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Critical Reading Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmood

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1 Critical Reading Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmood
Department of Library & Information Science University of the Punjab

2 What is “critical reading?”
“Critical” is not intended to have a negative meaning in the context of “critical reading.” Definition: An active approach to reading that involves an in depth examination of the text. Memorization and understanding of the text is achieved. Additionally, the text is broken down into its components and examined critically in order to achieve a meaningful understanding of the material.

3 Passive vs. Active Reading
Passive Reading: - (4 traits) 1. Largely inactive process. 2. Low motivation to examine the text critically or at an in-depth level. 3. Important pieces of data and assumptions may be missed. 4. Data and assumptions that are perceived by the passive reader are accepted at face value or are examined superficially, with little thought.

4 Passive vs. Active Reading
Active Reading: - Active reading involves interacting with the text and therefore requires significantly more energy than passive reading. Critical reading ALWAYS involves active reading. The active reader invests sufficient effort to understand the text and commit important details to memory. The active reader identifies important pieces of data, the assumptions underlying arguments, and examines them critically. They rely on their personal experiences and knowledge of theory to analyze the text.

5 Techniques of Critical Reading
Previewing Writing Critical Reading (at least two times) Summarizing Forming a Critical Response Finding a Focus for Your Paper

6 Previewing Form meaningful expectations about the reading.
Pace yourself – decide how much time you will dedicate to the reading. Skimming. Look for Title, Section Headings, Date Expectations about the Author (previous works) Define the important vocabulary words Brief summaries of chapters The goal is to obtain a general grasp of the text Form several expectations about what you are going to read. Create questions or hypotheses that you expect to be answered by reading the text and write them down. A good way to generate questions are to look at the title, headings, and skim the text. Next, attend to the thoughts and questions that reading these items brings up for you. After you have critically read through the article, you will revisit these questions to aid you in forming a critical response to the reading. Remember, skimming is supposed to be a quick process, but it can also be active (vs passive). Spend no more than 30 seconds per page. Look for headings and subheadings and note your reactions to them. Pay attention to the length of the text you are going to read. Do you currently have enough time to read all the way through the article critically? If not, is there a good stopping point? When you resume reading, will it be in a short enough time for you to remember everything you just read or will you have to spend a lot of time re-reading to get caught back up? How dense does the text seem to be? What type of reading will this be? Technical? Persuasive? Summary?

7 Writing Writing While Reading a. Margin b. Divided Page Method
c. Landmark/Footnote Method d. Reading Journal e. Online Documents OWN the material. Writing while reading often means writing on the text you are reading. To be able to do this ethically, you must own the material. It is worthwhile not only for this reason, but because as professionals you are going to build a library of resources that you can (and will) refer back to repeatedly throughout your career. Make sure the materials you own are free of others’ writing. You will not benefit as much from the remarks of others as you will from writing your own remarks while reading.

8 Writing - Margin Mark, highlight, or underline parts of the text that you think are very important. Option 1 - Write a few words in the margin that capture the essence of your reaction. Option 2 – Write a few words that will help you to remember the passage. This is useful for learning definitions or parts of a theory. You can develop your own method of marking, highlighting, etc, that works best for you. Some people find it helpful to use different colored markers to highlight a page. For example, a yellow highlighter may be used on the first read through an article and a blue during the second read through. Or a yellow HL may be for definitions and a blue may be for important arguments and conclusions in the passage.

9 Divided Page Method On a separate piece of paper, divide your page into two columns. Label one column “text” (meaning from your reading) and the other “response” (meaning your response). Write down a part of the text you think is important in the “text” column and then write a reaction to it in the other column. Advantages – This forces the reader to focus a great deal of attention on a specific part of the reading. In doing so, the reader is more likely to remember the part of the reading and will form a critical response “on the spot,” which will help better understand the reading. The reader not only takes more time to understand a part of the reading, they shift from the visual modality of learning to the motoric (I.e., writing) modality, thereby increasing the degree of comprehension, especially if writing is a strength in the reader’s learning style.

10 Landmark/Footnote Method
On a separate piece(s) of paper or in your reading journal, dedicate an adequate amount of space to an article, book, chapter, etc, you are reading. Highlight, mark, or underline a critical part in your reading. In the margin, indicate that you are going to write a footnote. For example, write a 1 or a (or whatever you want). In your reading journal, write a ‘1’ or ‘a’ (or whatever symbol you chose) and then write your critical response. Advantages – Again, you are focusing more attention on a specific piece of the text, are forming a critical response to it, and are switching learning modalities from visual to writing. This technique is most appropriate for lengthy responses to pieces of the text you are reading, unlike the “writing in the margin” technique, which is best used for brief or concise responses. Also, the landmark/footnote method is a great way to preserve the quality of your text. You don’t end up marking and writing all over the page TOO MUCH and your text doesn’t end up looking messy and unreadable. This is a good technique to use if you encounter a word you are unfamiliar with and need to look it up in the dictionary. It is very helpful to mark where the word appeared in the text, look it up, write the definition down, and have it available in case you encounter the word again in the same text or in a different one.

11 Reading Journal In addition to the other uses described above, use the reading journal to track what you are reading and to form critical responses to articles, chapters, etc you have read in their entirety. Try to summarize the entire article, describe the main points, define key terms, and express your reactions. Remember, do NOT refer back to the text until you absolutely have to! Give your memory a workout! Force yourself to learn the material as you read and be able to write it down clearly afterwards. Also, put concepts into your own words. A general rule is 3-5 pages of notes per 100 pages of text.

12 Online Documents Two ways to write while reading online documents…
Reading Journal Cut and Paste in Word Processor, then insert comments You can use the Landmark and/or Reading Journal methods described above. However, whenever possible, print out a copy of the online document to simply the writing while reading process. Give students a quick example of how to cut text from an online document, paste it into Microsoft Word, and add comments to it that can be viewed later.

13 First Reading Read in an environment where you will be free from distractions. Read steadily and smoothly. Try to enjoy the work. Write notes, but do so sparingly. What works best for you? We suggest avoiding your cell phone, television, computer, and music. Bullet #2 – To aid in this, it can help to try and make the reading personally relevant to you and your life. For instance, you could ask yourself questions such as: Have I ever experienced anything similar to what is written about here? Do I know anyone that has experienced anything similar to what is written about here? What is interesting about this? How will I use this in my career? How will I use this in my life? There are no limits to the techniques you can use. You have to be creative to do this successfully. If you can make the reading personally relevant, you will interact with the reading more actively, will enjoy it more, and will learn more from it. Bullet#2 – “Writing in the margin” is a useful technique at this phase. Make note of areas of interest that are important to the reading or areas you want to revisit later to examine more closely. When definitions or terminology are used, make a note of it or underline it. Make note of words you do not understand and need to look up in the dictionary, but come back to these later – rely on the context of the sentence, paragraph, etc to approximate the meaning of the word for now. Write down BRIEF, CONCISE reactions to specific parts of the text as they occur, preferably in the margin.

14 Second Reading Re-read the material more slowly than during your first read. The two most important objectives are: Understand the content of the material Understand the material’s structure When you are re-reading a text, don’t be surprised if new pieces “jump out at you.” You will notice new parts of the text, have new reactions and critiques in response, and will further develop your initial reactions. Revisit the areas that you marked before and analyze it more intensely. Write down your reactions and observations. Most importantly, take time to make sure you understand the text AS IT IS WRITTEN, and make note of the themes that emerge in each passage of the text. You will be going back to these passages later on in order to critique the arguments within them.

15 3 Responses to Texts Restatement- Restating what a text says; talking about the original topic. Description- Describing what a text does; identifies aspects of text. Interpretation- Analyze what a text means; asserts an overall meaning.

16 Summarization Summarization: Pull out the main points of the text and write them down. The summary’s complexity and length will vary according to the complexity and length of the text you have read! A summary should state in as few words as possible the main ideas of a passage. Write the main idea of the entire passage. Next, it can help to identify sections within a text to begin breaking it down. Write a one or two sentence summary for each section that captures its main points. Incorporate definitions or concepts that were included into the text into the summaries. Now, begin examining how the summaries you have written interact with one another. How do they connect? How are they the same? How are they different? This will lead to a final summary the captures the main points of the entire text you have read.

17 Forming Your Critical Response
Analysis Interpretation Synthesis In forming your critical response, you will now go beyond what the author has explicitly written to form your impressions of the text.

18 Analysis Analysis is the separation of something into its parts or elements, which helps to examine them more closely. To analyze reading, you can take at least these two approaches: Choose a question to guide analysis. Look at the author’s argument structure. Bullet #1 – This will occur on a smaller level than what occurred during summarization, when sections of the text were identified to begin “breaking the text down.” Revisiting the reactions and questions you generated during the “previewing” phase will be helpful here. You have likely formed new reactions and questions since reading the text further in depth and can use these to generate questions also. Your question can be anything you want it to be, as long as it is relevant and can be answered (even if only partially) by the text you are reading. For example, if you are reading People magazine, you might wonder, “Does People challenge or perpetuate stereotypes?” An important element of this question would be the term “stereotypes.” You would clearly define stereotypes and look for examples of stereotypes in People and see how they are treated. To be covered on the next slide.

19 Analysis (continued) Examine the argument structure.
Claims: Statements that require support by evidence. Assumptions: The writer’s underlying beliefs, opinions, principles, or inferences that connect evidence to the claims. Identify the claims that the author makes in their argument. A useful way to identify claims is to become skeptical and not take the reader’s writing at face value. In response to a sentence, ask the question, “What makes this true?” Within the article should be evidence that explains the reason for why the sentence is true. If there is not evidence within the article, you are left to speculate about whether the author’s claim is true or false.

20 Analysis (continued) Types of evidence Facts: Verifiable evidence.
Opinion: Judgments based upon facts. Expert Opinion: Judgments formed by authorities on a given subject. Appeal to Beliefs or Needs: Readers are asked to accept a claim in part because they already accept it as true WITHOUT factual evidence or because it coincides with their needs. Appeal to Emotion: A claim that is persuasive because it evokes an emotion within the reader, but may or may not rely on factual evidence. A short list of some different types of evidence.

21 Analysis (continued) To judge the reliability of evidence, look at the following areas: Accuracy Relevance Representativeness Adequacy Accuracy: Is the evidence drawn from trustworthy sources? Is the evidence cited an accurate representation of the source or is it distorted for some other purpose? Relevance: Does the evidence apply to the point the author is making? Does the evidence come from an authority on the relevant subject matter or from someone who is not familiar with it? Is the evidence current or outdated? Representativeness: Look for this when an author makes general statements such as, “Scientists believe…” or “The sample was…” or “Men all believe that…” Is the evidence representative of the entire sample mentioned? If not, which subset of the sample is relevant? Adequacy: Is there enough evidence to support the claim? Is the evidence specific enough or is it too vague?

22 Analysis (continued) Logical Fallacies: Errors in reasoning. Examples:
Red herring- introduction of an irrelevant issue in an argument. Non sequitur- linking two or more ideas that have no logical connection. Making broad generalizations without proven empirical evidence. When you identify an error in reasoning, this does not ultimately prove that the claim is not true, but it should prompt you to consider this possibility and examine the evidence for the claim more closely.

23 Interpretation After breaking down the text into its components and examining them, ask yourself about the conclusions you can draw from this evidence. What claims does the author make? What evidence supports these claims? Can you infer anything beyond what the author has explicitly written that either strengthens or weakens the claims made by the author?

24 Synthesis Now that you have broken down the text into its parts, analyzed them, and interpreted it all, you should make new connections with what you know. Ask yourself again: What are the main points of this text? Were my expectations for this article met? If I “read in between the lines” do I learn anything else about what the author is saying? Overall, what can I conclude from this text?

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