Reading a text critically is very different from reading a novel or newspaper article casually. Critical reading is something that many students learn during their academic years. It is an important skill to have because it allows you to understand and evaluate what you are reading amidst all the information available in this information-heavy world. However, what exactly does critical analysis entail, and how do you improve your critical analysis skills?
First, it is important to learn to ask the right questions after reading a text. Interpreting a text critically means that you have to read the text and think about why the author has taken a particular viewpoint or stance. Why has the author taken a particular angle? What is the author trying to convey? Most importantly, is the author biased in any way? Asking the right questions when reading a text requires you to carefully examine the writer’s claims as well as the quality of his or her argument.
Second, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s claims. One useful tip to begin is to write a summary of the author’s main argument in a few bullet points and then evaluate the extent to which the author has accomplished their purpose. If the piece is written to inform, has all the points been presented clearly and accurately? If it is to persuade, did the author include all the evidence and opposing arguments? It is important to consider how the material was organised as well as the points emphasised by the writer.
Third, compare the piece to similar works that explore the same topic. Comparison is a useful tool to determine where the piece stands amidst the existing literature. It can also be helpful to read about what others have said about the same topic so you can reach an unbiased and impartial view about the accuracy and legitimacy of the text you are reading.
In summary, critical analysis requires asking the right questions, evaluating the author’s claims and comparing the piece to other works that explore the same topic.