Becoming a Critical Reader
Reading for entertainment, you read for plot, allowing yourself
to be captivated by the action and imagery. Reading for a
class, you absorb information, underlining and highlighting
facts and ideas. Critical reading, however, demands more than
simply paying attention or identifying important ideas.
- Critical reading examines a writer's thesis and support.
Reading critically, you not only seek to understand what
the writer is saying but measure and weigh the logic of
his or her position. Does the writer supply enough evidence
to prove his or her thesis? Can the facts, surveys, testimony
be interpreted in other ways? Can you think of information
that counters the writer's argument?
- Critical reading can improve your writing by observing
how other writers choose words, introduce ideas, organize
essays, and present evidence. If your instructor notes
weaknesses in your writing, refer to the readings in your
text to see how other writers have addressed this issue.
How do they develop paragraphs, state a thesis, or present
Strategies For Reading Critically
- Examine the entire document
Before beginning to read the first line, review the entire
document. Look at the title, paragraph structure, and length.
- Read any background material about the subject
or biographical information about the writer.
- Consider the goal and format of the document
What is the writer's purpose -- to write a letter to one
person, review a movie for newspaper readers, present an
argument to a specific audience, entertain readers of a
popular magazine, or address a serious issue for a select
group of professionals?
- Does the form of the document dictate a certain
- Review the title
Does the title simply label the document -- or does it pose
a question or state a thesis?
- Consider the intended audience
Does the writer take his or her readers into account? Does
the audience seem to affect the way the writer selects words,
presents ideas, or use emotional appeal? Does the writer
appear to see the audience as receptive or hostile to his
or her point of view?
- Review the writer's thesis
What is the writer's point? Can you summarize it in your
- What kind of thesis does the writer use? Is it
clearly stated in a sentence you can underline, does
it evolve through a series of statements, or is it implied?
- Where does the writer place the thesis -- at the
beginning or the end?
- Analyze supporting evidence
How does the author support his or her thesis -- through
detailed personal observations, expert testimony, facts
and statistics, or surveys?
- Does the author offer enough proof to be convincing?
Are the sources reliable? Can you think of other ways
of interpreting the data?
- Do you think the writer's proof would impress
the intended readers?
- Review the introduction and conclusion
How does the writer introduce the subject? Does the introduction
arouse attention, supply background information, or announce
the writer's purpose? How effective is the conclusion? Does
it make a strong final impression?
- Consider the writer's style and choice of words
Does the writing style and word choice reflect the writer's
goal and audience? Does anything seem to clash with the
context of the document? Can you locate words or phrases
that might have a negative impact on readers?
- Pay attention to word choice. What connotations
to these words have? How do they influence the writer's
- ABOVE ALL, READ TO LEARN
Consider this piece of writing a work sample. Is there anything
you can learn from this writer -- writing stronger introductions,
organizing paragraphs, creating effective conclusions, selecting
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Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark