How to Critique a Textbook Chapter

You read something, and now you have to write about it. Perhaps you don't know what to say or what exactly the teacher is asking when she says, "Critique this chapter." To critique is to analyze, and it involves the same skill of higher-order thinking. Once you have become familiar with the process of critiquing, you will find that it is not an extraordinary task. However, to do so successfully means you have to fully engage your text and be ready to talk about it.

Interact with the text. You will understand the text better if you interact with it by making notes in the margins while you are reading it. It may slow you down, but you will increase your understanding. Write brief statements that identify a lengthy passage's overall point. Ask questions. React to what you are reading and annotate the margin. Write a question mark next to the paragraph that you didn't understand.

Compile a list of basic questions and answers, which is also called a summary report.

Who is the author?

What is the subject?

What is the author's position?

Does the author have any reason to be biased in his view?

What is the main idea of this chapter?

How does this chapter connect with the previous chapter and the following chapter?

Organize your notes and questions and put them in some sort of order by using a graphic organizer like a cluster map or outline. Use your ideas to stimulate a discussion in which you have an opinion or something to say in response to your notes about the chapter.

For example, in your annotated text, you noted how the author used the idea of a natural disaster as a metaphor for the human condition. Look at that statement and pose several questions about your idea.

Bring everything together. Remember that a critique is your analysis of the chapter, not the author's, not the secondary source's. Based on everything you have read and learned, answer, "What does this mean to you?" Base your answer on your understanding of the chapter.

A critique is not a textual regurgitation of the chapter, in other words, saying what the author said but in a different way. It is answering questions and thinking about the chapter analytically.

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