The Five Best Close Reading Strategies Ever Known to Humanity

Are you willing to be exposed to the best guide for close reading strategies?

You might also be wondering what on earth close reading is and what the best close reading techniques are.

Worry no more! All you need to know about close reading has been well researched, structured and explained in this article.

There are a lot of appraisals and criticisms surrounding the widely convened concept—close reading—especially when it comes to its application in literary, religious and historical analysis.

According to a literary critic, Terry Eagleton—

To call for close reading, in fact, is to do more than insist on due attentiveness to the text. It inescapably suggests an attention to this rather than to something else: to the ‘words on the page’ rather than to the contexts which produced and surround them. It implies a limiting as well as a focusing of concern – a limiting badly needed by literary talk which would ramble comfortably from the texture of Tennyson’s language to the length of his beard. But in dispelling such anecdotal irrelevancies, ‘close reading’ also held at bay a good deal else: it encouraged the illusion that any piece of language, ‘literary’ or not, can be adequately studied or even understood in isolation. It was the beginnings of a ‘reification’ of the literary work, the treatment of it as an object in itself, which was to be triumphantly consummated in the American New Criticism”.

Like Terry Eagleton, many critics keep hammering on the incompleteness of the text, when it comes to literary interpretations and how many historical or religious notions have been ignorantly truncated because of the “text based” interpretations given to them.

However, opposite to the stance(s) of the critics, it would be a stab on intellectualism, if the books/texts, which were meant to serve as our main compass into the world of enlightenment, are not read closely and how efficient can we analyze real occurrences, if we are unable to read the texts closely.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying text-based interpretations fully describe the reality of a concept, but what I’m trying to make us understand is that close reading is a step towards efficient analysis, writing or experimentation. Therefore, close reading remains a necessity for all fields in the unending chain of learning.

First things First, before We consider the Five Pertinent Strategies and Rules needed for Efficient Close Reading, Let’s Define the Concept accurately and Educate ourselves on its Inevitable Relevance

What is Close Reading?

Close reading is best defined as the act of observing facts and details surrounding a body of text be it; in structural terms or contextual terms. Whether a part or the whole text, a person is said to read a book closely, when he/she focuses his/her attention to all cogent characteristics of the text, the rhetorical features, arrangement of language elements, institutional references, quotes of field influencers and research citations.

Your major aim is to notice certain features—as chosen/directed—then, compare and contrast with the necessary criticisms and connections, or specific historical references.

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Why Close Reading is Very Important

Whether you want to write, edit or proofread, close reading a text before acting on it is very paramount for effective writing, editing or proofreading, as the case may be. Although the writer’s experience may eventually be inserted into the essay but the dominating forces are well embedded in the materials he/she consulted in the process of writing the essay. Therefore, we would not be wrong  if we inferred that all outstanding writers starts their writing rituals with the most sacred act of close reading.

Regardless of the kind of material you intend to study; be it— an artwork, a film or invent—you must be ready to give it all your closest reading attention for maximum understanding.

Having intimated ourselves with the definition of close reading, we can now proceed to getting ourselves accustomed to the best close reading techniques

Three Best Close Reading Strategies

In order to attain the high level of accuracy we so desire when reading a body of text closely, we must follow the two steps given below;

  1. Give the Text Your Undivided Observation: As we have noted earlier, observing the statements of facts and descriptive details inserted in the full/partial body of text selected is the foremost step to effective close reading.  When doing so, one must also note the context, arrangement and citations included in the text. Either way, being observant is the first step in the process of close reading. To do this well, it is very advisable to read the text with a pencil in hand, and carefully annotating the text. By annotating, we mean you should underline, circle or highlight cogent keywords and phrases. These cogent keywords are usually the types of words that attract your attention, raise a controversy or arouses question. By doing this, you will find out that you will gradually begin to think from the perspective of the writer(s). This psychological shift from the reader’s position to the writer’s position would make you understand concepts that you might not comprehend assuming you read the text casually.
  2. Interpret your Observations: it must be well noted that making observations is not enough for our main purpose, which is effective close reading. Many stop at making observations and that of course, is the reason for their failure. By carefully compiling your observations, you should be able to make intellectual deductions by applying what we call inductive reasoning. It is very essential to gather your facts/evidences and then, think about what they might be adding up to. This part of the close reading strategy is what we call “Connecting the Dots”. Try connecting the dots by looking for patterns in the observations you made while reading the text. Then, link the recurrences, negations and, similarities in ideas into formidable inferences.
  3. Subject your inferences to critical analyses: this is the part where you further strengthen your inferences by subjecting them to unbiased criticism. This is the exact place where you ask the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the patterns you observed while reading the text. It is in the identification of the possibilities and methodology of concepts noted by your inferences. This part is relevant because it plunges us into the world of our audience/readers and prepares us for the questions they might have and the objections they might raise. By doing this, we will be able to revise our inferences and make them stronger through critical addition and subtraction.

Note: when writing fiction, close reading can be quite difficult because of its complex structure, which is usually accompanied with more than one theme. Fictional close reading takes more than superficial observation or quick analysis.

Rules You Should Keep in Mind While Reading Closely

These Eight simple rules will help you avoid the rampant mistakes made by most writers, researchers, proofreaders and even, academicians. Below they are;

  • Don’t abuse the Use of the Highlighter: Only use a highlighter, after you’ve understood that part of the text. When using tracking methods to yield a better understanding; do not abuse its use by painting your research material in an uninspiring manner. The main aim of highlighting is to emphasize key points, cogent phrases, keywords and turning points in the narrative.
  • Don’t get caught up in the ‘Right Answer Roulette’:many of those with this ‘right answer roulette’ mentality view any answer as the right answer and they are of the opinion that the interpretation of a literary text is rather subjective than objective. The result of this kind of mindset is that they easily shun the generally accepted rules of literature and this makes them not fit for an academic society, which is guided based on laid down rules. Perform your textual analysis before, assuming you know the rights answer.
  • Make Marginal Notes when needed:while reading, you will get some insights into what the writer might be driving at. In order not to forget, it’s very paramount to write legible and short notes in between texts. These short notes can be comprised of comments, questions, intuitive dialogue with the text itself.
  • Avoid the ‘Plot Summary Syndrome’:those with this syndrome oftentimes make the costly mistake of assuming that the sole part of their work, when writing about fiction, is to recall everything in the book, as written.  Although it is partially true that plot summary is a part of the vast criteria of fictional writing but it is not the final goal. Therefore, anyone that close reads a fictional text must avoid this mistake like a bad habit. Always have it in mind that writing fiction is far more complex than other forms of writing because of the high level of patience, persistence and imaginative creativity involved.
  • Get yourself a notebook for review writing and response entries:not all insights you get can be well occupied in the text spaces. Therefore, there is a need to record the broader questions, comments and cogent points in a notebook. Also, it makes your text tidier and less jam-packed. For longer inferences, observations and reports, the notebook can serve as a little bank of insights.
  • Never ignore the author’s comments about some certain issues or characters:Take a careful step backwards and ask for the view of the writer on certain persons or character mentioned in the text. Only after doing that can you accurately judge the text via the eyes of the author.
  • Avoid falling into the “Everything is Subjective” Shuffle:these set of persons presupposes that the elucidation of any literal piece should be based on the elucidator’s personality. This way of thinking pays no attention validity of examining every portion of an elucidation against the full text, in literary works and also, it ignores the need for the testing of the soundness of idea via referencing, quoting and citing grounded works.

Final Thoughts

As the definition of close reasoning suggests, it requires much observation, undivided attention and constructive questioning. Without meeting these criteria, the hope of developing an accurate thesis, creating an imaginative novel or presenting a recommendable research essay is dashed. We must always be conscious of the fact that the creation of any form of text must be well guided by previous texts, which can only be exploited by close reading; especially, when writing about fiction.

Do not forget that observation is not the end of close reading and it is just a means to an end. The two other steps are unbiased interpretation and critical reasoning.

If you don’t deviate from the rules and you remain focused, you will surely make a good close reader who is discipline enough to give an unbiased textual analysis.