How to Improve Your Critical Reading, Writing & Thinking Skills
Know the purpose of the critical exercise before beginning. Critical thinking and reading are done simultaneously, but require active participation. The ability to answer fact based questions about a novel or story is a form of simple comprehension, but does not indicate in depth the kind of understanding that is necessary for critical writing.
Determine to read for meaning as well as for information. This requires the reader to make connections frequently by relating the story to their own experiences or to the world around them. When the reader has made a personal connection with the story, they will usually be able to understand it on an advanced level.
Use comprehension strategies while reading. Critical thinkers preview texts and make predictions about the plot, characters, and action. They also ask questions and make inferences internally while they read. After reading, formulate an opinion about the author's viewpoints as expressed through the characters and action. Ask questions such as: Was the author able to remain unbiased, or did the author convey his feelings and personality in the book? Were there specific places in the text that impacted your interpretation? This method of critical reading will guide you toward advanced comprehension of the text.
Develop your thoughts in writing. Begin by stating the author's main viewpoint as expressed in the theme and tone of the novel as well as in specific passages that can be referenced. Next, use a logical premise to present a critical opinion. For example, compare and contrast the author's use of symbolic language. Discuss the author's partiality toward specific types of people by analyzing the main characters. Keep in mind that the goal is not to summarize but to present specific parts of the text as evidence for opinions or opposing arguments.