Critical reading is an important aspect of intensive reading and is a process whereby you read to understand and evaluate the information. It’s a crucial step for source selection. You want to ensure that you are using quality evidence in your assignments, and you do this by selecting high-quality sources.

In brief, critical reading includes:

  • Establishing the broader context of the article, including that the authors or organisations that are responsible for the information are credible and the purpose behind the source.
  • Confirming any key pieces of information through lateral reading, especially if you find the information surprising or it doesn’t fit with the rest of your research.

Questions to consider

As you read, there are several questions that you should keep in mind. They are introduced briefly in this section and explored in further detail below.

  • Who wrote the information? Can you establish their credentials? Does the information fall within their area of expertise?
  • Are the views/opinions/theories expressed backed up by valid and thorough research?
  • What was the broader context in which the work was created? Was there something happening, locally or globally, that may have influenced the point of view (e.g. events like COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, regional/global instability, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience? For example, is it a textbook intended for university students? Or is it an article aimed at researchers with 10+ years’ experience in the field?
  • Where was it published? For example, an article on wellbeing that has been published in a psychology journal will have a different focus than one published in a marketing journal.

Evaluating sources

While keeping the above questions in mind, the key consideration when deciding whether to include a source in your assignment is whether the author and the information is credible.

One of the easiest ways to evaluate a source is through lateral reading, which is the process of validating an author’s claims and conclusions by looking for confirmation or support from other sources. When lateral reading, you check facts, arguments or background information included in a source by performing quick searches in a search engine like Google to establish whether the information can be verified. If it is, your confidence in the trustworthiness of the information can increase.

Wikipedia, information published by credible news organisations, or reports published by trusted organisations can all be useful tools in this process. Watch the video below to learn more about lateral reading to evaluate information.

When reading laterally, consider the following:

Perform an assessment of the author or organisation responsible for the information.

  • Are they suitably qualified to be writing on the topic?
  • Is there evidence of any bias or a conflict of interest?
  • Why was the content created? Is its purpose to inform, persuade, entertain or sell a product? Only giving one side of the story or using emotive or incendiary language could suggest a goal to persuade or manipulate a reader.


  • Look up the author/organisation on social media sites like LinkedIn, ResearchGate or Twitter(X) to establish credentials and their interest in the topic.
  • A general Google search may lead you to interviews, personal blogs or their affiliation to specific organisations, as well as press reports related to research grants, potential controversies or other relevant material. The search will help you establish the author/organisation’s credibility, as well as their motivation for exploring the topic.

You may want to confirm any key statistics or explore in more depth any information that surprises you.

CHECK: Perform a Google search to check specific information. Has the research been cited in other studies? Have the statistics been included in news or organisation reports? If they have, is the additional source disputing any aspects of the information?

For example, in your research, you discover a statistic reported by the World Economic Forum 2023 that 40% of all working hours could be impacted by AI’s like ChatGPT. Performing a Google search for ‘40% of working hours lost to AI’ confirms a number of sources reporting that same statistic, as well as the original source of the information.

For some research areas, the timeliness of the information will be important and many assignment briefs will note a timeframe of publication that is acceptable. You need to know when the information was published or updated.

CHECK: If you cannot easily locate a publication date on the source, or if you’re not sure whether specific statistics or case studies are current, perform a quick Google search to see if you can find additional sources that provide this information