Suggestions adapted from Critical Reading Improvement, Anita Harnadek (McGraw-Hill, 1978), and I Know What It Says . . .What does It Mean?, Daniel Kurland (Wadsworth, 1995).
Use these methods to unpack the biases, assumptions, and context in the works you read and use for research.
Take into account the type of publication—textbook, scholarly article, blog—and read the biography to learn about the author’s background in the subject. Determine the audience and the author’s purpose for writing the piece. This kind of information is frequently available in the preface of the book or the introduction.
Consider what kind of prior knowledge the author expects readers to possess and what assumptions the author makes. Ask yourself if these assumptions are justified and if there is adequate support for the author’s arguments. Note how the author uses language and the attitude the author adopts toward the material and think about if the argument is objective or emotionally driven. Consider whether the author appeals to the reader’s emotions, prejudices, or biases.
Take note of which of the author’s statements are supported and which are left unsupported. Think about whether conclusions reached in the piece are justified.