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Critical reading

Critical reading

Think critically about what you read...

  • examine the evidence or arguments presented
  • check out any influences on the evidence or arguments
  • check out the limitations of study design or focus
  • examine the interpretations made

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Blocks to critical reading

Certain habits or approaches we have to life can hold us back from really thinking objectively about issues. We may not realise it, but often we're our own worst enemies when it comes to being critical...

Select a student to reveal the statement they've made.

Student 1

I have been asked to work on an area that is completely new. Where do I start in terms of finding relevant texts?


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.

Student 2

I don’t understand what I'm reading – It's too difficult!


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.

Student 3

Help! There is too much to read and too little time!


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.

Student 4

I am struggling to remember what I have read.


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.

Student 5

Where did I read that thing?


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.

Student 6

I have strong opinions about the argument being presented in the reading – why can’t I just put this side forward?


From the choices below, identify which block to critical reading might be limiting their performance.


Student 6
Student 5
Student 4
Student 3
Student 2
Student 1

Two models of critical reading

There are several approaches to critical reading. Here's a couple of models you might want to try:

SQR3
Survey, Question
Read, Recite, Review
Describe,
Analyse,
Evaluate

The SQR3 method

Choose a chapter or article relevant to your assessment (or pick something from your reading list).

Then do the following:


Survey

Determine broadly what the text is about.

  • Look at the front and back covers

  • Scan the table of contents

  • Look at the title, headings, and subheadings

  • Read the abstract, introduction and conclusion

  • Are there any images, charts, data or graphs?

Question

What are the questions the text will answer? Write some down.

  • Use the title, headings and subheadings to write questions

  • What questions do the abstract, introduction and conclusion prompt?

  • What do you already know about the topic? What do you need to know?

Read

Do a first reading. Read selectively.

  • Read a section at a time

  • Answer your questions

  • Summarise or make brief notes

  • Underline or highlight any key points

Recite (in your own words)

Recall the key points.

  • Summarise key points from memory

  • Try to answer the questions you asked orally, without looking at the text or your notes

  • Use diagrams or mindmaps to recall the information

Review

After you have completed the reading…

  • Go back over your notes and check they are clear

  • Check that you have answered all your questions

  • At a later date, review your notes to check that they make sense

  • At a later date, review the questions and see how much you can recall from memory

Describe, analyse, evaluate...

Either...

Choose a relevant article from your reading list and make brief notes on it using the prompts below

...or...

Choose an article you have read earlier in your course and re-read it, applying the prompts below.

Compare your comments and the notes you have made. What are the differences?


Describe

Who is the text by?
Who is the text aimed at?
Who is described in the text?

What is the text about?
What is the main point, problem or topic?
What is the text's purpose?

Where is the problem/topic/issue situated?, and in what context?

When does the problem/topic/issue occur, and what is its context?
When was the text written?

Analyse

How did the topic/problem/issue occur?
How does something work?
How does one factor affect another?
How does this fit into the bigger picture?

Why did the topic/problem/issue occur?
Why was this argument/theory/solution used?
Why not something else?

What if this or that factor were added/removed/altered?
What if there are alternatives?

Evaluate

So what makes it significant?
So what are the implications?
So what makes it successful?

What next in terms of how and where else it's applied?
What next in terms of what can be learnt?
What next in terms of what needs doing now?


Here's a template for use with the model.

Go to File > Make a copy... to create your own version of the template that you can edit.


CC BY-NC-SA Learnhigher

How to read an article

Where do you start when looking at academic literature? How can you successfully engage with the literature you find? This bitesized tutorial explores the structure of academic articles, shows where to look to check the validity of findings, and offers tips for navigating online texts.

Taking an academic approach to your reading

It's important to take an analytical approach to reading the texts you encounter. In the second of the "Let's get critical" theme, we look at how to evaluate sources effectively, and how to develop practical strategies for reading in an efficient and critical manner.