Friday, July 23, 2010

Reading difficult texts

Complex ideas require complex language and forms of writing. It is useful then to develop ways of reading that allow you to access the ideas discussed in theoretical texts. You will all develop you own ways but here are some of my tactics:
  1. The place of reading. Remember that you are not reading a magazine or newspaper, you will need to be in a place where you can concentrate for a period of time.
  2. Get the context. If there is an abstract read it to give you a sense of what the text will be about, it might also help to find out something about the author.
  3. Identify the subject. Read all the way through the text once, not stopping at the pieces or words that you don't understand. I find that despite the fact that I may reach the end of the text feeling quite confused, I might at least perhaps gain a feeling for the subject they are discussing. Then the next time I read it through I don't have to work out what the subject of the text is, I can just concentrate on what this author thinks in relation to this subject.
  4. Read through the text again but this time stop at the end of a piece (paragraph or sentence) that you don't understand. Re-read that piece. Look up any words that you need to clarify in your mind the meaning of. (Start keeping a glossary of these words).
  5. Make notes to yourself on/in the text. These notes can direct your attention to the parts of the text that stand out to you. For example, a note I have written in Allen's text from week one says "he begins to talk directly about architecture here".
  6. Often a paragraph will make one point and then tease this point out further. Try to identify the key point made in each paragraph. Underline this.
  7. Read through for a third time and this time try to identify the crux of the author's argument. That is, think about describing the text in two or three sentences - what is the most important point the author is making.
For further help see

by Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.

click here

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