How to Write a Critical Lens Essay: Tips, Outline, Example

critical lens

Learning All About a Critical Lens Essay

At some point throughout high school and even college or university, we might find ourselves being asked to write about critical lens essay quotes. As the name suggests, such assignments offer students the opportunity to utilize their analytical, reading, and writing skills in a controlled literary environment.

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What Is A Critical Lens Essay?

We understand that it sounds confusing at the start, but we are here to help you and explain in detail how to write a critical lens essay step by step. This type of essay offers a critical opinion or perspective on a particular piece of material, which is presented in the form of a quote or piece of art. The student or author is tasked with the literary work of analyzing a quote from a different source, and utilizing two literary sources, preferably books, to either support or oppose the quote. The writer does not necessarily need to be in support of the quote. In this scenario, the essay writer and his or her analytical skills are measured through the final essay, by examining the value of the literary terms used in deconstructing the argument, their validity within the text as well as the appropriateness of the chosen literary devices. As such, the manner in which the student structures and outlays his or her critical lens essay example will either make or break the masterpiece. The task at hand in this scenario is often a lot more than just interpreting the given quote.

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Goals Of A Critical Lens Essay

This section is designed to understand why critical lens assignments might be given to you and what is ultimately expected of you as an end product. We understand that each lecturer may alter the tips we are about to give you, but we believe that it is best to consult all possible tips when working on a critical lens essay.

The main goal of a critical lens analysis is for students to explore various literary themes and elements when reading a well-known piece of work while utilizing a contextual lens. Essentially, students should be able to defend a central claim from the quote or text they are exploring. This is done by linking particular moments or events in the texts that fit the respective categories of the lens and match your initial argument.

Practical Application

These exercises aim to improve student's reading skills and practice their analytical skills via the lens considered to be quite an advanced and compelling form of analysis. Ultimately, the end goal of any assignment in this sphere is to create a cohesive argument regarding one's position about a quote using concrete examples from many literary sources to support why this standpoint is logical to you.

Writing a critical lens essay normally employs a theoretical quote or text as a lens through which a writer examines a particular piece of culture or art. However, it is possible to employ a non-theoretical piece as a lens as long as this is done theoretically. It is quite philosophical and can lead to interesting discoveries not just about the works being examined but also one's self. Nonetheless, a writer's expectations of a critical lens analysis may differ according to the complexity of the assigned text. Vital aspects to be included in most types of assignments will look to cover: figurative language characterized by metaphors, similes, alliteration, symbolisms, and various historical themes. Identifying and evaluating them shows an understanding of your assignment's main points. But do not be shy to explore unpopular standpoints as those could more often provide a much more interesting read for your lecturer than the same interpretation they have already read hundreds of times.

Essentially, the student is being asked to assess the quote and then deliver judgment on whether it is substantial within the given circumstances. Although this may sound like a very simple task, complexity exists in the ability to explain and express one's point of view in a cohesive academic manner with supporting arguments. The literary knowledge of the student is also tested in this process, allowing the instructor to determine their ability to write a quality essay that explores a variety of literary tools and elements. The task can also allow the writer to be as creative as possible since one is allowed to express his or her thoughts on the matter and apply critical thinking when explaining one's interpretation to the readers.

Many students choose to try and validate very opinionated points of view in these types of essays to leave a lasting impression on the reader, which some say is cliche. However, we have found that an honest opinion is always far more valued than trying to argue for something you do not necessarily believe in. It is important to remember that when arguing for something you believe in, it leaves more room for improvement since it interests you. Do not hesitate to present an unpopular point of view simply because it is not that well known or appreciated; on the contrary, that leaves you with more room to explore the controversy behind this particular point of view.

Some of the best advice we have come across is envisioning such exercises as looking through a camera lens or a pair of glasses. A quote is merely a tool allowing us to bring in a sharper focus on the themes that the writer chose to highlight and explore with us. Such assessments offer various paths to interpret, analyze, and dive deeper into the text.


Usually, the perfect critical lens essay follows all standard academic writing requirements for academic essay writing. Unless specified otherwise, stick to the standard structure that includes the introduction, body, and conclusion. A critical lens essay must develop its critical analysis in the body section. The introduction serves to introduce a quote and hook readers into reading. The conclusion, hence, finalizes the ideas expressed in the essay. Also, you should be mindful of the word count requirements and references.

A correct critical lens essay format requires the book titles to be underlined and capitalized. Also, the general tone of writing should sound objective and free from the author's personal opinions. All the claims should be supported with clear evidence which can be verified. Finally, the author should refrain from using personal pronouns to make the text look academic and professional. Instead of pronouns, one may use words such as "people," "readers," and "audience."

Critical Lens Essay Quotes

If you need a quote that can become a perfect basis for your critical lens essay, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few critical lens essay quotes that you can use:

  1. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. – Nelson Mandela
  2. Too often we’re taught that we have to compete, or that someone else’s failure is our success, but we can all rise together; we can win. – Michelle Obama
  3. We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. – Steve Jobs
  5. When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  6. Whoever is happy will make others happy too. – Anne Frank
  7. Even in darkness it is possible to create light. – Elie Wiesel
  8. Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller
  10. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an unchartered land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. – Helen Keller
  11. You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated. – Maya Angelou
  12. Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  13. In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. –Abraham Lincoln
  14. A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. – David Brinkley
  15. The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting. – Walt Disney
  16. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness. – Oprah Winfrey
  17. To me, business isn't about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It's about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials. – Richard Branson
  18. You can't please everyone, and you can't make everyone like you. – Katie Couric
  19. Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve. – Mary Kay Ash
  20. I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. – Thomas Jefferson

How To Write A Critical Lens Essay?

Teachers at schools, colleges, and universities love critical lens essays because they can clearly demonstrate how good students are at critical thinking. At the same time, they also show the depth of the student's knowledge on the topic.

If you wonder how to write a critical lens essay to impress your teacher, here is a step-by-step guide for you:

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  1. Choose a quote that appeals to you, mention it in the introduction, and add some information on its author. Add a few sentences before the quote to help your readers understand what’s so special about it.
  2. Add your explanation to the quote rewriting it in your own words and turning it into a powerful thesis statement.
  3. Make it clear whether you agree or disagree with the thesis.
  4. Find and mention two literary sources that help you prove your opinion. Make sure the references you include are indeed relevant to the quote.
  5. Write the first body paragraph discussing the first literary evidence that you’ve found. Try to connect the thesis with the text from the source to make sure the literary example supports the quote.
  6. Do the same with the rest of the body paragraphs.
  7. Conclude on everything you’ve written. Use the quote and thesis again to prove the connection between the thesis and arguments.

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Writing Tips

  • The writer must use two literary sources to portray the underlying themes denoted by the quote. In essence, the essay uses quotations to analyze and explore works of literature. Generally, contrasting quotes are given by the instructors. However, we have also encountered cases where the student was required to select the second literary source from a list of different selections, each different offering themes and comparisons. In such cases, it is best to have a firm grip and understanding of the initial quote of the assignment, thus giving you the option to create the most compelling argument possible. For instance, many compare Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold with Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits. One cannot say that the two books are perfectly related. However, due to their time settings and specific South American civil turmoil themes, they often depict similar situations in which the protagonists and antagonists highlight important symbolisms in the lives of the locals. Successfully arranging all these elements in your critical lens essay template will allow the audience to actively participate and learn controversial facts about the content being presented to them.
  • The final sentence of each paragraph should summarize the idea the writer brought across in that particular paragraph. It is always advisable to draft the ideas separately to have a clear outline and structure of the paragraph within the body. This helps writer organize the paper so that the themes and elements are clearly structured logically. When doing so, you give your critical lens essay a smooth cursive flow that makes it much more enjoyable for the reader. Your audience can grasp the concepts much easier from your text as they progress and understand the intended point of view. The body should follow the introductory paragraph to avoid confusing the reader. A final analysis of the body should leave no further questions in a reader's mind on whether or not the writer supports the quote. All the supporting elements should be concisely explored within the body.

Critical Lens Essay Outline

Before you start to worry and ask yourself how to write a critical lens essay outline and what should its structure should look like, remember that most essays follow the same basic format but with minute alterations.


Like in many other types of essays, we will begin our analysis with an introductory paragraph. In this section, the writer states the quote, which can also be referred to as the critical lens statement. This should be stated and copied word for word always including the quotation marks in order to draw the reader's attention to it. The character or author of the quote should also be mentioned in the introduction. In the cases of anonymous authors, it is even more vital for it to be mentioned as well as this might be an indication that the specific quote at that time was considered taboo and perhaps it might still even be to this day.

Body Paragraphs

The writer should then provide their personal analysis and interpretation of the quote. In essence, whether or not they agree with it, their reaction to it when they encountered it, and their understanding of its purpose in that particular era, amongst many other things. Then they should explain why they have chosen their particular standpoint towards the quote using well-structured sentences.

This section should offer the readers a clear understanding and explanation as to why this viewpoint was logical in this critical lens essay format. Finally, the author, title, and genre of the books intended to be used by the writer in the essay should be provided. This includes stating the literary elements that the books offer in connection to the quote, as well as a detailed explanation of their relationship to highlight and support the respective chosen sources.

The next stage is the body of the essay, which could contain about four or more paragraphs or be split up into segments depending on the number of literary elements that the writer intends to explore. This section of your critical lens essay should always provide a thesis statement paired with a detailed analysis of the elements in the literary works previously chosen by you stated in the previous paragraph. The writer should always use intricate examples that were extracted from literary sources and creatively use them to display his understanding of the quote. Doing this allows the reader to begin creating the same connections and thought processes when analyzing the themes, symbols, or context of said quote.

Each paragraph within the main body of your critical lens essay should begin with a topic sentence. Always remember that this is the first sentence of the paragraph and is intended to draw the reader's attention to what will be the main purpose of this paragraph. It should always offer substantial information on the subject and cover all its aspects in detail.

Using new information about the subject, in conclusion, is often looked down upon as it is considered that the essay writer did not cover it adequately in the body of their essay. A good example of analysis should be similar to this: Michael, the protagonist of the play, is faced with a common conflict that confronts many people; the reasons behind his existence in this world. As he is the son of the King, he must decide not only his future but that of his country. This sentence should be followed by one or more examples that are case-specific and derived from the source. The details of the examples should be focused enough to support your interpretation of the quote highlighted by your thesis.


The conclusion of your critical lens essay comes last but not least. Like in most conclusions the goal is to summarize the main ideas of your analysis and wrap it all up nicely. The writer should restate the quote, including the author‘s name and as previously mentioned, if the author is unknown, it should be noted. The quote should still appear in quotation marks as in the introductory paragraph. This part is just as important as the rest of the essay, as it is the game winning touchdown and shows that the writer understood the key aspects of his or her topic. However, remember that it is crucial never to add any new concepts and ideas here. This fact is very often stressed as it sometimes still is an issue due to the vasts amounts of information available nowadays on the internet. But nevertheless, a conclusion’s main objective is to identify whether the writer agrees or disagrees with the quotation. Our last piece of advice is to always sum up the general content of your arguments from the previous paragraphs in concise sentences.

Critical Lens Essay Example

Of course, it’s hard to grasp the idea of how to write a critical lens essay by just reading all those guidelines and specifications. So, here is a great critical lens essay example for you:

Life is more than just a time span that a human being gets to be on this planet. It’s an array of experiences, emotions, and challenges that forge their character and fills them with the meaning. That’s why the words of Abraham Lincoln: "In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years." are true. If people are born into this world, it’s because they have the purpose, the goal of their existence, which they get to discover throughout their entire life. Mark Twain and Thich Nhat Hanh prove that this idea indeed makes sense.

A life a human being lives is complicated at all levels. Biologically, a body grows to its full potential and then starts to decline. This is inevitable, and everyone who’s born knows about their end. However, on the spiritual level, human life is more than just a story about the rise and the dawn of the human body. Everyone’s life is unique, and those are people themselves who are responsible for making it interesting and eventful. Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails." Usually, the boldest of people’s actions and decisions fill their lives with memories and meaning.

Living life means much more than just going with the flow. It’s all about self-actualization and realization of the surrounding world and the ability to comprehend and coexist with it As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive." Unfortunately, with so many people being stuck at the jobs they don’t like and with the people they don’t feel comfortable with, life becomes an unpleasant routine. It may become an enjoyable activity only if one decides to live their own scenario, make their own mistakes, and enjoy every moment of being present on Earth. Not being afraid to take risks and be challenged often creates the most memorable experiences people have. In the end, a person gets to remember only those moments when they broke the chains and stigmas and let their true selves take over.

Therefore, being alive means perfecting oneself every step of the way by demonstrating kindness, empathy, and humanity. Also, it means a constant struggle for self-actualization and development that regularly requires some tough decisions and bold actions. It’s not the years that people should count but the quality of life they had throughout all these years. The magic of life is being created when one lets themselves follow their dreams and discover the depth of their personality.

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