Productive reading: analysis

Good teachers will always recommend that you “read and…” Which means that you read and look for solutions for problems you have in your own writing, build your vocabulary, discover what excites you as a reader, watch how the dialogue unfolds, etc.  And one of the best ways to launch your analysis is to ask questions of the author. Ask questions Let’s say you’re writing non-fiction.  In that case, the books you’re studying will give you the stakes up front.  They will tell you what to expect, what question they intend to pose and answer, and, essentially, what they will conclude (although they might be coy about that last bit). Therefore, you can immediately ask the first question: Will this book center/expand/challenge my work? If so, keep reading and form new questions about pacing, approach, tone, organization, burden of proof, etc.  If you think the book won’t help you…move on.  I know that seems cutthroat, but if you tried to

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Uncoverage as a model for doing history: a personal testimonial

One of the major debates in the teaching of history right now is whether you should cover or uncover history. The first model, coverage, is likely the model you’ve experienced in your high school history classroom.  The teacher presents scads of information to you, chronologically or thematically ordered, and you read until your brain explodes, taking copious notes and memorizing lists, dates, names, all without much connection from one topic to the next. Sometimes you luck out with a brilliant lecturer, but more often than not, this model ends up as boring and alienating.  It’s the reason people tell me they hate history. When you uncover history, though, as proposed by Lendol Calder in “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey” you start with method–research approaches, question formation–and then you go and find the answers to your questions.  This model is beneficial for a number of major reasons. First, when you formulate your own research questions, rather than

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Studying for exams: week 9

Hells. Yes. The final week of studying. Last week, I got my official notice of “hey, you’re taking exams, remember?”  I have my room number, my field schedule, and my test times.  Turns out they want me on campus at 9:30 in the morning for each day of testing, which I’m not thrilled about, but at least that gets the exams out of the way early in the day, I guess. I pinned my notice up in the office and went around to check in with some of the others in my cohort.  There are about five of us taking exams next week.  Reactions to the letter ranged from, “I never want to think about this again,” to “I am cautiously optimistic,” to “the week after exams is going to feel like a rebirth.” Seems like we’re all on the same page, haha. Last week’s study plan was fairly successful.  I did not get as far into my world history

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Studying for exams: week 7

It is officially March, and my exams are officially three weeks of studying away. Also, there is officially another snow storm happening outside right now.  Snow storm Saturn.  I’m only “ok” with this storm because Saturn is my favorite planet.  I will forever believe that it is purple with rainbow striped rings, despite what my fourth grade teacher told me when she gave me a “C” on my paper mache planet project for lack of accuracy. Haters gonna hate, purple Saturn.  It’s just you and me now. Successes: 1. With only slight variations, I actually stuck to/achieved my study plan/goals this last week!  Huzzah! 2. I had to vary my plan slightly (I didn’t get through all of my readings on degeneration) only because my choir assignment came in slightly sooner than I thought it might, requiring a trip downtown to discuss said assignment. For someone who lives in Chicago, I very rarely go downtown.  I mean, I basically feel

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Studying for exams: week 5

I have such mixed feelings about being in week 5.  On the one hand, I only have a month left before exams…and on the other hand, I’ll be done with exams in a month. I think I’ll use this mid-way post to sort of take stock of where I am, and discuss what I need to do with the remainder of my time. Major Field: I’m feeling pretty damn good here.  I had a meeting with the chair of my exams today (being Monday, February 18) and he seemed quite pleased with my grasp of the historiographical arguments.  I did a lot of work over this past weekend on the British class system and the political/franchise developments that accompanied it.  Combined with my previous work on masculinity, the welfare state, and empire, I’m thinking another week will leave me pretty much ready for my major field.  I need to do a bit of reading on World War I and II,

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Studying for exams: week 4

Just a quick update this time around. Can’t say that I learned anything new about my study process this last week.  Just sort of kept trucking along, reading books, as one does during exams. Successes: 1. Finished the first section on my major field–British vs. English nationalism.  This should set me up well to conquer the other three sections my advisor wanted me to consider–wartime policy and rebuilding; political progress/continuity/change; class and industry. 2. Completed my February duties as the Graduate Student Council rep.  Blah. 3. Submitted my Provost Award report. 4.  Finished the letter of recommendation. 5.  Met with the WPCS choir council to work on the April event.  We’re fairly close to solidifying the press release for the fundraiser!  Once that’s done, I can chat about it here. 6.  Workout plan going well. Bummers: 1. Had to skip the Thursday meeting for STS, as expected.  I definitely missed that space for conversation and intellectual support.  If home is

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