3.9 Reading with a critical eye

Reading critically requires using your critical thinking skills to break down an issue into its constituent parts and look at it more closely. It involves engaging in a dialogue with the author's ideas by actively asking questions before, during and after the process of reading. Did you miss questioning some of the claims from the article in the previous activity? Don't worry, it's easy to overlook potentially unsupported or misleading ideas when reading.

Critical readers are active readers. Critical reading is an important step towards critical writing.

Before reading, you may need to evaluate the relevance, authority, reliability and currency of the reading material.

You’ll also need to establish a purpose for reading by identifying what you should look out for in the text. Additionally, you can set up a framework by identifying the text’s genre and features and select the most appropriate reading strategies for the text and task.

During reading, you can annotate on the text and ask questions about its content, organisation, and stylistic features.

To find out what the author is trying to say, you’ll need to identify the reading's argument and supporting evidence.

Reading 'between the lines' will enable you to discover any bias, hidden assumptions, or gaps in reasoning. Might there be other explanations apart from the ones proposed by the author?

You’ll also need to establish connections between the text and other research; that is, compare the text to other sources you’ve read.

After reading, you may want to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the text, and decide what works well and what doesn’t. Has the writer explained the argument clearly and convincingly? Is the evidence reasonable? Are the conclusions valid?

Then, you’ll need to look at the 'big picture' and determine how the reading fits into the broader context of your course or discipline. What does this text tell you about the topic you are studying?

And finally, you can compare what you have read with your previous knowledge and experience of the topic and decide what’s relevant for your assignment.

Happy reading!

Further reading

How to read critically  (University of Auckland)
Critical reading checklist (University of Wollongong)
Example of critical reading (University of Wollongong)
• Critical reading (Massey University)

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