How to Read Critically

1. Find the Purpose: Determine the central claims or purpose of the text (its thesis). A critical reading attempts to identify and assess how these central claims are developed or argued.


2. Who is the Audience: What audience is the text written for? (Who is it in dialogue with? – This will probably be other scholars or authors with differing viewpoints.)

3. What are the Arguments: Distinguish the kinds of reasoning or theories the text employs.

  • Is any specific methodology laid out?
  • Be aware that different disciplines (i.e. history, sociology, philosophy, biology) will have different ways of arguing.

4. What Evidence is Provided: Examine the evidence (the supporting facts, examples, etc) the text employs. What counts as evidence in this argument? Is the evidence statistical? literary? historical? etc. From what sources is the evidence taken? Are these sources primary or secondary?

Tip Box

Just read a great journal article? Make note of why it was great. For example look out for the writing style, the arguments, how it was structured, etc.

Try incorporating the style and techniques into your writing assignments. During your time at University your aim is to become as proficient a writer as the author you just read.