Essay Types - How to Write a Review


Remember, the thesis provides overall structure to the essay. With a review you are judging a work against some standard. Is it a movie worth going to see? Is it a poem worthy of being included in an anthology? Is it as good as the creator's peers' works? Does it cover new ground for the genre? Does it address interesting questions? How well does it carry out its goals? A thesis for a review should be formulated as a type of judgment. You are being asked whether you like, but more importantly, you are being asked WHY you like it, or don't like it.

For a sample review of Waiting for Superman, click here.


A review is normally written for publication. You must assume the audience has not seen the work. Your job is to provide an opinion but not spoil their pleasure in seeing the work for themselves, if you deem it worthy. Therefore be particularly careful not to reveal too much of the plot (in the case of a work with a plot—you may be reviewing a painting or statue where it's hard to give away too much in your description.)

A review is normally reasonably short. Consider which elements of the work you wish to address. Give your audience a broad understanding of the context of these elements before passing judgment on the specifics.


The sum of your arguments is whether or not the piece is worthy. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

What is the marker looking for?

It's not the thumbs up or down that's important. It's how you back up your conclusion. You really want to show off your knowledge. Did you spend too much time on description of the work and not enough on analysis? Were your arguments coherent? It's still clear writing that wins the day. Depending on the course, bringing in related subject matter can really enhance a review. For example any work which is set in a particular social, historical or political context invites discussion of how well it fits into its milieu. Is it accurate or are there anachronisms?

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