Philosophy 34 - 2.5.4 First Read

You may need to read material more than once to become engaged in critical reflection. However, because you are planning to do multiple readings, do not linger too long on the first read. Move quickly and purposefully through the material with the goal of understanding the flow of the argument. Use the information you gleaned from pre-reading to fill in gaps in knowledge where possible, and flag places for follow-up.

Identify Key Claims

During the first read, you should identify the key claims in the text. In a traditional academic article, these claims ought to be highlighted in the introduction or abstract. In a book or historical work, these key claims may be harder to find. Look for sentences that introduce claims with expressions such as, “I aim to show,” “What this chapter will demonstrate,” or “The purpose of this work is.” Mark key claims so that you can come back to them easily. Ask yourself what the author is trying to say; what does the author hope the reader will take away from reading?

Identify Sources of Evidence and Methods of Argument

Look for the evidence the author is providing to support the key claims. What methods does the author use to generate this evidence? Is the author using logical argumentation? Are there thought experiments or other forms of conceptual analysis? Does the author provide empirical evidence to back up the claims? In the best-case scenario, evidence will be provided shortly before or after the claim is announced. However, sometimes evidence and claims are mixed together. During this stage, try to flag the dialectic in the argument. Is the author presenting their own view, a rival view, a criticism, or a supporting view?

Flag for Follow-Up

Use annotation flags to chart the course of the argument and claims being made. Use a simple notation system that works for you. But you should consider flagging things like thesis, definition, claim, evidence, argument, question, counterargument, objection, response, and so forth. Flagging should also be used to identify words or ideas you do not understand. When you are moving quickly, you may ask questions that you later understand, or you may flag something incorrectly and need to revise your notes. This is fine. You are engaged in a process of gradually becoming acquainted with the text.

This lesson has no exercises.

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