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READING? 1. Why do you read? – purpose 2. What do you read? – material 3. How do you read? - process
Consider the following statement: The Senator admitted owning the gun that killed his wife.
It is as though the single sentence contains a number of assertions: 1. There is a Senator. 2. He owns a gun. 3. He is married. 4. His wife is dead. 5. That gun caused her death. 6. The Senator admitted owning that gun
On the face of it, we have a simple statement about what someone said. Our understanding, however, includes much that is not stated. We find meaning embedded in the words and phrases. Unpacking that meaning, we can see that the Senator was married and his wife is now dead—although this is not actually stated as such. (In fact, the sentence is about an admission of gun ownership.)
On a more subtle level, we recognize that a public figure confronts involvement in a major crime. Our understanding need not stop there. We infer that the gun (or at least a bullet) has probably been recovered and identified as the murder weapon—or the notion of an admission would make little sense.
Critical readers perceive that texts provide facts as well as portray one individual’s “take” on the subject matter. They recognize not only what a text says, but also how that text portrays the subject matter. They recognize the various ways in which each and every text is the unique creation of a unique author. They may read the same work to appreciate how a particular perspective on the events and a particular selection of facts can lead to particular understanding.
A non-critical reading involves recognizing what a text says . A critical reading goes two steps further. First, it involves reflecting on what the text does by making such remarks: Is it offering examples? Arguing? Appealing for sympathy? Making a contrast to clarify a point? Second, it involves inferring what the text, as a whole means , based on the earlier analysis.
2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas 3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you 4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it 5. Write a summary of the work
7. Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his purpose
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
How to critically read a journal research article?
1. Get an overview of the topic - Use textbooks, lecture notes or the Internet to obtain some background knowledge before you start reading. 2. Analyze the title - the title of the article will often contain a clear and concise overview of the study. Look out for any key concepts or theories related to the research and make a note of them. 3. Study the abstract- abstract summarizes the key points and findings of the study, gives information on how the study was carried out, the findings, any limitations and a conclusion.
4. Skim over the article. Start with the introduction - explains the rationale of the study, anything unusual and important about the topic area and what niche this research might fill. If the writer has mentioned other scholars and studies, consider their treatment. See if you can you detect any bias or find examples where opinions has been presented as fact. Next, skim over the section headings and look over any tables or figures to get an overview of the data and results. 5. Read the rest of the article. Carefully look over each section and make notes of the article's outline and the author's key points. This will prevent you from getting lost in the details. Pay special attention to the author's methodology and think about possible limitations to his study.
6. Evaluate the article. You should now be familiar with the article's key points and findings and be able to critically evaluate each of the individual sections. You will need to consider how successful the research was and how well it answered the aims of the study. Also consider the author's use of evidence when making claims or assumptions and whether or not the author used valid reasoning when making conclusions. 7. Reread the article, if necessary. Critical reading requires understanding, and a second reading may help you to fully absorb the information. It will also ensure you haven't missed anything important. Link this research to the wider academic field by considering its impact on and contribution to existing knowledge and understanding.
What is the importance of the research? Why would a reader be interested in the larger work?
What problem does this work attempt to solve? What is the scope of the project? What is the main argument/thesis/claim?
3. Methodology An abstract of a scientific work may include specific models or approaches used in the larger study. Other abstracts may describe the types of evidence used in the research. 4. Results Again, an abstract of a scientific work may include specific data that indicates the results of the project. Other abstracts may discuss the findings in a more general way. 5. Conclusion / Implications What changes should be implemented as a result of the findings of the work? How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the topic?
COMMON PROBLEMS 1. Too long . Abstracts are often too long because people forget to count their words (remember that you can use your word processing program to do this) and make their abstracts too detailed (see below). 2 . Too much detail . Abstracts that are too long often have unnecessary details. 3. Too short . Shorter is not necessarily better. If your word limit is 200 but you only write 95 words, you probably have not written in sufficient detail. You should review your abstract and see where you could usefully give more explanation - remember that in many cases readers decide whether to read the rest of your research from looking at the abstract. Many writers do not give sufficient information about their findings 4. Failure to include important information . You need to be careful to cover the points listed above. Often people do not cover all of them because they spend too long explaining, for example, the methodology and then do not have enough space to present their conclusion.