Philosophy 33 - 2.5.3 Pre-reading

Start your reading with a pre-read. This is a very useful practice when tackling academic works. So much information can be learned simply by reviewing the surrounding features of the article, book, or chapter. Spend some time reviewing these elements to grasp the context for what you are about to read. Start with these elements.

Title, Author, and Publication

What does the title and author tell you about the work? When was it written? Who has published the text—an academic press or a popular press? If you do not know this information, you may want to do some preliminary internet searches to try to find out. Where does this work fit into the author’s broader body of work? What can you learn or what do you know about the author? What are the author’s main contributions to philosophy?

Table of Contents and Bibliography

Develop a mental outline for the work by looking carefully at the table of contents, usually at the front of the book. For a shorter work, scan through the article, looking for section headings and breaks. If the headings are labeled, you may have enough information to track the general flow of the article just by reading them. If the headings are not helpful or there are no headings, quickly skim the first and last paragraph, and pick out topic sentences or words that indicate what individual paragraphs are about to get a sense of where the overall argument is going.

At this stage, you want to look at the bibliography or references. Depending on the length and style of the work, the reference list may be very long. As a novice, you may not be able to get much information from a bibliography, but as you become more familiar with your subject, you will get a sense from titles and authors in the bibliography about the perspective that informs this author’s writing.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax