Reading Research as a Process (in the Sciences)

man reading book beside woman reading book
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As we have written throughout this semester, many challenges that students encounter with writing stem from difficulties with reading.  These difficulties range across disciplines, but each discipline might face its own set of challenges.  The problem many faculty in the sciences experience, writes Laura Davies in her article on teaching reading in science courses, is that often “students regard scientific texts as collections of facts.”  Thus, Davies says, students engage articles purely for content and can overlook how that content engages in broader disciplinary conversations and practices, which are often critical for entering into a disciplinary community.  So, how do we help students read for more than facts?

Davies advises that we should teach reading as a recursive process, much like we do with writing.   She categorizes the process into three nonlinear stages: “pre-reading, reading, and revised reading.”  In each stage, readers engage the texts for different purposes.  In the pre-reading stage, readers place the text into a larger context, which can include researching the authors and the kinds of scholarly conversations they engage in.  During the reading stage, students read the article with a specific purpose and strategy to support that purpose.  In the final revised reading stage, readers begin to analyze and consider the implications of that content.  Davies writes, “This analytical and reflective work is what distinguishes the reading stage from the revised reading stage. Revised reading means that the reader sees the text anew, through new angles and for new purposes.”

After describing these stages, Davies demonstrates how instructors might apply these stages using three different text types: textbooks, trade journal articles, and empirical research articles.  When discussing pre-reading empirical research articles, Davies suggests that instructors have students make checklists of the scientific process to use as reading guides.  In the reading stage, faculty might ask students to focus on critical vocabulary necessary for understanding the main argument.  Finally, Davies suggests tracing citations as a revised reading strategy.  Students can then make comparisons between the original article and a second article they find in the references.

Davies’ full article is available online here: “Getting to the Root of the Problem: Teaching Reading as a Process in the Sciences”

It is part of the open-source collection What is College Reading?, which contains a number of articles on teaching reading at the college level.