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第一步:当个会思考的读者 Part 1: Be a thinking reader

Sometimes we sit and read for pure pleasure. The book being read often is escapist material of some sort—an adventure story, perhaps—and our conscious minds usually don't play an active role in evaluating what we are reading. But when we research books and other materials in preparation for writing a paper, unthinking reading is verboten. A scholar collecting material must be fully engaged during his reading of relevant material to extract from it not only the facts, but the nuances, such as valuable contextual material and allusions to previously unknown sources.


Being fully engaged means more than following the gist of an author's argument or report. That is important, of course; when we don't understand what we are reading, we have a problem right from the start. Presuming we can follow the thread of an author's writing, we have only begun our engagement with the author. A critical thinker is free to challenge a writer's assertions, or question a premise. A scholar should not be a sponge reader, soaking up every word and opinion. Rather he should be a reflective reader, actively evaluating what he is taking into his head.

「完全置身其中」意指明白作者的论点或者报告纲领。这当然是相当重要的;如果我们不能明白正在阅读的内容,那么研究一开始就出问题了。假设我们能够理解作者写作的脉络,就能与作者一同置身作品之中。具批判性的思考写作有可能挑战作者的主张,也可能质疑作者假设的论点。一个学者不能当一个只进不出的海绵,把每一个字或想法都吸收进去。相反地,他应该要当一个反思性读者(reflective reader),能积极地评断所获得的想法。

Reflective reading is facilitated by reading with pen or pencil in hand. A sentence that seems brimming with truth or falsehood might be underlined. A conclusion that seems very awry might deserve a notation in the margins of the page. A phrase that stirs your emotions— negatively or positively—warrants underlining for later examination. This is how a thinking person explores research material. The fruit of it is better grounding in a subject, finer understanding of an author, and perhaps inspiration for a related academic paper that he didn't even know he had in him.


第二步:当个会思考的作者 Part 2: Be a thinking writer

Having developed skills as an engaged and reflective reader, an academic writer's next step in enriching a paper is to become an engaged and reflective writer. By doing so, a scholar is able to critically analyze a subject and paper as a writing project proceeds. This leads to constant refinement of a paper. Status quo is not a mental condition that serves a scholar well. The better condition is progressive evaluation, in which a writer keeps an open mind to fleeting thoughts, tangential considerations, and nuanced angles. In this way , a writer can surprise even himself.

学会做一个积极阅读的反思性读者(reflective reader)后,学术写作的下个步骤即是丰富文章内容,成为积极并具反思性的作家。只要做到这点,在写作的过程中便能从批判的角度来分析主题和文章。要达到这个目的,必须不断地精炼文章。作为一名学者,切忌安于现状,最好是不断检讨,并时时放开胸怀捕捉偶发想法、注意相关细节、见微知著,这样一来,就连作家也会对自己的作品感到惊讶。

Where beginning writers sometimes go wrong in this is to become chronic in their open-mindedness. While an open mind assures that the topic of a paper is explored thoroughly, resulting in few if any gaping holes in logic or fact, only pure philosophers perched on mountaintops have the luxury of pondering endlessly. The rest of us must reach conclusions and, in respect to academic papers, express them conclusively. So at some point, exploration must cease. Shallow scholarship can occur from too much indecisive exploration just as it can from material-skimming.


To avoid the embarrassment of being unable to sum up and finish a paper, a writer should be systematic in his exploration. Don't just have a flash of insight, ponder it a moment, and work ahead with the good intention of returning to it . Rather, take time to write down the essence of the thought in a ledger. Then in a free moment, return to the noted thought and really examine it. Does it have sufficient merit to develop and include in the paper? Does it add value to the paper? If not, dismiss it. If it has possibilities, take time to explore it. Stay alert to insight; it can change a paper.