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How to Critically Discuss in An Essay

Published by at September 19th, 2023 , Revised On January 5, 2024

Writing an essay often involves more than just relaying information or expressing an opinion. For many academic and professional purposes, you are required to critically discuss topics, demonstrate an understanding of various perspectives and showcase your analytical skills. 

So, what does it mean to critically discuss something in an essay? And more importantly, how can you do it effectively?

What is Critical Discussion?

Before diving into the how-to, grasping what critical discussion entails is essential. Essay writing help often emphasises the importance of this step. Critical discussion requires a deeper level of analysis where you explain a topic and evaluate and dissect its various facets.

Imagine an object in the middle of a room, with observers standing at different points around it. Each person sees the object from a unique angle. Similarly, when you critically discuss a topic, you are trying to view it from multiple angles, considering various perspectives and arguments and avoiding biases where certain perspectives might be overlooked.

How to Critically Discuss

Consider the following steps to critically discuss an essay. 

Start with Thorough Research

To critically discuss a topic, you need to understand its nuances. This requires in-depth research:

  • Diverse Sources: Instead of relying on a single type of source, such as books, expand your horizons. Use academic journals, reputable news articles, podcasts, interviews, and more. Essay services can be an invaluable tool in this stage for collating resources.
  • Contrasting Opinions: Deliberately seek out sources that disagree with each other. This will provide a more holistic view of the topic and help you understand the key debates in the field. 

Organise your Thoughts

Begin by brainstorming. Jot down the key points, arguments, counterarguments, and evidence you have gathered. Categorise them and try to identify connections or patterns.

Structure your Essay for Critical Discussion

Critical discussion typically follows this essay structure:

  • Introduction of an Essay: Introduce the topic and highlight its significance. Outline the main points you intend to discuss, backed up by scholarly source references.
  • Main Body: This is where the meat of your critical discussion will lie and where techniques like the rhetorical analysis of an essay can be invaluable.
  • Present Different Angles: Every paragraph should tackle a unique perspective or argument. Discuss its strengths and weaknesses. If you are discussing a controversial topic, you might delve into the argumentative essay.
  • Use Evidence: Always back up your statements with evidence. Quotations, statistics, and examples can bolster your claims.
  • Contrast and Compare: Highlight how different perspectives agree or differ from one another. This comparative approach will enrich your analysis.
  • Conclusion: Summarise the main points discussed and reiterate their significance. You might also want to mention areas for further research or exploration.

Question Everything

When critically discussing, you are essentially playing the devil’s advocate. Some questions to pose include:

  • What are the underlying assumptions here?
  • How might someone oppose this perspective?
  • Are there any weaknesses or limitations?
  • What real-world implications does this have?

Avoid Bias and Stay Objective

While it is challenging to be entirely free from biases, strive for objectivity. Remember, a critical discussion is not about what you believe; it’s about presenting a rounded view of the topic.

Write with Clarity

Complex topics demand clear writing. Avoid jargon unless it is essential, and ensure your sentences are concise and straightforward. Each paragraph should have a clear focus, and the flow from one paragraph to another should be logical.

Incorporate Feedback

Once you have written your essay, share it with peers, mentors, or tutors. Their feedback will provide fresh perspectives and highlight areas requiring more clarity or depth.

Revise and Refine

Like any essay, the first draft might not be perfect. Dedicate time to revising your work, refining your arguments, and ensuring the essay flows smoothly.

Conclude with Forward-Thinking

A hallmark of an excellent critical discussion is leaving the reader with something to ponder. Highlight areas where research is still ongoing, or propose questions that have not been addressed adequately.

What Critical Discussion is Not

Critical discussion is essential for deepening understanding, stimulating creative thought, and promoting a collaborative environment. However, certain behaviors and attitudes are not conducive to critical discussion. Here is what critical discussion is not:

Ad Hominem Attacks

A critical discussion does not involve attacking a person’s character, motives, or other personal attributes. The focus should be on the content of the argument, not on the person making it.

Appeal to Emotion

While emotions can be involved, a critical discussion should not be based solely on emotional appeals, nor should it be used to manipulate participants.

Straw Man Fallacy

Misrepresenting or oversimplifying an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack is not genuine discussion.


Dodging questions, changing the topic abruptly, or not addressing the central issues is not a part of critical discussion.


A true critical discussion requires participants to be open to new ideas and willing to change their minds if presented with compelling evidence.

Talking Over Others

Dominating the conversation, interrupting, or not allowing others to speak does not foster a healthy discussion.

Confirmation Bias

Only seeking out or acknowledging information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs is not the essence of critical discussion.

Appeal to Authority

Simply stating that an authority figure believes something does not make it true or end the discussion.


Making broad statements without sufficient evidence or specifics undermines a constructive dialogue.

False Dichotomies

Presenting issues as if there are only two sides or solutions when there might be a spectrum of possibilities, in reality, is not conducive to critical exploration.

Circular Arguments

Arguing a point by merely restating it in different words does not add depth or clarity to a discussion.

Unwillingness to Listen

Entering a discussion with the intent to lecture rather than also to listen, learn, and potentially adjust your views stifles genuine discourse.

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Critical Discussion Example

let’s set up a scenario for a critical discussion:

Topic: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Participants: Alex and Jamie

Alex: I have read a lot of articles recently that suggest social media has a negative impact on the mental health of users, particularly young people. There’s a correlation between increased social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Jamie: That is a valid point, Alex. There have been studies that suggest that. However, correlation does not imply causation. People who are already feeling lonely or depressed may be simply more likely to spend time on social media. How do we know that social media is the cause and not just a symptom?

Alex: That is a fair point. Some studies have shown that excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy, especially when people compare their lives to others. The constant barrage of highlight reels from other people’s lives can make users feel like they’re not doing enough or not leading fulfilling lives.

Jamie: True, comparison can be detrimental. But social media also has its benefits. It is a way for people to connect, especially those who might feel isolated in their real lives. For some, it offers a community and a sense of belonging. Shouldn’t we consider these positive aspects as well?

Alex: Absolutely, I agree that social media can provide vital connections for many. But there is also the element of screen time. Being constantly connected can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce face-to-face social interactions, which are crucial for emotional and social development.

Jamie: Yes, moderation is key. Users need to be self-aware and ensure that their online interactions enhance their lives rather than detract from them. Healthy social media use education might be more beneficial than demonising the platforms.

Alex: I can see that. Instead of viewing social media as inherently good or bad, perhaps we should focus on educating users about its potential pitfalls and benefits, helping them make informed choices.

This is a simplified example, but it highlights some features of critical discussion, similar to what you would find in a discursive essay:

  • Respectful Exchange: Both participants listened to each other’s viewpoints.
  • Exploration of Ideas: The participants delved into the complexities of the issue.
  • Use of Evidence: Alex and Jamie provided reasons and evidence for their perspectives.
  • Open-Mindedness: Both were open to adjusting their views or considering the other’s viewpoint.

Seeking Understanding: Instead of trying to “win” the argument, they aimed for a clearer understanding of the topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Critically discuss” means analysing and evaluating a topic or argument thoroughly, considering its strengths and weaknesses. It involves a detailed assessment rather than a mere description, often requiring one to question assumptions, recognise biases, and provide evidence to support the analysis. It is a deep, balanced examination of a subject.

To answer a “critically discuss” question:

  • Introduce the topic briefly.
  • Present key arguments or points.
  • Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • Use evidence to support your analysis.
  • Consider alternative viewpoints.
  • Conclude with a balanced assessment.
  • Ensure clarity, coherence, and proper referencing throughout.

To critically discuss a theory:

  • Outline the theory’s main propositions.
  • Examine its historical and academic context.
  • Evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Compare with alternative theories.
  • Highlight empirical evidence supporting or refuting it.
  • Analyse underlying assumptions.
  • Conclude with a balanced perspective, acknowledging its relevance and limitations.

To critically discuss a topic:

  • Introduce the topic succinctly.
  • Present key facts or arguments.
  • Analyse strengths and limitations.
  • Reference relevant evidence or research.
  • Consider opposing views or counterarguments.
  • Assess the implications or significance.
  • Conclude with an informed perspective, reflecting a comprehensive understanding.
  • Introduce the psychological concept/theory.
  • Detail its historical development and key proponents.
  • Evaluate empirical evidence supporting and opposing it.
  • Examine methodological strengths and limitations.
  • Compare with alternative theories or explanations.
  • Discuss real-world implications or applications.
  • Conclude, reflecting on its overall validity and relevance.

About Carmen Troy

Avatar for Carmen TroyTroy has been the leading content creator for ResearchProspect since 2017. He loves to write about the different types of data collection and data analysis methods used in research.