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The hard economics of paid family leave many people, the words critic, critical, critique, and criticism have a negative connotation. If
using a different word (like evaluation, estimation, or appraisal) has a more balanced connotation
for you, use it instead. You want to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Schrader’s essay.
Your job isn’t to “tear her a new one”! Instead, you should give your assessment of the merits of
her work.
Chapter 2 of Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum focuses on writing critiques. The
authors organized the chapter around two broad questions:
1) To what extent does the author succeed in his or her purpose?
2) To what extent do you agree with the author?
I like to talk about writing critiques in a slightly different way. I like to say that when writing
critiques, writers have two broad goals.
Goal 1—Summarize the source material. In this case, communicate Schrader’s thesis and
main points.
Goal 2—Critique the source material. In this case, you will need to evaluate Schrader’s
Three broad questions can help guide your thinking as you evaluate her essay.
Question 1—How well written is the essay? You’ll want to consider what she hoped to
accomplish and how likely it was that the essay would have accomplished her
Question 2—To what extent do you agree with the author? Students don’t usually have
much trouble with this question because they are pretty comfortable sharing their
opinions. I don’t care if you agree or disagree with Schrader, but you need to
support your assertions with good reasons.
Question 3—How well is the issue framed? Your book doesn’t directly address this issue.
Framing has to do with how authors choose to present information. An example
might be helpful. In recent years, many communities in our region have been
holding local option elections. Most of us think of these referenda as wet/dry
votes. By now, the basic arguments people make are familiar. People who oppose
expanded alcohol sales generally oppose the expansion on moral or religious
grounds—that is to say they seek to frame the issue as primarily being about
immoral or sinful behavior. People who favor expanded alcohol sales generally
support them on the grounds that the change will result in more jobs and higher
tax revenues. In other words, they try to convince other people to see the issue in
economic terms. When I was younger, voters (at least where I lived) seemed more
open to accepting the religious/moral frame, but lately, they seem to be more
inclined to see the issue in economic terms. Regardless of who you think is right
on the issue, it is important for writers of critiques (critical thinkers) to recognize
and evaluate how others seek to present information and then to draw conclusions
about the appropriateness of the choices.
Writing the Critique
You’ll need to do some research to back up the points you want to make about Schrader’s essay
in your critique. The college subscribes to databases for students to use when doing research in
this and other classes. To access them, go to the SCC Learning Commons page,, click on the
“Databases” button, and you will see links to the databases. Please note that when you try to
access the databases from off-campus, you will be prompted to enter a username and password.
Use the same ones you use to get into your email, Blackboard, and PeopleSoft. If you have
problems signing in, please contact me or one of the librarians, so we can troubleshoot the
problem for you.
Searching the databases is a lot like searching the web, only better! Once you are on the
“Databases” page, click on “General Research” and then click on “Academic Search Complete.”
This database is very popular for basic research because it makes a wide variety of information
available. Once you are in the database, notice a couple of things. On the top right, in blue, you’ll
see a “Choose Databases” link. If you click on it, you’ll see a list of all the EBSCO Databases
the college subscribes to. You can search as many databases as you want at once by checking the
boxes next to the database names. If it’s your first time, try checking “Academic Search
Complete” and “Sociological Collection.” (By the way, if you hover your mouse over a dialog
box, you will see a description of the kinds of information in that database.) Click “OK.” Under
the “Limit Your Results” section of the search page, check the “Full Text” box, so you’ll only
get results that you can read, print, or email to yourself in their entirety. Search for “family
leave.” A number of the results will allow you to come to a better understanding of the larger
discussion and debate around family leave so that you can begin to understand the context as you
prepare to write your critique. The nineteenth result I got was “An International Embarrassment:
The United States as an Anomaly in Maternity Leave Policy.” Click on it. To peruse the full
article click on “PDF Full Text.” If you find an article you like and think you might want to cite,
use the “E-Mail” function under “Tools” to send yourself a copy, so you’ll have it and all the
information you’ll need to cite it correctly. Explore the other databases that are available to you;
they all work pretty much the same way.
Checklist for Introductions to Critiques
An introduction to a critique is in many ways similar to an introduction to a summary, so using
the same list is appropriate. The big difference is that in a critique, you are required to state your
views, so you’ll need to include a thesis in your introduction that sums up your overall
estimation of Schrader’s essay.
1. Author’s Name
2. Description of Author
3. Date of Publication
4. Source of Publication
5. Genre (Type of Writing—in this case, editorial)
6. Topic
7. Author’s Thesis
8. Author’s Purpose
9. Your Thesis
10. Author’s Title
Organization for Critique
English teachers often use the words arrangement, organization, and format interchangeably.
Usually, when they use those words, they are trying to stress the importance of the order writers
present their information in. Your book addresses the issue on page 68 in the box entitled
“Guidelines for Writing Critiques.” Some of the discussion in that section can be helpful, but you
shouldn’t follow that format when you write your paper. Generally, critiques integrate summary
and critique on the paragraph (and often the sentence) level (as you will see in my notes on the
sample critique from your book). Most often writers will summarize an important point from the
essay and then make their comments on that issue before moving on to the next point. The
outline below illustrates the arrangement I would like you to use for your critique.
I. Introduction
II. Summary/Critique
III. Summary/Critique
IV. Summary/Critique
V. Conclusion
Please don’t think of this as a five-paragraph essay. Each of the sections may take multiple
paragraphs. For example, the sample paper from your book, “A Critique of Charles
Krauthammer’s ‘The Moon We Left Behind’” has more than one paragraph in the introduction.
Since writers have two goals when writing critiques (to summarize, to criticize) they need to
accomplish, it is common for them to address both in the same paragraph but that won’t always
be the case. For instance, a writer may want to summarize a point but not comment on it because
doing so would not advance the thesis, so he or she would choose to summarize only. On the
other hand, a writer may believe that an issue of enormous importance was not addressed in the
essay under consideration and would spend a paragraph or more explaining the importance of
that point to the larger discussion. You might have something that looks like this.
I. Introduction
II. Summary/Critique
III. Summary
IV. Summary/Critique
V. Critique
VI. Summary/Critique
VII. Conclusion
If you plan to submit a draft of your summary to me for feedback, remember that the deadline to
email it to me is 8:00 a.m. Monday, September 17th.
1. Start a new email message (always email me from your KCTCS account because it’s a secure
2. Type my email address into the address box:
3. Type “Draft: Schrader Critique” into the subject box
4. Click the Attach File button
5. Browse your computer to locate the document, click on it, and click insert
6. Click Send

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