Owning Bits


This introduction was written after a wonderful lecture by Sandy Goldberg on talking to students about reading. Note that Sandy often assigns better writers than I do, so not everything may apply in all readings.

How should you read the various pieces of writing for class? Carefully, accurately, repeatedly, and thoughtfully.

You should read each piece of writing carefully. Most authors have placed considerable effort and care into their writing, precisely structuring their arguments. You owe it to yourself and to the author to make sure that you understand the argument.

You should read each piece of writing accurately. Strive to understand what the author intends at each place. Note that most authors of argumentative texts will use a number of forms to support their arguments. These include

I expect that you will eventually be able to classify each part of any writing I assign. That is, I may choose a section of the writing (e.g., a sentence or paragraph) and ask you whether it is a claim, evidence, objection, response, summary, or conclusion. You should also understand the relationship of that piece of text to the larger argument.

When possible, you should read each piece of writing repeatedly. Often, it is not possible to understand a serious piece of writing on the first (or second or third) reading. Through repeated readings, you familiarize yourself with the author's perspective, the structure of his or her argument, and the ideas he or she raises.

Finally, you should read each piece of work thoughtfully. Once you begin to understand a piece, you should begin to consider its implications. As you read, you are likely to develop questions.



Monday, 22 March 1999 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Saturday, 21 August 1999 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Saturday, 23 August 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu