New College Writing Program

Reading as Inquiry: Exercises

Reading as Questioning

Read the full selection from Douglass’s Narrative, or use some other text that your have chosen or that has been provided by your instructor, and respond in writing to some or all of the critical reading questions posed in the previous section. You may do this exercise individually or with a group. Jot down a few sentences for each of the five critical reading strategies. For convenience sake, we list them again here:

1. Reading the main claims.

  • What does the text argue?
  • What statements are put forward as truth or facts?
  • Are the claims of the text specific or very general?
  • Are the claims of the text well supported? How are they supported?

2. Reading the unfamiliar.

  • Are there concepts in the text you don’t understand?
  • Are there references in the text with which you are not familiar?
  • Are words in the text with which you are not familiar?

3. Reading for context.

  • What background information would help you better understand this text?
    Does the writer make references to events that are not fully explained?
  • Does writer base her / his ideas or assertions on the works of other writers and
  • researchers?

4. Reading what’s absent

  • What ideas are assumed in the text? What are its assumptions?
  • Are there big ideas or ideologies on which this text seems to rely? What are those ideas or ideologies?
  • What is implied by the text that is not all the way spelled out?
  • As you list the main claims of the text, ask yourself for each, what else has to be true for each claim to be true?
  • Do you sense an “attitude” in the text? Does a particular bias or worldview, perhaps unspoken, seem present?

5. Reading from the gut.

  • Are you interested in what you are reading? Do you feel resistant to it? Bored? Surprised? Intrigued? What other emotional reactions do you experience? Reading it, do you feel angry? Sad? Amused? Joyful? Frustrated?
  • What is your immediate reaction to the main claims of the text? Do you agree, disagree? How strongly? Briefly, say why.
  • Sometimes the tone or voice of a piece of writing causes us to react. How would you describe the tone of the text? Its voice?

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Critical Reading as Research

Working through the critical-reading questions in this last section, write 250--500 words about one of the sources you have discovered in your research. Don’t worry about organizing this writing into an essay. It is fine to leave you answers numbered 1-5, each numbering corresponding to one set of critical reading questions. Just answer as many of the questions as you can, generating a record of your critical reading. If you do the Summary and Response assignment in your course, you will likely be able to use writing you do here. Save your work!

Here are the critical reading questions.

1. Reading the main claims.

  • What does the text argue?
  • What statements are put forward as truth or fact?
  • Are the claims of the text specific or very general?
  • Are the claims of the text well supported? How are they supported?

2. Reading the unfamiliar.

  • Are there concepts in the text you don’t understand?
  • Are there references in the text with which you are not familiar?
  • Are words in the text with which you are not familiar?

3. Reading for context.

  • What background information would help you better understand this text?
  • Does the writer make references to events that are not fully explained?
  • Does the writer base her / his ideas or assertions on the works of other writers and researchers?

4. Reading what’s absent

  • What ideas, facts, or understandings are assumed in the text? What do the writer or writers seem to take for granted? What are the assumptions of the text?
  • Are there ideologies or belief systems on which this text seems to rely? What are they?
  • What assertions or claims are implied by the text that is not all the way spelled out?
  • As you list the main claims of the text, ask yourself for each, what else has to be true for each claim to be true?
  • Do you sense an “attitude” in the text? Does a particular bias or worldview, perhaps unspoken, seem present?

5. Reading from the gut.

  • Are you interested in what you are reading? Do you feel resistant to it? Bored? Surprised? Intrigued? What other emotional reactions do you experience? Reading it, do you feel angry? Sad? Amused? Joyful? Frustrated?
  • What is your immediate reaction to the main claims of the text? Do you agree, disagree? How strongly? Why?
  • Sometimes the tone or voice of a piece of writing causes us to react. How would you describe the tone of the text? Its voice?

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Annotating Texts

Using either a text provided by your instructor or one you have discovered in your own individual research, take some time now to practice annotation.  We recommend annotating a hard copy version of the text, but if you are working with an online text, you can make notes on a separate sheet or sheets of paper or with the help of Track Changes or other editing programs. If you make your annotations on a separate sheet of paper, be sure to record page numbers, so that you can find the portion of the text again when you need to.  

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Summarizing

Using a source you have found in your research, summarize, once, twice, or three times. Have your classmates read the summaries and respond in light of the general summarizing guidelines we’ve offered above.  Be sure to save your work.

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Attributive Tags

1. Read through one of the sources you have discovered in your research or another text your instructor provides for you. Mark all the attributive tags you find.

2. Write or revise a summary of a source you have discovered in research experimenting with the use of attributive tags.

As you work through these exercises, remember our list of key words for writing attributive tags.

Writes
Reports
Asserts
Compares
Observes
Confirms
Declares
Denies
Reasons
Argues
Refutes
Suggests
Emphasizes
Underscores
Addresses
Rejects

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Quotation: The Art of Choosing the Right Passage

This exercise can be done individually or in a small group. Follow these steps:

  1. Look through the articles, books, chapters, etc. you have gathered in your research. Select a short passage you believe you would like to quote in your next writing assignment. If you are not yet to research stage, select a passage to quote from some other source relevant to your assignment. If you are working in a group, explain your choice of passages to your group members.
  2. Decide why the passage is important for your own writing. What purpose will it serve? Explain that purpose to your group members, or if you are working individually, take a moment to write a sentence or two in explanation.

If possible, connect the passage you’ve selected to your research question (if you have already written one) For example, “The passage I chose from Eric Foner’s Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution is relevant to my research question about the early history of civil rights: How has the political meaning of ‘equality’ changed over time in the United States?” In the passage, Foner summarizes Congressional debates and compromises around the 14th Amendment, which focused in part on its language of equality.

  1.  Now write a paragraph or at least a few sentences in which you quote the passage you have selected. Introduce the quotation and follow up with sentences that link the quotation to your research question, your thesis, or a point you are trying to make in the assignment on which you are working. Remember, your readers may need the passage explain or contextualized. Use an appropriate attributive tag HYPERLINK to introduce the quotation.
  2. Be sure to use proper citation style (whether you are using MLA or some other style guide).

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