On Writing: The Difference Between Critical Analysis And Summary

Summaries and Critical analyses are often interchanged by students. Although these two are closely related, their difference is outstanding. Students need to understand these differences thoroughly in order for them to produce a well-written summary or critical analysis. Like most types of essays, the critical analysis and the summary each have their own set of requirements. As with most essays, what distinguishes these two from each other, and indeed from the other types of essays, can be found in their purposes and theses.  

Purpose

When writing a summary, you simply have to retell the highlights of the subject, be it a research article or a literary piece, in a direct, clear, and concise manner; whereas when writing a critical analysis, you have to assess and offer criticisms toward the subject. In other words, a summary asks only for the contents of the article to be delivered in a shorter manner but with no additional insight. In contrast, interpretation, insights, and criticisms are integral in a critical analysis. What is important to keep in mind is that a fair amount of critical thinking is needed to write both a summary and a critical analysis. 

Evaluation is the name of the game.

For instance, the writing assignment is to discuss 'how gender influenced a character's decisions in Literature X,' this makes the paper a critical analysis since you are required to offer your educated opinion as an answer to the question. However, if the question becomes 'what are the key decisions that the main character has to make in Literature X,' that is when it becomes a summary. Generally, when one has to answer questions of Who, What, When, and Where, a summary has to be delivered. The most basic question is 'What,' which refers to identifying the elements of a story as seen in the image below. But when one has to provide justifications for How and Why, it is an analysis. The common ground is addressing a question, the difference is what is the question you need to address. Remember: when writing a summary, one has to clearly identify which parts of the literature represents each literary element; while when writing a critical analysis, one has to provide an argument about one of the literary elements.

The difference between Summary and Critical Analysis

Thesis

Once you are certain with what you need, you now have to narrow down your coverage. When writing your thesis statement, make sure your purpose is clearly presented. Wordplay is not the best weapon when it comes to thesis writing. Be as straightforward as possible if you want to write a truly good thesis statement. For a summary, it can be as simple as:

  • "This paper aims to provide a summary for Literature X" (or you can just leave the title of your paper to speak for itself e.g. 'Literature X': A Summary' then proceed with writing the story in your own words.

The formulation of a thesis statement, however, becomes a little bit complicated when it comes to writing a critical analysis. You need to state your purpose as well as state your argument, but you can also opt to include only one. Take "how gender influenced a character's decisions in Literature X" as a sample question:

  • For one, you can transform the question into a thesis statement: "This paper aims to discuss how gender influences the decisions of the characters of Literature X."
  • Or you can address the question, making it clear that you have an argument to justify: "The decisions of Character 1 in Literature X are always beaming with equality considering that she is a woman in a patriarchal society."

However, you choose to write your thesis statement, always ensure that you deliver it clearly.

The Confusion

Every student wants to turn in a custom essay to impress their professors. Certainly, before writing, you may ask yourself 'how can I steer clear from just narrating key information of this article?'. The answer is simple—you cannot. Why? Because in writing summaries and critical analyses, all the information you inject into your paper is essential. The technique when writing a summary is not to go beyond what you read, and when writing a critical analysis just choose the parts that justify your thesis statement. If it makes you comfortable, feel free to use a 200-word synopsis for an introduction. Finally, to make things much easier, do not hesitate to outline your ideas. An outline will surely keep you on track and prevents you from forgetting what you plan to write. Above all, make sure that you have read your subject and understood it by heart. If your subject is a literary piece, try to enjoy it.

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