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East Asian Studies: Researching & Reading

Reading as You Research

You've done a few searches in a database focused on your topic area, and now you have a preliminary list of results with titles that look intriguing. 

How can you evaluate them efficiently?

I. Evaluate for reliability: if your topic is academic, check that the article is published in an academic journal --

        or in a book published by a university press.

   Look up the author's name: is the author affiliated with an academic institution?

II. Begin evaluating the article for content.

               Click the title to bring up the entire record...

... and check for an Abstract: 

        

Skimming the abstract can save you time, eliminating articles that would not be helpful...

and helping to identify those that concentrate on  topics that interest you.                                                                                    

   III  Begin taking control of the content.

     Articles are often headed by abstracts and divided by section headings. Look at these for the structure of the argument, and pay attention to any graphs, illustrations, maps that you want to examine and make note of. Read the "Conclusion" section and make notes that will help you to relate points the author makes in the course of the article to the final statement.

   Make sure also to look through the notes or bibliography for leads to more sources that are likely to be useful.

 

IV  Once you have your articles and preliminary notes organized, begin reading in depth. Read with special care those sections that apply to aspects of your argument.

  • Look up any terms that seem to be used in an unfamiliar way - many disciplines have developed their own jargon. Make notes as you read and, as you finish each paragraph, glance back at its first sentence to make sure you are following the line of the argument and to see how the evidence and points of theory are adduced to support it.
  • Question each point as you read:  where did the author get this data? what assumptions does the author make? are there other ways in which the facts could be interpreted?  Do these questions lead you to avenues of further investigation?
  • Use your notes to compare and contrast the arguments of different sources. What points does each author make? Are there areas of overlap? Where do they differ? Do they refer to each other? How could your developing ideas contribute to their conversation?

As you begin to write, be sure to make an appointment with the Farnham Writers' Center!

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