The information and tasks within this page
are designed to introduce you to the concept of taking a deeper approach
to your learning and in particular to the material you are reading.
How do I read?
Answer the following questions:
|1. I tend to read very little
beyond what is actually required to pass
|2. I concentrate on memorising
a good deal of what I read
|3. I try to relate ideas I
come across in other topics to what I read
|4. When I read an article or
book, I try to find out exactly what the author means
|5.Often I find myself questioning
what I read
|6. When I read I concentrate
on learning just those bits of information I need to pass
|7. When I am reading, I stop
from time to time to reflect on what I’m trying to learn from
|8. When I read, I examine the
details carefully to see how they fit in with what's being said
|9. I like books which challenge
me and provide explanations which go beyond the lectures
|10. I like books which give
definite facts and information which can be learned easily
|11. I read an article straight
through from start to finish
|12. I note down all the facts
|13. I note the author’s
|14. I think about whether the
facts supported these arguments
|15. I make summary notes to
upon the ASSIST Approaches to Studying Inventory.
© Noel Entwistle.
If you have answered ‘yes’ to
all or most of questions: 1,2,6,10,11,12,15 you are adopting a SURFACE
APPROACH to your learning. You are organising your learning in order
to be able to remember facts and figures to use in essays and exams.
Many students previous experience of learning is of a school system
where exams assessed their ability to memorise and regurgitate and a
good student was one who could remember lots of information.
If you have answered ‘yes’
to all or most of questions: 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 you are adopting
what is termed a DEEP APPROACH to your learning. You are thinking critically
about the information you read and trying to make sense of it inthe
wider context of your studies. This approach to learning and studying
shows initiative and understanding and an ability to undertake independent
study. Many tutors when questioned would include this in their definitions
of an ‘ideal student’.
Can you see the difference between the two
SURFACE APPROACH = MEMORISATION
DEEP APPROACH = UNDERSTANDING
At this stage you are probably quite
a lot of a surface processor with a little of a deep processor. It is
quite difficult to change the way you learn but the rewards for adopting
a deeper approach are great. If you understand your subject material
fully you will be able to apply it successfully whether in an essay
or an exam.
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Characteristics of a Surface
Approach to Reading
• Intention to complete task
• Memorise information needed for assessments
• Failure to distinguish principles from examples
• Treats task as an external imposition
• Focus on discrete elements without integration
• Unreflectiveness about purpose or strategies
• "I just read through from start to finish."
• "I tried to concentrate on remembering as much as possible."
• "I didn’t remember what I read, because I was just
• Characteristics of a Deep Approach to Reading
• Intention to understand
• Vigorous interaction with content
• Relate new ideas to previous knowledge
• Relate concepts to everyday experience
• Relate evidence to conclusions
• Examine the logic of the argument
• "I tried to get at the main points of the article"
• "I thought about how the author had built up his argument"
CRITICAL READING: QUESTIONS TO ASK OF YOURSELF AND A TEXT
BEFORE READING THE TEXT:
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I reading this? What is my purpose? Why is it on my reading
- What do I know about the author, the publisher, the circumstances
of publication and the type of text? How do these affect my attitude
towards and expectations of what I am about to read? Why?
- What are my own views of the event(s) or topic before I start reading
this particular text?
- What other texts (written and spoken) on this or similar topics am
I familiar with? What are my views about them?
WHILE READING THE TEXT:
While reading the text highlight the verbs and any modifiers:
Ask yourself what the unmodified verbs tell you about the ‘truth’
value of what the author is saying and how this affects your reading.
eg. ‘…US missiles reduced much of Saddam Hussein’s
military machine to a heap of scrap metal’
and what the modified verbs tell you – what is the effect of the
Eg. ‘It was apparently all Britain and America’s fault’
Look at any passivizations and see if you can reconstruct the agent:
Ask yourself what the effect on you as a reader is of
a) passives for which you can find the agent and
b) passives for which you cannot
Highlight significant instances of nominalizations and see if you can
reconstruct participants and processes:
eg. ‘…. our airmen ensured that the least possible danger
was caused to the people of Baghdad.’
Ask yourself what the effect on
you as a reader is
a) if you can
b) if you cannot
eg. ‘We regret any casualties among civilians’
Look at the verbs of reporting (events and other people’s ideas):
ask yourself what the selected verbs tell you about the ‘truth’
value of what the author is telling you and what your reaction is.
What is the effect on you of
Eg. ‘…left-wing MP Tony Benn sourly said the action
was an obscenity.’
Look at the way the writer uses quotations, summaries, citations and
paraphrase: how do these referencing practices affect your attitude
to the text? Is there any ‘slippage’ of voice from attributed
to author voice? How does this affect the authoritativeness of the text?
What other texts, genres and what discourses is this text drawing on:
How does this affect your reading of the text? Why?
eg. ‘Military planners and psychologists said that …
eg. ‘Like Luke Skywalker zapping Darth Vadar’
eg. ‘Then, in the old RAF slang, victory should be a piece
Examine the author’s argumentation:
Highlight any evidence the author supplies for his/her arguments:
Is there enough evidence? Is it convincing? Can you think of counter
evidence or counter examples? How do your answers affect your reading
of the text?
Does the author make his/her premises explicit or not? Do you agree
with them or not. So what is the effect on you as a reader?
Look at the way the writer uses personal pronouns like ‘you’
and ‘we’ and possessive adjectives:
How does this position the reader? Do you accept that positioning? Why
or why not?
Eg. ‘Our heroes’
What labels does the writer use to describe the participants or events
(nouns and adjectives) and to describe the processes (verbs)?
What do they tell you about the author’s attitude to his/her message?
And to the reader? Do you accept these word choices? Why or why not?
Eg. ‘Collateral damage’
Does the writer use several different words to describe the same participant,
event or process? What is the effect on you?
Eg. ‘Why didn’t Iraqi yellow bellies fight back? …planes
turn tail … lost their bottle … chickened out … surrendered
…’ (all together 12 different ways of representing
the Iraqi armed forces as cowards in the headline and first paragraph
of a Sun article, 18.1.91)
Look at the author’s choice of metaphors:
What do they tell you about the author’s attitude towards his/her
message and the reader? What is your reaction? Why?
Eg. ‘war machine’
What are the ideological presuppositions behind the text?
(These are the linked but unstated things you have to believe to be
true before you can accept the stated proposition to be true):
eg. In order to accept as true that the Iraqi armed forces are cowardly
for not ‘fighting back’ you also have to accept the following
linked unstated propositions: there is only one acceptable response
to an attack; all other responses, such as deciding not to respond in
order not to sacrifice lives unnecessarily, are an act of cowardice
not rationality; the Iraqi were in a position to fight back (quite clearly
not the case).
Do you share them?
If so, what is the effect on you as a reader?
If not, what is the effect on you as a reader?
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AFTER READING THE TEXT:
Ask yourself the following questions:
-Have I fulfilled my purpose(s) for reading? If not, what will I do
- Have my views of the event(s) or topic been reinforced or altered
in any way? How? Where do I now stand?
-What have I learned? What do I feel? How can I use this reading experience,
now and in the future?
Source: Clark, R. Critical Reading, available from: www.lancs.ac.uk/users/furness/criticalreading.htm
Critical Reading of a Journal Article
Try using this method with an article
given to you by your tutor, or which you have found yourself. We recommend
you use this method a couple of times. The idea is to encourage you
not to rush through the article, but to think carefully about each section.
Read each section and then write down your answers to the questions
before you go on to the next section. It will be hard work, but will
also get easier every time you do it! You need to be able to answer
all of the following questions.
1. What is the author's goal?
The point of the introduction is to detail the reason behind the research
and give an overview of the previous studies carried out in the area.
It is essentially a literature review and will also include a description
of theories that the author thinks may provide a good explanation of
the particular behaviour or phenomena being described. It is useful
to try and work out which theory that you think the author might agree
with. You may find this difficult at this stage but as you become more
familiar with an area and particular authors work you will start finding
this much easier.
2. What is the hypothesis or prediction that is being tested?
This should be fairly clear and are usually stated towards the end of
the introduction section.
3. How would I design an experiment to test the hypothesis?
This is the most important question for this section and you should
attempt to write down an answer before you continue your reading as
it will be very difficult to do this once you have read the method section.
If the author has done a good job he/she will have convinced you that
their particular design is the best approach for testing the hypothesis.
4. (a) Which is the best method?
This doesn't really matter, but if you compare the two, you will be
forced to think about this section critically.
(b) Does the author's method test the hypothesis?
This is straightforward - check that the author has done what he/she
said he/she was going to do.
(c) What are the independent and dependent variables and what happens
in the different conditions if there are any?
Again should be fairly easy. Write them down in a list.
5. From the whole method section what results would you predict?
Do this before reading the results section. If you're struggling have
a think again about the hypothesis and the independent and dependent
variables. You may find this very hard or even impossible, but list
or attempt to draw the possible outcomes.
6. Did your predictions about the results match with those obtained
by the researcher?
If not, was your prediction wrong, or are the results hard to believe?
Was the author's method appropriate for testing the hypothesis?
7. (a) How would you interpret the results?
Should be fairly straightforward. What do they mean in relation to the
hypothesis? Can this be applied? Think about any real-world users of
the study. What implications does it have for future research in the
(b) Can you draw any applications and implications from your interpretation?
Again, answer these two questions before moving on to the next section
8. (a) Which interpretation of the results suits the data the best?
A good discussion should answer the question(s) set up in the introduction.
The author should also present implications and applications of the
research. Has the author drawn conclusions that are acceptable in relation
to the data? The conclusions drawn may be reasonable but the author
may have attempted to generalise these more than is possible.
(b) Is the discussion of the applications and implications convincing?
As well as carrying out a well-controlled experiment a researcher must
also consider the rationale and theory that underpin the research. By
looking at the author's consideration of the theory and its implications
you can get a good idea of the integrity of the work.