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ENG 110: How to Write Well (Sultenfuss, FA2021): Reading for Meaning


Helpful Tips

  • Before you write your paper, read or skim a few articles or a couple of books chapters. Look for facts, experiences, and/or data the author is using to support his/her conclusions, so that you can use that information, and quote them later to support your ideas in your paper.
  • To avoid plagiarism, as you add sentences from an article or book to your paper, "put quotes" around the sentences you have copied, and add the author and page number right that minute to your paper.

Sample article (PDF)

As you read this sample article, think about the inferred theoretical framework. If you follow the "bread crumb trail" of the works cited for this article, you can figure out what research or other writings the author was using to help support his or her hypothesis or research.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is the main point of the article?
  2. Are there any words you don't know the meaning of? (Write them down, look them up).
  3. Are there any cause/effect or other relationships described? If yes, what are they?
  4. What are the key ideas conveyed by the author?
  5. Are there other readings you could complete to help you understand the topic better?
  6. Would this author be considered an authoritative source? Why or Why not?
  7. Would this article be an acceptable one for use for this class? Why or why not?

Global Warming: the Buck Stops Here.



Use this to help

One important way to better understand an article, essay, editorial, etc., is through the critical analysis of the parts of the author's reasoning. Read the article(s) as assigned for the class. Then complete the “logic” of the article using the template below.  Please number and completely answer your responses as shown in the template below.

The Logic of an Article, Essay or Chapter

1. The main purpose of this article is ______________________________.
(Here you are trying to state, as accurately as possible, the author's intent in writing the article. What was the author try¬ing to accomplish?)

2. The key question that the author is addressing is __________.
(Your goal is to figure out the key question that was in the mind of the author when he/she wrote the article. What was the key question addressed in the article?)

3. The most important information in this article is  ____________.
(You want to identify the key information the author used, or presupposed, in the article to support his/her main arguments. Here you are looking for facts, experiences, and/or data the author is using to support his/her conclusions.)

4. The main assumption(s) underlying the author's thinking is (are) __________________. 
(Ask yourself: What is the author taking for granted [that might be questioned]? The assumptions are generalizations that the author does not think he/she has to defend in the context of writing the article, and they are usually unstated. This is where the author's thinking logically begins.)

5. What conclusions can you draw, based on this article?

It is possible to use the basic structures of thinking to analyze articles, essays, and chapters. This analysis will deepen one’s insight into the author’s reasoning.

Note Taking Handouts

Here are three sample note taking templates that you can download and modify to use with your readings.