A Reading Guide

By Paul Pasquaretta

I am developing a reading guide for my students so that their understanding and application of course texts is less superficial. Does anyone else have a reading guide?

Here’s a first draft of mine, first posted to our Facebook group:

Reading guide for course texts:

Your purpose is as follows:  To evaluate how and to what degree your assigned piece relates to and can be used to shed light upon our questions..

In order to make this evaluation, you will need to understand and accurately represent the reading. Toward that end, follow this reading guide:

1. Preview the text: 

a. How long is it? Given its length, how much time will you need to read it?

b. What are the key words/terms? Do you know what they mean? If not, look them up and write out their definitions.

c. What are the major divisions? Is there a designated introduction? Conclusion? How is the body divided? What seems to be reason behind these divisions?

d. What is the tone of the reading? Conversational? Academic?

e. Who seems to be the audience? The average reader? The disciplinary specialist?

2. Skim the text:

a. Read the introductory paragraph, the first line of each paragraph, and the concluding paragraph. Write out what you think this text is about, what it argues for/against. Write or speak a summary. That is to say, if you were asked to tell someone what this text says/does based on skimming it, what would you say?

3. Read the text:

a. In annotations (actually writing, NOT highlighting) – which may be made directly on a printed copy of the text, in a journal, or comments on a word.doc – ask questions, challenge/question points, define unknown words, make personal questions.

b. Write out a one-paragraph summary of the text

4. On a blog post created for the purpose, answer the following questions (these are inspired by Battersby and Bailin, who help us to consider the context of issues, which in this case are applied to a text at issue):

a. What debate does the text seem to be engaged in? In other words, what’s the issue and what’s at stake? Why does it matter? To whom might it matter?

b. Does the text reflect any current beliefs or practices? If so, which ones? Explain how.

c. How might the text be placed within intellectual, political, historical or social contexts? This often requires some basic research (Google or Wikipedia are good places to start). The trick is finding the right search term so that the needed information can be found easily. This is one of the great benefits of living in the 21st century. For the first time in human history, whole libraries are available with the click of a mouse. (A thousand years from now, no one will know what that means!)

d. What is the disciplinary context? Is it an article written for a popular audience (like a mainstream newspaper or magazine article). Is it written with specific academic audience in mind? Like other scientists? Humanists (academics working in history, philosophy, and literature), Artists? Etc.

e. Who is the author? (Google and Wikipedia are great for this as well). What is their history? Training? What gives them authority to speak on the subject they are addressing? How trustworthy do they seem, given their background?

f. What personal experience or baggage are you bringing to this text? Do you have any experience with or prior knowledge that is helpful? Based on your background, are you inclined to agree with or disagree with the author? Does it affirm or contest your biases?

5. Identify how the text supports a question about technology. How strong is this connection? How useful the text given our purposes?

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