HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
THE WRITING PROCESS
Invention: Critical Reading
When you write about other writing--fiction or non-fiction--
your first step is to read carefully and critically. Critical
reading is active reading: the search for meanings, connections,
patterns as you go through the material. Making notes as you
read can be the basis for analysis and interpretation when you
write. Here are two outlines for critical reading, one for non-
fiction, one for fiction.
1. Understand the content
--underline key sentences; circle key words
--take notes in the margin
--use a dictionary
--write a brief summary of main points
2. Evaluate the Content
--look for logic; look for appeals to emotions
--look for both sides to the argument
--look for evidence, analysis, reasoning
--look for meaningful sources to support claims of fact
3. Evaluate yourself
--beware of your own biases for or against certain
--evaluate whether your reactions are based on limited
--consider your immediate responses; then evaluate
whether you've made a hasty conclusion or reacted
according to cultural assumptions of your own era
4. Consider the Author and Historical Context
--what is the author's authority to speak on a subject
(personal experience? scholarly study? research?)
--what is the motive behind the author's essay?
(self-justification? propaganda? information
--who was the original audience for the work?
(where was it first published? in a book? magazine?
--what were the biases of the original audience?
--do any elements of the historical period in which it
was written explain elements of the work itself?
Read fiction, drama, poetry more than once**
--first read for the total experience of the work
--read slowly for the words, feelings, emotions, ideas
--underline key phrases, passages, words. Take notes
on responses, ideas, questions that occur to you
--look up important words in the dictionary
--in poetry and drama especially read aloud
--be open to new possibilities; do not reject that
which can't be understood on the first reading
Ask silent questions
--who, what, where, when, why, how?
--what is the conflict, contrast, contradiction?
--is there a pattern? design? a significant repetition?
Consider the major elements
--study the character, his or her qualities, conflicts,
growth or decline
--consider the actions of the plot, the movement
--attend to the words themselves--the images,
metaphors, similes, other language devices and
Contemplate the relationships
--how do each of the parts relate to each other?
--how does the whole relate to a central feeling
expressed by the work?
[Excerpted from Jeff Rackham's From Sight to Insight]
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