Prof Caroline Strange and Prof Ian Haines, delivered one of those toolbox seminar’s, which in the space of 2 hours, taught the fundamental basics of reading research papers, texts, journals etc – CRITICALLY. Something that as PhD’s we think we know perfectly, take a bit for granted, but still get it wrong from time to time!!

From the seminar, came 6 parts to consider, as follows:

1)     PREVIEW THE ARTICLE/JOURNAL/TEXT

  • Relevant headings, summaries/abstract/intro’s and conclusions – main messages?
  • What do I know about the author? Can you see the aims of their paper?

2)     ANNOTATE WELL

  • Mark the document in a way I’ll remember, making notes, diagrams, highlights in the margins, also writing down what questions as well as conclusions

3)     OUTLINE –> SUMMARISE (AND EXTRACT QUOTES)/ANALYSE/EVALUATION

  • What are the key points each author is saying? What are the themes? What is their argument?
  • Why is their opinion important? Big player in field? Arguments backed up by solid research… or is it just their opinion?
  • What are the main questions coming from their work? And think about where I can contribute to their work?

4)     LOOK FOR REPETITIONS AND PATTERNS

  • To find the pertinent issues! And to check if a specific author has a fixed ideological opinion, bias and possibly hidden agenda!

5)     CONTEXTUALISE THE WRITING – will tell you how important the work is!

  • Where does the author’s opinion sit within the wider context of the discipline / field (i.e. historically, intellectually OR ‘handle-turning / standard nothingness’ rather than ‘cutting edge’?

6)     COMPARE AND CONTRAST WITH OTHER READINGS

  • Helps situate work, and own thoughts, knowledge, views and position within field, and can help understand how own thinking and future plans may be influenced by the work

These headings are helping me consider all the main points in order to be critical (kind of like a tick box exercise, everytime I read a paper…) – they may work for you too…

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