Critical Reading Critical Thinking

All knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary ideas, secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas.Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving outward to an outer circle of peripheral ideas. Your writing will involve reflection on written texts: that is, critical reading. Your reading of a text is already critical if it accounts for and makes a series of judgments about how a text is argued. Analyzes the text and asserts a meaning for the text as a whole. Inferring the underlying assumptions and perspectives of the discussion, taking into account all of the elements of the text throughout the text as a whole.

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Few are able to accurately mirror the meaning the author intended. They unintentionally distort or violate the original meaning of authors they read.

As Horace Mann put it in 1838:"I have devoted especial pains to learn, with some degree of numerical accuracy, how far the reading, in our schools, is an exercise of the mind in thinking and feeling and how far it is a barren action of the organs of speech upon the atmosphere.

Furthermore, reflective readers read a textbook in biology differently from the way they read a textbook in history.

Having recognized this variability, we should also recognize that there are core reading tools and skills for reading any substantive text, some of which will be the focus of this and our next few our columns. Think about what adjustments you would make in your reading given the differing purposes of these writers: To read productively, your purpose in reading must take into account the author’s purpose in writing.

In this and the next few articles we focus on some of the fundamentals of close reading.

We explain what it means to think through a text using theory of close reading at the core of the reading process.To read well requires one to develop one’s thinking about reading and, as a result, to learn how to engage in the process of what we call close reading.Students not only need to learn how to determine whether a text is worth reading, but also how to take ownership of a text’s important ideas (when it contains them). Wiley Online Library requires cookies for authentication and use of other site features; therefore, cookies must be enabled to browse the site.Detailed information on how Wiley uses cookies can be found in our Privacy Policy.The primary ideas, at the core, explain the secondary and peripheral ideas.Whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should take ownership, first, of the primary ideas, for they are a key to understanding all of the other ideas.You will be making judgments and interpretations of the ideas, arguments, and claims of others presented in the texts you read. These elements are tied together in an interpretation, an assertion of an underlying meaning of the text as a whole. The key is this: don’t read looking only or primarily for information. Example: A non-critical thinker/reader might read a history book to learn the facts of the situation or to discover an accepted interpretation of those events. We may simply enjoy the ideas that the text stimulates in us.This is fine as long as we know that we do not deeply understand the text.


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