Critical Reading Exercises

Practice critical reading strategies as you critique potential resources: evaluate sources’ accuracy, authority, context, timeliness, relevance, coverage, and genre.

Clearly, the Internet has revolutionized writing and reading, providing billions of documents at just a click away. As a result, the ability to assess the validity of documents is more important now than ever before.

Things aren’t always what they may seem to be. For instance, recently, a number of Americans were surprised to discover that a popular online film critic didn’t really exist. The “critic’s” name was a fiction (his/her name was adapted from an advertising slogan like Betty Crocker) and the “critic’s” reviews were always a fiction–a fantasy conjured up by the marketing executives for a major Hollywood production company. The “critic” was a “virtual human being”–the product of a marketing division of a movie production company. The “critic” was designed to sell a product, a “widget.” Ironically, some people may have seen particular films based on the “critic’s” “review.” In this case, and in many others like it, neglecting to read and analyze critically can lead to some pretty surprising consequences. In this scenario, the consequences weren’t too serious; although a number of Americans were surprised, as far as we know, no one was injured, or cheated out of money, insurance coverage, a job, a home, etc. However, this isn’t always the case, which you can read more about below.

We all know we need to be on guard when signing life-defining documents. Wills, real estate contracts, application forms–these documents come with warning signs: one of which is the requirement that the documents be notarized and initialed on each page. Other documents, like the editorial page of a major newspaper or the column of an international newsmagazine, possess the imprimateur of a major publisher. Accordingly, in a rush to get through the document, we may skip through sentences rather than consider each word. We may concentrate on understanding the writer’s message, adding the information in the essay to our knowledge of the subject, rather than critically examining the document, wondering about why it’s shaped as it is, whether the author’s biases are coloring the story. When we’re immersed within a mire of information, we may skim too quickly, neglecting to critically read and analyze the resources. As a means of preventing this habit, you may want to consider practicing the one/more of the critical reading strategies below:

  • Double-Entry Response Format: Use a double-entry format to respond to readings, extending your thinking about how the original source relates to your research.