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Critical Reading and Writing Assignment (Individual Assignment)
(Adapted from Analyzing a Primary Document – Muskingum University)
This assignment will help the radiologic sciences student better prepare and produce an assignment using a scholarly “peer-reviewed” article. This assignment is divided into three sections: 1) critical reading, 2) writing guidelines, and 3) revision.
A primary source for this assignment must come from a peer-reviewed, scholarly article, published within the last five (5) years. The journal must be a creditable source of information. If you have concerns regarding finding a quality article, it is recommended you schedule an appointment with one of the professional Research Medical Librarians here at UT MD Anderson.
The topic of your article must be related to your program of study. For example: Radiation Therapy, Medical Dosimetry, Computed Tomography, Sonography, Education or Management
You do not need to submit your article for approval. However, articles from non-peer reviewed journals will not be given credit.
Your completed assignment must be a minimum of three (3) pages and no more than five (5) pages in length. This does not count the title page or the references page. Your completed assignment is due on the date listed in the syllabus and must be in APA format.
Your assignment may be graded by multiple faculty members. The grade you receive will be an average of the scores received. The grading rubric the faculty will be using to score your paper is provided at the end of this document. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with these grading criteria.
The following information may help you prepare your paper.
Since we all bring different assumptions and analytic skills, it is quite possible (and common) for individuals to draw opposing conclusions from the same source. There is no one “right” interpretation of any document.
However, there may be wrong interpretations! A convincing analysis of a primary source must be grounded in (1) an understanding of the document itself and (2) knowledge of its context.
Critical reading is the starting point for good writing. You must understand the document and be able to critically assess its value. Critical reading requires you to evaluate the document on multiple levels.
Level 1: This level should provide factual information that allows you to assess the nature of the document. When reading a document or viewing an image, you should train yourself to be able to answer the following types of questions.
Who wrote the document? What was the author’s background, what groups did the author belong to (e.g. class, race, gender, nationality, etc.)? When and where was the document written?
Who is the intended audience? Was the document intended for public consumption or a limited audience? What knowledge does the author assume the audience shares and how might that affect the presentation of materials?
What is the basic story line of the document? Do you understand what is going on in the document? Who are the important people or details? Can you identify the author’s thesis, and what proof he/she offers to support the thesis?
Level 2: In this level, you will move beyond the basic facts of the document and begin to interpret the document in a wider context.
Why was the document written? Was it intended to convince the audience (that you have already identified) and if it was, what logic or argument does it employ? Are you convinced? What assumptions does the author make? Are these assumptions explicit or implicit? What does the author leave unsaid? Sometimes what not there may be just as revealing as what is there.
Level 3: By now you should understand the document and be able to interpret the author’s intentions. Your ability to answer the following questions will form the heart of your essay or response to the assignment.
Can you believe this document? Is there another side to the story? What knowledge do you possess that the author lacks, ignores, or suppresses?
What can you learn about the society that produced this document? How is the author a product of his/her environment and how is this reflected in the document?
What does this document mean to me? Every document had meaning to the society that produced it and for you. Does the document mean the same thing to you as it did the author’s audience? Can you account for similarities and differences? Are they significant? What information is relevant and what is irrelevant? Does the article make generalizations?
Once you have critically read and answered as many questions as you can about the document (you cannot consider all of them with every piece), you need to begin to craft an analytical essay. Writing, like critical reading, is a multi-sided operation. You will need to consider multiple factors in crafting your essay.
a. Write several publishs. You want to hand in a paper with a clear and consistent beginning, middle, and end. However, even the most experienced writers cannot sit down and write a clear and consistent piece from beginning to end. As you write, you will develop and refine your own ideas and argument. This is a good thing. After completing your first publish, revise your introduction and possibly even middle so that it is alignment with your conclusion.
b. A useful technique might be to take your first publish’s conclusion and re-write it as an introduction and then write a new and more forceful, definitive conclusion.
c. Use an appropriate title. A title should reveal the central purpose of your paper. A title can help you begin the writing process and help you focus and be consistent. If you can’t come up with a title it may be an indication that your ideas are confused or inadequate.
d. Use quotations carefully. Quotations certainly bolster the impact of your argument, but overuse can weaken it. An insightful quotation lends considerable weight to the effectiveness of your argument, however, too much quoting may look like you are padding your essay or do not fully understand the document. Avoid quoting a secondary source as a conclusion or critical point in your argument. Use your own words to fashion your own argument and conclusion. When you do quote, it is a good rule to identify the original author.
e. Keep citations. When you quote or paraphrase ideas, arguments or specific references that are not your own, you must cite the source. It is not necessary to cite common knowledge.
Exact wording from a source. When you use a direct quote from a source, use quotation marks or set the quote apart from the rest of the body of the text. Direct quotations should be used judiciously.
Paraphrasing from a source. In this instance, you are using your own words to convey the meaning of another. There is no need to use quotation marks but you must still use a footnote, endnote, or other approved citation method (check with your professor to be sure) to indicate where the information came.
f. When citing sources, you must be consistent in form. You must use the appropriate citation format. This assignment requires you to follow American Psychological Association (APA) style for reference and citations.
g. Eliminate mechanical errors. Spelling and grammatical errors distract the reader from the argument you are trying to make. Mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar create the impression that you do not care. Remember that your computer is no substitute for proofreading your work. Ultimately, you are responsible for the finished product. If it is full of careless errors and silly mistakes, you can expect a poor grade. (For a list of common errors to avoid and pet peeves, see Pet Peeves)
The key to good writing is effective revision. After you finish your paper, you still need to review and revise your work. It is best to do so after a period of time away from the paper, so planning ahead and completing the publishs prior to the deadline is necessary. When you’ve completed your publishs, make sure you can answer the following questions about your essay:
Does my paper have a clear and effective thesis statement in the opening paragraph? Is my thesis persuasive, original, and exciting?
Is the paper logically consistent? Does the introduction, body, and conclusion reflect a common theme or argument? Does each paragraph have a topic sentence that summarizes the main idea and mini-conclusion emphasizing its importance?
Do I use relevant examples and quotations effectively? Do I have enough evidence from the source to prove my points? Do I explain the connection between the evidence and those points?
Does the paper flow from one idea to the next, or is it a collection of facts and independent paragraphs? Do I use linking phrases and transitions between paragraphs to create a seamless progression towards the conclusion?
Is it consistent with the evidence presented? Does it build upon and enhance the thesis? Does it include the significance of the paper?
Have I thoroughly proofread for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, etc? Do I need to check for grammar and sentence structure problems?
Does the paper flow smoothly? Is my writing lively and engaging? Are my ideas clear to the reader, not just me?
Citation of sources. Do I give proper, consistent citations for every source that I use? Do I include other author’s ideas without proper citation?
Common Errors and Pet Peeves
Active versus passive voice: Avoid the passive voice as much as possible. The active voice strengthens the tone of your argument, while the passive voice weakens or obscures it.
Passive voice: Gettysburg is considered the decisive turning point of the Civil War. By whom? This statement lacks force and critical information.
Active voice: Most military historians consider Gettysburg to be the decisive turning point in the Civil War. This statement is clearer and more informative.
Past versus present tense: You should mainly use the past tense in your paper. When referring to a text and the author’s views, it is acceptable to use the present tense. Example: Karl Marx writes that capitalism alienates workers from the products of their labor. However, it is preferable to say that Marx wrote what he wrote and keep the tense consistent throughout your paper. This will make it easier for you to avoid confusion.
Punctuation in a quotation: Periods and commas go inside the closing quotation mark. Colons and semi- colons, however, follow the quotation.
Passive voice and improper punctuation: In Fukuzawa’s article, it is said that “under no circumstances should a man be deprived of his rights”.
Active voice and proper punctuation: In his article, Fukuzawa writes, “under no circumstances should a man be deprived of his rights.”
Silly statements: Avoid making grand or silly statements. Do not open your paper or essay with a global statement such as “Since the beginning of time…” or “Throughout history…” These phrases are so broad that they are meaningless. Similarly, watch out for “Americans believed…” or “Everyone agrees…” It is highly improbable that there is any belief that every American holds, or every person agrees with.
Who versus that: Use who to refer to people and that to things. Example: The student who just left my office wrote a paper that is…
Its versus it’s: Its is the possessive of it and does not have an apostrophe. It’s is the contraction of it is or it has and does not have an apostrophe.
Then versus than: Never ever confuse them. Use then to indicate progression in time. Example: First I will make dinner, then I will wash the dishes. Use than to make comparisons. Example: The History Department is far better than all other departments.
Less versus fewer: Use less with a singular noun (e.g. less gas, less influence) to indicate degree or amount. Use fewer with plural nouns (e.g. fewer people, fewer accidents).
Page numbers: Make certain to number your pages!
Full names and titles: The first time you mention a person or title of a book, article, etc., you should provide the full name or title. Example: After reading Nakae Chomin’s book, A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government, and Fukuzawa Yukichi’s essay, “On De-Asianization,” I better understand contemporary Japanese intellectual’s views.
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