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Northern Illinois University | Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) Program | Political Science Writing Assistance | 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:
- Do I agree or disagree with the author, and why?
- Are these ideas new?
- What is the novel claim made here?
- If the ideas presented are not new, where have I seen them
- How does this information connect to related materials I
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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