On Writing: The Difference Between Critical Analysis And Summary

Writing a discourse can be a challenge considering all the types of academic papers one has to learn, and the confusion between writing an analysis and a summary is arguably the most common issue that all students encounter. Although summaries and critical analyses are closely related, their difference is outstanding. Also, remember that critical analysis and summary are just two kinds of essays, and there are many others that have different requirements. Learn more about these other types of essays.


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 in writing a critical analysis, you have to assess the subject depending on the type of analysis required which means that when writing a summary, the subject is delivered as it is, only shorter, but when writing a critical analysis, the subject takes on another form as you have to provide possible meanings or assert criticisms toward the article being examined.

The name of the game is evaluation.

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 as 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. For a better overview, you may read a sample summary and a sample analysis here. If you are still in doubt, you can always ask for help. The common ground is addressing a question, the difference is what is the question you need to address. When writing a summary, one has to clearly identify which parts of the literature represents each literary element.

The difference between Summary and Critical Analysis


Once you are certain with what you need, you now have to narrow down your coverage. When writing your thesis statement, you have to make sure that your purpose is clearly presented. Wordplay is not the best weapon when it comes to thesis writing. 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 in writing the story in your own words.

The formulation of a thesis statement, however, becomes a little bit complicated when it comes to writing critical analysis. Take "how gender influenced a character's decisions in Literature X" as a simple 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

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 to your paper is essential. The technique is when writing a summary, do not 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 a lot easier, do not hesitate to outline your ideas as 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.