- Step One, Understand the difference between point and support
A good reader looks for an author’s point and the support for that point. The point of a paragraph or reading selection is also known as the main idea. The terms “point” and “main idea” means the same thing.
Point = an idea or opinion.
Support = the evidence that backs up this opinion.
A good reader x-rays a reading selection by asking, “What is the point (main idea)?
What is the support for the point (main idea)?
- Step Two, Supporting Details
Supporting details are reasons, examples, facts, steps, or other kinds of evidence that explain a main idea. A skilled reader is one who looks for the main idea or point of a selection as well as the support for that main idea. Ask yourself, “What is the point of a selection?” as well as “What support is offered for the point?” Then use outlining and mapping as ways to set off clearly the main idea and its support. The very act of outlining or mapping helps you deepen your understanding of a selection.
One, For One Thing, In Addition, First of all, Another, Last, Second, Also, Finally.
An outline is made up of a main idea followed by a numbered list of the key supporting details.
A Helpful Outlining Tip: Look For List Words
- Several Kinds of.
- A few reasons.
- A series of.
- Four steps.
- Several Advantages.
- Various causes.
- A number of effects.
- Three Factors.
- Among the Results.
Maps are highly visual outlines that use circles, boxes or other shapes to set off a main idea and its supporting details.
- Step Three, Implied Main Ideas
Sometimes a main idea in a selection is implied-only suggested by the supporting details and not clearly stated in one sentence. To figure out an implied main idea, you must look at the supporting details.
Hints for identifying the topic and implied main idea:
- Look for repeated words
- Mark major supporting details. Major details are often signaled by addition words:
One, For one thing, In addition, First of all, Another, Last, Second, Also, Finally
Implied Main Ideas in Longer Passages
At times you may need to figure out on your own an author’s unstated central idea (also called a thesis) in a longer passage. To find an implied central idea in a longer passage, ask the same questions that help you find main ideas in paragraphs:
- What is the passage about? (What is the topic?)
- What is the point the author is making about that topic?
When you think you know the central idea, you can test it by asking, “Does all or most of the material in the passage support this idea?”
Step Four, Relationship I
Writers use transitions and patterns of organization to make their ideas clear. Two common patterns of organization are the list of items pattern and the time order pattern. When authors use addition relationships, they present a list or series of reasons, examples, or other details that support an idea. The items have no time order, but are listed in whatever order the author prefers. When authors discuss a series of events or steps, they usually present them in the order in which they happen. This results in a time order.
Transition = words, which connect the two or more ideas, example: Moreover
To show relationship between main ideas, we use Addition Words, example:
One, First (of all), Second(ly), Third(ly), To begin with, For one thing, Other, Another, Also, In addition, Next, Moreover, Further, Furthermore, Last (of all), Finally(ly)
The list of items pattern
=> Time words
Before, Previously, First (of all), Second(ly), Now, Later, After, Following, When, While, During, As (soon as), Until, Often, Eventually, Last (of all), in 1991, Within a week
Step Five, relationship II
Illustration => indicates that an author provide one or more example to develop and clarify a given idea.
Words that show illustration:
(For) example, (For) instance, such as, including, specifically, to be specific, (as an) illustration, to illustrate, one, once
Problem Solution =>
Problem: Many people who need to exercise suffer from joint problems that make walking, jogging, or running painful.
Solution: Swimming is a low-impact form of exercise that provides an excellent cardiovascular workout for people who experience joint pain.
Cause-Effect => signal that the author is explaining the reason happens or something happens
Words that show cause and effect:
Therefore, thus, (as a) consequence, consequently, so, (as a) result, results in, leads (led) to, owing to, effect, cause, if…then, because (of), reason, explanation, accordingly
Comparison-Contrast => comparison words signal similarities, author uses it to show the second idea is like the first one or someway
Words that show comparison:
(Just) as, (Just) like, alike, same, both, equally, resemble, likewise, in like fashion, in like manner, similar(ly), similarity, in a similar fashion, in a similar manner, (in) the same way, (in) common
Contrast words signal that an author points out differences between subjects. They differ in one or more ways and inform us that something is going to differ from what we might expect.
Words that show contrast:
But, yet, however, although, instead (of), in contrast, on the other hand, (on the) contrary, even though, as opposed to, in spite of, despite, difference, different(ly), differ (from), unlike
Definitions & examples: Textbook authors often take time to include key definitions of important terms (often setting them off in italic or boldface) and examples of those definitions.
Comparison and/or contrast: Authors often discuss how two things are alike or how they are different, or both.
Cause & effect: Authors often discuss the reasons why something happens or the effects of something that has happened.
Problem & solution: authors may state a problem (a negative situation) and then offer a solution.
Step Six, Inferences
Many important ideas in reading are not stated directly, but must be inferred. To make inferences about implied ideas, use the information provided as well as your own experience and logic.
Guidelines for making inferences in Reading:
- Never lose sight of the available information.
- Use your background information and experience to help you in making inferences.
- Consider the alternatives.
Inferences in Literature
Simile-a comparison introduced with like, as, or as if.
Metaphor- an implied comparison, with like, as, or as if omitted.
Example of metaphor/
- The movie was a bomb.
- The candidate waded into a sea of people to shake hands.
- Her disapproval was an ice pick to my heart.
Step Seven, Purpose & Tone
Authors write with a reason in mind and you can better evaluate their ideas by determining what that reason is. The author’s reason for writing is also called the PURPOSE of a selection.
Three common purposes:
- To inform-to give information about a subject.
- To persuade-to convince the reader to agree with the author’s point of view on a subject.
- To entertain-to amuse and delight; to appeal to the reader’s senses and imagination.
A writer’s tone reveals the attitude that he or she has toward a subject. Tone is expressed through the words and details the writer selects. Understanding tone is an important part of understanding what an author has written.
Two examples of tone:
- “I hate this job. The customers are rude, the managers are idiots, and the food smells like dog chow.” The tone is bitter and angry.
- “I love working at Burger Barn. I meet interesting people, earn extra money, and get to eat all the chicken nuggets i want when i go on break.” The tone is enthusiastic and positive.
One commonly used tone is that of IRONY. IRONY involves a contrast between expectations and reality. This contrast is often humorous. Both language and situations can be ironic.
Sarcasm-a form of verbal irony.
- A telemarketer interrupts you in the middle of dinner. You say to him, “I am so glad you have called. I hate eating dinner while it is still hot.”
- A friend asks how you like your new boss. You reply, “He is great. It is refreshing working for someone who has half my IQ.”
* Part of reading critically is to be aware of the author’s purpose and tone.
* The author’s purpose is the reason why he or she writes. Three common purposes are to inform, to persuade, and to entertain.
Tone is the expression of the author’s attitude and feeling about a subject. A writer’s tone might be objective-the case in most textbook writing-or it might be lighthearted, sympathetic, angry, affectionate, respectful, or any of the other tones.
One important tone to recognize is irony: saying one thing but meaning the opposite.
Step Eight, Argument
A good argument is made up of a point or a conclusion and logical evidence to back it up. To critically read an argument, you must recognize the point the author is making. To think through an argument, you need to decide if each piece of evidence is relevant and to decide if the author’s support is adequate.
- Recognize the POINT the author is making.
- Decide if the author’s support is RELEVANT.
- Decide if the author’s support is ADEQUATE.
The Basics of Argument: Point & Support
Point: Evidence suggests that men are more romantic than women.
- Studies indicate that men fall in love more easily than women, whereas women fall out of love more easily than men.
- In interviews, women are more likely than men to say they would marry someone they did not love.
- Research shows that men hold more romantic beliefs-such as “Love lasts forever.” -than women do.
Relevant Support = support that really applies to the point.
Point: Despite their fearsome image, sharks have more to fear from human than humans do from sharks.
=> Shark-fin soup is considered a great delicacy in the Far East and hundreds of thousands of sharks have been slaughtered imply for their fins.
Adequate Support = support that is substantial enough to prove the point.
Step Nine, Critical Reading
Critical readers evaluate an author’s support for a point and determine whether that support is solid or not. Critical reading includes the following three abilities:
Separating fact from opinion
Fact = information that can be proved true through objective evidence.
Example: at least four out of five adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Opinion = a belief, judgment, or conclusion that cannot be objectively proved true.
Example: the best treatment for lower back pain is physical therapy.
Advertisers, salespeople, and politicians often try to promote their points by appealing to our emotions rather than our powers of reason. To do so, they practice six common propaganda techniques:
- Transfer = products or candidates try to associate themselves with something that people admire or love.
- Bandwagon = a particular activity or cause that has suddenly become fashionable or popular.
- Testimonial = a formal statement testifying to someone’s character and qualifications.
- Plain Folks = a form of propaganda and is also a fallacy. By using the plain-folks technique, speakers attempt to convince their audience that they, and their ideas, are “of the people.” The device is used by advertisers and politicians alike.
- Name Calling = abusive or insulting language referring to a person or group, a verbal abuse.
- Glittering Generalities = A glittering generality (also called glowing generality) is an emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason. Such highly valued concepts attract general approval and acclaim. Their appeal is to emotions such as love of country and home, and desire for peace, freedom, glory, and honor. They ask for approval without examination of the reason. They are typically used by politicians and propagandists.
Recognizing errors in reasoning
Politicians and others are at times guilty of errors in reasoning – fallacies – that take the place of the real support needed in an argument. Such fallacies include:
- Circular Reasoning = the supporting reason is really the same as the conclusion.
Example/ Alan Gordon is a great manager because he is so wonderful at managing.
- False cause = to assume that because event B follows event A, event B was caused by event A.
Example/ My favorite TV show was moved to a different time slot this season. No wonder it is now getting canceled.
Fallacies that ignore the issue = circular reasoning, personal attack, straw man.
Fallacies that oversimplify the issue = false cause, false comparison, either-or.
Step Ten, Active Reading & Study
- Ask yourself, “What is the point?” and “What is the support for the point?”
- Pay close attention to titles, other headings, and also mark off definitions, examples, and enumerations.
- Active readers often have a pen in hand as they read so they can mark off what seem to be the important ideas.
- The act of writing answers to the basic questions helps an active reader study, master, and remember the material.
- Active readers often use a reading study system. In a nutshell, they preview a selection first; then they read and mark off what seem to be the important ideas; next, they take written notes on that material; and finally, they recite their notes until they can remember them.
A textbook study system
- Read the material, looking for the main points and supports.
- Take written notes on the main points and supports.
A detailed Study System
The Four Steps of PRWR:
- Preview the chapter to get a general overview and “a lay of the land” before you start reading.
- Read and underline or otherwise mark what seem to be the important ideas in the chapter.
- Write (or type into your computer) study notes on the chapter.
- Recite your study notes until you can say them to yourself without looking at them.