Suggestions for Reading Critically

A Few Methods for Reading Critically
There is no “right” method for critical reading. Perhaps the most important strategy is to ask questions of the text and to note areas of interest; this strategy is used in all three methods outlined below. You may not like any of these methods and that is fine. With practice, you will arrive at a method or a combination of methods that works well for you.

Most critical reading methods include annotating. Annotating includes highlighting, underlining, circling keywords, and noting questions or comments in the margin. Post-it notes can be used if you are concerned about writing in your text.

Do not limit yourself to underlining or highlighting! It is extremely difficult to absorb information in the language of the author (i.e. in words other than your own). You will reduce your study time substantially if you learn to make the information your own.

Also helpful during annotation is to create “headings” for different sections of the text if none exist. This is convenient when you need to return to the text to look up information. It also helps in studying – If you note the topic of each paragraph in the margin, you can quiz yourself by covering the text, looking at your heading, and then calling to mind what information the paragraph contains (in your own words, of course!).

Active Reading (from Donna Qualley’s “Using Reading in the Writing Classroom).
“Active reading” requires that you slow down and question the text as well as make connections between the text, your reactions, your experience, and your assignment.

“A pen in hand tends to engage the mind” – read with a pen in your hand. Mark the margin or jot down notes whenever you encounter the following: questions, confusion, strong emotional reaction, personal connections, connections to other texts.

Be aware of how your life and situations influence your reading of a text. Try using the Double-Entry Journal. “The double entry journal consists of two columns. One column contains the reader’s observation about or reference to the text and the other column contains the reader’s response and reactions.”

Reading With and Against the Grain (from Bartholomae & Petrosky’s Ways of Reading).
1. Reading with the Grain: A reader takes charge of a text; a reader gives generous attention
to the writer’s key terms and methods, commits his time to her examples, tries to think in her language, imagines that this strange work is important, compelling, at least for the moment.

2. Reading Against the Grain: to read critically, to turn back, for example against a writer’s
project, to ask questions they believe might come as a surprise, to look for the limits of the writer’s vision, to provide alternate readings of his or her examples, to find examples that challenge the writer’s argument, to engage the writer, in other words, in dialogue.