Saturday, March 27, 2010

Diagonal Reading: Cross Reference and Skim Reading

Dear skripsi-writing students,

When writing an article or a thesis, you don't have to read everything about everything that's been written on your topic of choice. Start from the most recent article/book that's received most citations. Google Scholar is very handy. In the olden days, scholars cross referenced their sources physically in the library, now Google Scholar would do.

Then, see how the writer quoted his source. Good writers, those most often cited, almost always acknowledge the many conflicting views within that topic. Go to his sources. This is one of the ways to do diagonal reading.

The second way to do it is by key terms. Usually in journals, key terms are mentioned under the abstract. Find those key terms in the article and see how he/she defines it. This approach is also called skim reading. If you 'see' the whole page, the key terms would fly above the radar and the conjunctions would blur out. Instead of spending hours on a 20 page article, it will only take you 10 minutes to figure out the main ideas and important definitions.

Note: Journals are more recent than books, their findings are more novel and progressive (usually criticism and/or a development of previous concepts and/or theories).

And only when there is one consistent book mentioned in almost every single text (journal and book) - that you need (obligated!) to read that book. Kind of like Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities if you're writing on national identity or McQuaill when you're writing about Mass Communication Theory or McLuhan or Stuart Hall. You get the gist. It is because these prominent books re-defined the approaches to an area of study.

Do you see how I've bold-ed some terms? After reading what I've written, those bold terms make sense, don't they? Without repeating reading the text I've written, you know what they mean - and you can explain with your own words, only by re-mentioning those words, in a new paragraph, explaining everything that I've explained.

Now try to do it backwards. Forget you've read what I've written and find the definitions of citation, diagonal reading, key terms, skim reading and consistent book mentioned. Arrange the definitions in your head and re-write them with your own words, with your own conjunctions.

That is the logic of diagonal reading.

Now, if you need a crash course, I'd be glad to give it to you. These skills are useful for writers and my aim is for all of us to be 'sharper tools in the shed'.


PS: I first learned about diagonal reading at UvA, accidentally mentioned by my lecturer who never found the time to personally teach me how to. Therefore, since I am self-taught, this is not a scientifically proven method - as it includes my personal account. But at least it's tried and tested by me :)

1 comment:

Anggie said...

This is a very helpful tips, Inang :) Researchers or writers, tend to be affraid of leaving unattended thoughts on the argument they (we) venture, thus the rigorous searching and referencing. Might take up of the crash course offer on our next dinner ;) Thank you!