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How To Read An Academic Text

A quick and easy explanation on how to use your time wisely when faced with reading an academic text
by

Paula Haapanen

on 16 November 2010

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Transcript of How To Read An Academic Text

Reading and Academic Text Misconceptions Reading technique Title Headings/subheadings figures/tables/diagrammes Abstract/conclusion/summary Speed read/skim 1. An academic journal can be read like a letter, newspaper report or short story. True or false? False: Reading an academic text is like following a spiral from the outer edge to the centre. You approach it from the outside, taking a general approach and move towards the centre, towards more specific information and deeper understanding. 2. The contents of an academic text can be understood when you've gone through it once. True or false? False again. It takes a few attepts
before you have the complete picture. However, it doesn't take forever to do it and there is a system that you can follow or adapt as you need to. We'll talk about it further on. Look at the title of the text.

What are the key words? Does it contain words like 'theory' or 'case study' or 'emperical findings'? If so, you're more than likely to find it or them in the text.

What order do the words come in? For example, if you have a title like: Accounting, Budgeting and Control Systems in their Organziational Context: Theoretical and Empiracla Perspectives

you can be sure that the theoretical part will come first. Without reading the text in the body of the article at this point, establish how the paper is structured.

In most engineering texts, you can be quiet sure that it follows the IMRD or Introduction-Method-Results-Discussion model. The text will most likely start with an 'abstract' and then go into the sections mentioned above, even though the headings may slightly differ.

You will be able to see the logic of the text and how it progresses if the headings have been well-written. You should be able to write a table of contents or an outline from them. Look at everything that isn't text. They say that a picture is worth 1000 words so diagrammes, tables and figures are important summarizing tools that relay a lot of information in one compact place. The purpose of the abstract is to give you a picture of the whole article in under 300 words. This is the 'bait' to reel you in to reading the rest of the article. It can also give you information as to where in the text you can find the key arguments and results, allowing you to skip directly to the most important information.

The conclusion, if it's well-written, should recap the purpose, give the results in slightly more detail and give directuion for futher study, giving you a more complete general understanding of what the text is about. Again, if the text is 'well-written', the first and last sentences of each parpagraph give you the most important information of the paragraph. The first sentence serves as the topic sentence and the last sentence is the conclusion. Everything in between is supposed to support the topic sentence and you can go back to that if you need to later. Support paragraphs If figures, tables or diagrammes are used, they need to be explained in more detail, so find and read the paragraphs that interpret the 'non-text' for more information. They are usually right before or right after the figure or table. At this stage, you should already have a clear idea about what the text is about, and perhaps you already have all the information you need. If you are reading the text for study puposes, you should sit down and write down the information that you already know and any questions that have come up. Then you can move on to filling the gaps by quickly moving through the rest of the text to gather more information by doing the following: Finally, if you need to dive even more deeply into the article, you know where the details are located and can go back and read them more closely or you can look up any terms that you may need.

By the time you have finished this process, you should have a clear picture of what the text is all about and as such, should be able to further process it for your needs, whether for an exam or an in-calass discussion The presentation is organized as follows:

Misconceptions
Reading Technique

The *Reading Technique* section is further divided into:

Title
Heading/subheadings
Figures/tables/diagrams
Abstract/Conclusion or Summary
Speed read/skim
Support paragraphs

The end :)
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