Critical reading is a term sometimes used interchangeably with—or as a subcategory of—active reading. Like active reading, critical reading involves engaging with a text. But critical reading goes beyond merely reading for comprehension and retention; it is a way of thinking and delving deeply into a text for the purpose of analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating the ideas and information presented. Critical readers seek to understand what a text says, what a text does, and what a text means. Some questions critical readers apply may include
- How does this text work?
- What choices were made by the author?
- What kinds of reasoning and evidence are used?
- What assumptions underlie the ideas presented?
- What does this text mean?
A critical reader must be able to consider the point of view of the author while questioning the author’s assumptions, analyzing their arguments, and evaluating their claims. Also, critical readers must be aware of the assumptions, experiences, and biases they themselves may bring to a reading. They may analyze a text for purpose, tone, persuasive appeals, biases, use of sources, and consideration of the larger context in which it was produced. Critical reading is often done for the purpose of preparing to produce a piece of writing (for example, an informal summary-response, a rhetorical analysis, a formal critique, or a synthesis).