Critical reading

It’s also important to think critically, read critically, and look at the world critically. Who wouldn’t agree with a sentence like that? But what should we do to make our thoughts sufficiently sharp and critical without simultaneously falling into absolute nihilism and subjectivism, where we can’t trust anyone or anything? We’d like to use an example of reading and working with a text here to show you how to work effectively with several basic critical reading methods.  

So, what exactly is critical reading? There are more definitions, but what’s important for us is that it is a reading method that is careful, analytical and leads people to think about the important parts of a certain text. It won’t always lead us to uncovering a manipulation or untruth or judge good from bad, but it will offer us the opportunity to have an overview of things. The techniques we’ll be discussing below are based on the idea that if we think about a text and do something with it, the chances that we’ll learn something from it and be able to grasp it intellectually grow.  

The diamond: basic text summarization 

The diamond is an active reading technique that is based on trying to say what a certain text was about (by using the structure below, the words you write down will form a diamond). The goal is to order the text’s basic characteristics and to a certain degree remove its emotional charge or a manipulation that might be hidden within it. Read the text that you want to write about in advance and then try to fill in the structure below (ideally going systematically from top to bottom): 

One word: the topic of the text (a noun)  

Two words: what I think the topic is and what characteristics the topic has (adjectives) 

Three words: what the topic is doing, what is happening to it (verbs) 

Four words: a four-word, syntactically linked phrase (one sentence on the topic – prepositions don’t count) 

Four words: a four-word, syntactically linked phrase (one sentence on the topic – prepositions don’t count) 

Three words: what the topic is doing, what is happening to it (verbs) 

Two words: what I think the topic is and what characteristics this topic has (adjectives) 

One word: the topic of the text (a noun)  

If, for example, you’re faced with the task of writing a review or summarizing a certain text, you can easily use a method like this. You’ll get a succinct summary of what is important, from which you’ll continue to create your opinion or own text.  


The basis of work with the INSERT method (which stands for “interactive noting system for effective reading and thinking”) is underlining text and writing signs to go next to it. It stems from the idea that if we’re able to write something into a text and mark things, we can actually divide it up to work with it in a suitable manner. We can choose whichever signs we want, but Insert uses basic ones that will always come in handy.  

The basic signs are entered directly into the text:  

  • By using the plus sign (+), you mark what has informational value to you in the text, i.e. information that you didn’t initially know.   
  • The minus sign (-) designates a fact that is disputable or untrustworthy. It points to places in the text that a person doesn’t agree with or has to verify.  
  • By using the check sign , you mark parts of the text that are important but don’t contain anything new to you or only summarize information that you already knew.  
  • The final sign is the question mark (?), which serves to identify places that have caught your attention and will need further discussion or require you to look at other literature.  

Write these signs directly into the spots where you run into a given problem. Once you’ve read and marked everything, you can go on to the next step. Create a table and enter every important section linked to a given sign there. This table will give you a relatively complex overview in one place of everything that was important in the given text. In the next step, you can link the points with the question marks and find more information about them.  

If you want to write more about a text or work with it in a different way, everything is now ready in one place and you can get to work.  


If you’re following a debate show on TV or reading argumentative articles, the T-graph method will come in handy. It’s based on a very simple idea of dividing a piece of paper into two halves and writing down the problem that you want to analyze in the middle. Then, you write the arguments for a given problem on one side and the arguments against on the other.  

The result is a certain list or summary of all arguments that have appeared in a discussion or text. It’s then up to you to evaluate them and take a side, or use these materials for the creation of your own thought, review or text.  

This method has relatively universal uses – you don’t have to limit yourself to one text, you can link individual arguments directly with articles that discuss them, or use this method for your own thoughts.  

It’s quick and relatively easy.  


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