Class Note for HISTORY 112 at UMass(7)
Class Note for HISTORY 112 at UMass(7)
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History 112 Fall 2003 Handout 4 Professor Ogilvie Reading and taking notes Humanities courses require a lot of reading and noteitaking There s no way around it You can learn to read and take notes more effectively though Here are a few tips you should carefully examine Gordon Harvey Writing with 1 ourtex for more inidepth guidelines How to read effectively You should read each assignment three times Don t panic You won t read the same way each time only one of the readings is what you normally think of as reading 1 Read the chapter title section headings and first paragraph ofeach section Try to get a sense of the main words or concepts in the chapter lfyou encounter an unfamiliar word write it on a vocabulary page in your notebook and look it up before going to the next step 2 Read the entire assignment slowly Do not take notes ifyou take notes now you will waste timeitrust mel Try to grasp as much of the material as you can Think about how the main wordsconcepts you encountered in the first reading are related to one another 3 Review the entire assignment jotting down in your notes the most important concepts and facts and how they are related to one another If something strikes you as interesting or objectionable jot down that point lfyou read this way you will remember more than ifyou just plunge in at the beginning and read to the end It may seem paradoxical but you will also spend less time reading Some of the course readings are primary sources ithat is documents from the religious traditions that we are studying Others are secondary sources scholarly writings about religion or religions Each kind of reading should be approached with specific questions in mind How to read a primary source1 Reading a historical source involves more than simply understanding the words In order to interpret a historical source you need to know who wrote it the purpose for which it was written whether it is reliable and so forth The questions in this handout are a good startingiplace for acquiring this information In some cases you may not be able to answer them without further research but you should at least be aware of the limitations ofyour knowledge 1 Based on Mark Kishlansky How to read a document in Sammy oftye Wm Reading in wertem Jimgum 3rd ed vol 1 New York Longman 1998 pp xii Material in Ziam is quoted verbatim from Kishlansky except that the word document has been replaced by source Firstlevel questions These questions esmblish the basic facts relating to the source 7 Who wrote the retiree Sources were written by people with their own perspectives and interests For example a farmer might have a different View of taxation than a tax collector 2 Who 239 the intended aadz39eme The audience for a source will have different expectations and the author may tailor it to the audience who will read it 3 What 239 the stay line What are the important points the source makes You should be able to summarize it Secondlevel questions These questions go beyond the basic facts to issues of form and motive 7 Why was the retiree written Sources don t simply pop out of thin air They are written for a purpose lfyou know that purpose you will be better able to judge the source 2 What ype afxaaree 239 this An official report ofa battle and a poem about it will have different emphases and different standards of accuracy It is important to judge a source according to appropriate criteria 3 What are the ham assumption hehz39nd thz39x retiree This can be difficult to determine but it is worth the effort One basic assumption behind the Declaration oflndependence for example is that the King of England had certain responsibilities toward his subjects and that they had the right to complain if he neglected those responsibilities Thirdlevel questions These questions relate to interpreting sources 7 Can I hell39eve thz39x Jamie lfyou know who wrote a source who was supposed to read it why it was written and some ofthe basic assumptions behind it you can begin to judge whether its contents are reliable A letter complaining about unfair taxation might not be a reliable source about tax levels 2 What ear I team ahaat the may that predated thz39x Jamie This question can be answered in many ways depending on the questions which interest you Sources reveal much more about a society than their authors intend 3 What does this retiree mean to me Every source communicates something As you read you should ask yourselfwhat it means to you Do you agree or disagree Does it interest you at all Even tax records can interest historians because they provide evidence for an argument Many of the sources we will read in this course have much greater intrinsic interest but their ultimate value to you is a matter only you can decide How to read a secondary source2 A Jeeandag retiree is a text a book chapter article or essay that is written by a scholar in order to help readers understand a subject The adjective secondary reflects the fact that such sources are written on the basis ofprimary sources documents interviews anthropological observations etc in order to elemthe or equlaz39n something to the reader 2 This discussion is based on Wayne C Booth Gregory G Colomb andJoseph M Williams The rraft afrereareh 2d ed Chicago University of Chicago Press 2003 If you are interested in knowing more about how secondary sources are written and how to use them take a look at this book They are the result of rexeo b on primary sources and inteijjretotz39on of them They also summarize and respond to other secondary sources Some secondary sources like textbooks are based mostly on other secondary sources Secondary sources are often not always written by people who know a lot more than you about their subject They are useful ways to bene t from someone else s hardiwon expert knowledge and years or decades of thinking about a subject But they are written by people who have their own interests and goals When you read a secondary source you need to be aware of how those interests and goals affect what the source says The following sets of questions will help you learn effectively from secondary sources 1 What is the source about Who is it written for Most secondary sources have a specific topic for example the origins of Buddhism To use a source you need to identify its topic But they are also written to answer questions that the author wanted to resolve Sometimes these questions are stated openly sometimes though you have to infer what they were Depending on the audience for whom the source was written the questions might be general where did Buddhism come from or specific how are current beliefs about when the Buddha lived affected by the latest research on the history of the Pali language Finally secondary sources are written in the hopes that their answers will help resolve impormnt problems in our undersmnding of religious phenomena problems that interest the audience for which the source was written for specialists in Indian religions the problem might be whether the Jain religion affected the development of Buddhism for a general audience the problem might be how new religions arise and spread The first step in reading a secondary source then is to figure out the topic questions problem and intended audience of the source 2 What does the source claim Most secondary sources make a claim or several claims that answers the source s questions and indicates how the source helps resolve its problem For instance our source on when the Buddha lived might conclude that the traditional chronology is incorrect and that he actually lived about a hundred years later when the Jain religion was well established This would mean that old beliefs about how the two religions are related have to be revised Since a source s claim answers a question you can figure out what questions motivated a source s author by looking at the claims This is useful when the author has not been explicit about the questions that motivated his or her research Even textbooks and dictionary entries in the humanities often make claims though they also present a lot ofbasic factual information 3 How does the source prove its claim The argument that a source makes in support ofits claim depends on the source s audience A reference work like the Comixe Oxford Dittzong of World Religions will often base its claims on expert authority without making any other argument Most sources though appeal not to authority but to reason that is they make a persuasive argument By considering the argument you can decide whether a source supports its claim or not Judging arguments in the scholarly disciplines can be tricky though The rules about what is a good argument and what is a bad argument are not arbitrary but they are not the same for every discipline In fact they result from a consensus among scholars in the field ln religious studies which draws on many different scholarly disciplines there are often heated disputes between professionals about whether an argument is persuasive or not You should pay attention to what writers consider to be good arguments A writer will choose his or her arguments with a particular audience in mind Someone writing for an audience ofbeginners might appeal to authority when writing about things that experts usually agree on On a controversial topic he or she might summarize the competing arguments and indicate which seems more persuasive Writing for a professional audience the saIne author might argue in more detail for his or her claim and attempt to refute the opposing view Do not judge all arguments by the same standards and keep in mind that much knowledge in the humanities is toiy39ettuml that is scholars accept it as true while keeping in mind that later discoveries might require that it be revised 4 How does the source back up its argument Arguments except appeals to authority must be backed up by evidence Sometimes the evidence comes mostly from other secondary sources This is especially true of textbooks and reference works More specialized secondary sources will draw evidence from a combination ofprimary and secondary sources An argument might appear to be persuasive but if it is based on faulty or inadequate evidence it is no good When an author uses secondary sources as evidence you need to ask yourself does the author seem to be using the sources honestly without distorting them Are they recentithat is do they reflect the current state of research Are their authors reliable These are all questions about the Mbolarb literature on the subject and how the author uses it You may not be able to answer these questions right away being able to answer them is a sign that you have begun to enter the scholarly community yourself But you should keep these questions in mind When the author uses primary sources you need to pose a different set of questions Are the sources well chosen Are there other sources that might contradict the argument Does the author know how to interpret the sources convincingly This is especially the case with old sources and with those in foreign languages Again being able to answer these questions confidently is a sign that you have entered a community of scholars But once more you should keep them in mind You also need to ask how the author documents his or her sources Could you find them and check them if you wanted to As with the argument the choice of sources and the form of documentation depend on the audience for a book Most textbooks simply include a list of further reading Most specialized articles include demiled footnotes or citations Other sources fall somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes SUMMARY When reading a secondary source note its topic questions problem and audience claims arguments and evidence lfyou pay attention to these aspects you will learn effectively from secondary sources If you neglect them you are not really reading carefully How to take notes effectively Notes are useful if they are easier to understand than the reading assignment or lecture that they are based on In fact good notes are the record ofyour learning if you take care with your notes you will learn the course material better When you take notes on readings and lectures include these six elements 1 Jot down a full bibliographical reference for the material on which notes are taken That way you can find the original again even years later In a course notebook I suggest you note down sources on the first page of reading notes and then use author and title For lectures note the professor s name course number and title date of the lecture and title State the M question and problem of the assignment Summarize the m that the author makes Summarize the arglment that the author uses to support the claim Include a few examples of the evidence that the author uses to support the argument 9915 Note your reactions to the reading or lecture Are you convinced Ifyou are unconvinced why not Does the reading or lecture raise any questions that it doesn t 3 answer In your notes you should carefully distinguish between exact quotations paraphrases and your interpretations reactions and comments One of my professors taught me the following scheme which works well Enclose exact quotations in quotation marks like this Use normal text for paraphrases like this Enclose your interpretations and comments in square brackets like this Example based on Smart 355 The Victorian anthropologistjanies Frazer argued that religion evolved out of magic Xhy did this change occurP Edward Tylor thought that it began with animism a beliefin and practice toward unseen spirits In such schemes polytheism and monotheism were later stages in the process of development Wilhelm Schmitt argued against this view because he thought that simple societies often believed in a High God existing behind or above other gods Both views are generally rejected today Smart 35 How did these thinkers know what early religions were like anyway They were produced by illiterate societies so they can t have left records Make sure your references to sources include the page numbers Also be sure to write down everything you will need to write a correct footnote and bibliography entry later in case you need to cite the source in your paper See Harvey Writing with Sonrees for more details Learning anpori Jerviees DnBois Lioray 701b oor o fers a Note Taeing Woresbop several tirnes eaeb sernester They also ojfkr woresbops in tirne management and test taeing sbonlolyonfeel in need ofaolriee in those areas For more iryro all 5455334 or visit ltbly Wwnrnassednss gt