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What is meant by critical reading?


Taking a critical approach to reading means asking yourself why this particular author has written this particular text. This involves asking many questions about the text - the more the better. These questions are shaped by what you already understand about the topic and your purpose for reading it e.g. for general background, to integrate into an introduction or literature review or to support discussion of your results in a report.

Why is critical reading so important?

Academic disciplines approach critique in their own particular way.  They use different arguments, different types of evidence, different methods of enquiry and therefore ask different questions.

At University, you are not only asked to read critically but to transfer that approach into your writing where you are assessed more generally on your ability for critical thinking. This means:

  • Analysing the source (i.e. the thing or idea you are critiquing)
  • Knowing what to analyse
  • Evaluating the source, or having a position or point of view
  • Considering several options or points of view
  • Considering the evidence in coming to your point of view

Key elements for questions of a research article

In reading a research article, there are a number of critical questions you can ask about the article as a whole, before asking questions about sections of the article such as the methodology, results or discussion.

Click on the following key elements of a research article to see what kinds of critical questions you can ask:

Key elements Critical questions 

What is the author's purpose? What is the purpose of the research?

Need for research

Has the need for the research been well established, particularly in the introduction? Is the research worth doing?

Information / data

Is the information/are the data reliable? Valid? Up−to−date?

Concepts / theoretical framework / assumptions

Are the concepts clear? Is the theoretical framework clearly related to the research topic? Is it appropriate? Does the research draw on one theory or several? Are there unquestioned assumptions made about the concepts or theory?

Point of view / position / assumptions

What is the author's point of view or position? Is this well−supported by evidence? Are there assumptions which are unsupported?

Implications / consequences

What are the implications of the research? Are they clearly tied to the research aims and results?

In the next sections we will look at the kinds of questions you can ask about different sections of the article.