How to read and respond critically to texts.

Your reading reviews will include extracts from books, academic papers, and  websites (including other blogs). Here are some guidelines for how to approach each text in order to write a meaningful weekly review.

1. As you read each text, try to answer the following questions.

  • What are the key points made by the author?
  • What theories/strategies has the author used to structure the key issues and points?
  • What conclusions has the author drawn?
  • Look at what kinds of support are given forthese key issues and points. ls it based on empirical data, reasoned arguments or experience?
  • Make an appraisal of how tight and well argued these key issues and points are.

2. When looking at a website, ask yourself:

  • ls this website produced by an academic, artist, government, NGO or commercial organization?
  • What is its purpose?
  • What kind of information does it make available?
  • How well supported is this information? Can it be verified?

3. How to locate relevant literature
The required texts will be a good source of further information. When you locate a new text you must read with purpose. This helps you quickly find, appraise and read relevant literature:

  • Look at the table of contents
  • Read the abstract
  • Scan headings or sub-headings to see if the text is suitable for your purpose.
  • lf the text appears to be relevant to your phenomenon, then you should read it in-depth to find specific research to support your weekly review.
  • Scan footnotes and endnotes; and follow leads. This will also help you assess the validity of the argument. ls the same research referenced in other sources?

4. Evaluate your sources, material and readings

  • Ask yourself who conducted the research (is the author an authority in their field of study)? What evidence is there to support this? Look at other footnotes/endnotes, bibliographies.
  • Where has this research come from? ls it a valid source, i.e. from an educational institution, a refereed journal article, or a scholarly book? lf it is from a website, does it contain the author’s details ls it from an educational site, and does it have a publication date? If you are doing a Google search you may find non academic sites that have not been peerassessed.
  • Evaluate the reading. If it is not authoritative, try again. Also try using instead.
  • ls the literature accurate? How do you know this? ls the same research referenced in other academic sources?
  • ls there evidence of bias/prejudice in the article? ls the argument convincing?
  • How do you know if the evidence is true (what kind of backing does the author use)?
  • How up-to-date is the material that you are looking at? ls it likely that more current literature is available? Always include current and up-to-date material in a literature review.
  • Ask yourself how this literature refers to your topic? What is it telling you about it?

5. Analyzing your readings

  • Identify the key issues, points, discussed in your literature? Make detailed notes of what you read.
  • what theories has the author(s) used to structure the key issues and points?
  • What is the authors’ purpose?
  • What conclusions has the author drawn?
  • What points support that conclusion?
  • Always record all bibliographic information. If you are quoting the author you will need use quotations and cite the year and page number.
  • It is also useful to get into the habit of summarising each article alter you have read it. This enables you to keep a record of all the arguments you have encountered. It also enables you to keep a record of your own thoughts on each article.