1. Read closely.
2. Use your own words to write a précis or summary of the work. The
précis/summary serves as the introduction of your paper.
3. A précis/summary is a condensed restating in your own words of the main and
supporting arguments/ideas of a work with a few of the nitty-gritty details added
only if necessary to clarify the author’s claims for the reader of your paper who
might not have read the original.
4. Sketch the author’s argument fairly and accurately so as to give the reader an
honest feel for what the piece is about and how it is developed.
5. Early on in the introduction, preferably in the first few sentences
a. Summarize the author’s main point and major supporting points.
b. Give the author’s name (given and surname on first mention of the
author, and both together OR just the surname thereafter).
c. Give the title of the work (and date, if pertinent)
6. Use transitions (logical connectors) to bind the sentences in the précis/summary
into a coherent, rational, follow-able whole.
7. Do not merely replace the author’s words with synonyms. Rather, recast the
author’s ideas in your own words, using your unique voice, your accustomed
syntactic patterns, your style. (The more clearly you understand what the author
is saying, the better able you will be to restate the author’s ideas in your own
words, so read closely and with understanding).
8. In the introduction, don’t add anything to what the author has said; in other
words, give just the facts and nothing but the facts—in brief; don’t editorialize, but
you can reveal your attitude toward the work by your thoughtful use of adjectives
and adverbs and especially as you craft your own thesis statement.
9. Your purpose in responding to the author’s ideas is say whether you agree or
disagree with the author and why. As you develop the body of the paper (the
supporting paragraphs), freely editorialize. Again, do not merely substitute
synonyms for the author’s words.
10. Deal with each area of your agreement and/or disagreement in its own body
paragraph, explaining why you agree or disagree.
11. You should point out what is left out of the author’s argument, what is handled
unfairly (statistics, perhaps—for example), if anything is; what is handled fairly;
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who stands to lose from what the author is proposing; who stands to gain; what
costs are involved (human, environmental, societal, etc.).
12. You may also point out the morality and ethics of the author’s argument. And you
may offer reasons why the author’s argument is feasible or unfeasible where
13. The author’s background is fair game as well, but be careful not to turn
background into ad hominem attack and non sequitur. Background (including
race, ethnicity, and gender) is not a reliable predictor of people’s ideas. In other
words, people don’t think white or black or Vietnamese: they think thoughts.
14. Also fair game is the author’s experiences, but your evaluation of the author’s
evaluation of his or her experiences is also fair game. In other words, people can
wrongly evaluate their own experiences. (You may have heard this said of
someone, “He didn’t learn a thing from that experience!” That is generally said
when someone believes the person did not rightly evaluate the experience).
15. Watch out for bias in your own critiquing as well. It is hard not to be biased so
always check yourself.
16. In critiquing a work, use as many of the methods of rhetorical development as
are warranted. See World of Ideas, 9e, p. 29+.
17. Do a good job!
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