Critical Reading

Look Behind the Book

Assignment: Examine the credibility of the course textbook (or a major monograph in the field). Who wrote it? What are the author's credentials? What is the point of view of the book? Find three reviews of it. Suggest alternative works (with reasons).

Purpose: Emphasizes that ideas and people have contexts.

Analyse the Argument

Assignment 1: Identify and examine the assumptions implicit in an article. Identify the author's thesis. Outline the theoretical framework used to account for the results. [Professor may want to hand out specific questions, in order to focus on different aspects of the article].

Purpose: Provides practice in reading what is implicit, rather than explicit, in a paper.

Assignment 2: Examine the experimental design, data, and interpretation of the data in a research paper for adequacy and consistency. [Professor may want to hand out questions, to pinpoint specific aspects of the article].

Purpose: Focuses on the critical evaluation of research.

Compare Book Reviews

Assignment: Locate and read [three, four, etc.] reviews of a work.

Purpose: Explores the importance of critical reception.

Contrast Journal Articles

Assignment 1: Use an index to locate two articles which present differing viewpoints (scholarly/popular; conservative/liberal).

Purpose: Reveals that most journals appeal to a defined constituency and that their reporting and editorial policies reflect the attitudes of that constituency.

Assignment 2: Read several articles which appear to address the same question but reach different conclusions. Account for the differences by examining the methods used, the experimental design, and the interpretation of the results. [Professor would select the articles].

Purpose: Encourages students to approach research with a healthy scepticism. Develops evaluative skills.

Write Book/Film Review

Assignment: Review a book/film (either of the students' choice or one assigned to them). Discuss the author's credentials. Compare the book/film to similar works in the field. A film can also be compared to its source - book, play.

Purpose: To place a book/film in its intellectual context.

Read the References

Assignment: Read the articles cited in a research paper. Explain how each is related to the paper. In what circumstances is it appropriate to cite other papers? What different purposes do the citations serve?

Purpose: Shows when it is appropriate to recognize the contributions of previous authors in the development of new work.

Examine Coverage of a Controversial Issue

Assignment: Examine the treatment of a controversial issue in several sources [newspaper editorial, scholarly journal, journals from different disciplines, etc.].

Purpose: Emphasizes that there are multiple perspectives on any issue.