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Unit 7: Critical reading

It is suggested that you print out this unit so that you can read the text carefully before you attempt the questions.

So far in Units 1-6 you have focused on skills necessary to help you improve your academic writing. This unit looks at the reading process, as reading is an essential part of the research writing process. You need to be able to critically evaluate what you read and to identify strengths and weaknesses in an argument. The introductory text is followed by some exercises to help develop your critical reading skills.

Non-critical reading is when the reader simply requires facts or information from a text. Non-critical reading is done, for example, if you are simply looking for clear factual information. Critical reading is the ability to evaluate the credibility of a piece of writing. This has always been an essential academic skill, but it has added importance now, with the rapid growth of internet publishing.

Many articles and much of the information published on the internet have not benefited from peer review, the pre-publication scrutiny of scholarly work by other experts in the field: a process that monitors what is published in the traditional academic journal and acts as a form of quality control. Furthermore, the peer review process itself is not without faults, and not everything published in a peer reviewed journal is necessarily of the highest value. It is essential, therefore, that readers learn to judge the quality and validity of an academic paper for themselves.

All writers have a purpose when they write, and a writer may choose or emphasise facts and opinions which support his or her purpose, and may ignore those which do not. As a good reader, you need to be aware of this.

Thus, critical reading refers to a careful, active, reflective, analytical reading of a text. This is the type of reading you are expected to do at your level of study both in order to develop your knowledge of the subject and in order to produce an appropriate literature review. You are expected to be critical of information and arguments that you read and to make your own judgements about them; in turn, these judgements need to be supported by sound reasoning and good evidence. 

This unit is divided into the following sections:

This unit is also available in printable format. To access please select one of the links below.