Two Modes of Reading
It is helpful to think of critical reading as involving two modes of reading: reading with the author, or trying to completely understand the author’s views, and reading the author critically, or questioning the author’s views. The first mode is necessary for the second to be possible. By reading in two modes, you will be able to develop your own ideas and theories—but only after thoroughly understanding the author’s arguments.
Reading with the author: understanding the author’s perspective
- Make sure you truly understand the author’s views and ideas. Summarizing and paraphrasing his/her argument in your own words may be helpful at this stage.
- Accept the author’s ideas temporarily (even if you disagree). Use the author’s ideas as a lens with which to look at your world, extending the author’s theories with examples of your own that are in agreement.
Reading the author critically: engaging the author in a dialogue
- Looking through your own lens now, question and challenge the author. Some things to look for include: limitations, biases, faulty reasoning, questions left unaddressed, and problems with or alternate interpretations of the author’s examples.
- Now you can form your own ideas and theories. What parts of the author’s ideas do you agree with? What parts would you revise? What is your perspective?
You can facilitate your process of two-modal reading by writing in a log. Although you are marking up your text in the margins as you read, the log is a place for longer responses and discussions.
The log is helpful for keeping track of your ideas. You may begin by writing down quotations from the text that you feel are important or have comments about. Your first impressions and reactions to the text can also go into the log. You can use this space to help clarify the author’s ideas by writing about them in your own words. Finally, you will be questioning and discussing the text, making connections, and exploring your own ideas.
The log is a storage space for your ideas. Students who take the time to develop their response logs have a great resource to use for writing their own essays and paper—all that thinking and writing pays off!