Leeds University Library

Critical reading

You might read your sources for one of a number of different purposes: you may just want to get a general overview of the text, for which skimming through it may be adequate; you may want to scan the text for specific information or to understand some core concepts, rather than needing to understand its entire contents; or you may need to read in much more depth and actively ask questions of the source, in order to understand its relevance and reliability for your own research topic - this last approach is particularly important for any work you submit for assessment. This Managing your reading tutorial (activity) will help you consider what to read, and how to be more selective in managing your academic reading.

Our handy Note taking or note making guide (PDF) will you help to be more selective, which will make academic reading at University more manageable. It contains reading techniques and strategies, for example, scanning, skimming and reading strategies for academic articles. 

Evaluating information

Your work will benefit from using high-quality evidence and information.

There is so much information out there, and not all of it is reliable or appropriate for academic study. Evaluating the quality of information is an important part of critical thinking and will help you determine whether it is worth reading the full text in more depth. Use our Evaluating information resource (activity) which is designed to help you evaluate the quality and relevance of information you find. 

You can also download our Evaluating information checklist (PDF). This is just a guide; some of the questions will be more relevant to your context than others.

You will find a lot of information using Search@Library. If you want to read more you can go to your Library subject page to see the most appropriate information sources listed for your subject area, or use the find items webpage which gives an overview of many common information sources, such as statistics or reference works. You can try our simple Reading Lists tutorial and short quiz (activity) if you find it difficult interpreting what your tutor has included for you to read as part of your module guided reading lists.  

Critical reading questions

Once you have made an initial judgement that a source appears to be useful and relevant, you then need to analyse it in more depth by asking appropriate questions of the source that determine whether the research, ideas or arguments presented are worthy of discussion in your writing.

When reading and analysing a source closely, use our set of critical thinking questions (PDF) to help you engage critically. These questions will take you through the 'analysis' and 'evaluation' stages as presented in our critical thinking model. The questions will help you to evaluate the relevance and significance of the reading at hand to your research. You will be prompted to make the decision on how you will use the reading and what the relation is between this reading and the other information you have read.

However, this is not a comprehensive list and you may need to adapt or add your own questions for your subject, different assignments or a particular purpose. 

Evaluating arguments

You need to evaluate the author's argument in the specific reading you have identified as relevant and important to your writing. Our Evaluating author's arguments tutorial (activity) focuses on how to: identify an author's viewpoint; decide whether the supporting evidence is from reliable sources; and assess the strength of the author's arguments.

Effective note making

Making meaningful notes as you read can help you to clarify your thinking, organise your ideas and engage critically with the information. Our Note taking and note making resource (activity) contains advice and activities which will help you to develop effective note-making skills from reading, especially if you tend to write down everything you read; only write down a few keywords or not making notes at all. 

Take a look at our handy quick guide for note making (PDF) to pick up some useful tips and techniques for you to apply.