What Is Critical Reading? A Definition For Learning

by Terry Heick

Critical reading is reading with the purpose of hair-trigger viewing of the text and its ideas.

To add a bit increasingly to that definition, we might say, “Critical reading is reading with the purpose of hair-trigger viewing of the text and its implicit and explicit themes and ideas.”

What is Hair-trigger Reading? To expand on the simple definition above, hair-trigger reading is the close, shielding reading of a text that is undertaken in order to understand it fully and assess its merits. It is not simply a matter of skimming a text or reading for plot points; rather, hair-trigger reading requires that you read intently and thoughtfully, taking into worth the text’s structure, purpose, and audience, among other characteristics (e.g., tone, mood, diction, etc.)

Critical reading is the process of reading texts with the purpose to understand them fully. It involves asking questions well-nigh the author’s intention, the text’s structure and purpose, and the meanings of individual words and phrases. Hair-trigger readers moreover consider the context in which a text was written and how it might be interpreted by variegated audiences.

What is a hair-trigger reading strategy? A hair-trigger reading strategy is anything the reader does that helps them critically evaluate a text.

See moreover Creating A Culture Of Reading In Your Classroom

What are some examples of hair-trigger reading strategies?

Critical Reading Strategies

Inferring (‘Reading between the lines’ is the act of identifying and examining implicit messages and biases.)

Claim/Counter-Claim (itemizing each and how they work/don’t work together in a specific text; concept mapping can be useful here)

Journaling (while or without reading to reflect both on the text and the process of evaluating that text)

Marking The Text


Adjusting Reading Rate

Monitoring Understanding

SPQ: Stop, Paraphrase, and Question

The Contrarian (viewing the text from a specific perspective other than your own–often the opposite of your beliefs, opinion, or perspective)

Critical Lenses (reading a text while ‘seeing’ that text through a specific concept or category–including socioeconomic, historical, gender, race, sexuality, and other ‘concepts’ or realities; this can help uncover bias, create new meaning previously inaccessible to the reader and, perhaps most importantly, help the reader understand the subjectivity of reading and how much of an impact our own biases have on our understanding of both texts we read and the world virtually us).

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Why is Hair-trigger Reading Important?

Critical reading is important considering it allows you to read and unriddle a text critically, breaking it lanugo into its component parts and assessing its strengths and weaknesses. It moreover helps you understand the author’s purpose in writing the text and how it relates to your own life.

As the process of reading texts with a focus on understanding and evaluating the arguments and vestige presented, hair-trigger reading involves asking questions well-nigh the text, making connections to other texts, and thinking critically well-nigh the author’s argument. Hair-trigger reading is necessary for success in school and in life considering it allows you to assess information critically and make informed decisions.

How To Read Critically

To read critically, you only need to read with the purpose of identifying and evaluating the ‘quality’ of a text.

Quality can midpoint variegated things depending on the purpose and context of a text. Note, the quality here is variegated than the ‘quality’ of literature or film, or other fiction. In these cases, specific hallmarks of quality certainly exist but they relate to the worthiness to convey a compelling fiction (e.g., tell a ‘good story’). The use of dialogue to establish characters, the use of setting to ground conflicts, and the weaving of a unifying narrative through the undertow of dozens of small events, each washed-up with the purpose of helping the reader slowly uncover some truth well-nigh themselves or the world virtually them–these are the kinds of practices that help determine the quality of fiction.

In non-fiction form–essays, for example–quality is concerned increasingly with the clarity and relevance of a specific requirement and the author’s worthiness to demonstrate the importance and truth of that claim.

Wikipedia offers up a strong example of the need for hair-trigger reading: “The psychologist Cyril Burt is known for his studies on the effect of heredity on intelligence. Shortly without he died, his studies of inheritance and intelligence came into disrepute without vestige emerged indicating he had falsified research data. A 1994 paper by William H. Tucker is illuminative on both how “critical reading” was performed in the discovery of the falsified data as well as in many famous psychologists’ “non-critical reading” of Burt’s papers. Tucker shows that the recognized experts within the field of intelligence research blindly wonted Cyril Burt’s research plane though it was without scientific value and probably directly faked: They wanted to believe that IQ is hereditary and considered uncritically empirical claims supporting this view. This paper thus demonstrates how hair-trigger reading (and the opposite) may be related to beliefs as well as to interests and power structures.”

Types Of Questions To Ask While Hair-trigger Reading

Critical reading is the process of analyzing a text to understand its meaning and to assess its argument. When you critically read a text, you ask yourself questions well-nigh the author’s purpose, the vestige they provide, and the logic of their argument.

Who is saying what to whom? That is, who is the author, what is their message, and who is that message for?

Is this true? By what standard?

Does the thesis pass the ‘So what?’ challenge. Put flipside way, are the claims stuff made compelling and significant? Worth understanding?

What is explicitly stated? What is implied? What is the relationship between the two?

What are the underlying assumptions of both the text and the claims within it?

Does the knowledge (facts, truths, information, data, etc.) in the text represent our current weightier understanding of things as they are today? If not, what has reverted and why? And how does that transpiration impact the strength and meaning of the text itself?

What here is fact and what is opinion?

What is the significance of this text?

What are the claims made by this text? Are these claims clear? Relevant? Compelling? New? That is, has this been said before?

What reasons are given to support those claims? Are these reasons aligned with the claims? That is, is the claim-evidence reasoning precise?

That is, is the claim-evidence reasoning accurate?

By formulating questions like these, you can not only guide your own comprehension of the text, you can moreover uncork to learn how arguments (and the texts that contain them) are constructed. This can help students form rational, strong arguments of their own while moreover providing practice analyzing and evaluating the merit of arguments put withal by others (these can be formal wonk arguments or informal ‘arguments’/claims made in real conversations on a day to day understructure in their lives).

The Mindset Of Hair-trigger Reading

We bring ourselves to a reading and the ‘self’ we were is forever reverted if only overly so slightly. Knowledge vanquishment changes us and reading is a process of knowledge acquisition. The same text read five years ago has new meaning now considering the meaning is not in the text but in your mind which has reverted over that period of time. This kind of realization illustrates the necessity for hair-trigger reading (and hair-trigger thinking while reading).

See moreover Critical Thinking Is A Mindset

As human beings, we misunderstand too much and lack too much information and perspective. This leads to humility stuff one of the most important reading strategies of hair-trigger reading. By bringing that mindset to a text, we stand a largest endangerment of evaluating the claim-reasoning strength of a text and, in doing so, stand a largest endangerment of improving our own knowledge and hair-trigger reasoning skills.

In Why Students Should Read, I said, “When we read–really, really read–for a while, a normally very loud part of us grows quiet and limp while our mind begins unraveling new ideas. Then, pushing further, we squint inward, turning our skin inside out to expose our pulsing, naked nerves to the text. We straight-up a sense of self to withstand the sheer momentum of the text, then rummage through the trash when it’s all over to see what’s left behind.”

Reading is interested in what was said, comprehending is interested in what was meant, and hair-trigger reading is interested in what is actually true.