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Learning to Read Critically: Some students are surprised to learn of the important role reading skills play in effective writing. But when you think about it, it makes sense. Most writing responds in some way to other texts. Sometimes, as is the case with letters to the editor in a newspaper or magazine, there is a clear connection between a written text and an article the author had read earlier. In other cases, that connection is less direct, but nonetheless important.

When scientists write research reports, for instance, they pay careful attention to the work that other scientists have done before them. In an important sense, their introduction -- or review of literature -- is a response to work that has gone on before them. When lawyers write their legal briefs, they must carefully analyze case law -- in the form of written documents -- that are relevant to the arguments they want to make. Similarly, other authors -- from poets to politicians to writers of environmental impact statements -- carefully read the work of other writers before and during their efforts to compose new texts.

Learning to read critically is essential to successfully completing the responses we will assign to you. You'll learn more about reading critically during class discussions. You can also learn more by reading a reference unit on Critical Reading Skills:

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