Responding to Assigned Non-Fiction Reading
After you have completed your reading assignments, you will be asked to respond in several ways. You may have to complete a reading log, journal entry, response essay, or thesis paper, participate in class discussions, reading groups, oral presentations, or you may have an exam. Whatever your responsibility, you should be organized and equipped to tackle the task.
Using an active reading process before, during and after reading as outlined in the previous sections, will best prepare you for any type of response required.
Remember to annotate and take notes on the reading material. This will enable you to easily recall information, find evidence to support your thinking, and be completely prepared for whatever form of response is expected of you.
As you read, keep these aspects of critical reading in mind:
Distinguishing Between Fact and Opinion:
College students will be called upon to respond to information that is based on facts and opinions. As you read, ask questions about the validity of an author’s ideas. A fact is something that exists or has existed in the past and can be verified. Facts are objective because they are not influenced by personal feelings. On the other hand, an opinion is based on internal bias. Opinions are subjective because they depend on the author’s personal beliefs, feelings or values. They would not exist without human emotion.
Types of Supporting Evidence:
Authors use several types of evidence to support their claims and techniques to convince readers that what they say is true. Some evidence is more credible and relevant than others. Being able to spot supporting evidence and its reliability will help you understand, interpret, analyze, evaluate and think critically about the text. During the reading process, evaluate the type of evidence used by the author.
- Expert Authority
- Experiences and Observations
An Author’s Assumptions:
When the author assumes something about his or her audience or when the author acknowledges an idea as fact and does not support or defend it, readers must question the validity and subjectivity of that information. Recognizing the author’s assumptions help to determine the author’s beliefs, values and biases.
Try to recognize intra-textual patterns of inductive or deductive reasoning:
During the reading process, ask yourself, “Does the author move from a general idea to a more specific idea or does the author move from a specific idea to a general conclusion?” Deductive reasoning communicates a general principle or widely accepted claim and is usually supported with evidence based on references to that principle or claim. Note as the essay concludes, the author expresses implications of his or her original idea. Inductive reasoning begins with a specific observation, experience or data and seeks to explain it by arriving at a general principle.
Kinds of Questions which Require Critical Thinking:
To whom does the author speak? What is the implied argument? Tone? Purpose?
How does the author reach his or her conclusion?
How does this passage anticipate what is to come? How does it relate to what came before?
Why do you think the author takes the position he or she does?
What broader implications are there if the reader accepts the argument? Why? How should your actions or thinking change as a result?
How does this piece compare to other works?
Does it allude to any specific historical events or circumstances?
Why has the author omitted specific information? What questions are still left unanswered?