To read well is an art. Over time, serious and intelligent readers can become critical readers if they become skilled at discerning the difference between artful reading and everyday reading. Reading a recipe or a letter maybe defined as everyday reading and do not require extensive thinking or analyses. Critical reading or artful reading, however, is to question action (what is happening) and motivation (the purpose): what is being said, why it’s being said and what is the impact or implications? Critical readers are aware the writer is imparting information in one form of the other, therefore, they analyze what they read, which will often provide them valuable insight into the mind of the writer.
Consequently, the first questions critical readers will ask are: what is the writer writing about and what are his motives? Is it to instruct, to reason or to persuade? The next step critical readers will undertake is to analyze the information.
Cause and effect
A writer may write an essay on building a log cabin by showing all the steps in such a process. Critical readers will read and analyze the order of the steps in the process and will want to know the writer’s motivation for writing such a book, which maybe to help low income folk. The writer may feel that because the economy has had such a downturn spiral, many people will not be able to afford to build commodious, expensive lodging. After the Critical readers analyze this type of writing, which is cause and effect, and the writer’s reason and motivation, they can decide whether to agree or disagree.
Inductive and deductive reasoning
There are many fallacious statements made daily, especially in the political arena, and if readers are not reading critically, they may find themselves swept up in a maze of falsehoods and disillusionment. Inductive and deductive reasoning is the foundation of logic and begins with a generalization, adds a related statement, and ends with a conclusion that is necessarily drawn from the two statements. For example, all tall men have full heads of hair (major premise), Joe John is tall (minor premise), therefore, Joe John has a full head of hair (conclusion). You can see what happens when “all, every, no or none” premises are made – they can lead to fallacious conclusions. Critical readers narrow down, distill, and analyze information before they digest it.
It is important that critical readers test the truth and validity of what may look like a perfectly good argument. Because for someone to make such conclusive statements, two requirements must be met: the major and minor premise must both be true. For the argument to be valid – it must follow one of several rules of logic, which is “no conclusion can be drawn unless the major premise states a universal that has in it or is implied, all, every, no or none.” Therefore, critical readers are especially observant of statement that implies universality or worldwide application and will want to see proof or assessments before declaring it true.
Just as deductive reasoning seeks to appeal to the emotion, so does persuasion reasoning, but critical readers know they will not be taken in by the writer’s emotions, but rather his rationality. Appealing to the emotions may not always be a bad thing, as long as the reader is mindful of what is going on. Television and magazine advertisers appeal to the emotions all the time in an effort to persuade. They want you to buy a certain product or to think well of their company. Many will use guilt, love, loyalty and fear to support a specific or distinct emotion. Politician will sometimes use patriotism as an appeal or an appeal to fear. Critical readers must be particular mindful of persuasion materials or they may find themselves being part of propaganda campaigns that often use negative and loaded words, such as malicious, completely unethical or dishonest, to further their cause. Therefore, critical readers will look for loaded words when reading and when formulating their own analyses.
Critical reading is an art that embraces all the senses. First and foremost, critical readers read for clarity and understanding. They want to know the motivation of the writer and will look for his reason for writing the material. Critical readers want to know whether the material is imbued in logic. If the writer attempts to persuade critical readers to adapt a certain point of view, they will want to know whether the writer seeks to appeal to the emotion or whether there is logic in his line of reasoning.