Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading articles is hard work!

The past two posts have provided links to additional readings on topics we're studying. Many of these readings are academic journal articles. As you get into these readings, one of the things you'll quickly learn is that reading academic articles (about economics or environmental studies, or anything else) is 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 way to do it.  Real knowledge and understanding isn't going to land in your lap without hard work, and you can't find it in 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.


Laura Ochoa said...

Reading this article brought back memories of frustration I experienced with writing a research paper on a 60 page financial business analysis conducted by students regarding a company in Prague. Using this example, I would say that the paper I analyzed was a primary research article being that it was all new data about a company and the research paper I conducted was a review article in that I summarized information from the original report.
Jennifer Raff pointed out great examples that I will use for future readings regarding scientific information as well as detailed reports. I greatly relate to her statements of taking notes, reading sections multiple times and writing down words that I don't understand. In writing my research paper, I had my finance book to my right, a dictionary to my left, and Google open and ready to go because there were many new terms; especially with it being a paper conducted on a foreign enterprise.
To conclude, something mentioned by Raff which could be used not only in analyzing reports, but in life itself is to determine the problem that is getting solved. After all, headlines and definitions are great, but how can a problem become known and analyzed if we don't know what it is.
-Laura M. Ochoa

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