Critical reading

Supporting materials


  • Group: c40
  • Length: 90 mins
  • Room: Seminar room
  • Discipline: any
  • Level: UG/PGT

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes

LO1 Apply a strategy to capture your reaction to a text

LO2 Summarise the authors main idea

LO3 Identify writing signposts in academic writing

Suggested online resources

Session content


Summary: This workshop will bring you a strategy to apply to your course reading to ensure that you reach a level of critical reading and understanding of academic texts in nursing. During the workshop you will work with your colleagues to practice applying a note taking strategy to reading material as recommended by your lecturer that you can replicate throughout your course. Reading critically is a key skill that you will be expected to develop during your degree.

Activity: Introduce the concept of reading critically by having the students think pair and share how reading for pleasure can differ from reading critically at university. Ask the group to feedback to the room what the differences are and write them up on flip chart/white board. (5 mins)

Summary: Give a definition of critical reading as active engagement with text to gain a deep understanding. Address the agenda and how within the workshop the students will practice a strategy. (Slides 1–3)

Slow down/write down

Activity: The students should be aiming to create a poster of reactions that looks like the example in the image below. The facilitator should ask students to work in pairs and decide who will read first while their partner can make notes on what they say. One person out of each pair should read the article in their head but “speak out” what they are thinking as they read (like they are note taking with a Dictaphone). There are no “wrong” things to say! The facilitator should indicate when they are to change over, allowing at least 90 seconds for each person. Mention to students that the verbal notes they make might include:

o Questions about vocabulary

o Connections to what you already know

o Questions about what to read for better understanding

o Reactions to the authors claims

o Questions about the authors claims and analysis

On each table is a piece of flip chart paper with a copy of the article blue-tacked in the middle. Once each pair has completed the exercise, ask the group on each table to come up with a master list of “reactions” they had to the reading and add them to the whiteboard. It is important that they capture everyone’s thoughts/connections on the ‘poster’.

The facilitator should then lead a discussion about how the reactions they have come up with indicate that they are “being critical”. The facilitator should use prompt questions like,

  1. What do the reactions look like?

2. Where are they taking you as readers?

3. As a reader what are the reactions prompting you to do?

Reading poster from a previous workshop

The facilitator should ask the group what kinds of reactions they have written down. Did they feel challenged or affirmed and how did they document their reactions? Questions are common reactions here as are connections to previously read literature. The facilitator can liken this activity to having a conversation/dialogue with the piece of writing.

Summary: The facilitator should refer back to the comparison to reading for pleasure at the start of the workshop. There are reactions to both but when reading critically it is important to document those reactions and to connect more deeply with the literature often by applying your own learned knowledge. Emphasise how knowing what actions occur during reading and post reading are essential. (Slides 5–6)

Re-read/Recognise signposts

Activity: All students should read the article again, then in groups again students should identify parts of the text where the students had a reaction to the text and highlight it.

Discuss in small groups how these parts of the text were recognised during reading, what prompted the reaction to the ideas of the author? Make a note of the keywords/terms or other text details that are used by the author to prompt readers to react.

The facilitator should allow for discussion and then draw the class together to consider if they agreed on the prompts and if this is a strategy that was adopted consistently when reading critically. Refer to how authors use signposts in academic writing. (Slide 7)

Recognise reasoning

Introduce students to an academic article being persuasion through reasoning. Authors use specific tools within their writing to create the argument and then as a reader a dialogue with the author can occur through your notes.

Ask the class what did the groups identify as the reasoning that the author is providing and what technique did the students use to approach identifying it? (Slide 8)

Identifying and summarising the main idea

Introduce the concept of the main idea and how identifying the author’s main idea is key to reading critically.

Activity: In pairs students should look over the notes that they have made in the previous activity and write 2 sentences that summarise the authors main idea. Imagine that they are writing a response to the article for the journal.

Summary: writing a summary can develop your connection with the article and give you a neat method of demonstrating your understanding and connection with the idea. Talk through Cornell notetaking strategy. (Slides 10–11)

Bring to a close.

Summarise the workshop content including having the details that they need and make it clear what the strategies are that they can use when reading for uni. Refer to Blackboard and further support available. Introduce the check list for reading critically. (8 mins)

Ask the RLUK question using the white board. Students should put a tick next to their answer as they leave the room.




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