Thanks for watching this tutorial from Bryan College Academic Support.
Today we’re going to talk about critical reading skills and techniques.
You may find in your college courses that you have a lot of difficult reading assignments.
Critical reading is a set of strategies to help you read actively and efficiently.
The goal is to understand and retain the information you need for your assignments in a small amount of time.
One of the keys to critical reading is using a time-efficient approach.
Before you start reading, ask yourself what you need to get out of it?
If you are reading the material for the first time, you should first quickly scan the headings, images, and summaries. This will help you understand which sections will require more careful reading.
You should then read more thoroughly to better understand the material. At this stage, you should take notes, pay attention to the structure of chapters and paragraphs, and engage with the writer’s arguments.
Finally, to perform well on exams you should re-read. You may want to scan for particular concepts you know will be on the exam. You can also skim the entire reading for a more general overview.
Regardless of your reading approach, you should always try to be an active reader.
This means you should highlight key words and make notes or annotate in the margin to help you remember major ideas. You should also ask yourself questions to dig deeper into the meaning of the text. Watch for signposts – phrases like “most importantly” and “in contrast” – to help you follow the argument.
You might want to test yourself by jotting down notes from memory. You can also explain the text to another person to help you remember the meaning.
Finally, you might record yourself reading the text or your notes. You can listen to the recording while driving or doing chores and refresh yourself on the content.
Let’s talk for just a moment about how to take good notes.
Most people like to take notes in two stages. First write down the main points, indicated by the larger bubbles here. Then you can add summaries of the details and organize your notes based on what you need to know for your exam.
Don’t worry if you can’t write everything down – the key is to organize main points and sub-points in a way that prepares you for your exam.
You should also try taking notes in different ways, like the web diagram shown here, or with outlines, bullet points, or colors. Don’t worry if your notes make sense to other people as long as they help you learn the material.
When you read critically, you should not simply remember what the author wrote.
Instead, you should be critical of – or evaluate – the text.
There are six aspects of a text that you should always evaluate.
For relevance, ask yourself if the information needs your needs and covers the material for your exam.
Provenance means where the information came from. Can you identify the authors? Are they authoritative?
For objectivity, ask yourself whether the author is biased or has vested interests in the topic.
Also ask when the information was produced. If it is scientific in nature, has it become outdated?
For presentation, ask if the information is clearly communicated in its language and structure.
Finally, evaluate the research methods used to reach conclusions. Are the methods sounds? Do you need to verify the information with another source?
Even with all these critical reading skills, you may still come across readings that are particularly difficult.
There are a few strategies you can use to cope with difficult concepts:
You should read without interruptions, but after your reading get in touch with other students to discuss and clarify your ideas.
Focus on headings and signposts to see the direction the content is taking. If you do not know a word, look it up in a dictionary, and make a note of any other questions you have.
You may want to photocopy the reading so that you can write these notes on the actual text. Consider drawing diagrams or other illustrations to help you understand.
And if all else fails, take a break and come back to the reading in a few days. Remember, if you procrastinate with your reading, you won’t be able to do this!
Thanks for watching this tutorial on critical reading skills.
For more information on this topic, visit the Open University at .open.ac.uk. And for tutoring help and academic support, visit bryan.edu/ags_resources or de_resources for dual enrollment students.
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