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Academic Reading & Writing

Critical Reading
Critical Reading
• “Definition: An active approach to reading that involves an in depth
examination of the text. Memorization and understanding of the text
is achieved.
• The reader must question, compare, and evaluate reading material.
• Critical” is not intended to have a negative meaning in the context of
“critical reading.”
Critical Reading
• Active
• What, How, Why
• Skeptical
• Purposeful
• Critical reading is a more active way of reading.
• It is a deeper and more complex engagement with a text.
• Critical reading is a process of analyzing, interpreting and, sometimes,
• When we read critically, we use our critical thinking skills to question
both the text and our own reading of it.
• The most characteristic features of critical reading are that you will:
• examine the evidence or arguments presented;
• check out any influences on the evidence or arguments;
• check out the limitations of study design or focus;
• examine the interpretations made; and
• decide to what extent you are prepared to accept the authors’
arguments, opinions, or conclusions.
Why do we need to take a critical approach to reading?
• Regardless of how objective, technical, or scientific the subject
matter, the author(s) will have made many decisions during the
research and writing process, and each of these decisions is a
potential topic for examination and debate, rather than for blind
• You need to be prepared to step into the academic debate and to
make your own evaluation of how much you are willing to accept
what you read.
• A practical starting point therefore, is to consider anything you read
not as fact, but as the argument of the writer. Taking this starting
point you will be ready to engage in critical reading.
Reasons for Critical Reading
• Critical reading is used to determine the value of reading material for
your own purposes, to detect logic that is faulty on the part of the
author, to separate fact from opinion, and to determine whether to
accept the information being presented or reject it.
• Simply because something is published doesn’t make it necessarily
true. Therefore, you must question what you read.
• By comparing information on the same subject from different
sources, you can select the best information for your own purposes.
• Critical reading helps you make informed decisions and form sound
Some Strategies
• Previewing
Learning about a text before really reading
• Contextualizing
Placing a text in it's historical, biographical and cultural context.
• Reflecting on challenges to your beliefs and values
• Outlining and summarizing
Identifying the main ideas and restating them in your own words
• Evaluating an argument
• Comparing and contrasting related readings
1. Prepare to become a part of the writer’s audience.
• Learn about the author, anticipated audience and read instructions
and notes.
2. Prepare to read with an open mind.
• Give the write a chance to develop ideas and then reflect thoughtfully
and objectively on the text.
3. Consider title.
• The title will provide clues to writer’s attitude, goals, views and
4. Read slowly.
5. Use the dictionary and other appropriate reference works.
6. Make notes.
• Underline, highlight and jot the main ideas, the thesis and author's
view points to support the theory.
7. Keep a reading journal.
• Record your responses and thoughts in a more permanent place.
Questions to Consider
• When reading critically ask yourself the following: Is the author
qualified to write about the subject, is any important information
missing, is the language emotional, and is the information being
presented mostly fact or opinion?
• The answers to these questions will help you evaluate the quality and
usefulness of the reading material.
Linking evidence to argument
• The term ‘argument’ in this context means the carefully constructed
rationale for the enquiry, and for the place of its results within the
academic arena.
It will explain for example:
• why the authors considered that what they did was worth doing;
• why it was worth doing in that particular way;
• why the data collected, or the material selected, were the most
• how the conclusions drawn link to the wider context of their enquiry.
Some interpretative questions
• How well-developed are the themes or arguments?
• Did the theoretical perspective used introduce any potential bias?
• Are you convinced by the interpretations presented?
• Are the conclusions supported firmly by the preceding argument?
• How appropriate are the comparisons that are used?
• Did the response options, or measurement categories or techniques
used affect the data that were collected?
• Have any ethical considerations been adequately addressed?