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Guide to Critical Reading: An Overview

Critical Reading

7 Critical Reading Strategies 
(Salisbury University)

Critical Reading 
(Walden Writing Center)

Critical Thinking 
(Walden Writing Center)

How to Read Critically - A Printable Handout 
(Winthrop University)

The Fundamentals of Critical Reading
and Effective Writing

Reading Critically 
(Harvard University)

Before You Read


Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack?” In today’s information saturated world, doing research often feels like this. Overwhelming! Where do you begin?

Many students simply give up looking and choose the first thing they see: the first website on a Google results list, the first article to present itself in a database search, the first book they find in the library. Does this practice promise good information? Not always. But, for sure, you can’t read it all!  But let’s look at it in another way. With so many sources to choose from, why waste your time reading one if it’s not a good source. Pre-evaluating your sources can save you time! Start by asking yourself…

Does this source provide new information or insights?

Does it offer anything I don’t already know?

  • Read a summary! Look for it on the back of a book or inside the front cover. Locate an abstract of a journal article you find online. Read an online review of a reference source. 
  • Scan the table of contents. What does it reveal about the topics covered in the source? Does it highlight the direction the author is going?

​Are the author and publisher credible?

Google the author, editor, and publishers names (one at a time, in quotes). Look for indications of expertise (education, employer, professional affiliation). Do you see references to this or other works by the author. What criticisms or endorsements are made? Whose making them?

Is the source current?

  • Check out the copyright date (inside title page) and ask yourself: Is information published on this date likely to be accurate or relevant today? Historical facts and literary texts generally remain reliable for long periods of time, while scientific and technical information , as well as social commentary become quickly dated.
  • Check the title for time limiting words like “recent,” “future,” “modern.” Does that title make sense when considering the copyright date? Do you really want to use that 1999 article about the “recent” advances in stem-cell research for a paper you’re writing in 2013?

Does the source have a bibliography?

If it’s a book, is there an index?

A bibliography indicates research (which you can cross-check), while an index provides usability (a feature often included in well-researched titles).


Okay, so you’ve decided this is a good source for your purposes. What now? Reading an informational text isn’t quite like reading a novel. Taking notes and marking important ideas is key to both evaluating and using the information you find. While you’re reading, make note of the following:

What arguments were made? Does the author have a thesis? An agenda or product he or she would like you to buy into? Does this affect his ability to accurately and fairly argue points?

What evidence is provided? Consider the sources used by the author. Are they credible? Make note of the facts. Do these line up with facts you’ve found in other sources or are they incomplete or flawed? Evaluate the relevance of the evidence to the argument. Does the evidence prove the argument or simply lead to it? Are conclusions logical? Could other interpretations lead to different conclusions?


Now that you’ve taken the time to read it, make sure you keep it usable.

  • Write a short review of the source. This will help you to remember the key points and arguments later on.
  • Be sure to include an evaluation that highlights both if and how this source will be useful to you.



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Reading Quickly and Efficiently Online
Posted on UKEdChat, this article reviews techniques and apps available for honing your online reading skills.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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