Look at text as information and content… they disregard the author’s intentions and believe everything is a “fact.” Think if they understand all the words and can paraphrase the article, they “get” it.
They consider the author… and the author’s purpose. (“What does she want from the reader?”) They analyze why the text is—or isn’t— persuasive. (“Do I buy this? What appeals has he used to convince me?”)
They bring their own knowledge to a text. (“Does this align to my own experiences? Why or why not?”) They consider “facts” to be “claims.” (“How do I know that to be true? How does the author seek to convince me? What is the evidence?”)
Reading only for “information exchange” is inadequate when understanding texts.
Use a pen, pencil, highlighter, tape, ketchup, eye liner— whatever you need to note certain phrases and passages that stand out to you. Make a note of WHY the section made you stop and think. Did it feel true to you? Why or why not? Look up anything that’s confusing.
Consider the rhetorical situation. Who is the writer? What is her goal? What is the purpose of this text? Who is the primary audience? Secondary? How do I know? What is the genre (form of the text)? Why did the author chose a speech, an article, Facebook, etc. to deliver this message? What are some strengths and limitations to the selected genre?
Consider stylistic decisions. How do you know what the writer thinks? How is her stance revealed through word choice? Is it favorable? Negative? Neutral? Explore author strategies. How does tone, sentence structure, selected quotations, etc. work to achieve the author’s position?
Both of these images depict a person without a permanent address. How is the context different?
Consider the subjects. Who is more sympathetic? Why? Consider the purpose. If these images were on a poster, what would the headlines read? Would one ask for a neighborhood watch while the other asks for a donation? How do these image use appeals to make these claims? How is the photographer and what does she want from you?
For more ways to better understand what you read—and how to employ the same strategies when you write—see the “Understanding Rhetorical Situation” section.