4.   Writing the body paragraphs

Body paragraphs in a critique may follow this structure:

Topic sentence     

An idea about the work which supports your stance/critical evaluation-- this is the focus of the paragraph.

Evidence/Supporting idea

Information supporting the idea in the topic sentence


Your explanation or interpretation of the evidence

Concluding sentence

A link back to your topic sentence or to your overall stance (your argument or answer to the question), or a link to the next body paragraph


However, the body section of many critiques begins with a summary or representation of the work. In this paragraph or paragraphs, the academic writer provides readers with a description of the work. For a film or story, this could be a synopsis of the plot. For an article, it could be a summary of the main arguments. In any case, it is an opportunity for the writer to highlight certain features or elements of the work that will tie into the critical evaluation of the work in later body paragraphs. It is important here not to go into too much detail, but to include elements that will be addressed in the rest of the critique.

Example Summary

“The Lottery” takes place in a small American village of 300 people. All the villagers gather in the town square one morning to participate in a lottery, which is a long-time annual ritual. Some boys have already collected a pile of stones in preparation. During the ceremony, an old-timer complains about other towns in the region that are abandoning the lottery tradition. He links the holding of the lottery and a successful harvest, repeating the old phrase “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson, 1948, p. 12). The ritual begins with the head of each household drawing a slip of paper from a box. They then unfold their slips, and the Hutchinson household is revealed to have a black dot on their paper. Then each of the Hutchinsons—husband, wife, and three children—take a slip of paper from the box. The wife, Tessie, ends up with the black dot on her slip. With her screaming about the unfairness of the result, the rest of the villagers take stones from the gathered pile and the ending implies that Tessie is stoned to death by her fellow townspeople. Readers of the 20th century were thus left with a powerful message regarding the dangers of blinding following a tradition.




A brief retelling of the plot of the story—note that some key points are highlighted but the summary does not go into too much detail.







The main theme/purpose of the work is repeated.


Further body paragraphs could then revisit certain elements and demonstrate how effectively or not they fulfil the purpose of the work. To do this, you might answer one or more of the following questions:

        How objective or open to interpretation is the work?

        How well are the underlying themes/arguments expressed or supported?

        How effective is the structure or presentation of the work in communicating its purpose?

        How persuasive or engaging is the work?

        How original or grounded in tradition is the work?

        Does the work represent an advance in the field/subject area?

The organization of body paragraphs can vary from critique to critique. For shorter critiques, it might be better to present overall strengths and/or weaknesses one at a time in separate paragraphs. For longer critiques, it could make more sense to devote a paragraph to each of the key elements or features at a time, discussing its strengths and/or weaknesses in one or more body paragraphs. As always, it is important to refer back to the assignment guidelines in order to best decide how to approach body paragraph organisation.

As you are planning and drafting your critique body paragraphs, remember to rely on two sources of support for the ideas you present. One type of support is from the work itself. If it is a written work, you can quote from the original in the words of the author(s). If it is from a visual medium, you can describe a specific aspect of the work as evidence. The other main type of support is reliable expert sources, especially academic ones. Referring to these as you support your assertions and viewpoints will make your arguments stronger and your stance more solid in the minds of your readers. Expert source use, especially if integrated smoothly into your writing, is valued greatly by your professors, as that is how they write.

Example Body Paragraph

One of the key elements of the story’s setting that undermines the believability of the main theme for a 21st century audience is the apparent isolation of the village and its residents. Throughout the story there is no mention of any means of communication. No one in the village uses a phone, although telephones were already commonplace in even rural areas in the late 1940’s in the United States (Fresher & Stanley, 2009). There is also no mention of TV sets or even radios. It is true that TV was a relatively new invention in the late 1940’s, with few families possessing one, but radios were a very popular form of entertainment that one could find in almost every American home at the time (Cussler, 2015). The result is that readers are left with the impression that the village in “The Lottery” exists in a type of “social bubble” (Wong & Fletcher, 2000, p. 3) without contact with the outer world. This communicative isolation stands in stark contrast with modern society, in which information from all over the world is accessible through many different channels. Many people have access to TV, social media, and the Internet and are thus exposed to different ways of doing and seeing the world (Bindwali, 2020). Because of the wide gap in communication between the setting of “The Lottery” and 21st century reality, modern readers, especially young people, are less likely to believe that the main theme of the danger of blindly following tradition could apply to them or their society. The conclusion is likely to be, as Johnson (1997) asserts, that only people who have no idea about the world outside their village could willingly participate in such a barbaric ritual. Therefore, the power of the central message of “The Lottery” is lessened for modern readers by the isolated setting of the village in the story.

Topic sentence--reminder of the critical evaluation and  main idea of the paragraph              

supporting idea


supporting idea



explanation, with use of sources for support



supporting idea

explanation, with use of source for support



explanation, with use of source for support




concluding sentence


About this website

EWRite is an open access online literacy platform for PolyU community that has two major objectives:

  • to support PolyU students’ literacy development within and across the disciplines
  • to support subject and language teachers to implement system-level measures for integrating literacy-sensitive pedagogies across the university

This platform provides access to generic genre guides representing typical university assignments as well as links to subjects offered by faculties with specific disciplinary genres and relevant support materials.

The materials can be retrieved by students by choosing the genres that interest them on the landing page. Each set of materials includes a genre guide, genre video, and a genre checklist. The genre guide and video are to summarize the genres in two different ways (i.e. textual and dynamic) to fit different learning styles. The genre checklist is for students to self-regulate their writing process. The genre guide and checklist include links to various ELC resources that can provide further explanation to language items (e.g. hedging and academic vocabulary).

The platform also acts as a one-stop-shop for writing resources for students, language teachers and subject leaders. Information about the English Writing Requirement policy can also be found on this platform. There are training materials for new colleagues joining the EWR Liaison Team.