Interactive reading

you pick up a book and

  1. is there an abstract in front? (not often in books)
  2. view the TOC (= structure ?, main topics)
  3. view the bibliography (worth it?)
  4. read the introduction (link with structure?)
  5. read the conclusion

you wonder

  1. which parts do I want to read?
  2. for what purpose?
  3. when should I schedule that reading?

If you want to read parts of a monography, or in full: prepare a reading note (cfr. infra)


prewriting =

exploratory reading

analytical reading, deep reading

“The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations these words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.”

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.

Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

In The Citation Project, Sandra Jamieson and Rebecca Moore Howard examine citation practices in papers written in introductory writing courses. In their essay “Sentence-Mining: Uncovering the Amount of Reading and Writing Comprehension in College Writers’ Researched Writing,” the research data set includes papers from 174 students from 16 colleges across the U.S., which contain 17,600 written lines or 800 pages, 930 sources, and 1,911 references.

Its key finding is worth noting: “The majority, 46 percent of the students’ 1,911 citations, come from page 1 of the source.”

At first glance, these figures may cause dismay; however, this dismay can be qualified: students are consulting sources and not making up things out of thin air; by reading pages one, two, three, and four, and not much beyond, they are probably picking up the central ideas or arguments of the source text in the first few pages. And it makes sense: usually, these pages have keywords, abstracts, theses, forecasting statements.

But what cannot be glossed over is that they are reading on the prowl, looking eagerly for specific things to use; they want to find a polished idea, a gem of a thought, a ready made argument, a neatly framed issue, a syntactically effective sentence, a stylistically rendered idea. In short, a utilitarian approach shapes reading on the prowl: search, find, use. What they don’t seem to be doing is “radial reading”.

analytical reading phase 1

analytical reading Phase 2

compare sources, synoptical reading

Reading notes

You do not collect sources, you collect notes.


The perfect reading note

What's in it

With a useful set of citable notes, you can insert the "particulars, concretes and details" to support the "generalizations, abstractions and theories" of your dissertation.

(Single, Peg Boyle, and Richard M. Reis. 2009. Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text. 9.1.2009 edition. Sterling, Va: Stylus Publishing. p79)

When do you write that