7 junio, 2024

Critical reading: what it is, characteristics, levels, importance, examples

What is a critical reading?

A critical reading is one that, in the first place, is willing to perceive and explore the complexity that texts contain through a deep analysis of them. He does not consider the text as a transparent, neutral, naive object, but rather as the action of an author who pursues a certain goal, which is almost always to convince us that his arguments are the most correct, and for this he uses a set of rhetorical strategies. and logical.

Second, critical reading is equally critical of the reader himself: what knowledge do I have about the subject matter of this book? Have I read with sustained attention? Is this book too technical or too complex for me? These are questions worth asking before making critical judgments.

For example, if I want to do a critical reading of a novel, but this is going to be the first novel I have read in my life, then I must know that my critical capacity will be limited by my scant knowledge of this literary genre, and there is no need to try to hide it Critical reading must be based on honesty.

Characteristics of critical reading

Critical reading is characterized by presenting the following, regardless of the subject matter:

check the originality of the text,
interpret the content,
contextualizes the text and establishes relationships and comparisons with other information related to the topic,
check the sources consulted,
analyzes the arguments put forward by the author,
establishes relationships based on logic between the arguments and the critic’s own knowledge,
determines the accuracy or otherwise of the information,
it is based on the previous knowledge of the critic on the subject to be treated.

Hence, a critic must be exhaustively trained to be able to formulate opinions and argue about what is said in the analyzed text.

Levels of a critical reading

Critical reading is a skill, and as such it develops with constant practice, to the point that we begin to read critically without being aware of it.

To adequately carry out a critical reading, it is essential to go through its three levels: literal, inferential and critical.

literal level

This level, the first, is characterized by identifying the main theme of the text, its primary and secondary ideas, etc. For this, it is useful to investigate the background and context of the author, make underscores and elaborate (and answer where possible) questions such as the following:

What is the text read about? What happened? What is the sequence of events? Where did it happen? When, why, how?

inferential level

At this level, deductive or inductive reasoning is carried out, that is, ideas are extracted that are not explicitly explained in the text. It is a reflective exercise in which various aspects are compared and an association can be established between them.

Many times it implies being able to reach the main idea that is not explicit in the text. With the inference, conclusions can be drawn, obviously from the perspective of the person doing the critical exercise.

Likewise, summaries are made that allow a deeper understanding of what the author meant. Contextual relationships are also established with other works or information that have to do with the topic in question.

The critic can ask himself the following questions:

What is this text about? What could be the conclusions of the topic? What could have motivated the author to write about it? What consequences can it bring? What opinions does the topic raise? What other external information is related to the topic? How are the ideas raised in the text related?

critical level

The critical level implies making an evaluation of the text, being able to identify the type of text, the format in which it is prepared, the author’s communicative intention and making a value judgment, which must be supported with an argument that is as objective as possible.

In this sense, critical reading will require an interpretation by the reader of the elements that can be pointed out within the text, and that allow him to base the evaluation or value judgment.

To help themselves in critical reading, the reader can ask questions such as the following:

What type of text is it: narrative, essay, opinion, etc.? What does the author mean? What kind of arguments does he present? What is the author’s position? What do you think his proposal is? Are there arguments for or against what he says? How can you recognize the communicative intention of the author?

Importance of a critical reading

When we hear the word critic, the first thing that comes to our mind is the image of a severe, distant person, who exhibits each one of the defects of what is the object of criticism, a text, a film, an oral presentation.

However, criticism is much more than pointing out defects, be they real or created by a certain intellectual myopia of the critic.

The word «criticism» is a close relative of the word «crisis.» The latter originates from the Greek verb krinein, which means to separate or decide. “Crisis – they explain to us in an etymological dictionary – is something that breaks and because it breaks it must be analyzed”.

As a result of the crisis, the simple becomes dual; the simple becomes complex. And criticism is nothing more than the way of thinking with which we face this complexity of the world.

Having a critical attitude, therefore, is much more than looking for defects in everything: it consists of seeing complexity in everything that surrounds us, from our own behavior, the book we read, the series we enjoy on our mobile phones, to the most important events of world politics.

But not only see, but above all assume that complexity, not run away from it. The critical attitude takes pleasure in the complexity of the world, in its lack of naivety and innocence, in the multiplicity of causes and motivations that mobilize human actions.

critical reading vs. reading comprehension

When we talk about reading comprehension, we refer to the reader’s ability to understand the explicit content of a text. It requires sufficient knowledge of the language in which the text is written and a minimum of eye-mouth coordination.

Reading comprehension is checked when the reader can reformulate the explicit meaning of the text correctly in their own words.

On the other hand, critical reading is much more exhaustive and profound. Here the explicit content of the text is only one of the elements that are taken into account. In addition to this type of content, the author’s lines of reasoning are analyzed, where logic errors could be found.

Inferences are also made, that is, arguments are made explicit that the author did not present in his text, but that can be perfectly deduced according to logic from those arguments that were presented.


(s/f). Critical Reading. Taken from how-to-study.com.
Garcia Damborenea, R. (2000). Use of reason. The art of Reasoning, Persuading, Refuting. digital edition.
Greiner Mai, H. (ed.). (2006). Akal Dictionary of General and Comparative Literature. Madrid: Akal Editions.
Larrosa, J. (1998). The experience of reading. Barcelona: Laertes.

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