Skip to Main Content

Study Effectively

What is critical reading?

As a critical reader, you are not just reading to absorb and learn information.  Rather, you are thinking deeply about the reading, analyzing it, and asking questions about its purpose and use.

What questions can I ask to help me read critically?

Before or while reading the text:

  • Why are you reading the text? What do you want to learn from it?
  • Who was the written for? Was it written within a specific context (ex. historical, cultural)?
  • Who is the author? What are their interests? Why did they do this research?
  • What is the text's thesis or argument?
  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • Why has your instructor chosen this text?
  • How does this text relate to other texts in your course? 
  • How does this text relate to other texts on the same topic?

During or after reading the text:

  • What frameworks or methods does the author use?
  • ​How does the author justify the use of these frameworks or methods?
  • What evidence or results are presented?  How strong is the evidence?
  • What are the author's conclusions?  Are the conclusions reasonable based on the evidence presented?
  • How does the text contribute new knowledge or perspectives on the topic?
  • How will this text contribute to course discussions or assignments?
  • How will this text contribute to your own knowledge?

How can I improve my critical reading skills?

  • "To read critically" does not mean "to criticize." If you perceive flaws or weaknesses in the text, make sure you have evidence to support your ideas.
  • Get to know the text before you read critically. Skim first and then read in depth.
  • Read actively. Record your own thoughts on the text and write down your questions.
  • It's easy to take notes on the content of the text without including notes on your critical reflection. Review your notes to ensure that they represent your critical thoughts on the text. Depending on your purposes for reading, you might take notes on:
    • The thesis and main points
    • Key terms or theories
    • Questions or comments you have as you are reading
    • Confusing sections / things you want to re-read
    • Possible gaps or biases in the text

How can I take notes on my readings?

You may have many different reasons for taking notes as you read critically. Some common reasons are:

  • Summarizing content
  • Making sense of a difficult reading
  • Contributing to a class discussion
  • Contributing to an essay or research paper
  • Recording your thoughts, reactions, and questions
  • Comparing texts
  • Identifying areas where you need to learn more

Your note-taking method may vary, based on your reasons. Use our module 8 Ways to Take Notes on Journal Articles for downloadable, customizable note-taking templates. 

How can I learn more about critical reading?

Suggest an edit to this guide

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.