Students often have a hard time learning to read academic studies. They tend to get lost in the background information and miss the main argument. I created the handouts below to accompany lectures on analytical reading for a class that I was part of as a teaching assistant (the handouts aren’t strong enough to use as stand-alone educational tools).
- Distinguishing between descriptive, interpretive, and causal arguments
- How to create a question to answer with a review essay. This handout is intended to support an assignment in which the student poses a question, and analyzes 3-5 scholarly studies that answer that question.
- What is the difference between a scholar’s research methods and their evidence? Students often have a hard time understanding the concept of evidence, and how to recognize evidence when they see it. When asked to describe the evidence a researcher uses to support an argument, students often describe their research methods instead. This handout shows examples of both side-by-side in order to highlight their differences. The examples are based on my own research.
- How to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an argument: I generated this list in a brainstorming and categorizing activity with my students, and then cleaned up their ideas and created this handout to give back to them the next week. I included some of the questions that the students had suggested in the brainstorm section that were NOT directly relevant to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the argument, so they know what not to do. I suggest putting a big X over this section before photocopying it.
- Article summary table
- Identifying causal studies In this case, students were asked to analyze a causal study of their own choice, but were having trouble finding them. I used this short activity to test their ability to recognize causal studies and immediately clarify areas of confusion. I displayed the handout listed above (“Distinguishing between descriptive, interpretive, and causal arguments”) on the overhead projector for them to refer to as they worked. When they were done, I had them diagram the argument of the first abstract listed as another way to familiarize themselves with arguments and how they are put together.
- Matching research studies to research questions