When close reading prose, it is particularly important to know what to look for, and to organize your notes well. Whether you use colour-coded sticky notes, brackets, stars, or shapes to help group your thoughts, it is imperative that you organize your observations well so you can return to them easily when writing an essay.
Close Reading Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction
When reading fiction and creative non-fiction, it is important to pay attention to characters, setting, and plot development. How does the author introduce themes and key ideas throughout the work? How do the characters develop in relation to their surroundings? Is the setting relevant to the plot, does it serve as a character, or as a barrier to the development of the characters or story?
Look for devices such as foreshadowing, analogy, personification, allusion, allegory, metaphor, simile, conceit, and more.
Pay close attention to how the author structures the story. Look for devices such as foreshadowing, analogy, personification, allusion, allegory, metaphor, simile, conceit, and more. Though every device may not be important to the plot of the story, it is important to recognize how the author weaves together the tale in order to understand its broader implications.
Scholarly Articles and Journalism
When considering scholarly articles and journalism, identify the thesis, the main points, and gauge the accuracy and strength of the argument. In scholarly articles, the prose is often structured for clarity, with the main argument in the introduction, followed by discussions of references, points to bolster the argument, and discussion of the argument’s implications.
In journalism, some prose may be straightforward reportage, but it is useful to search for a slant, a gaze, or an interpretation hidden in the seemingly expository writing. Journalism often presents its biases openly, in such forms as reviews, editorials, or opinion pieces. However, some biases can be hidden in the structure of the argument, or in references and supporting materials, so it is always important to read arguments closely when reading for your own interpretation.