Why is it important to be a critical reader? When you are a student that needs to read many articles, books, and journals, you need to read actively, not passively. Active reading means engaging with the material you’re reading including critical reading. Being a critical or analytical reader can save you so much time and can help you process the information more effectively. So how do you be a critical reader? These are seven steps I outlined on how one can be analytical in their reading.
My other posts that could help you navigate your postgraduate studies include:
While trying to be a critical reader, you should analyse what the author is trying to say. Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
1. THINK ABOUT THE CONTEXT
Reading within contexts includes understanding the following:
- The setting
- The reading material
- The goal
Reading in contexts helps you to read in different situations. You can read the same material for two different goals. For instance, reading Romeo & Juliet for your leisure and reading it for a school assignment.
Why knowing the context of what you’re reading is important
Understanding the context of what you’re reading is essential as it can help you strategize your reading. Having a reading strategy can help to increase your motivation, confidence, and success in understanding the material. It could also help you feel less overwhelmed which I know many students experience.
Having knowledge about the context could help you to:
- Select the information you need to emphasize
- Guess the difficult words based on the context without having to refer to the dictionary all the time
- Review your reading to see whether it was indeed accurate
- Feel more in control and less stressed out
2. STUDY THE LANGUAGE USED
Why should you pay attention to the language used by the author?
Analyzing certain words in the texts can help you understand what the author is trying to convey because certain words reflect a certain meaning.
For instance, if it is stated:
“He lives in a big house.”
“He lives in a mansion.”
What is the difference between “a big house” and “a mansion” ?
A big house can be any type of house whether it’s made of bricks or wood. However, a mansion specifically indicates that the owner of the house is wealthy and probably is someone of high societal status. See? There is a different indication of meaning between the two words there.
3. LOOK AT THE ARGUMENTS
When reading your material, especially if it is non-fiction, you can ask yourselves these questions:
- What are the arguments and reasoning being used?
- What are the underlying assumptions?
4. ACCURACY OF FACTS
Today, the circulation of fake news is rampant. Checking the facts that the portal or author is using can prevent you from instantly accepting their argument as absolute truth.
Even if you read articles that may be factual or opinion-based, you could still respectfully question the facts such as:
- Where did the author get the facts/ figures from?
- What does it show?
- What does it NOT show?
Many readers may not know these, but sometimes you would need to see whether the author is linked to any institution because it could influence the author’s ideas or argument.
Sometimes the authors would also need to subscribe to certain principles or framework.
6. RESPECTFULLY QUESTION THE AUTHOR
After studying what the author has said, think of what arguments he or she DID NOT include.
You could also respectfully question the author.
7. REMIND YOURSELF
The one last thing you need to ask yourself is: how is this related to your argument?
These 7 steps are indeed not exhaustive in explaining how one can be an analytical reader. However, I hope it can get your started about thinking how you can approach reading the different materials. Reading does not need to be stressful but you do need to have some strategies in your sleeve.
Here are some videos on how I analyze a few books that I have reviewed: