Use the following questions to help
guide your reading of what are sometimes complicated arguments; even when the
argument seems straightforward, these questions can help to get at the
different nuances in the language and rhetorical style. This in an
important step in helping to clarify just what the argument is about, what
position the author takes, how this position engages in a larger debate, and
why this position and the debate in general are significant. Equally
important is the attention you give to your own position on the topic. As
you respond to these questions, think about what kinds of assumptions you bring
to the argument and what kinds of questions you are left with. Your
response to the argument should be guided as much by your understanding of its
content and structure, as by your own engagement with the issues and problems
it raises in relation to your own understanding of the topic.
1. What question is posed by the
- What is the primary argument made by the author?
- Where do you first find the argument?
- What language indicates to you that this is the primary
- Why is the argument significant?
- What other positions does the author indicate are
debated regarding the topic?
- When was the article written? Where was it
published? Who was the intended audience?
- What evidence does the author offer in support of the
position put forth? (Identify all pieces of evidence you find.)
- What is the nature of each supporting evidence?
For example, is it based on empirical research, ethical consideration,
common knowledge, anecdote?
- How convincing is the evidence? For example, does
the research design adequately address the question posed (#1
above)? Are the ethical considerations adequately explored and
assessed? Have you read/heard anything on this subject that confirms
or challenges the evidence?
- What arguments made in opposition to the author’s views
- Were these arguments persuasively refuted?
- What evidence was used in the refutation?
- What were the strengths of the article?
- Was it difficult to read and understand? If so,
why? If not, why not?
- Were you able to follow the moves of the article from
thesis to evidence, for example?
- Did the structure of sentences and paragraphs and the
overall organization guide you and help you follow the author’s intent?
- Did all the material seem relevant to the points made?
Critical Readings Questions were created by
Becky Reed, former Director of the UW Bothell Writing Center