Read critically

During your course, you will be required to read a lot of different information sources, and be able to understand, learn and even build new ideas at the same time. This is different from the way you would read for pleasure. You can do this by reading critically.

Reading critically means you are actively analysing and evaluating the concepts and ideas you encounter from your reading, to form your own opinion or new ideas.

To help you become a critical reader, consider the following tips:

  • Be selective - focus on the key ideas as you are not expected to read everything.
  • Be purposeful - be aware of why you are reading the material.
  • Be active - ask questions while reading the text.
  • Be open - to new concepts and ideas, but only if the authors support their claims.  

There are four stages of critical reading. Each stage allows you to progress from having a large body of material to more relevant and targeted sections of the text which you can analyse properly.

Four Stages of Reading Critically
Stages Purpose Strategies
Stage 1: Overviewing To see if the material is relevant to your topic. Read the summary, table of contents page.
Stage 2: Skimming To get the general or main ideas of an argument. Read the introduction, conclusion and the first couple of sentences of each paragraph.
Stage 3: Scanning To look for specific facts or information without reading the rest of the text. Use the index to locate relevant words and phrases and read about them in the text, or check headings of chapters and read the introduction of the relevant chapter.
Stage 4: Intensive reading To fully understand the author's message. Read carefully to understand the text. Ask questions while reading. See the handout 'Useful questions to ask while reading intensively" for more information about how to do this.

You can find more information about how to read critically in these two handouts from RMIT University Vietnam:

Useful questions to ask during intensive reading (handout)

Critical reading (exercise)