Structuring a Critical Essay

I meant to mention this in class, but I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to structure (or sequence, or arrange into a syntagm yayy!) a critical essay. A scientific paper in our field typically has the following structure (and you are welcome to use it in this class, if it makes sense to do so):

  1. Intro
  2. Lit Review
  3. Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion

Critical essays don’t have a standardized structure like this. Typically, though, they have a structure that can be more or less described as a sequence of high-level ideas or concepts. Take a look at Manovich to see what I mean. Each of his sections develops a single concept. Each chapter covers several of these concepts. And the introduction and conclusion identify the relationships among each of those concepts. And actually, most of the readings I assigned this semester are like that.

So ask yourself what the main ideas you are exploring, and think a little bit about how they relate to each other. That should help you come up with a good outline and thesis.

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About jeffreybardzell

Jeffrey Bardzell is an Associate Professor of HCI/Design in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University - Bloomington. His research foci include critical design, interaction criticism, research through design, and digital creativity, which he approaches from a perspective that reflects his background in the humanities.
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