Critical Reading Guide
In women's studies classes, you will be expected to critically analyze an assortment of texts. A text can take a variety of forms such as: an article, book, poem, movie, advertisement, political speech, sermon, song, television show, documentary, painting, and so on. The majority of what you read will be articles and books. There are several questions to keep in mind while you are reading that will help you to understand and critique any given text.
Three basic questions are an important starting point from which to examine a text from a critical perspective:
1) Who is the target audience of the text?
2) Why did the author write the text? In other words, what is her or his project or purpose?
3) Does the author achieve what she or he claims to do?
Next, there are six key questions to ask yourself about an article:
1) What is the question or issue?
2) What is the claim?
3) What arguments and evidence are offered in support of the claim?
4) How good is the support?
5) What would constitute adequate support?
6) What alternative reasons might there be for believing such a claim?
Some additional questions to consider might be:
1) What is the author's thesis statement?
2) What is the author's writing style?
3) What are some of the themes that run throughout the text?
4) Does the author's conclusion follow logically from the argument presented in the article?
Always keep a DICTIONARY by your side when you are reading. Write out the definition of words that you do not know or understand in a notebook or in the margins of the page where the word occurs in the text. (Only write on the text if it is your own.) If you write directly on the text, then you will be able to easily refer to the definition when you return to the article later.
Figure out a system that works for you of notetaking or marking the text so that you can go back to the text and pick out the key points easily. You should be able to pick up an article six months after reading it and quickly find the thesis statement if you have a system that works well for you. Highlighting and underlining are the most common techniques for marking texts.
Write down any questions that come up as you are reading and mark any confusing sections. Never be afraid to ask a question. Remember--if you have a question or are confused by something, chances are that someone else has the same question. You are responsible for your own education. You need to let your professors know what your questions are. With your participation, they will be better able to assist you in your educational process.