When I was teaching, my students and I had two different versions of closely reading a text. Mine involved analysis and thought; theirs focused on finishing as quickly as possible. The goal of close reading is a deeper understanding of the text. It involves making observations and interpreting your observations. Patricia Kain at Harvard University provides a description of the process of making observations for close reading.
Making Observations for Close Reading
1. Read with a pencil in hand, and annotate the text.
"Annotating" means underlining or highlighting key words and phrases—anything that strikes you as surprising or significant, or that raises questions—as well as making notes in the margins. When we respond to a text in this way, we not only force ourselves to pay close attention, but we also begin to think with the author about the evidence—the first step in moving from reader to writer.
2. Look for patterns in the things you've noticed about the text—repetitions, contradictions, similarities.3. Ask questions about the patterns you've noticed—especially how and why.