In the social sciences, critical reading also means being aware of how a reading fits into an analytic lineage. That means identifying the research question being asked, what has been said about that question, and what the current author is contributing to the analysis (read more at

Before Reading

Gather Basic Information about Author and Text

  • Title
  • Author(s)
  • Biography of author(s)
  • Year published
  • Historical context
  • Type of source: journal, primary source, book- length study?
  • Intended audience: scholars, students?
  • How might the publication date and historical context help you understand the text?

Preview Text

  • Thumb through pages, noting bold headings, graphics, etc. Any predictions?
  • Read abstract, or intro and summary.
  • Look at charts and graphs.
  • Note: Previewing will help you see the direction the text will take you.

During Reading

Understand the Argument

  • Does the reading advance an argument, often referred to as a thesis?
  • If so, what is the author’s thesis or point of view?
  • What is author’s objective?
  • What major points does she make?

Analyze the Thesis

  • What kind of evidence supports the thesis?
  • Do you find it convincing? Why or why not?

Learn Vocabulary

  • As you encounter unknown terms, write them down and then be sure to find their definitions during reading.
  • Reread the sentence where the word is located to help you remember its meaning. Try using it in an original sentence.

After Reading

Ask Questions

  • Make note of unclear points to clarify in recitation or office hours.

Solidify Your Learning

  • Either individually or with a partner, consider drawing a concept map, timeline or map.
  • List key people or major events. Write a summary of main ideas.

Download PDF: Reading for Social Sciences

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you work on crafting email or conducting mock conversations with your professors.

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