Reading Journal Advice

Several guidelines may help you get the maximum benefit from the exercise of keeping a reading journal and help you get the maximum credit for your work. Please keep in mind that I am asking you to writing these journals for your own benefit, as I firmly believe that doing so will improve both your own individual learning as you read, as well as our collective learning through discussion.

How to keep a reading journal

First, you must actually read the material. This seems obvious, but merits a moment's reflection. Most likely, you will find some of the readings that I will assign to be extremely challenging to comprehend. When this happens, do not simply let your eyes move across the pages and fool yourself that you've read the assignment. Instead, slow down, take a deep breath and exhale slowly, read the sentence/passage/paper again, and repeat as necessary.

Second, write in your journal while you are reading the material. Do not wait until the submission deadline, nor the next day, nor even after you have read a paper or section to jot down your ideas. Instead, have your journal open in front of you as you read. When you encounter a significant thought, write it down, and include why it is significant to you. If you don't understand something, make a note of that and formulate a question that expresses your confusion. When you write these notations, please include a reference point (page number or sentence quotation if reading on the web). On a related note, you should organize your journal by particular sources we are reading and identify to which source a set of comments pertains.

Third, think about (and write down) how the current reading relates to other readings, the questions we have been addressing in class, the course as a whole, other courses you are taking or have taken, and to your life in general. Actually, this might be the most important principle.

I am providing a sample of reading journal excerpts from previous semesters, in part to indicate the variety of approaches that you may employ.

Submitting your reading journal

Periodically, I will ask you to submit the updates to your journal since your previous submission. Submission will always be via the relevant Eureka assignment.

I invite you to maintain your journal either using paper and pen or pencil, or on your computer. (Personally, I prefer pen and paper, but to each their own.) Regardless of the form you use to keep your journal, you must submit it electronically as a PDF document. Thus, if you use pen and paper you will scan your journal and upload the resulting PDF file to Eureka. If you are using a computer to maintain your journal, you may simply upload the relevant installment (as PDF).

How I will evaluate your journal

I will be considering four dimensions as I read and grade your journals: depth of thought, coverage, dates & references, and presentation. For depth of thought, I will be looking to see if you were making mental contact with the author of the reading. This contact may take the form of identifying her key points, questioning a particularly difficult or unclear statement or claim, or disagreeing with a contentious claim. For coverage, I will be looking to see comments across the breadth and length of readings. For dates & references, I want to see when you wrote things and I want to be able to link your comments to specific sections of particular readings. For presentation, I will be evaluating your organization, formatting, and readability. Note, presentation does not include spelling or grammar. You are encouraged to use proper spelling and grammar but that is not the point here.