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Critical Reading as a Part of Research

There is much more to research than simply gathering sources. If you have been exploring the resources available to you through the library, you may have had the opportunity to evaluate sources in order to determine their quality and their relevance for your research. Now we would like to suggest that whenever time permits, you engage in a more thorough critical-reading process as you gather information while researching.

There are particular instances in which it is especially worth your time to read critically in detail, and record your thoughts:

  • When you have found a source that you recognize will be central to your project
  • When you have found a source that contradicts one of your central sources
  • When you have found a source that takes a unique perspective on the issue you are researching
  • When you have found a source that for one reason or another you plan to discuss at length in your project

When you look over your bibliography or list of works cited near the end of your research project, you should have strong knowledge of each source listed. If you have read each source critically with an inquisitive, questioning mind, you’ll have not only a list of sources but a map of your critical reading process as well as a stronger body of working knowledge about the issue you are researching. Imagine this test. If a reader of your research asked you about one of your sources, would you be able to tell that person about the main ideas, perspective, strengths, and weaknesses of that source?

To begin critically reading the sources you are finding in research, go to this Exercise.

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