4.4 Questioning what you read

Another way to keep your mind active while you read is to ask yourself questions about what you are reading.


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4.3 Does writing on a book seem wrong?

Obviously you have to take into account whether you own the text you are studying and, if so, whether you intend to keep it. Does it seem extravagant to write on a book and make it unfit for selling on? How important to you is selling it? Is it really a saving? If a book is important, why not assume you
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4.2 Notes in the margins

It is easy, with underlining or highlighting, to find that you have switched to autopilot without noticing. The process becomes too passive and you follow the flow of the text without asking enough questions. Writing comments or questions in the margins is a way to keep yourself more actively engaged.


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4.1 Underlining and highlighting

To be able to make sense of what you are reading, you need to read actively. One method that can help is to use a pen.

Activity 2

Did you underline or highlight any words as you read the Layard article? If not, go back over the
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3.4 Time chunks

Apart from sheer speed, there is the question of how to parcel out your study time. With a two-page article you would assume a single study session, but a chapter of a book might be spread over several sessions, depending on the content and on your own time constraints.

This is a message from a stud
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2.2 The ‘academic’ style

You might also be put off by the ‘academic’ style of writing. In everyday life, what you read is usually written to grab your attention and get a message across quickly before you ‘switch channels’. By contrast, academic texts often raise broad, abstract questions and are unconcerned about arriving at quick answers. For example, where a newspaper headline might say:

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2.1.2 Dictionaries

One way to tackle the challenge of unfamiliar words is to use a dictionary. You could use a traditional printed dictionary, or an online dictionary, or both. A printed dictionary is easy to keep beside you wherever you happen to be reading. But an online dictionary holds the advantage when it comes looking up words quickly as you can look up a word in three or four online dictionaries simultaneously, to compare the definitions they offer.

You also have a choice between using a genera
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2.1.1 Should you stop reading to look words up?

It depends. Looking up words slows you down, and you may be able to make reasonable sense of their context without having to. For example, I found it fairly easy to guess the meaning of ‘habituation’ in paragraph 8, from the way it was discussed. However, I looked it up on the internet anyway, as I happened to have my computer on. I also looked up ‘real income’ and ‘marginal tax’ and found useful clarification of their meanings.

You have to decide how important a word seems
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • ask questions to make yourself think about what you read;

  • think about what the key concepts and issues are;

  • detach yourself from disagreements with the author's views.


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References

de Bono, E. (1999) de Bono's Thinking Course. London, BBC Books
Entwistle, N. (1994) quoted in Supporting Open Learners Reader (1996) Milton Keynes, The Open University
Holmes, O. W. quoted in Robbins, A. (1991) Awaken the giant within. New York, Simon & Schuster
Rice, M. (1999) Observer Magazine, 7 November
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8.3 Academic arguments

You have looked at some examples of everyday arguments, now look at a short example of an academic argument.

Activity 25

Read the argument below. Compare and contrast it to the previous examples of arguments you have looked at ('W
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8.2 Broadening perception

Particular perspectives and points of view underpin speaking and writing. Being successful at many academic tasks, including balanced argument, often requires us to be conscious of and to try to break away from our usual perspectives and ways of thinking, and to attend to things we might not normally notice. The challenge is often to be more open-minded and broad in our thinking, to consider more than one point of view in the way that the caffeine article did. It can be useful to have strateg
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8 Analysis, argument and critical thinking

In this section, we are going to look in detail at analysis and argument. Analytical thinking is a particular type of higher order thinking central to much academic activity. It is concerned with examining 'methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of something' (Oxford English Dictionary). This includes looking at variables, factors, and relationships between things, as well as examining ideas and problems, and detecting and analysing arguments. Many essay questions require ar
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7.1 Hierarchies of ideas

A useful way of giving sense and structure to ideas can sometimes be to see them in the form of a hierarchy. At one end is the ‘big picture’ (e.g. general context, principles, theories, ideas, concepts) and at the other end are particular facts, examples and other details. For example, the concept of living things contains the category of animals and plants. Animals contains the category of mammals, which contains the category of dogs, which contains the specific type of dog called Dalmat
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3.4.2 ‘Real world’ skills

Although we are describing these as a separate set of skills, we hope that you can see the value of these skills in supporting your learning, as well as being important for many other aspects of your life. In this unit we have been focusing on:

  • communication skills
  • problem-solving (decision-making) skills
  • organisational (self-management) skills.

The next activity is similar to the one you have just done, but here the focus is o
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3.3.7 Entwistle’s theory – students’ approaches to learning

Noel Entwistle’s ideas are much more concerned with the ways in which individuals approach learning. They focus on how people go about learning a body of knowledge. This contrasts with community of practice theory which is more interested in how groups of people together create knowledge or understanding, as the St Kildans did about ‘high-rise’ egg collecting.

This might suggest that we are going back to where we started on this unit. You may recall that this starting point involv
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3.3.5 Communities of practice

Described image
Figure 22 Lev Vygotsky

3.3.4 The importance of other people in our immediate social and learning environments

Case Study: Levene

Yes, I had a lot of support from my family. You know, I suppose you could say you take that for granted but, yes, I did have a lot of support from my family. But in terms of feedback and a sounding board – colleagues for instance over the phone. Your tutor is another example.


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7.4.3 When to write the introduction?

At what stage should the introduction to an assignment be written?

Activity 19

A group of students attending a writing workshop were asked to identify the first task in preparing an assignment. Some answered ‘Writing the introducti
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7.3 Drafting essays

As you may remember from Activity 4, the main elements of an essay are:

  • the introduction

  • the main body

  • the conclusion.


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