Skip to Main Content

Reading to Engage and Evaluate

As an effective critical reader you must be able to identify the important elements of a text and their function.

To analyze means to break a text down into its parts to better understand it. When analyzing you notice both what the author is saying and how they are saying it. Looking deeply into a text beyond the explicit information can tell you the intended audience, the author's agenda or purpose, and the argument. Clues about these areas are often found in the language the author uses such as the word choice, phrasing, and tone. 

Look at this excerpt. Click each number button to learn more about evaluating this text:

How Is Asthma Treated? 

Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.

Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine. 

You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types-quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don't help you while you are having an asthma attack. 

Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away.  Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines. 

Remember -you can control your asthma. With your doctor's help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don't have symptoms. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC), 2018).

Consider why this article might not be considered an example of scholarly writing. Flip each card to see factors to look for when evaluating articles


Use of Second Person

The author uses the second person point of view, the "you" pronoun to address the reader. The use of second person point of view is informal and not often seen as scholarly writing.


Scholarly Voice

The author uses contractions like don't and avoids medical terminology and difficult vocabulary.


Talking Directly to Readers

The author seems to be talking directly to readers who are not in the medical profession, giving them advice on how to treat asthma and prevent attacks.

From this analysis we can interpret that the intended audience is individuals with asthma.

The tone, while informal, it is also authoritative and direct. Note and gentle, emotional, or anecdotal information that is included. The author does not highlight statistics about the high rate of asthma or the implications of leaving it untreated. In order to persuade, the writing is presented in an objective manner that supports awareness. From this analysis, we understand that the author's purpose is to inform in a very practical way.

Why does analyzing for audience and purpose matter?

The audience and purpose can tell you whether a source might be appropriate to use in your own research and writing.

For example, because this excerpt was written to inform the general public about asthma, it does not have the level of detail and evidence necessary for scholarly research. 

It is also helpful to know from what point of view the author is writing so you can consider that when evaluating for potential bias. Another benefit of analyzing in this way is that you can apply what you learn to your own writing. For example, when reading an academic essay you may identify that word choice and tone are really effective in communicating with the academic community. You can then try a similar voice and tone in your own writing.

If you find it helpful to follow checklists, consider using this one to practice your analysis skills as you are reading. 

Analysis Checklist

Audience and Purpose

  1. Who is the intended audience?

  2. What is the author's purpose?

  3. How do the audience and purpose influence your reading?

Argument and Evidence

  1. What is the thesis?

  2. What are the main points that support that thesis, and how do those main points connect?

  3. What evidence is used?

Language and Tone

  1. What is the tone the author uses?

  2. How does the author's use of language and tone support the audience, purpose, and argument?