Critical Reading Journals

This will be your weekly reading journal for the independent reading assignment. Each week you will be required to write one journal entry with reference to the piece of literature that you chose to read as your independent reading novel. The journal entries must be turned in to by the assigned deadline. Even if you are done reading the novel, you must still ensure that you have the entries in your journal. Since this is a journal, the language can be informal, but must be in complete sentences. It will not be graded for grammar, spelling, and proofreading but rather for content, answering the question, and effort.


  • Each entry must be at least 400 words in length.
  • Follow the due dates listed on the original page for the project.
  • Each entry must be typed in MLA format - Times New Roman, 12 pt font, double spaced, full four line heading, page numbers.
  • The title of your entry must be the bolded part of the list of topics below.
  • Each topic cannot be done more than twice, but if done a second time it must cover a different aspect of the novel.
  • The allowable plagiarism percentage for each journal entry is 15%. If using a quotation, make sure that it is properly cited in order for it not to count as plagiarism.

Topics: This is not a complete list of potential topics, just a list of suggestions. Remember that you are reading critically; if there is something that jumps off of the page that does not fit this list, go with it. You might surprise yourself. You are NEVER allowed to just summarize the plot of the piece of literature.

  • Pick a quote – Write the quote that interests you and write it in your journal. Why is it important? What does it add to the piece of literature? Why did it stand out to you? What does it foreshadow?
  • Imagery and Symbolism – Describe an image from the piece of literature in detail. Why does this image strike you? Why is it important or significant? How does it add to the text? What does this image symbolize? Why?
  • Style and Rhetorical Devices – Look at the tone, use of metaphor, simile, allusions, point of view, allegory, motifs, etc. How do they enhance the meaning? Why do you think the author placed them in this particular location? How would the meaning of the text change without this device?
  • Setting and Mood – Describe a scene in which the setting and mood are particularly effective. What language made them effective? Be specific.
  • Connections – How did the piece of literature make you speculate about life or find a connection to another text or academic discipline? This can be personal and relate to your own life as well.
  • Theme – What themes pop out of the text? Why is this important? How does it connect to the rest of the text or what is currently taking place?
  • Feelings – How does the text make you feel – in the heart, in the spirit, in the mind, on the senses? Why? What windows or doors does it open for you? Why? Does it close anything down for you? What makes this text unique? Why?
  • Philosophy – What philosophical issues does the work raise (questions about goodness, truth, beauty, justice, humanity, love, meaning, life, death and God)? Why?
  • Title – What is the relationship of the title to the content of the piece of literature? Give examples and fully explain why you feel this way.
  • Surprised or Puzzled? – Is there something that surprises you does not appear to fit in the text? Explain why you feel this way. Discuss why something does not make sense to you or why your views might be different from the authors intended purpose.
  • Picture or Word – Find a picture or a word that connects with the text. If it is a picture, paste it onto that page of your journal. Why does this fit with the text? Why did it stand out to you? Why is it important?
  • Characterization – Why is this character important? Are they the protagonist or antagonist? Why? What do they add to the text? Describe the character in detail.
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