Critical writing comes from critical reading. Whenever you have to write a paper, you have to reflect on various written texts, think and interpret research that has previously been carried out on your subject. With the aim of writing your independent analysis of the subject, you have to critically read sources and use them suitably to formulate your argument. The interpretations and conclusions you derive from the literature you read are the stepping stones towards devising your own approach.
What is Critical Reading?
Critical reading means making judgments about the text and critically analyzing whether it is well-argued or not. This requires a highly insightful capability that enables you to step back a little from the text and examine it from your own perspective. The process may involve several readings of the text, the initial one to get an overview of the content and the subsequent ones to critically interpret the text.
You are not reading just to gain some information but to look for various points of view on the subject matter. When you read, highlight, or take notes, don’t do it with the purpose of extracting evidence and creating a list of facts and illustrations. Avoid the mindset of pulling out information while reading; rather question yourself “How is the text processed?”, “Is it argued appropriately?”, “How are the facts and illustrations utilized and interpreted?”, “How did the author arrive at the conclusions?” etc.
Critical reading involves the application of certain theories, models, and concepts that develop your understanding and enhance clarity. You have to make an extra effort while reading, instead of merely skimming through the text. There is a huge difference between skimming and critical reading. While skimming allows a reader to get information and identify characteristics superficially, critical reading helps them to gain an insight into the text, grasp its logic, tone, flow, and sentence structure and so on.
If you want to become a critical reader, here are some recommended tips:
Gear up to read with an unprejudiced mindset
Critical readers look for knowledge. Academic writing might involve rewriting a work to suit your requirements but to be able to do that, you have to first understand it as a critical reader. Read every page with an open mind, giving the author a decent chance to build up ideas and allowing yourself to read objectively, reflectively on the text.
Get ready to join the author’s audience
Usually, authors create texts for a target audience. If you become a member of this specific audience, it will be easier for you to get to the author’s intention. Find out more about the author, his/her background, previous works, and the expected audience. You can also read notes and introduction of the text.
Reflect on the title
A title holds clues to the author’s attitude, intentions, personal opinion, or approach. Comprehend the title closely to perceive the author’s ideas in a better way.
Read bit by bit
Although this seems like an obvious thing to do, reading slowly is an important part of critical reading. By reading bit by bit, you are allowing yourself to connect with the text.
Make a note of trivial notes, highlight and underline, jot down ideas in a notepad, do anything that suits your personal taste. You can make notes of the central ideas, the thesis statement, and the arguments used by the author to support his/her theory. When you write in your own words, it helps you to remember and aids in explaining certain things that were unclear in the content.
Take help of appropriate reference works and dictionaries
While reading, you might come across a word or phrase that you are not aware of or find it too difficult to identify in the context. In such a situation, you should look it up then and there. Every word is an important part of the text. If the author has used some technical language or complex words, it is even more important to understand why the author has used them.
Maintain a diary
Besides taking notes, you can use a diary to regularly write down your thoughts and reactions. This diary will serve as a fixed resource that you can consult. By maintaining a habit of writing and reading in conjunction, you will be able to improve both the skills.
How critical reading influences your writing skills?
Once you start reading texts critically, you develop an understanding of how to write research papers. Here are some practical tips that will help you in academic writing:
- Examine introductions and conclusions of the texts while critical reading so when you write an independent content, you would be able to decide how to focus your critical work.
- When you highlight or take notes from a text, make sure you focus on the argument. The way the author explains the analytical progress, the concepts used, and arriving at conclusions will help you to write your own facts and examples in an interesting way.
- By closely reading the texts, you will be able to look for the patterns that give meaning, purpose, and consistency to the text. The way the arguments are presented in paragraphs will aid you in structuring information in your writing.
- When you critically read a text, you are able to learn how an argument is placed in the text. Try to understand how you can use this placement strategy in academic writing. Paying attention to the context is an important aspect that you learn from critical reading.
- While reading a text, you will notice that the author has given the due credit to the sources used or the references that were consulted. This will help you in understanding how you can cite sources and quotes in your content.
- Critical reading skills enhance your way of thinking and writing skills. The more you read, the better is your knowledge and vocabulary. It is important to use the precise words to express your meaning. You can learn new words and improve your writing by reading as many texts as you can.
|Critical reading requires logical and metaphorical skills. You can start reading an author’s text, but understanding how the author aims to support it requires effort and patience. Usually, an author makes a claim in the form of a thesis statement and supports it throughout the body of the content. The supporting evidence suggests whether the author’s proposed argument is strong or practically acceptable. As a reader, you will critically analyze these arguments to ascertain the coherence between the author’s evidence and arguments. If you don’t think that the premise is supportable, you will be able to uncover the gaps in the content that prove it to be weak.