Critical reading is defined as reading in a scholarly context. The focus and attention of critical reading are to the words identifying the author’s viewpoints and arguments, conclusions, and evidence, and potential biases.
Reading with a critical view is known as critical reading. To put it in simple words, critical reading is how a critic would read.
It also means evaluating what you have read. You look at the quality of the writing, research, and persuasiveness of the argument. The objective of critical reading is to assess and answer questions by assessing the validity of the content.
In critical reading, you are questioning, interpreting, and categorizing the information and not merely reading to remember and understand it. Higher-order or upper-level thinking is engaged in critical reading.
The objective is not to find faults in the matter, but the aim is to understand the author and his perspective more precisely. Sometimes a sentence may have two different meanings, and it can be written with different intentions.
You must read it critically to understand and confirm people and the author’s viewpoint. For example, many literary critics have called William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet a tragedy play, while recently, it has been said that Romeo and Juliet was an extremely exaggerated comedy. Shakespeare ridiculed the idea of dying in love, and he presented it in the form of Romeo and Juliet.
How to Read Critically?
Before you read
1. Preview the text
Check out information, abstract, table of contents, and other materials.
2. Who is the writer?
Find out about the author and not just his name but his details as well. Look at his credentials, other publications that he’s writing for, and if possible, go through the biography on Wikipedia.
A simple Google search will tell you a lot of things about the author.
Look at the publication date of the book that you are reading. Do you know the hot topic when the book was being written? Understand the perspective of the year in which it was written.
It will make it easier for you to understand the perspective of the book. Know that the book based on world war will have a completely different perspective of life than a book based on a millionaire’s biography.
While you read
Merely moving your eyes on the lines of the book is not reading. It can be termed skimming but not even close to critical reading. A critical reader will be consistently engaged while he reads. He will notice, question, and think as he reads.
Constantly question yourself by asking questions like, does this make sense? What does this mean? Why is this significant to the writer? Can I understand and apply this somewhere? With this newfound information, can I help someone? What are the different cultural, societal, and historical contexts which are attributed in this writing?
Your questions will be different on the goals that you intend to achieve from critical reading. If you are reading to understand and evaluate an argument, you have to pay special attention to why the writer tries to argue particular perspectives and values. Write down those questions and answers. Now you are starting to read it critically.
1. Mark it
Use a pen or pencil or highlighter to mark the critical text. If it’s a printed book, you can do this easily, but even in e-books, this can be done with the help of online highlighting. Different apps are available, which will help you to do that. You can use different notations and symbols to save your feelings or thoughts near that line.
Ensure that books are not damaged, and it is not extremely difficult for the subsequent reader to read because of your markings. Marking up can also be done in different colors. For example, a red highlighter can be used to mark an important point, while a fluorescent green or yellow highlighter can be used to mark an argument. It depends on the reader and the objective with which critical reading is being done.
If you loved a passage, then write a small comment: Why did you like it next to it. You can also leave a small heart-shaped symbol to know that this is your favorite paragraph. If a thought strikes you because of a particular design, then write it down. Use symbols and figurative language if necessary.
If something does not make sense, then put a question mark to come back to it later, and you don’t have to leave your reading in between. If you are unsure of something, then write it down. You can use logos as well to make your point while reading critically.
2. Go slow
Take your time when you read. Critical reading is exactly the opposite of speed reading. Pause and go over a sentence or paragraph again if you want it to be more clear to you. Find out the words that you don’t know and look them up in a dictionary.
Wait for a minute and ask yourself a question related to the paragraph. Readings critically will require intense and concentrated focus rather than speedy attention. Speed Reading requires a person to skim through the section to understand the entire concept in a second.
On the other hand, critical reading requires the reader to go as slow as possible so that you understand a particular sentence thoroughly.
Summarisation is an excellent habit that you can have. Summarise whatever you have read on a piece of paper. Many people summarise the entire paragraph in one sign in their way right next to it.
This makes things easier for them when they come back to re-read it. Summarisation also tells you that you have understood the paragraph in your way. To summarise effectively, you have to understand the concept clearly.
Objectives of Critical reading
1. To recognize the author’s purpose
This is the most common objective. Understanding the perspective and the goal of the author behind writing a particular book or a narrative is one reason for critical reading.
2. Understanding the tone and elements
This is another common objective which most people follow when they read critically. There could be different elements in a particular book or a narrative. Some will be conflicting, while others will be agreeing.
In such cases, a reader may critically evaluate the tone and elements in the narrative. This is where critical reading will be helpful.
3. To recognize bias
Cognitive bias is present in all human beings. It will also be present in the author that you are reading, and you can critically read to find out the author’s bias. It can be towards certain kinds of people, a particular idea, or a specific person.
Other Objectives for Critical Reading
There could be other objectives of critical reading, like reading to perform a detailed analysis, Reading to compare the existing text with some other text, Reading with an intent to understand the author’s perspective, Reading today on the style of writing, etc.
Critical reading is an essential skill for people, especially for scholars who perform a text analysis to evaluate it. Performing critical reading requires intense attention and a curious mind.
While reading critically, you can use different tools to assist you, like marking pencils or note taker. it is not merely absorbing information but questioning it.