Why do we do it?
How do we do it?
Previewing a work
Where was it published? The type of publication can tell us much about the writer’s position. Questions such as: Conservative or liberal medium? Journal or popular magazine? What is the audience of the publication? It is a specific or general audience? Male/female audience?
What is the title?
Second or Active Reading
Writing about what we have read
- Basic background information: author-place of publication…etc. Look at these areas and see if there is anything that needs to be addressed as a potential conflict.
- Discuss the major point(s) author makes. As part of the summary, you will be addressing each point that the author makes. Here would be a good time to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each major point based upon the evidence used.
- Show an example of the evidence being drawn upon. Examine the quality of the evidence. Is it credible? Relevant? Timely? Does it do what the author suggests it is suppose to do?
- Assessment comments, analysis or questions you have about the information. This will be your overall view of the article and its effectiveness based upon your findings.
- Connect your argument to the summary of this work and then return to your own work.
Checklist for Critical Reading:
- Perform the preview stage keeping in mind not to get bogged down with specifics at this point. You are going for that general overview look.
- On readings, keep reviewing until you understand what the thesis is and the major points of the article.
- Draft a summary. Keep it short-start with a paragraph or two of the thesis and major points.
- Review summary for completeness—ensure all major points stated.
- Check for areas that lead to questions due to incompleteness whether on your part or the authors. Did you get all of the article or did the author miss some important parts related to the issue?
- Can you use your summary for your own work?
- Who is the intended audience the author is looking to? Understanding who the work is directed at may help with your review—take the time to look at the intended audience and whether or not they would be receptive to this work.
Annotating a text means interacting with the text and writing on it in order to understand it better. This includes defining words and concepts that you may not understand and making connections with other texts and/or experiences that you may have had. Below are some instructions for how to annotate a text that you can use in your composition classes.
How to Annotate a Text
- Read the text twice. The first reading is quick, getting the gist of the article/chapter. The second is a careful reading where you interact with the text and mark parts that are confusing, interesting, surprising or important.
- Begin to annotate. Circle, underline or highlight important ideas. In the margin explain the significance or the connection. Without margin commentary, the marked text is not helpful.
- Mark confusing/interesting words. Define new or confusing words in the margin.
- Note passages that generate a strong positive OR negative reaction from you. Where possible explain in the margin why you think you reacted the way you did.
- Ask questions. If you read something that doesn’t make sense, what would you ask the author if they were sitting next to you? Do you want more examples? Do you want more information? Ask the author. You can also ask your instructor questions or write questions you would like to discuss as a class.
- Make connections. One of the most powerful reading tools is for the reader to connect with what they read. For example, when I read Richard Wright’s literacy narrative, it reminds me of an experience I had at the Murray Public library as a 3rd grader. Because I’ve made that connection, I remember his piece better. In the margin, by that section of the text, I write in the margin: Murray Library 3rd grade to help me remember the experience. You can also make connections to other parts of the reading, other books/movies/TV shows you’ve experience or news events. If you’re a visual person, draw a picture.
- Identify rhetorical choices. When we write, we make rhetorical choices about words we use, the order we put words in, the examples we share, etc. How do professional writers do that? When you see some writing that you think is particularly good (or bad) highlight that and explain what is significant. When Richard Rodriguez uses Spanish in his literacy narrative, how does strengthen or weaken the text?
- Statement of main idea. Mark the passage and identify with a margin note that restates the thesis statement in your own words.
Rhetorical Analysis Worksheet
a. What is the source of disagreement?
b. How do the beliefs and values of the audience differ?
c. Many peer-reviewed journal articles or scientific case studies are organized around a statement of hypothesis which is a proposed explanation or conclusion that is usually either confirmed or denied on the basis of rigorous examination or experimentation later in the article. A hypothesis is a proposed answer to the research question.
1. What is the research question of the journal article?
2. What is the hypothesis?
3. What is the author’s main claim or conclusion? Be as specific as possible.
d. Ask yourself WHY the author believes this claim or conclusion.
a. Does the author have knowledge of the topic he or she is writing about? How do
b. Is the author fair? Does the author address the opposition to his or her argument?
Does the author understand both sides of the issue?
c. Does the writer show concern for the values and beliefs of the audience? How? If it is a peer-reviewed journal article does the author(s) comply with the beliefs and values of his or her peer reviewers?
d. Is the author’s ethos persuasive?
Does the author use vivid language or style? Give examples of the author’s use of emotional language. Do you believe that the author’s use of pathos is effective?