Monday, October 10, 2005

General advice on reading

I like to think I've kept the reading load at a moderate level for much of this course, given the difficulty of the material. Of course, there will be days with a lot more reading assigned, and I'm sure you all have other classes with lots and lots of reading. If keeping up with reading is keeping you down, let me make a suggestion: This primer to "how to read in College" is really smart and helpful, and I wish someone had told me this when I was an undergraduate. It's written by Timothy Burke, a history professor at Swathmore and a really smart guy.

There's lots of good advice here, especially for those classes (you will probably encounter them eventually, even if you missed them so far) where hundreds of pages per week are assigned. I think he's particularly correct about highlighting/underlining. I use these techniques sometime when I'm reading for a specific point; for example, I'm currently working on a paper on the relationship between judicial review and democracy. So when I read boring legal theory as research, I highlight only those things relevant to a consideration of democracy, not that which is central to the argument the person is making. Becuase I'm reading for specific research purposes, and I'm not terribly interested in the central argument being made in this writing.

As a student, your assigned class reading is rarely that targeted; you're generally reading for general comprehension and analysis provided by the reading. If you do underline/highlight, you'll soon forget *why* you highlighted that point, as you have multiple and general reading goals. I suggest you always make a point of jotting down in the margins your reasons for highlighting a particular passage, rather than simply highlighting and wondering later what you thought was important.

Feel free to use this comment thread to ask any general questions about the course, how to study and read and understand political theory, and so on. I've tried to re-enable anonymous commenting, so if you'd rather not identify yourself you don't have to.


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