Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reading academic articles

You're going to be doing a lot of reading in this class... at least I hope you do. One of the things you'll quickly learn is that reading academic articles (about economics or environmental studies, or anything else) is very different than other types of reading. First, it's hard work. You have to read slowly. You have to read everything at least once, and some parts multiple times. You'll encounter language and vocabulary and math that you don't understand (you'll have to look it up). You have to take notes. Yes, this is a lot of trouble. But, if you want to understand things deeply, this is the price you have to pay.  Real knowledge isn't going to land in your lap without hard work, and you can't find it on a bumper sticker or a YouTube video. You have to read, and then read more. Some of you may hide behind the "its too boring" claim, justifying not reading by saying you're not interested in the topic.  I hope you don't fall into that trap, because honestly, when you really understand something, it absolutely ceases to be boring.  

Dig in. Engage your brain. Read like crazy.

Here is a blog post on the topic of critical reading by Jennifer Raff, a research fellow at UT Austin and occasional cage fighter. She's in the natural sciences (using genetics to answer questions related to anthropology), but much of what she says is pertinent to all disciplines. Hat tip to NR for the link.
More on the topic here and here and here.


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