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5.2 Thinking for yourself

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask in order to read critically. As a higher-level student, you don't read simply to ‘find out facts’. It is assumed that you will think for yourself and question what you read and hear. The ‘truth’ is taken to be uncertain, so you weigh up ideas and arguments as you read about them. According to Marton and Saljo (1997, p. 49) research shows that successful students read as if they are constantly asking themselves questions of the kind: ‘How do the various parts of the text relate to each other? […] Is the argument consistent or are there any logical gaps? […] How does this relate to what I already know?’.

Critical reading lies at the heart of good learning.

Key points

At degree level you are expected to read critically; you don't simply accept what you read. Ask yourself:

  • Can I trust what I'm being told here?

  • In what context was this published?

  • Do the arguments follow logically?

  • What evidence is offered?

  • What do those on the other side argue?

  • Are the conclusions justified?

This questioning approach will help you become a more effective and enthusiastic student.


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