Thinking… and Writing Part 1: Be a thinking reader 思考與寫作 第一步:當個會思考的讀者

As a scholar, an academic writer has a responsibility to read critically. This is not a difficult task for a person dedicated to scholarship; critical thinking comes naturally. Even so, sometimes there is a tenuous relationship between reading, thinking and, ultimately, writing. This 2-part series examines how mental activity translates into richer academic papers.

Part 1: Be a thinking reader

Sometimes we sit and read for pure pleasure. The book being read often is escapist material of some sort—an adventure story, perhaps—and our conscious minds usually don’t play an active role in evaluating what we are reading. But when we research books and other materials in preparation for writing a paper, unthinking reading is verboten. A scholar collecting material must be fully engaged during his reading of relevant material to extract from it not only the facts, but the nuances, such as valuable contextual material and allusions to previously unknown sources.

Being fully engaged means more than following the gist of an author’s argument or report. That is important, of course; when we don’t understand what we are reading, we have a problem right from the start. Presuming we can follow the thread of an author’s writing, we have only begun our engagement with the author. A critical thinker is free to challenge a writer’s assertions, or question a premise. A scholar should not be a sponge reader, soaking up every word and opinion. Rather he should be a reflective reader, actively evaluating what he is taking into his head.
「完全置身其中」意指明白作者的論點或者報告綱領。這當然是相當重要的;如果我們不能明白正在閱讀的內容,那麼研究一開始就出問題了。假設我們能夠理解作者寫作的脈絡,就能與作者一同置身作品之中。具批判性的思考寫作有可能挑戰作者的主張,也可能質疑作者假設的論點。一個學者不能當一個只進不出的海綿,把每一個字或想法都吸收進去。相反地,他應該要當一個反思性讀者(reflective reader),能積極地評斷所獲得的想法。

Reflective reading is facilitated by reading with pen or pencil in hand. A sentence that seems brimming with truth or falsehood might be underlined. A conclusion that seems very awry might deserve a notation in the margins of the page. A phrase that stirs your emotions—negatively or positively—warrants underlining for later examination. This is how a thinking person explores research material. The fruit of it is better grounding in a subject, finer understanding of an author, and perhaps inspiration for a related academic paper that he didn’t even know he had in him.


Posted at 2013-01-22 11:06:44

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