PICTURE: Howard Rheingold - the crazy face behind this article. See a short summary of his article Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement below.
How to become better at reading research
I’ve been a bit scared of this part of the PhD; the-reading-of-tons-of-literature-part. But I've come to realize that my ideas about the actual reading process is different in research than I thought. You don't have time to go in-depth through all the research you need to look at, what you need is the overview of theories surrounding your field. So unless you'll write a review of a specific book, or that this article or book is very important to your research, you don't read as much in-depth, but I scan a lot and I read many abstracts and conclusions.
I did my bachelor and master degrees in design studies, so I was not as trained in research and argumentation as I'd assume e.g. law-students are. Our argumentation was more about arguing for our design projects, and maybe it isn't so different, but the more you work on doing things, the worse you get at reading indepth. And I’ve never been a fast and a focused indepth reader. So I tend to go back and fourth between reading, writing and design work all the time. Read one article abstract, then extracting some information to an inspirational card on the subject or developing an idea, then writing about it, then going back to the reading. It can be very distracting, but I think it is the way my mind works in order to develop ideas and thoughts.
So I can't read research like I read novels, but I still sometimes try to. Because when I can't grasp what the article is all about from scanning, I get stuck. I've learned a bit about good ways of reading research, ways I'd previously never call "reading". If I said "I've read it", I meant in-depth. So the threshold for me to say I've read something, is probably high, and if someone asks me, I tend to say in a bit excusing way that "I've looked at it". It is a challenge for me to use references for research when I don't feel that I know the details of the research. I get scared that I'm jumping to quickly to conclusions. An overview will often be a generalization, and is not always right.
Anyway; this is a bit about how I've learned to read research:
How to read an academic article
To become better at understanding and reading academic articles, I got a task from Andrew Morrison (responsible for the center for design research at AHO) to read an academic article with four tasks in mind:
Write a short summary
Figure out what it really is about
What was the main question/argument
What methods does the researcher use
By reading articles with this in mind, I’ll become better at searching for this information in every article I’ll read. It’s basically just like what a film student would do: you dissect a film and look at all it’s means[virkemidler]in order to understand what makes a film good.
"Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement"
To show you an example, I read Howard Rheingold’s article Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement with these four tasks in mind, which I've written below. This article is a chapter in the book Civic Life Online, and not a regular academic article, hence it doesn't contain an abstract and a conclusion, which I normally would start to read. If I read the conclusion, I’ll soon figure out whether the article is relevant for me or not.
Summary The chapter is almost a user manual for teachers, in terms of how they can teach their students and "help students communicate in their public voices about issues they care about".
It's really about Figuring out the educational needs and how school can help developing the students own personal "voice", and teach them how to use their own voice. Moving from private to a public voice can help students turn their self-expression into a form of public participation in our present and future world.
Main question Addressing the educational needs and opportunities of young people around the world, of all nationalities and socioeconomic levels, who are avid digital media creators.
Methods Rheingold is both listing and analysing a selection of inspirational and very interesting projects, and he is implying specific tasks that teachers can give their students in class. He is also suggests tasks for teachers to understand their students, to figure out what they care about and how they can use their personal voice. [comment: I didn't really understood methods at this point/in this context…]