What is Critical Reading?

Learning how to read critically involves becoming actively engaged in what you read by first developing a clear understanding of the author’s ideas, then questioning and evaluating the arguments and evidence provided to support those arguments, and finally by forming your own opinions. Reading this way requires that you develop skills that aren’t necessary for more passive forms of taking in information. However, it also allows you to get more from what you read.

Steps in critical reading:

  • Before you read
    Scan the piece to get an idea of what it is about and what the main argument is. This may include reading an introduction, if there is one, or the subheadings.
  • While you read
    Keep a running dialogue with the author through annotation by recording your thoughts, ideas, and questions. Underline, highlight, or circle important parts and points, and write comments in the margins.
  • After you have read
    Look over your annotations to get an overall idea of the text. You may also choose to write a summary to solidify your understanding.
  • Responding to the text
    After you have developed a clear sense of the author’s argument and line of reasoning, you are able to analyze the author’s argument and methods. Then, you can develop your own ideas—perhaps into an essay of your own.

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