What is critical reading and how to achieve it?

What is Critical Reading?

  • Reading and rereading the argument of the author to be able to go beyond what an author stated in his text (Estacio, 2016).
  • Critical reading often involves asking questions about the reading. In particular, you are examining the strengths and weaknesses of the reading’s argument (OWLL-Massey University, 2016).
  • The aim of critical reading is not to find fault, but to assess the strength of the evidence and the argument (University of Leicester).

Steps involved in Critical Reading (Skills you Need webpage)

  1. Reflect on what a text says
  2. Reflect on what the text describes
  3. Reflect on the interpretation of the text
  4. Involves to determine the author’s purpose, viewpoint/tone, and the presence or absence of logical fallacies (Estacio, 2016)

Author’s Purpose

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Entertain
  • Combined/multi-purpose

Author’s Viewpoint

Viewpoint is how the author looks at the topic (Estacio, 2016). One common misconception about viewpoint or point of view is that it pertains to the first person, second person, or third-person point of view.

  1. Positive viewpoint. It occurs when the author sees things positively in his writing. If the author uses a positive tone, the viewpoint could be positive also.
  2. Negative viewpoint. This is the polar opposite of the former. If the author oftentimes is being pessimistic in his writing, there is a huge possibility that his viewpoint is negative.

Author’s Tone

The tone is the author’s attitude toward the topic.

The author’s attitude is expressed through the words and details he or she selects.

For example, textbooks are usually written with an objective tone which includes facts and reasonable explanations. The objective tone is matter-of-fact and neutral. The details are mostly facts. On the other hand, fiction and personal essays are usually written with a subjective tone. A subjective tone uses words that describe feelings, judgments, or opinions. The details are likely to include experiences, senses, feelings, and thoughts.

  • The objective tone is impartial. It does not show any feelings for or against a topic; therefore, it is unbiased or neutral. Often objective tone uses higher-level words and avoids pronouns such as I and you, creating a formal tone.
  • The subjective tone is personal, biased, emotional, and often informal.

NOTE: Tone is expressed through the words and details the author selects. To determine the author’s tone, you must notice how these words and details are used within the writing.

Author’s Bias and Use of Logical Fallacies

  1. Formal Fallacies – are those readily seen to be instances of identifiable invalid logical forms like mixed antecedents
  2. Informal Fallacies – invalid arguments but can be profitable from the points of view of both recognition and understanding.


Critical Reading also goes with critical thinking. As Hernandez et al, 2017 state, “Reading is a reflection of a person’s way of thinking”.

In reading critically, we think and analyze and often, thinking leads to a decision on whether or not to believe in what the author says. Thinking critically, in the academic sense, involves being open-minded and using judgment and discipline to process what you are learning about without letting your personal bias or opinion detract from the arguments.

Critical Thinking takes form in two kinds, Inductive thinking, and Deductive thinking.

  • Inductive thinking is putting parts together in order to come with a single generalization. It’s where you look at the pieces of evidence and come up with a general concept.
  • Deductive thinking, on the other hand, is breaking down things into parts. It’s where you look at a concept and tries to prove with examples and look for proof through examples before believing something.

Why do we need Critical Reading?

You need to be prepared to step into the academic debate and to make your own evaluation of how much you are willing to accept what you read. (University of Leicester) -A practical starting point, therefore, is to consider anything you read not as fact, but as the argument of the writer. Taking this starting point you will be ready to engage in critical reading.

A good step is SQ3R (Skills you need webpage)

  1. Survey – relates to speed reading, scanning and skimming the text to gain the general gist of the material in question.
  2. Question – you must have a set of questions to guide you
  3. Read –reading with critical thinking
  4. Recall –recall to not forget important points
  5. Review –review what you have read

The aim of critical reading is not to find fault, but to assess the strength of the evidence and the argument. It is just as useful to conclude that a study, or an article, presents very strong evidence and a well-reasoned argument, as it is to identify the studies or articles that are weak (University of Leicester).