The major goals of the critical reading assignments are to (1) continue advancing your reading and writing skills; (2) provide you with incentive for finding interesting arguments in an assigned reading; and (3) generate some raw data and analysis that you might use for your papers.
The essential components of these assignments are: (1) one strong argument from an assigned reading and (2) one compelling idea/argument of your own that responds to the original argument. Please take a risk with your own argument ? make it yours. The material that you will use to form your argument should be inspired by the assigned reading but come from your own experience, or stuff you?ve read before or in another class, or ideas that we generate collaboratively in class discussion. Above all, these assignments are an opportunity to show me that you are thinking about your own response to a reading, finding your voice within our community, and developing intelligent and well-reasoned assertions.
You may devise any format (including citation scheme for quoted passages) that makes sense to you to fulfill the goals of this assignment. Regardless of the format you choose, please be consistent. Assignments should contain in-text citations and a bibliography/reference page for any quoted or referenced information.
Tips for writing a strong abstract
The first half of a critical reading assignment ? that is, providing the argument from the assigned reading in specific detail ? is essentially a paraphrasing assignment. Strong work in the service of this goal shows me that you can identify authorial voice and can understand an argument deeply. As such, you are essentially writing the argument of the author in your own words. In order to successfully complete this half of the assignment, you must demonstrate strong skills of close reading, such as:
? you can take an argument from a reading and dissect it out, showing all of the lines of evidence that allowed the author to make such a claim;
? you can ?sell? the argument using only your own words; and
? you can see how the argument the author is making connects to the larger world (other arguments other writers have made, data that the author is looking at, etc.)
The second half of a critical reading assignment is a bit more challenging. It provides you with an opportunity to interface (and interfere) with the ideas that an author is raising ? that is, it’s an invitation to dialogue and allows you to speak from your own critical voice (a tool that we will be honing over the course of the semester). This is the creative and sometimes daunting work of deciding what you want to say.
This is not an opportunity to agree/disagree in a simple, binary way. This is an opportunity to extend what the author is saying, to connect it to other ideas, to respond as if you and the author were having a conversation. Your response should be as interesting, complex, and novel as you can make it. This will take thinking and drafting time. Please allow for this time in completing the work.
These moves will not meet my expectations for this half of the assignment:
? You tell me only about your feelings when you discuss the ideas raised by the author.
? Your response is worn, uninteresting, and/or does not advance any new perspective.
? Your ideas or questions do not logically follow from the ideas of the article.
? Your ideas or questions merely restate ideas that are already present in the article.
? You write a book report and resort to simple binaries: good/bad, like/dislike, agree/disagree.
? You compliment the work needlessly (e.g., ‘Berger does a good job of describing observation’).
If you are stuck
? Think about the ideas at work in your other classes. How might they connect?
? Read more. Search for other articles (on Academic Search Premier, the New York Times, google, etc.) that address the same set of ideas or issues. Then put these articles in conversation with the assigned reading. Consider authors you have read in other classes and connect their work to this discussion
? Consider your own life as raw data. What ideas and theories are at work in your own life?
? Talk to people. Tell them what you are working on. Listen to their ideas and then thank
Them in your critical reading assignment.
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