Critical reading involves the reader posing questions or applying models and theories to a text. As a result, the reader will have a clearer understanding of what the text is saying, what it’s trying to say and what it means.

Rather than just skimming a text, critical reading takes a deeper look at it and takes it apart – it allows us to understand how it works and find out what makes it tick.

Having a critical eye when reading doesn’t mean we’re looking for the faults and flaws in a piece of writing. Instead, it means we’re analyzing and evaluating what we read rather than simply taking it at face value.

Why should we read critically?

Critical reading is an incredibly important skill. It allows us to advance our understanding and learn more from what we read.

To read critically means to use your judgment when you’re reading. If you only take things at face value without taking the time to consider the context, what it means beneath the surface, and so on, you can miss important details.

You can also be misled, depending on the type of text. For example, authors of persuasive writing can heavily emphasize their points and hide the opposing side to create an unbalanced argument, all to persuade you to take their side. It happens most often in advertisements. So it’s essential to have a critical eye and analyze if what you’re being told is true.

In other texts, such as fiction stories or articles, the author’s interpretation and viewpoints also come into play. Opinions are subjective, so it’s important that we read them carefully and understand both sides by reading critically. The writing might have omissions, inconsistencies, and oversights that can influence the argument or message the text is trying to make. We should take care to look for these and see the big picture.

Critical reading also allows us to form our thoughts and opinions. If we all took the things we read at the surface level, we’d all have the same ideas about everything. How boring! It’s important to analyze, evaluate and be critical so that we can interpret texts for ourselves and form our views and opinions.

How can you read critically?

Being a critical reader is a skill that can take time and practice. But there are key things that you should reflect on when trying to read critically. These are:

  • The key points. What are the main points that the text is trying to make? At this stage, it doesn’t matter if you agree with them, just that you completely understand what the author is trying to say. It helps you to understand the purpose of the text.
  • The target audience. Who was the text written for? Identifying the text’s intended readers can help us understand its purpose more deeply.
  • The style of writing. How has the text been written? Looking for persuasive writing techniques, such as exaggerating the key points, is a good way to see whether the author is taking a balanced approach. In addition, analyzing language, style, and structure is important in critical reading.
  • Your interpretation. One of the most important parts of critical reading is forming an opinion or performance based on the text. Consider the points the text makes and consider whether they’re accurate, truthful, exaggerated, omissions, untrue, or something else.

What is evidence in Critical Reading?

When critically reading something, evidence is used to support an argument or opinion. Evidence is used to show that you’ve carefully read the text you’re talking about. It’s used to prove your point so that arguments and opinions aren’t just taken at face value or without question.

If you critically read a story, for example, you would need to use quotes from that story to show what you’re talking about. It’s no use saying that the story discusses the themes of bravery and courage if you have no way to prove it!

Using evidence in critical reading also means that you can analyze it on a deeper level. For example, you can discuss the exact words and techniques, strengthening your argument.

However, it’s important to remember that evidence isn’t good enough. Interpretations and opinions are what give meaning, proof, and value.

Evidence can appear in many forms, such as:

  • quotes from interviews;
  • extracts from a text;
  • diagrams or charts;
  • measurements;
  • timing and equipment.

The type of evidence needed depends on what it is that’s being critically read.

How are Critical Reading and Critical Thinking linked?

Critical thinking is a key foundation for essential reading – the two are closely linked.

Before you can read something with a critical eye, you must be critical of how you think. Essential reading involves making judgments and interpretations based on your thoughts about what you’ve read, so it’s important that the way you think is free from bias and allows you to take a critical, objective view.

Critical thinking also helps you to organize your thoughts and use your previous knowledge to inform your opinion.

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