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The critical reading process

Before you begin reading, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I reading?
  • What are my aims?
  • What am I hoping to discover?
  • Have I set aside enough time to read?

By answering these questions, you will identify exactly why you are reading and this will help in the process of selecting relevant texts. Also, you need to ensure that you have enough time to read, as critical reading is not a fast process.

In order to make reading a text worthwhile you must first decide if it is relevant. You do this by following the process below:

1.   Read the title

Is it relevant to your questions/topic/research?

Yes/possibly: go to step 2
No: stop reading

2.   Read the abstract

Is it relevant to your questions/topic/research?

Yes/possibly: go to step 3 
No: stop reading

3.   Read the introduction and skim read the rest of the text

Is it relevant to your questions/topic/research?

Yes/possibly: go to step 4 
No: stop reading

4.   Identify relevant sections/ information to read in detail

5.   Reread the relevant sections carefully and do the following:

  • Annotate the text with comments and questions as you read (imagine that you are going to have a question and answer session with the author later)
  • Highlight major points
  • Note any new terms and definitions
  • Summarise any tables/graphs etc
  • Identify evidence/arguments the writer uses to support his/her viewpoint
  • Assess the evidence/arguments/counterarguments 

By doing the above you are now starting to read the text critically.