First-Year Preceptorial

Critical Reading and Discussion Questions

Questions to Encourage Critical Reading


What questions can we ask to stimulate students to think deeper and more critically about what they’re reading?  The following are universal questions that can be asked of any text, fiction or non-fiction.  They can be used for written responses or as discussion questions.    Asking them throughout a course will help students internalize the types of questions they should be asking themselves of texts as they read. 

Elements of Thought/Critical Thinking (Richard Paul, Gerald Nosich)

  • Purpose:  what is it?
  • Question at issue:  what is it?
  • Information:  What information supports it?
  • Interpretation & inference:  What conclusions can be drawn from the evidence?
  • Concepts: What are the key concepts?  (Shaping the idea, used to express it)
  • Assumptions:  What are the underlying assumptions?
  • Implications & consequences:  What implications, positive and negative, follow?
  • Points of view:  What point of view is expressed?  Are others possible?
  • Context
  • Alternatives

Use the elements to analyze the logic of any article, chapter, book, or quote.

  1. What is the author’s purpose?   What is the author is trying to accomplish?  The purpose can be questioned, compared, prioritized as well. 
  2. What key questions or problems does the author raise?
  3. What information, data, and evidence does the author present?  What does the author omit?
  4. What key conclusions is the author coming to?  Are those conclusions justified?  
  5. What key concepts guide the author’s reasoning?  What concepts do we need to understand this text?  What does the author mean by these concepts? 
  6. What are the author’s primary assumptions?   What are the assumptions underlying the author’s thinking?
  7. What are the implications of the author’s reasoning?  If we take this line of reasoning seriously, what are the implications?      If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, what are the implications?
  8. What is the author’s viewpoint?  What other points of view are considered?  What points of view are not considered? 
  9. What is the writer’s context?  Does the context prevent the writer from addressing certain questions or issues?
  10. What alternatives are not suggested by the author?  What else could the writer have done?