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How the Language Really Works:
The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing
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Critical Reading
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Critical Reading, at its Core, Plain and Simple

Non-critical (or pre-critical) reading is concerned with recognizing what a text says about the topic. The goal is to make sense of the presentation as a sequence of thoughts, to understand the information, ideas, and opinions stated within the text from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. This is a linear activity.

Critical reading is an analytic activity. The reader rereads a text to identify patterns of elements -- information, values, assumptions, and language usage-- throughout the discussion. These elements are tied together in an interpretation, an assertion of an underlying meaning of the text as a whole.

Critical thinking involves bringing outside knowledge, biases, and values to bear to evaluate the presentation and decide what ultimately to accept as true.

The initial step of critical reading involves recognizing a text as a presentation in its own right. This step is concerned with identifying such elements as

  • The existence of a beginning,middle, and end
  • The use of illustrations to explicate remarks
  • The use of evidence to support remarks
  • The use of stylish language to portray topics
  • Organization, or a method of sequencing remarks � such as whether chronological, different aspects of the topic, steps in a logical sequence

The next step involves describing the nature of these aspects of the text, of classifying the nature of the material within the text

  • The nature of the examples � what the examples are examples of
  • The nature of the evidence � what kinds of authorities are invoked, what types of evidence are provided
  • The nature of the choice or terms� what types of terms are applied to what topics

The final step involves inferring the underlying assumptions and perspectives of the discussion, taking into account of all of the elements of the text being as they are throughout the text as a whole. This step is concerned less with sequential development and more with recognizing patterns of elements interwoven throughout the presentation as a whole.

  • What is achieved by describing topics a certain way
  • What is assumed by selecting certain types of evidence

Throughout, critical reading relies on abstracting, on classifying the nature of things,

  • The nature of the structure of the text
  • The nature of the language employed
  • The nature of the examples invoked
  • The nature of the illustrations brought to bear
  • And the nature of the thinking that would explain all aspects of the text being as they are.
In the end, readers must take control of the text, not just repeat its assertions. At its core, critical reading involves becoming the author of one's own understanding.

Related Topics
What Is Critical Reading
Critical Reading v. Critical Thinking
Choices: The Ingredients of Texts
Inference: Reading Ideas as Well as Words
Three Ways to Read and Discuss Texts

Reading / Writing
Critical Reading
Ways to Read

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