How do I read critically

Actively engage with the text:

  • You must develop a questioning mindset. 
  • Don’t passively accept what you read.
  • Question, evaluate and think about how this information links with your prior knowledge and other texts you have read on the subject.

Read with questions in mind

Rather than looking at the information that you can pull out of a text, it is useful to approach reading with a list of questions so that you can evaluate the information.  For a list of critical reading questions visit the UniLearning website

Look for links

Think about how the information you are reading relates to your prior knowledge, such as previous topics within the same subject and/or other subjects within your course.  This will help you to contextualise the information so that you are better able to form an opinion on what you have read.

Consider the organisation of the text

Take some time to evaluate how the text has been organised and how the author has analysed the material.  Examine the evidence used to develop the arguments: is the evidence used credible and the conclusions drawn logical?

Evaluate the argument

To evaluate means to look for strengths and weaknesses.  Part of being a critical reader is being able to critically evaluate the source of the information, as well as the content.  It is important to appraise a text by firstly examining the author. In particular, look at their credentials, such as their institutional affiliations, educational background, past writings, and experience.  Secondly, look for the publication date of the source and see whether there are further or later editions.

Experienced critical readers will also evaluate the text in terms of content.  This may involve examining the intended audience, the quality, and the coverage of the text, as well as the writing style.

Look for what is not explained

A critical reader must become experienced at ‘filling in the gaps’ by looking for information that is not explained.  This allows a reader to identify any bias in the text, which is critical if you are to develop your own ideas.

See some examples of critical analysis