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Chủ đề: Critical Reading

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    Mặc định Critical Reading

    What Is Critical Reading?

    Note: These remarks are primarily directed at non-fictional texts.

    Facts v. Interpretation

    To non -critical readers, texts provide facts. Readers gain knowledge by memorizing the statements within a text.
    To the critical reader, any single text provides but one portrayal of the facts, one individual’s “take” on the subject matter. Critical readers thus recognize not only what a text says, but also how that text portrays the subject matter. They recognize the various ways in which each and every text is the unique creation of a unique author.
    A non-critical reader might read a history book to learn the facts of the situation or to discover an accepted interpretation of those events. A critical reader might read the same work to appreciate how a particular perspective on the events and a particular selection of facts can lead to particular understanding. What a Text Says, Does, and Means: Reaching for an Interpretation

    Non-critical reading is satisfied with recognizing what a text says and restating the key remarks.

    Critical reading goes two steps further. Having recognized what a text says , it reflects on what the text does by making such remarks. Is it offering examples? Arguing? Appealing for sympathy? Making a contrast to clarify a point? Finally, critical readers then infer what the text, as a whole, means , based on the earlier analysis.
    These three steps or modes of analysis are reflected in three types of reading and discussion:
    • What a text says restatement
    • What a text does description
    • What a text means interpretation .
    You can distinguish each mode of analysis by the subject matter of the discussion:
    • What a text says – restatement – talks about the same topic as the original text
    • What a text does – description – discusses aspects of the discussion itself
    • What a text means – interpretation — analyzes the text and asserts a meaning for the text as a whole
    Goals of Critical Reading

    Textbooks on critical reading commonly ask students to accomplish certain goals:
    • to recognize an author’s purpose
    • to understand tone and persuasive elements
    • to recognize bias
    Notice that none of these goals actually refers to something on the page. Each requires inferences from evidence within the text:
    • recognizing purpose involves inferring a basis for choices of content and language
    • recognizing tone and persuasive elements involves classifying the nature of language choices
    • recognizing bias involves classifying the nature of patterns of choice of content and language
    Critical reading is not simply close and careful reading. To read critically, one must actively recognize and analyze evidence upon the page. Analysis and Inference: The Tools of Critical Reading

    These web pages are designed to take the mystery out of critical reading. They are designed to show you what to look for ( analysis &nbsp and how to think about what you find ( inference &nbsp .
    The first part —what to look for— involves recognizing those aspects of a discussion that control the meaning.
    The second part —how to think about what you find— involves the processes of inference, the interpretation of data from within the text.
    Recall that critical reading assumes that each author offers a portrayal of the topic. Critical reading thus relies on an examination of those choices that any and all authors must make when framing a presentation: choices of content, language, and structure. Readers examine each of the three areas of choice, and consider their effect on the meaning.

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    Critical Reading v. Critical Thinking

    We can distinguish between critical reading and critical thinking in the following way:
    • Critical reading is a technique for discovering information and ideas within a text.
    • Critical thinking is a technique for evaluating information and ideas, for deciding what to accept and believe.
    Critical reading refers to a careful, active, reflective, analytic reading. Critical thinking involves reflecting on the validity of what you have read in light of our prior knowledge and understanding of the world. For example, consider the following (somewhat humorous) sentence from a student essay:
    Parents are buying expensive cars for their kids to destroy them.
    As the terms are used here, critical reading is concerned with figuring out whether, within the context of the text as a whole, "them" refers to the parents, the kids, or the cars, and whether the text supports that practice. Critical thinking would come into play when deciding whether the chosen meaning was indeed true, and whether or not you, as the reader, should support that practice. By these definitions, critical reading would appear to come before critical thinking: Only once we have fully understood a text (critical reading) can we truly evaluate its assertions (critical thinking). The Two Together in Harmony

    In actual practice, critical reading and critical thinking work together.

    Critical thinking allows us to monitor our understanding as we read. If we sense that assertions are ridiculous or irresponsible (critical thinking), we examine the text more closely to test our understanding (critical reading).
    Conversely, critical thinking depends on critical reading. You can think critically about a text (critical thinking), after all, only if you have understood it (critical reading). We may choose to accept or reject a presentation, but we must know why. We have a responsibility to ourselves, as well as to others, to isolate the real issues of agreement or disagreement. Only then can we understand and respect other people’s views. To recognize and understand those views, we must read critically.The Usefulness of the Distinction

    If critical thinking and critical reading are so closely linked, why is this still a useful distinction?

    The usefulness of the distinction lies in its reminder that we must read each text on its own merits, not imposing our prior knowledge or views on it. While we must evaluate ideas as we read, we must not distort the meaning within a text. We must not allow ourselves to force a text to say what we would otherwise like it to say—or we will never learn anything new!Reading Critically: How Well Does The Text Do What It Does

    We can think of a writer as having taken on a job. No matter what the topic, certain tasks must be done:
    • a specific topic must be addressed
    • terms must be clearly defined
    • evidence must be presented
    • common knowledge must be accounted for
    • exceptions must be explained
    • causes must be shown to precede effects and to be capable of the effect
    • conclusions must be shown to follow logically from earlier arguments and evidence
    As critical readers and writers, we want to assure ourselves that these tasks have been completed in a complete, comprehensive, and consistent manner. Only once we have determined that a text is consistent and coherent can we then begin to evaluate whether or not to accept the assertions and conclusions. Thinking Critically: Evaluating The Evidence

    Reading to see what a text says may suffice when the goal is to learn specific information or to understand someone else's ideas. But we usually read with other purposes. We need to solve problems, build roads, write legislation, or design an advertising campaign. We must evaluate what we have read and integrate that understanding with our prior understanding of the world. We must decide what to accept as true and useful.
    As readers, we want to accept as fact only that which is actually true. To evaluate a conclusion, we must evaluate the evidence upon which that conclusion is based. We do not want just any information; we want reliable information. To assess the validity of remarks within a text, we must go outside a text and bring to bear outside knowledge and standards.

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    Three Ways to Read and Discuss Texts

    How we discuss a text is directly related to how we read that text. More to the point here, how we read a text is shaped by how weexpectto discuss it. While you may not be asked to write about texts at school, and probably will not be asked to write about texts in your job, you must learn how to talk about texts to discover what makes them work.Reading and Discussion

    The follow excerpt (from the sample text ) serves as an example to define three forms of reading and discussion.
    In his social history of venereal disease,No Magic Bullet, Allan M. Brandt describes the controversy in the US military about preventing venereal disease among soldiers during World War I. Should there be a disease prevention effort that recognized that many young American men would succumb to the charms of French prostitutes, or should there be a more punitive approach to discourage sexual contact? Unlike the New Zealand Expeditionary forces, which gave condoms to their soldiers, the United States decided to give American soldiers after-the-fact, and largely ineffective, chemical prophylaxis. American soldiers also were subject to court martial if they contracted a venereal disease. These measures failed. More than 383,000 soldiers were diagnosed with venereal diseases between April 1917 and December 1919 and lost seven million days of active duty. Only influenza, which struck in an epidemic, was a more common illness among servicemen.
    You have read this passage, and someone asks you "to write about it." What should you say?What you write will vary, of course, You might write any of the following:
    1. American soldiers in World War contracted venereal disease in far greater number than soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary force, who had condoms.
    2. The passage compares the prevention techniques and disease outcomes of American and New Zealand soldiers in World War I, noting that American soldiers contracted venereal disease in far greater numbers than soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary force, who had condoms.
    3. By examining the outcome of various approaches to condom use during World War I, the text argues the need for honest and realistic approaches to health prevention in the future.
    Each of these responses reflects a different type of reading, resulting in a different form of discussion.The major difference in the discussions above is in what is being discussed.
    1. American soldiers in World War Icontracted venereal disease in far greater number than soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary force, who had condoms.
    2. The passage comparesthe prevention techniques and diseases of American and New Zealand soldiers in World War I. It notes that American soldiers contracted venereal disease in far greater numbers than soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary force, who had condoms.
    3. By examining the outcomes of various approaches to condom use during World War I, the text makes a case for the need for honest and realistic approaches to health prevention in the future.
    Only the first response is about the topic of the original text: American soldiers. The next two discussions are in some way about the text. More specifically, the three modes of response mirror our earlier distinction between what a text says, does, and means.
    1. The first discusses the behavior of soldiers, the same topic as the original text. It restates the original information.
    2. The second indicates how ideas or information are introduced and developed. It describes the presentation.
    3. The third attempts to find a deeper meaning in the discussion. It interprets the overall meaning of the presentation.
    In each of the responses above, a reader gains, and is accountable for, a different kind of understanding.
    • Restatement restating what the text says talks about the original topic
    • Description describing what a text does identifies aspects of
    • Interpretation analyze what a text means asserts an overall meaning

    We can tell which type of discussion we have before us by examining what it talks about.Example: A Statement

    Your doctor tells you to eat less chocolate and drink less beer. A restatement would repeat the statement,
    The doctor said I should eat less chocolate and drink less beer.
    A description would describe the remark:
    The doctor advised me to change my diet.
    An interpretation would find underlying meaning in the remark:
    The doctor warned me to reduce my calories for the sake of my health.
    Only this final discussion attempts to find significance in the examples, that the foods mentioned are high calorie.Example: Nursery Rhyme

    Mary had a little lamb,
    Its fleece was white as snow,
    and everywhere that Mary went
    The lamb was sure to go.
    A restatement would talk about Mary and the lamb.
    Mary had a lamb that followed her everywhere.
    A description would talk about the story within the fairy tale.
    The nursery rhyme describes a pet that followed its mistress everywhere.
    The interpretation talks about meaning within the story, here the idea of innocent devotion.
    An image of innocent devotion is conveyed by the story of a lamb’s devotion to its mistress. The devotion is emphasized by repetition that emphasizes the constancy of the lamb’s actions (“everywhere”…”sure to go.”) The notion of innocence is conveyed by the image of a young lamb, “white as snow.” By making it seem that this is natural and good, the nursery rhyme asserts innocent devotion as a positive relationship.
    Note the effort here to offer as much evidence from the text as possible. The discussion includes references to the content (the specific actions referred to), the language (the specific terms used), and the structure (the relationship between characters). Try another nursery rhyme yourself.These ways of reading and discussion, ---restatement,description, andinterpretation---are is discussed in greater detail elsewhere.
    Different Ways Of Reading For Different Occasions

    Readers read in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. They can read for information, sentence by sentence, taking each assertion as a discrete fact. They can read for meaning, following an argument and weighing its logical and persuasive effects. They can read critically, evaluating unstated assumptions and biases, consciously identifying patterns of language and content and their interrelationships.

    We can read any text, whether a nursery rhyme or complicated treatise on the origins of the American political system, in various ways. On the simplest level, Cinderella is a story about a girl who marries a prince. On another level, it is about inner goodness triumphing over deceit and pettiness.
    On occasion, we might read the same text differently for different purposes. We can read a newspaper editorial backing a tax proposal
    • to learn the content of the proposal,
    • to see why that newspaper supports the proposal,
    • to identify the newspaper's political leanings,
    • to learn facts, to discover opinions, or
    • to determine an underlying meaning.
    We can read a newspaper article on a driveby shooting as an account of the death of an individual or as a symptom of a broader disintegration of civility in contemporary society. We can even look at the names in a telephone book to find the phone number we want or to assess the ethnic diversity of the community. No single way of reading a text is necessarily better. They are simply different.Which Way to Read

    How we choose to read a particular text will depend on the nature of the text and our specific goals at the time. When we assume a factual presentation, we might read for what a text says. When we assume personal bias, we look deeper to interpret underlying meanings and perspectives.
    Recall the opening paragraph of the health care article at the beginning of the chapter. To answer the question, How did the New Zealand army prevent its soldiers from contracting venereal disease during World War I? we read to see what the essay says.
    To answer the question, What issues does the text discuss? we read to see what the essay does.
    To answer the question, What concerns underlie the essay’s analysis of history? we read to see what the essay means.
    As a reader, you must know what you intended to do, and whether or not you have accomplished it. You must adjust how you read to the nature of the reading material, the nature of the reading assignment, and the manner in which you will be held accountable for your reading.

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