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Fawaz 1Ramzi FawazThe University of Wisconsin, MadisonHow to Read and ViewA WorksheetI. What is the purpose of reading and viewing closely and what does it involve?Students often ask me: what are the best ways to approach reading, viewing, and notetaking at the college level? This is a detailed guide that provides you with some clear andorganized ways to read and view carefully, ask substantive questions about thematerials you are engaging in your courses, and intelligently take notes on thesematerials. Above all, we want to approach all of the materials we encounter with acombination ofclose observation(in other words, paying a lot of attention to what weare reading and seeing) andcritical thinking(meaning, thoughtful engagement withthe content at hand).Close observation(or reading closely) involves slowing down and paying very closeattention to what we are reading or viewing. We do this so that we can pull out big ideasor key imagesas well asidentify the details of what is in front of us. When we closelyobserve something, we are dealing with the “WHAT” aspect of a given object: forinstance, What am I seeing? What is happening here? What is the context in which this istaking place? When was it written or produce? What is the form in which a story or ideaor image is being conveyed? When we closely observe something—whether we arereading a novel or short story, watching a movie, engaging a scholarly text, listening to apolitical speech, or even scanning the side of a cereal box!—we are better able to grasphow complex that object is, which makes us better able to practice critical thinking.Critical thinkingdemands that we ask ourselves questions about the ideas, images,stories, and forms we are encountering in order to better understand the motivations,intentions, and consequences of certain arguments or viewpoints. Critical thinking dealswith the “HOW” and the “WHY” of a given object: for example, How is this story or this setof ideas being communicated to me? How are these ideas being organized into anargument or claim about the world? Why has the author or creator decided tocommunicate a set of ideas in one specific way, instead of another? Why am I seeing orreading about some things while others are masked, ignored, or overlooked? What are theconsequences of these omissions? In other words, critical thinking demands that we askwhat the purpose of a given a text is, and how its particular presentation of stories, ideas,forms, values, or perspectives have different effects on the world. Ultimately, when wethink critically, we refuse to take the world at face value but instead always question whatwe see, hear, read, and engage with in a spirit of generosity and curiosity.Criticalthinking is a way of caring about the world deeply.
Fawaz 2So what’s the point of all this brain-‐work?