Featured Post


I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reading for Style and Structure

Here's an exercise my graduate course is doing. I've written it in English just so I could share it with my readers on SMT:

Choose a scholarly article. The topic is not important. Examine the following elements:

Introduction. How does the author fulfill the tasks necessary for an introduction. (Introducing the topic, framing the critical problem, laying out the steps of the argument, presenting a coherent thesis.) Is the introduction proportional in length to the rest of the article?

Signposting. Is the "signposting" present in the article sufficient? Is the author too obvious in telling the reader where the article is going to go? Is the signposting obtrusive? Or could the article have used even more signposting? ("In the second half of the article, I will turn my attention to...").

Thesis. What is the thesis (main idea) of the article? Is it expressed in one or two sentences? Is it sufficiently specific? Is it the answer to a question that seems significant enough?

Body of the Article. How is the article organized? How do specific subsections and paragraphs support the larger claims of the article? Is it easy to follow the overall thread of the article from one paragraph to the next?

Evidence. What evidence for the varying claims does the article present? Does the evidence come through archival work? Through textual analysis? Through the conclusions of other scholars? What is the relative proportion of these elements?

Conclusion. How does the article end? Does the conclusion merely summarize the contents, or does it provide a wider perspective? Are you convinced of the main argument at the end of the article?

Style. What are the main strengths and weaknesses you find in the style of the article? Look at clarity and grace of expression. Is the writing concise or verbose? Is this a model you would follow in your own writing? Are there stylistic flaws that would have been easy to correct? Do you notice stylistic features that might have been different if the writer was using another language (Spanish vs. English.)? Does the writer use jargon? If so, do you think this is appropriate in this particular case?

Reflection. What else did you notice that does not fit into these categories? What else did you learn from doing this assignment? If you hadn't thought about reading an article in this way, how has your perspective changed? If you already had definite ideas about how to write an article or paper, how has this exercise confirmed or modified your basic approach?


Clarissa said...

This is a great exercise that will be invaluable to these students when they begin to publish their own work.

As to the conclusion: I believe that a conclusion that does nothing more but summarize the previous argument is a bit of a waste of space. Of course, nobody introduces completely new, extraneous ideas into the conclusion. However, a touch of something unexpected, curious, interesting is, in my opinion, necessary for a good conclusion.

But that's just my way of doing it.

Jonathan said...

Yes, that's what I meant by "merely." The conclusion should provide a larger perspective, framing the results in a slightly unexpected way. I hate the conclusion that's just the introduction all over again.