critical reading strategies
Most of us use critical reading strategies everyday to effectively process all of the information we are consistently bombarded with. This assignment allows you continue to explore ideas of reading and writing rhetorically, as you will use different strategies to write your summary and your strong response.
This assignment will have two parts:
The Critical Response.
Summarize in 150-200 words the article your instructor has chosen from the assignment. Please use “Working at McDonald’s” on pages 260-262 of your 10th edition textbook (or pages 280-283 of your 9th edition book). In this summary, you should relay the article’s main points, completely and accurately, in your own words. If you find yourself in a situation in which the author’s words needed to be quoted directly (perhaps for emphasis), you must make it clear that these words are the author’s by using quotation marks appropriately. You will not want to quote anything over one sentence in length, and you will want to limit yourself to no more than 2-3 direct quotes, if you use any at all. Remember that the whole point of this portion of the assignment is for you to restate the author’s points objectively in your own words.
In general, I recommend you structure your first sentence something like this:
In “Working at McDonald’s,” Amitai Etzioni argues that…
This will function as the thesis statement of your summary, so this first sentence will need to convey the main point(s) of the article to give your reader an overall view.
Write a 1 ½ to 2 page response to the article your instructor has chosen from the assignment. Please use “Working at McDonald’s” on pages 260-262 of your 10th edition textbook (or pages 280-283 of your 9th edition book). Before you even begin drafting, you will want to decide on the terms of your response. Once you decide on the terms (or grounds) of your response, you’ll want to figure out how you can support your points—using logic, outside evidence—whatever is appropriate. Your response cannot be based on simply your opinion about the issue.
What is a summary?
A summary is simply a recounting of the main points of an article. But what should it really include? How is the summary formatted? The best way to learn how to write a summary is to read and examine someone else’s summary.
Before you read the rest of this lecture, please read the short essay entitled “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names” from the bottom of page 255 through page 257 in your 10th edition textbook (pages 275-276 in your 9th edition textbook).** After you’ve read this essay, then please continue with the lecture.
A Sample Summary
The following is an example of how one student summarized the article “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names.” (Remember: “Sticks and Stones” is not the article that you will be reading and responding to. However, this example does provide a good example of how to craft summaries in general.) As you read this example, ask yourself what you notice about the summary—in terms of purpose, focus, tone, organization and formatting.
Summary of “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names”
In “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names,” Richard Estrada argues that sports teams should not be allowed to continue using ethnic-based names and mascots. Estrada claims that teams such as the Braves, Indians, Seminoles, and Redskins—no matter how established or popular—should change their team names and mascots, which are degrading to Native Americans. He further suggests that the stereotypes accompanying these mascots, such as “tomahawk chops and war chants,” dehumanize and single out Native Americans, setting them aside from the rest of society. “Nobody likes to be trivialized or deprived of his or her dignity,” Estrada asserts, and yet allowing ethnic-based mascots enables—and even promotes—such trivialization. What makes matters worse, according to Estrada, is that such mascots target one of our nation’s least politically powerful ethnic groups. He provides examples of other possible team names based on other ethnic minorities (such as the “New York Jews”), which would never be tolerated in our society. As a result, Estrada concludes that Native Americans should be treated with simple human dignity, just like everyone else. 178 Words
So what did you notice? What does the summary include? How is it formatted?
Perhaps first you noticed that the student writer’s opinion of “Sticks and Stones and Sport Team Names” is not included. Rather, the student is trying to simply convey the main points of Estrada’s original article. Remember: Whether you liked the article or didn’t like it, whether you agreed with the author or disagreed, your opinion does not belong in the summary.
Second, you may have realized that the first sentence is very important in the summary. The first sentence must to three things clearly and concisely: 1.) Mention the name of the original article; 2.) Identify the author of the original article; 3.) give a sense of the overall claim or point the author was trying to make.
Maybe next you observed that the original author was referred to in some way in every sentences. Richard Estrada argues, Estrada claims, He further suggests, Estrada asserts, according to Estrada, He provides examples, Estrada concludes—these are all called “attributive tags.” Attributive tags are designed to remind the reader that these are Estrada’s ideas (not yours), and thus give proper credit where credit is due. Notice how the student writer in the example above has varied his attributive tags, using different ways to refer to the author (Estrada and he), and using different verbs to explain what Estrada was communicating. The student writer also varied the placement of the attributive tag in several places. (Often the attributive tag comes at the beginning of the sentence, but sometimes an attributive tag will fit into the middle or end of the sentence. You will also want to include an attributive tag in each sentence of your summary, and you will want to vary these references.
You may have also noticed that the student writer who is summarizing Estrada’s work has used direct quotes very sparingly. Any time he did use even a phrase of Estrada’s word-for-word, he put it in quotation marks to indicate this. **NOTE: While in most papers you would need to use intext parenthetical citations with the author’s last name and page number such as (Estrada 280) any time you summarized any ideas or material from your source, these are not necessary in a contained summary such as this. They will be necessary in future assignments such as the research paper.
Next, you may have observed how the last sentence of the summary really seems to wrap things up and provide a sense of conclusion. You will want the last sentence of your summary to provide the reader with a sense of conclusion as well.
Finally, you probably noticed the word count, included at the end of the summary. Sticking within 150-200 words is important in the summary, so I will want you to include your word count.
But how do I get from here to there?
I recommend you use the concepts discussed in your reading from Chapter 12 as a sort of step-by-step guide to get you organized to write your summary.
1.) Annotate. Read and re-read the essay “Working at McDonald’s,” and take notes. Mark things in the text that you think are important, especially noting what seem to be the main points of the article. Write questions you have in the margins, and note places where you are convinced or skeptical. (This will also help you in the next unit when you’re trying to get ideas for your strong response.)
2.) Take Inventory. Group your notes in a way that makes sense to you.
3.) Outline. This does not have to be a formal outline in any sense of the term. But it can be a good idea to try to list or map the main points of the article, before you actually start drafting your summary.
4.) Write your summary, restating the article’s main points in your own words.
A Sample Critical Response
The following is an example of how one student responded to the article “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names.” (Again, remember: “Sticks and Stones” is not the article that you will be reading and responding to. However, this example does provide a good example of how to craft the critical response, in general.)
As you read this example, ask yourself what you notice about the critical response—in terms of purpose, focus, tone, organization and formatting.
Sticks and Stones and Contradictions
I found Richard Estrada’s article, “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names,” unconvincing, and also a bit confusing. Estrada’s language seems inflated, exaggerated, and even contradictory. His evidence is entirely anecdotal, and as a result, we receive very few concrete facts to support his claims. In addition, Estrada’s credibility is unclear throughout the article.
To begin with, Estrada uses many exaggerated and contradictory phrases. For instance, Estrada claims that using ethic sports teams names and mascots is “dehumanizing” to Native Americans (280). To “dehumanize” is to deprive someone of human qualities, yet Estrada never proves that this is actually what ethic sports names actually do. In fact, he completely contradicts this notion of “dehumanization” in the previous sentence, by discussing why these mascots were chosen in the first place. “The noble symbols of the Redskins or college football’s Florida Seminoles or the Illinois Illini are meant to be strong and proud” (Estrada 280). Noble. Strong. Proud. These are all human qualities; indeed, they are qualities many people aspire to attain. So how can such symbols be dehumanizing?
In addition, the title “Sticks and Stones and Sports Team Names” itself seems to contradict Estrada’s claims. By invoking the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” Estrada seems to imply that mascots and team names don’t matter at all. I had to read the article several times before I finally grasped his intentions. Estrada is trying to be ironic. Although his title alludes to the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” Estrada is actually trying to prove the opposite: Words can hurt us, and deeply. While most people are probably familiar with the original children’s rhyme, I don’t believe that most readers will know that they should be reading Estrada’s title ironically. This is particularly true when we consider Estrada’s intended audience. This column was written for the Dallas Morning News, not for the classroom setting. How many people really critically read their morning newspapers? How many people study such articles carefully, rather than skimming, and read them several times?
Next, Estrada’s lack of concrete evidence is problematic. Other than references to particular teams, his evidence is entirely anecdotal and often hearsay. For example, overhearing a father’s complaint on the radio about a largely unrelated incident—a school dress-up day—does little to prove the real harms of ethnic sports names and mascots. This story only shows that one person was offended by an irresponsible decision made by a few insensitive teachers. What Estrada needs to prove is real harm done: Perhaps interviewing or surveying a group of Native Americans to hear their thoughts on this subject. Perhaps citing a psychological or sociological study that proves the lasting impacts of mascots in social development. How does seeing these mascots affect the way people of other races view Native Americans? How does seeing these mascots affect the way Native Americans view themselves? Do most Native Americans feel offended by mascots such as the Braves and the Redskins? These are all questions Estrada needs to answer with more concrete evidence.
Finally, Estrada’s credibility and investment in this issue are unclear throughout his article. Is Estrada Native American? He certainly doesn’t have to be to care about this issue, but either way, he should make it clearer why he cares. If Estrada is Native American, does he presume to speak on behalf of all Native Americans? If Estrada is not Native American, how does he know any Native Americans are actually offended? (Other than the father who called the radio station, of course.) What Estrada thinks about this issue is clear. But what does he really know about it?
Before I read this article, I already believed that ethnic-based mascots could be degrading. But Estrada does nothing to actually prove this degradation. His article includes exaggerated and contradictory language, but no concrete facts, and no clear evidence of the author’s credibility. In the end, sticks and stones may break my bones, but Estrada’s words cannot convince me.
Again, what did you notice? What does the strong response include? How is it formatted?
The first paragraph of this section defines the terms of the response and the student’s claims. In the example above, for instance, the student is focusing on exaggerated language, lack of evidence, and the author’s lack of credibility. You will want the terms of your response to be clear in the first paragraph as well, so that your reader will know where you’re going.
The last paragraph of this section provides a sense of conclusion and restates the student’s claims/terms of response. You will also want your closing paragraph to wrap things up, and reemphasize your points.
Between the first paragraph and the last paragraph, however, what’s happening? The student is devoting at least one paragraph to each of his claims. For instance, paragraphs 2 and 3 offer examples and explanation to support the student’s claim that Estrada uses exaggerated, contradictory language. Paragraph 4 offers examples and explanation to support the student’s claim that the article lacks evidence. Paragraph 5 offers examples and explanation to support the student’s claim that Estrada’s lack credibility. I recommend you use this 1-2 paragraphs per claim structure, which should help keep you organized and the reader on track.
Finally, perhaps you also noticed the funny little (280) things dispersed throughout the response. Those are known as parenthetical citations. They tell us the page of the article from which the student is paraphrasing ideas that are not his own (and/or places in which he is directly quoting the author, though the direct quotes also need to be in “quotation marks”).
But how do I get from here to there?
As with the summary, I recommend you consider the materials in your chapter as a guide in crafting your critical response. In particular, the last five reading strategies in Chapter 12 offer a helpful guide to determining the grounds of your response.
However, unlike the strong response in Comp I, in which you were allowed to reflect on your own views of the issue at hand, you may not do much of that in the paper. You want to talk about the successfulness of the writing, not your opinions or believes.
While you may not just focus on your personal beliefs, you do have the following options in terms of the grounds of your response:
*EVALUATING THE LOGIC OF THE ARGUMENT
– This includes questions of “appropriateness,” “believability,” and “consistency/completeness,” as discussed on pages 594-596.
*RECOGNIZING EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION
– This includes questions relating to emotionally manipulative techniques such as overly emotional or tear-jerking language, exaggerated statistics, scary stories, doomsday-type imaginative scenarios, and other over-the-top emotionally-laden moves that the writer may be using to manipulative the reader. (See pages 596-597.)
*JUDGING THE WRITER’S CREDIBILITY
– This includes questions related to the writer’s “knowledge,” “fairness,” and use of “common ground,” as discussed on pages 597-598.
To determine your grounds, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
1.) Do you want your response to focus on evaluating the logic of the argument? In other words, do you want to critically analyze whether the reasoning and support offered in the article is believable and sufficient?
2.) Do you want your response to focus on the issue of emotional manipulation? In other words, do you want to discuss areas in the article where the author seems to be exaggerating or using other tools inappropriately to gain your sympathy or compliance to his/her point of view?
3.) Do you want your response to focus on the credibility of the author? In other words, do you want to consider whether the author seems appropriately knowledgeable and fairly considers other arguments or points of view?
You may be able to focus your entire response on just one of the above issues. Or you may decide to discuss two or three issues that seem related. (For instance, in the sample strong response, the student chose to discuss emotional manipulation—number 2 on this list, lack of evidence—number 1 on this list, and the author’s lack of credibility—number 3 on this list.)
Please keep in mind that while the strong response must be “critical” in some way, this does not mean that it has to be negative. Despite the example above, a critical response may discuss the ways in which the article is successful and convincing.
NOTE FOR THOSE WITH OLDER EDITIONS: If you have the 8th edition, please use “Working at McDonald’s” on pages 283-286 in the 8th edition. If you have the 7th edition, please use “Nickel and Dimed” on pages 270-273.