Tips for Reading Social Theory
- David A. Sonnenfeld, Ph.D.
- Washington State University, Tri-Cities
- Fall 2002
Reading social theory can be slow, grueling, and frustrating. However, if
you are patient, take the time, and make the effort, doing so will reward you
with powerful insights into fundamental social institutions and processes. Some
suggestions to facilitate the process:
- Your first time through the assigned text, skim lightly, before you
get "lost in the forest of details." Get an overview of the structure of
the section you are reading. Read the introductory and concluding paragraphs.
Take note of section structure & headings.
- Once you have an overview of the assigned text, return to the beginning
and read more closely. Focus on the author's main points and/or
what you want to get out of it.
- Take notes. In text margins, keep a running dialog with yourself
and/or the author. In a notebook, record the author's main ideas, as well as
your reactions and responses.
- Ask yourself: What is the author's main point? Try summarizing
those main points -- in writing, orally with a fellow student, etc.
- If necessary, outline the author's argument.
- Read as many times as you have to -- 2, 3, or more -- until you at
least get the gist of the author's main points and have a feeling for the
structure & components of the author's argument.
- Make full use of other students in the class. Study together. Compare
- If you don't understand a term, look it up in one or more dictionaries.
Start with a comprehensive collegiate dictionary. Also, look in a good,
- If you're still stumped, or feel you are not grasping basic concepts,
consult an introductory text, or ask your instructor during office
- Construct your own course dictionary using the above.
last updated August