Analysis of a Reading Passage
Once you have learned to read and comprehend college level passages effectively, it is important to learn how to analyze what you have read. Below are some questions you should ask yourself as you analyze any reading passage:
- How reliable is the author?
- Does the author have biases on the subject that make what he or she says less credible? Does the author have a vested interest (money interest) in the topic?
- How valid is the information or argument? See below criteria:
- Look at the dates the information was gathered: is the information out of date or in some other way irrelevant?
- Does the author mention a specific source or sources for the information? If the author does not ("they say"; "we know"; "everyone knows") the information could be suspect.
- Is the source credible and authentic (an expert in the field, a scholar, a holder of a distinguished office, someone widely admired, or a journalist with a widely read publication)?
- Does the logic seem strong and sensible (see module on Logical Fallacies)?
- Is the author using unfair emotional tactics to sway you (emotional blackmail includes questioning your patriotism, manhood, femininity, faith, religiosity, "coolness", political beliefts, etc. if you don't agree)?
- Does the information ring true with other credible sources (in other words, can the information be found anywhere else, or does it logically follow from information in other sources)?
Effective Techniques to Analyze an Article:
- Underline the main point of the article. This is usually found in the introduction.
- Next, underline the types of arguments or evidence the author uses to support the main point. Write what those are in the margins. For example, a logical argument makes sense. An emotional argument is one that relies on humor or sympathy to get the reader to agree.
- Check support evidence from other sources. For example, a doctor might refer to another doctor's work in his article. If so, is this other source named? If not, does this source seem reliable? (See above criteria.) Write your thoughts in the margins.
- Consider what is known, if anything, about the author (see above). Does this author have some expertise? Does this author have some bias? Write your thoughts in the margins.
- Finally, does the evidence convince you? Is so, why (are you overlooking poor evidence and writing because of your own bias)? If not, why not (are you discounting good evidence and logic because the article challenges your beliefs)? Write your reasons in the margins.
Read the below article and take the quiz (in content module) on how well you analyzed what the author wrote:
From USA Today: