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Intended Learning Outcome:

To use questions to describe, analyse, evaluate & reflect on a text.


The Plymouth University Critical Thinking Model provides a useful framework for developing questions and organising them into four categories: Describe, Analyse, Evaluate and Reflect/Review. This TLA is called READ Backwards because that is the order of the four categories organised in reverse, but also because when we apply critical thinking to a text we don’t always want to just read straight through. We may want to go backwards to cover the arguments again so we can gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.

Describe – These questions help you to restate what the author is saying, but they don’t show that you understand in any depth what the text is about.

Analyse – Examine methodically and in detail for explanation or interpretation. This looks at methodology as well as evidence to support the argument, the causes, theories and evidence. This stage is about developing deeper thinking.

Evaluate – Form an idea of the amount, number, value or quality of. Judge the text – is it right in its argument? What do you think about it? What is your position on the subject? How does this compare/relate to other texts on the subject?

Review/Reflect – This is a useful step when personal opinions matter – for example in action research.



There are many ways to use this model. One example is to ask students to read a text relevant to the session and ask questions of it. List all the questions they have on the board, introduce the model and order them into the four categories. Which category has most questions? What other questions can we think of to fill all the categories? Now ask them to write a paragraph about the subject which uses only one descriptive statement but many from the Analyse and Evaluate, ending with one Reflective statement (if appropriate).


If your students need to write in your module this can be a key part of their learning. You can use this model as a framework for all analytical work you do in class.


Ask students to say what kind of question they have answered when they write a statement such as: “X is the largest grossing artist this year” (this a descriptive question). What analytical question could they ask? E.g. Where did most of their income come from?

Large Group Teaching:

With large groups, you can either run this as a solo activity and then put students into groups to discuss/adjust their decisions or you could have small-group discussions which contribute to a whole-group activity of generating one list of questions about a text.

Online Teaching:


Students can recall the four categories of the model and use questions to go deeper into texts that they read, translating them into arguments for pieces they are writing.

Next Steps:

This model is very useful for academic reading and writing. You can refer back to it using ‘READ Backwards’ as the prompt to remember the order.

Links to other activities:

READ Backwards Applied give hints on how to use this:

Further reading:

Plymouth University Critical Thinking Model:  (accessed 11/7/19)


READ Backwards is adapted from the Plymouth University Critical Thinking Model.


Handout for students:

Image for use on slides etc.: 

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