Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Reading in Literary Studies

by Dr. Eric Doise

Solid reading skills are invaluable in Literary Studies. Learn to skim when researching. There is so much information to read that you cannot read it all thoroughly. Skimming will help you eliminate information not useful to your project and locate texts that are promising. Once you’ve found the latter, read carefully and repeatedly. Mark passages you want to revisit. As you read, keep notes that capture why you think certain sections might be useful to you. Remember, literary scholars value details like why someone chose one word rather than its synonym, so they often write with that same attention to detail. When reading primary texts, again, read repeatedly, mark passages, and take notes.


There are any number of suggestions for effective reading of literature/film on the Internet and in textbooks. Be sure to find a list from a credible source and one that reinforces what you already know but also provides new perspectives or strategies that seem promising. Another resource that I think is more helpful but requires more work is writing in the field. If you find an article in the field you find enlightening and clearly written, pay attention to how it carries out its argument. What kind of introduction does it use? How does the author transition to their thesis? What is the significance of that thesis? Is it important only to literary scholars, or could it be applied to other arenas as well? What kind of evidence, from both primary and secondary sources, is provided? What kind of commentary/analysis follows that evidence?