Table of contents part 1 reading strategies page

d. In the early American colonies, infant mortality was great

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d. In the early American colonies, infant mortality was great.


Knowing that all academic articles ought to follow some fairly strict conventions in their organization and presentation is the first step in reading and understanding articles.

Step 1 – Consider the Article as a Whole

Examine the article as a whole. Try to decide something about the purpose, audience and content of the paper before you start reading. Look for clues in the title and/ or subtitle, the acknowledgements (if any), the first foot- or endnote, the author's biographical note (either with the article or at the front or back of the book or journal).

Some questions to guide you in considering the article as a whole:

Who is writing the article?
See if you can find out anything about the author. Check to see what other articles or books the author has written. It will give you an idea of how the article fits into the author’s other works and the field in which the author is writing.
What audience is the author addressing?
This is important because it affects the style, content and approach the article takes to its subject. This may be revealed by the source of the article - the publication (journal or book) in which the article appeared.
What is the article about?
Look at the first couple of paragraphs; they should give you an idea of what the paper is about. The title of the article should also suggest the main point of concern of the article, the direction of the interpretation, and sometimes the time frame or period of concern.
Step 2 – Determine the Overall Purpose, Structure and Direction of the Article
Now that you’ve looked at the article as a whole, start reading.

You should be able to find the author’s statement of purpose, or thesis statement, before the end of the introduction. You should also be able to tell what evidence the author is going to use to support the position she or he has taken.

You should also be able to tell the author’s point of view. Remember that research is not value-free, nor culturally neutral. You may be able to tell what values the author seems to be promoting.
Also look at the conclusion. If it’s not clearly labeled, it will probably be the last two or three paragraphs.
It is often useful to look at the conclusion before you read the whole paper because it contains the author’s summary of what has been said. If you can’t quite identify the thesis (they are often not clearly stated), read the conclusion. Knowing where the author ended up is often a clue to where he or she started from. In many instances, too, the conclusion summarizes the whole paper, as should the thesis statement.

Some questions to guide you in determining the overall purpose, structure and direction of the article:

What is the author’s main point, or thesis?
Sometimes you can find this easily; the author says something like “the point of this article is to” or “in this paper I intend to show/argue that.” Sometimes you have to look for a simple statement that contains some echo of the title, the same phrase or words, and some brief statements of the argument that supports the assertion: “despite what other scholars have said, I think this [whatever it is] is actually the case, because I have found this [supporting point #1], this [supporting point #2], and this [supporting point #3].”

If the paper is well-crafted, the subtitles of the paper (when there are any) will contain some allusion to the supporting points.
What evidence has the author used?
This question is often answered in step one, but you should also use what the author tells you in the introduction to expand on your grasp of the evidence.

Academic papers are often “argued,” that is, constructed like an argument with a statement of what the author has figured out or thought about a particular situation or event (or whatever). Then, to persuade the reader, the author presents facts or evidence

that support that position.
What is the author’s point of view?
This can sometimes be easily seen, especially in “polemical” essays, where the author bashes a number of arguments and then presents her or his own.

Step 3 –Read the Article but pay attention to the writing and the presentation
As you read, watch not only for what the author is saying, but also how it is said. This step requires that you read the article to gain an understanding of how the author presents the evidence and makes it fit into the argument. At this stage of the exercise, you should also take the time to look up any unfamiliar words or concepts.

Although you are somewhat off the hook critically in this stage, you should be aware that there are tricks the author can use to make sure you’re following the argument. Some of them are standard ways to keep the author’s argument separate from the evidence. Look for clues like: “for example,” “as Professor S. said,” or “in my study area (or time), I found that.” Also, look for connectors and phrases (“however,”despite,”in addition,” etc.)

Look, too, to see how the author switches from explaining how the evidence supports her or his argument to the summary of the paper. The last few paragraphs should tidy up the discussion, show how it all fits together neatly, point out where more research is needed, or explain how this article has advanced learning in this discipline.
Step 4 – Criticism and Evaluation of the Article
What is your reaction to the article? How has it added to your knowledge of the topic discussed?

How does it compare to other articles you have read on the same subject?

Based on an internet article at :

© Amanda Graham and Yukon College, 1997-2004. Page last modified with minor editing changes 2 October 2004.

Chapter II

Word Formation

Look at the following examples taken from titles of articles:

Legalize? No. Deglamorize

Integrate or Disintegrate

Assimilation versus Pluralism

Crime in Cyberspace

Identify the roots of the words. Do you know them? What changes have been made and how do these changes affect the words? In which words has the part of speech changed and in which has the meaning changed?

What is the effect of the prefix? What is the effect of the suffix?

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