I’m studying for my English class and need an explanation.
Step 1: Review the Information Below
One of the most important skills we can have as scholars is the ability to read critically. For most of what we read in the world (novels, magazines, online articles), we don’t tend to critically read, but being able to do so for our academic courses is a significant part of success.
To become familiar with the idea of critical reading, please review the information below:
What is Critical Reading?
Reading critically does not, necessarily, mean being critical of what you read.Both reading and thinking critically don’t mean being ‘critical’ about some idea, argument, or piece of writing – claiming that it is somehow faulty or flawed. Critical reading means engaging in what you read by asking yourself questions such as, ‘what is the author trying to say?’ or ‘what is the main argument being presented?’
Critical reading involves presenting a reasoned argument that evaluates and analyses what you have read. Being critical, therefore – in an academic sense – means advancing your understanding, not dismissing and therefore closing off learning.
Developing a Reading Strategy
You will, in formal learning situations like our class, be required to read and critically think about a lot of information from different sources.
It is important therefore, that you not only learn to read critically but also efficiently.
Often, we begin reading with speed reading (but we don’t end there).
Speed reading is also often referred to as skim-reading or scanning. Once you have identified a relevant piece of text, like a chapter in a book, you should scan the first few sentences of each paragraph to gain an overall impression of subject areas it covers. Scan-reading essentially means that you know what you are looking for, you identify the chapters or sections most relevant to you and ignore the rest.
When you speed-read you are not aiming to gain a full understanding of the arguments or topics raised in the text. It is simply a way of determining what the text is about.
When you find a relevant or interesting section you will need to slow your reading speed dramatically, allowing you to gain a more in-depth understanding of the arguments raised. Even when you slow your reading down it may well be necessary to read passages several times to gain a full understanding.
Although you probably already read critically in some respects, here are some things you can do when you read a text to improve your critical reading skills.
Most successful critical readers do some combination of the following strategies:
- Previewing (look through the text to identify the title, the source, different sections)
- Annotating (highlight and make notes in the margins about main points in the text/most important parts; note any unfamiliar terms and look them up)
- Summarizing (for every paragraph or page, write a short summary of what you read. If you can summarize it, you understood it!)
- Analyzing (think about the meaning of the text. What is the author’s purpose? What are his/her main claims? What are your main reactions/feelings towards the text?)
- Re-reading (once you have reflected, are there sections that you don’t understand. If so, go back to them).
- Responding (write about the text; use the text as a source in your own arguments).
If you wish, you can review the Lecture from Week 1: Review Lecture: Active Reading & How to Annotate
Often active reading or annotation looks like this:
The following video is a fantastic resource which takes you through three different ways to annotation. You might find something that helps with your already established reading process or you might decide to totally change what you are doing now for something that might be more successful.
Step 2: Think about your own reading and how it can improve.
In at least 250 words,
- Explain the ways you have prepared to read for school in the past. Have you used any particular reading strategies? What would you do if you did not understand something? Would you re-read?
- Describe which of the strategies and ideas from above stood out to you? Would would you consider implementing as you read?