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Northern Illinois University | Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Program | Political Science Writing Assistance | Reader-Response Studying

Reader-Response Studying

Often it is important to retain large amounts of specific information so that you can participate in focused discussions and write detailed papers and exams. The following approach suggests an idea that blends reading and writing in a cognitive practice that should improve your memory skills.

Step One - Reading

Read a passage of text that feels comfortable to you in size. Usually, journal articles, book chapters, and acts of plays are the best segments to work with at one sitting. Read the passage thoroughly until you understand it well.

Step Two - Summarizing

Summarize what you have just read in a reading journal. Be sure to use direct quotations and paraphrases to construct a detailed summary of the passage; the more specific it is the better. You are writing only for yourself here, so do not worry about plagiarism or grammatical errors. Just be sure the summary is comprehensive and as close as possible to the original in meaning.

Step Three - Responding

Immediately following the summary, write your reaction to what you have just read. At this point you want to explore your reaction to the text and connect the new information to your existing web of knowledge. Some questions you might pursue are:
Try to be free when you respond to what you have read. Pretend you are reviewing the book or article for a magazine. Imagine that you are the author, writing a follow-up piece to add more to what you have previously said. No one is reviewing or grading your reading journal, so you should not feel restrained when writing in it.

Step Four - Reviewing

Perhaps the greatest benefit of your reader-response writing is found in reviewing what you have written. First, you have a record of what you have read in short form, so instead or reviewing an entire book or batch or arties contain the better you will be able to recall the original documents. And, your response writings will have created a web of meaning linking the bulk of knowledge presented in the course.

Do not be discouraged if this process of summary-response is slow at first. Summarizing is a skill, and it must be practiced if you want to transform the skill into a habit. The page-flipping and rereading done while writing a summary will be time well spent when you ultimately spend less time studying for exams and reviewing materials for research papers.

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