & Formatting Tips
  • ✍️ Bonus Tips

🔍 References

🤔 what is a critical thinking essay.

A critical thinking essay is a paper that analyses an issue and reflects on it in order to develop an action plan. Unlike other essay types, it starts with a question instead of a thesis. It helps you develop a broader perspective on a specific issue. Critical writing aims at improving your analytical skills and encourages asking questions.

The picture shows the functions of critical thinking in writing.

Critical Thinking in Writing: Importance

When we talk about critical thinking and writing, the word “critical” doesn’t have any negative connotation. It simply implies thorough investigation, evaluation, and analysis of information. Critical thinking allows students to make objective conclusions and present their ideas logically. It also helps them avoid errors in reasoning.

The Basics: 8 Steps of Critical Thinking Psychology

Did you know that the critical thinking process consists of 8 steps? We’ve listed them below. You can try to implement them in your everyday life:

It’s possible that fallacies will occur during the process of critical thinking. Fallacies are errors in reasoning that fail to provide a reasonable conclusion. Here are some common types of fallacies:

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  • Generalization . It happens when you apply generally factual statements to a specific case.
  • Ambiguity . It occurs when the arguments are not clear and are not supported by evidence.
  • Appeal to authority . This mistake happens when you claim the statement is valid only because a respected person made it.
  • Appeal to emotion . It occurs when you use highly emotive language to convince the audience. Try to stay sensible and rely on the evidence.
  • Bifurcation . This mistake occurs when you choose only between two alternatives when more than two exist.
  • False analogy . It happens when the examples are poorly connected.

If you want to avoid these mistakes, do the following:

  • try not to draw conclusions too quickly,
  • be attentive,
  • carefully read through all the sources,
  • avoid generalizations.

How to Demonstrate Your Critical Thinking in Writing

Critical thinking encourages you to go beyond what you know and study new perspectives. When it comes to demonstrating your critical thinking skills in writing, you can try these strategies:

  • Read . Before you start writing an essay, read everything you can find on the subject you are about to cover. Focus on the critical points of your assignment.
  • Research . Look up several scholarly sources and study the information in-depth.
  • Evaluate . Analyze the sources and the information you’ve gathered. See whether you can disagree with the authors.
  • Prove . Explain why you agree or disagree with the authors’ conclusions. Back it up with evidence.

According to Purdue University, logical essay writing is essential when you deal with academic essays. It helps you demonstrate and prove the arguments. Make sure that your paper reaches a logical conclusion.

There are several main concepts related to logic:

If you want your essay to be logical, it’s better to avoid syllogistic fallacies, which happen with certain invalid deductions. If syllogisms are used carelessly, they can lead to false statements and ruin the credibility of your paper.

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💡 Critical Thinking Topics & Questions

An excellent critical thinking essay starts with a question. But how do you formulate it properly? Keep reading to find out.

How to Write Critical Thinking Questions: Examples with Answers

Asking the right questions is at the core of critical thinking. They challenge our beliefs and encourage our interest to learn more.

Here are some examples of model questions that prompt critical thinking:

  • What does… mean?
  • What would happen if…?
  • What are the principles of…?
  • Why is… important?
  • How does… affect…?
  • What do you think causes…?
  • How are… and… similar/different?
  • How do you explain….?
  • What are the implications of…?
  • What do we already know about…?

Now, let’s look at some critical thinking questions with the answers. You can use these as a model for your own questions:

Question: What would happen if people with higher income paid more taxes?

  • Answer: It would help society to prosper and function better. It would also help people out of poverty. This way, everyone can contribute to the economy.

Question: How does eating healthy benefit you?

  • Answer: Healthy eating affects people’s lives in many positive ways. It reduces cancer risk, improves your mood and memory, helps with weight loss and diabetes management, and improves your night sleep.

Critical Thinking Essay Topics

Have you already decided what your essay will be about? If not, feel free to use these essay topic examples as titles for your paper or as inspiration. Make sure to choose a theme that interests you personally:

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  • What are the reasons for racism in healthcare? 
  • Why is accepting your appearance important? 
  • Concepts of critical thinking and logical reasoning .
  • Nature and spirit in Ralf Waldo Emerson ’s poetry.
  • How does technological development affect communication in the modern world?
  • Social media effect on adolescents.
  • Is the representation of children in popular fiction accurate?
  • Domestic violence and its consequences. 
  • Why is mutual aid important in society?
  • How do stereotypes affect the way people think? 
  • The concept of happiness in different cultures.
  • The purpose of environmental art. 
  • Why do people have the need to be praised ?
  • How did antibiotics change medicine and its development? 
  • Is there a way to combat inequality in sports ?
  • Is gun control an effective way of crime prevention?
  • How our understanding of love changes through time.
  • The use of social media by the older generation.
  • Graffiti as a form of modern art .
  • Negative health effects of high sugar consumption.
  • Why are reality TV shows so popular?
  • Why should we eat healthily ?
  • How effective and fair is the US judicial system? 
  • Reasons of Cirque du Soleil phenomenon.
  • How can police brutality be stopped? 
  • Freedom of speech : does it exist?
  • The effects of vaccination misconceptions. 
  • How to eliminate New Brunswick’s demographic deficit: action plan. 
  • What makes a good movie ?
  • Critical analysis of your favorite book.
  • The connection between fashion and identity .
  • Taboo topics and how they are discussed in gothic literature .
  • Critical thinking essay on the problem of overpopulation .
  • Does our lifestyle affect our mental health ?
  • The role of self-esteem in preventing eating disorders in children .
  • Drug abuse among teenagers.
  • Rhetoric on assisted suicide .
  • Effects of violent video games on children’s mental health. 
  • Analyze the effect stress has on the productivity of a team member.  
  • Discuss the importance of the environmental studies .
  • Critical thinking and ethics of happy life.
  • The effects of human dignity on the promotion of justice.
  • Examine the ethics of advertising the tobacco industry.
  • Reasons and possible solutions of research misconduct.
  • Implication of parental deployment for children.
  • Cultural impact of superheroes on the US culture.
  • Examine the positive and negative impact of technology on modern society.
  • Critical thinking in literature: examples.
  • Analyze the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on economic transformation. 
  • Benefits and drawbacks of mandatory vaccination .

Haven’t found a suitable essay idea? Try using our topic generator !

✅ How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay Step by Step

Now, let’s focus on planning and writing your critical thinking essay. In this section, you will find an essay outline, examples of thesis statements, and a brief overview of each essay part.

Critical Thinking Essay Outline

In a critical thinking essay, there are two main things to consider: a premise and a conclusion :

  • A premise is a statement in the argument that explains the reason or supports a conclusion.
  • A conclusion indicates what the argument is trying to prove. Each argument can have only one conclusion.

When it comes to structuring, a critical thinking essay is very similar to any other type of essay. Before you start writing it, make sure you know what to include in it. An outline is very helpful when it comes to structuring a paper.

The picture enumerates the main parts of a critical essay outline: introduction, main body, conclusion.

How to Start a Critical Essay Introduction

An introduction gives readers a general idea of an essay’s contents. When you work on the introduction, imagine that you are drawing a map for the reader. It not only marks the final destination but also explains the route.

An introduction usually has 4 functions:

  • It catches the reader’s attention;
  • It states the essay’s main argument;
  • It provides some general information about the topic;
  • It shows the importance of the issue in question.

Here are some strategies that can make the introduction writing easier:

  • Give an overview of the essay’s topic.
  • Express the main idea.
  • Define the main terms.
  • Outline the issues that you are going to explore or argue about.
  • Explain the methodology and why you used it.
  • Write a hook to attract the reader’s attention.

Critical Analysis Thesis Statement & Examples

A thesis statement is an integral part of every essay. It keeps the paper organized and guides both the reader and the writer. A good thesis:

  • expresses the conclusion or position on a topic;
  • justifies your position or opinion with reasoning;
  • conveys one idea;
  • serves as the essay’s map.

To have a clearer understanding of what a good thesis is, let’s have a look at these examples.

The statement on the left is too general and doesn’t provide any reasoning. The one on the right narrows down the group of people to office workers and specifies the benefits of exercising.

Critical Thinking Essay Body Paragraphs: How to Write

Body paragraphs are the part of the essay where you discuss all the ideas and arguments. In a critical thinking essay, arguments are especially important. When you develop them, make sure that they:

  • reflect the key theme;
  • are supported by the sources/citations/examples.

Using counter-arguments is also effective. It shows that you acknowledge different points of view and are not easily persuaded.

In addition to your arguments, it’s essential to present the evidence . Demonstrate your critical thinking skills by analyzing each source and stating whether the author’s position is valid.

To make your essay logically flow, you may use transitions such as:

  • Accordingly,
  • For instance,
  • On the contrary,
  • In conclusion,
  • Not only… but also,
  • Undoubtedly.

How to Write a Critical Thinking Conclusion

In a critical thinking essay, the notion of “conclusion” is tightly connected to the one used in logic. A logical conclusion is a statement that specifies the author’s point of view or what the essay argues about. Each argument can have only one logical conclusion.

Sometimes they can be confused with premises. Remember that premises serve as a support for the conclusion. Unlike the conclusion, there can be several premises in a single argument. You can learn more about these concepts from the article on a logical consequence by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Keeping this in mind, have a look at these tips for finishing your essay:

  • Briefly sum up the main points.
  • Provide a final thought on the issue.
  • Suggest some results or consequences.
  • Finish up with a call for action.

📑 Critical Thinking Essays Examples & Formatting Tips

Formatting is another crucial aspect of every formal paper. MLA and APA are two popular formats when it comes to academic writing. They share some similarities but overall are still two different styles. Here are critical essay format guidelines that you can use as a reference:

Finally, you’re welcome to check out a full critical essay sample in MLA format. Download the PDF file below:

Currently, the importance of critical thinking has grown rapidly because technological progress has led to expanded access to various content-making platforms: websites, online news agencies, and podcasts with, often, low-quality information. Fake news is used to achieve political and financial aims, targeting people with low news literacy. However, individuals can stop spreading fallacies by detecting false agendas with the help of a skeptical attitude.

✍️ Bonus Tips: Critical Thinking and Writing Exercises

Critical thinking is a process different from our regular thinking. When we think in everyday life, we do it automatically. However, when we’re thinking critically, we do it deliberately.

So how do we get better at this type of thinking and make it a habit? These useful tips will help you do it:

  • Ask basic questions. Sometimes, while we are doing research, the explanation becomes too complicated. To avoid it, always go back to your topic.
  • Question basic assumptions. When thinking through a problem, ask yourself whether your beliefs can be wrong. Keep an open mind while researching your question.
  • Think for yourself. Avoid getting carried away in the research and buying into other people’s opinions.
  • Reverse things. Sometimes it seems obvious that one thing causes another, but what if it’s the other way around?
  • Evaluate existing evidence. If you work with sources, it’s crucial to evaluate and question them.

Another way to improve your reasoning skills is to do critical thinking exercises. Here are some of them:

Thanks for reading through our article! We hope that you found it helpful and learned some new information. If you liked it, feel free to share it with your friends.

Further reading:

  • Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2024]
  • How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Outline, Steps, & Examples
  • How to Write an Analysis Essay: Examples + Writing Guide
  • How to Write a Critique Paper: Tips + Critique Essay Examples
  • How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay Step by Step
  • Critical Thinking and Writing: University of Kent
  • Steps to Critical Thinking: Rasmussen University
  • 3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking: Harvard Business Review
  • In-Class Writing Exercises: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing: University of South Australia
  • 15 Questions that Teachers and Parents Can Ask Kids to Encourage Critical Thinking: The Hun School
  • Questions to Provoke Critical Thinking: Brown University
  • How to Write a College Critical Thinking Essay: Seattle PI
  • Introductions: What They Do: Royal Literary Fund
  • Thesis Statements: Arizona State University
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COMMENTS

  1. PDF r8 How to Write

    Being open to new ways of thinking, it values new ideas and learns from what it writes. The reflective mind improves its thinking by thinking (reflectively) about it. Likewise, it improves its writing by thinking (reflectively) about writing. It moves back and forth between writing and thinking about how it is writing.

  2. Improve Your Paper by Writing Structured Paragraphs

    Download this Handout PDF In academic writing, effective paragraphs serve as building blocks to construct a complex analysis or argument. Paragraphing helps readers to understand and process your ideas into meaningful units of thought. What do paragraphs do? Imagine reading this page without paragraph breaks. Paragraphs create order and logic by helping your reader recognize…

  3. PDF Paragraphs

    Step 5. Complete the paragraph's idea or transition into the next paragraph The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph and reminding the reader of the relevance of the information in this paragraph to the main or controlling idea of the paper. At this point, you can remind your reader about the

  4. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 5 Asking Analytical Questions When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a

  5. The thinker's guide to how to write a paragraph : the art of

    Theory -- Practice: Exercises in substantive writing -- Appendices -- Appendix A: Logic of an article -- Appendix B: Evaluation an author's reasoning -- Appendix C: mapping sentences (for instructors) -- Appendix D: How to teach students to assess writing (for instructors) -- Appendix E: Function of transitional words

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  7. PDF Chapter 1 What Is Critical Thinking?

    Here are three definitions of critical thinking by leading researchers. First, Robert Ennis's classic definition:1. Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on decid-ing what to believe or do. 1. Even before you start reading this text, begin by examining your own con-cept of critical thinking.

  8. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING

    "Writing" is usually understood as the expression of thought. This book redefines "writing" as the thought process itself. Writing is not what you do with thought. Writing is thinking. Better living through interpretation: that's the promise of academic writing, which is a foundational course in most schools because it's a

  9. PDF Critical thinking and writing

    What is critical thinking? When looking at the instructions or marking scheme for an assignment, you will often find that you are required to be critical in some way. For example: Being critical can mean slightly different things in different assignments, but these are some general principles that usually apply. Critical thinking is:

  10. How to Write a Paragraph: The Art of Substantive Writing

    How to Write a Paragraph applies critical thinking tools to the process of writing to guide students towards developing clear, effective, and meaningful written communication. As a companion to How to Read a Paragraph, this volume in the Thinker's Guide Library includes activities to sharpen writing skills and overall reasoning abilities ...

  11. Writing to Think: Critical Thinking and the Writing Process

    Writing practice builds critical thinking, which empowers people to "take charge of [their] own minds" so they "can take charge of [their] own lives . . . and improve them, bringing them under [their] self command and direction" (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2020, para. 12). Writing is a way of coming to know and understand the ...

  12. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  13. PDF Paragraph Writing Worksheets

    Write, edit using your checklists, and then type and highlight your final paragraph. Segment 4: Thorny Devil Paragraph WS 12 & 13 Take the highlighted Paragraph Organization about the thorny devil and fill in the corresponding highlighted Block Outline with the information. Then, write a paragraph about the thorny devil lizard from the outline.

  14. PDF Critical Thinking

    The most fundamental idea underlying this four-part series is that the work of close reading consists in mindfully extracting and internaliz-ing the important meanings implicit in a text. It is a highly constructive activity. The reflective mind works its way into the mind of an author through intellectual discipline.

  15. PDF ESSAYS: INSTRUCTIONS AND TOPICS

    First, write a seven to ten sentence summary. Each sentence should carry enough conceptual weight to withstand elaboration into a paragraph. Second, write the paragraphs. Put the essay aside. After a delay (a day or more is optimal, as it is worthwhile to sleep at least once in the interim), write another outline, without referring to your ...

  16. Critical writing

    See our advice on structuring a paragraph for more information on how to attach analysis and evaluation to each point you make. Descriptive vs critical writing examples. The following examples demonstrate the difference between descriptive writing and critical/analytical writing. They are taken from: Cottrell, S. 2003.

  17. PDF Essay Writing Handout

    Answer the question; keep it relevant. Develop a logical and clearly structured argument. Support and illustrate your argument. Go beyond description to demonstrate critical thinking. Practice writing and proofreading. 3. Plan Your Essay. Every essay needs a strong and clear structure, organized around an argument.

  18. 2.1: Breaking down critical thinking into categories

    Critical thinking is a set of skills designed to help the thinker analyze, assess and question a given situation or reading. Critical thinking skills push the thinker to reject simplistic conclusions based on human irrationality, false assumptions, prejudices, biases and anecdotal evidence. Critical thinking skills give thinkers confidence that ...

  19. PDF r16F How to Read

    5. To learn a new subject: requires close reading skills in internalizing and taking ownership of an organized system of meanings. How you read should be determined in part by what you read. Reflective readers read a textbook, for example, using a different mindset than they use when reading an article in a newspaper.

  20. How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: The Complete Guide

    Step #1: Choose a Topic. The initial step should be to choose an appropriate topic. If it is a school or college project, you will most likely receive the subject from your professor. If your teachers do not assign a topic, you may choose one. The best themes for critical thinking include books, a film, art, or a law.

  21. (PDF) Writing Critical Reviews: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Ev en better you might. consider doing an argument map (see Chapter 9, Critical thinking). Step 5: Put the article aside and think about what you have read. Good critical review. writing requires ...

  22. How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline

    write the abstract is a single paragraph (around 250 words). Format. double-spaced with 1-inch margins; page header with page numbers on the flush right; 10-12-point font. make the paper double-spaced with 1-inch margins; create a page header with page numbers flush right; use an 11-12-point font. In-text citations.

  23. PDF How to Write a Critical Response

    First sentence: Mention the name of the author and the title of the work you're responding to. Second sentence : A general statement about the topic. Next 3 or 4 sentences : Share the author's thesis and mention the key points. Last sentence : Your thesis (you can agree, disagree, build on, highlight, or question the author's point of view)

  24. How to Write a Paragraph

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