Before you can provide a valuable reaction to something you read, you must fully understand it. Approach it empathetically and inductively! Try to fully understand the work on its own terms before judging it. I insist on journal entries which both show your analysis of what you have read and provide a thoughtful reaction which connects the reading to ideas and other readings from the course. This is time consuming, but you will find that it improves your critical thinking significantly.
Parts of the Journal:
- Initial Reaction
- Analysis of the work read according to the chapters of Asking the Right Questions:
- Issue/problem (often in lit the conflict at its most basic level)
- Conclusion(s) (aka thesis or, in lit, often the "theme" or “message” — be sure to arrive at this inductively after laying out the whole work.)
- Reasons — not yours, but those of the work being examined. A common failing is to choose selected reasons deductively which match your preconceived notion of the conclusion. If significant elements of the work are not here, you are probably guilty.
- Significant ambiguities (one might place symbols or terms that change over time here)
- Value conflicts and assumptions (what does the writer assume—but not say—the world should be like? What values are in conflict, and which ones does the author side with?)
- Descriptive assumptions (what does the writer assume—but not say—the world is like?)
- Are there any fallacies in the reasoning? Name them. (Fallacy is not the same as your not agreeing with the author. See list of fallacies.)
- What kind of evidence does the author use? How good is this evidence? How are analogies used? (Use subquestions from chapters 8–9 of ARQ as they are relevant).
- Are there rival causes (really think about this one)?
- Are the statistics reliable or deceptive? (usually not applicable except in common readings)
- What significant information is omitted? (consider point of view as well)
- What reasonable conclusions are possible (based on the reasons listed)?
- By mid-unit, Part I should take you far less time, and the crux of your journal should be the items below. Do not blow off these last parts!
- What are the implications of this work for the core question or subsidiary questions?
- How does this work connect to other things we have read in this unit or common reading from HC 101 or ideas we have talked about (synthesis)? For this, look at notes from unit introductions and class notes as well as readings.
- What are some good questions about this work that might be explored? Try to label each question according to the WAWAA circles. Maybe one of these questions will lead to a paper topic.
- What else do you want to tell me (or remember for your own uses) about this work? If you do this right, you will find paper topics in your own notes.
- For works of literature in the Arthurian unit, add the following questions which should help you with assumptions: What is the genre of the work? In what language was it originally composed? Who was the author? Who was the audience? Is there any indication of why it was written?
- All journals, including presentation journals, should follow this format unless otherwise noted.
You are encouraged to collaborate with a single classmate on one, some, or all journal entries. You are encouraged to try working with several different partners. The team submits one journal and gets the same grade. You are not required to work with the same partner on all journals. Collaboration means that both students do the reading, discuss it, and together write the entry. It does not mean that work is divided up. This privilege may be revoked at any time for any student(s) whom I suspect is not working in the spirit of these directives—he/she will then complete all journals individually.
Not just the wording, but the content/ideas as well from others (including past and present students) is an offense against the IUP Academic Integrity Policy and may result in IUP sanctions as well as HC sanctions.