Linguistics 575A: Guidelines for leading a discussion

The general goal is to facilitate a good discussion of each paper where contributions from all class members lead to a greater understanding of how the paper informs our work towards answer the main questions raised in the seminar. Towards this end, I suggest the following overall structure:

The presenter is also responsible for keeping the discussion on track. The discussions should be contentful rather than superficial, but it is also not ideal to spend the whole class time on just one or two subpoints of a paper.

Seminar questions

General critical reading questions

Critical reading is the process of actively engaging with a text as you read it, going beyond simply following the author's arguments or explanation. It involves examining the underlying assumptions not made explicit in the text, both in the initial framing of the issue and in the reasoning from evidence to conclusions. In doing so, you place the text in a larger context, relying on your own knowledge of the field, your knowledge of related fields, your own personal experience, and the text itself.

Critical reading is not criticizing. You can read a text critically and come out the other end liking it or disliking it. In either case, you'll have a better idea of why.

In order to break down the process of critical reading into specific steps, I have found the following questions helpful. In answering these questions as you read, keep in mind who the author and intended audience are. These two pieces of information are an important part of the context.

  1. What is the research question that the article asks?
  2. What assumptions/presuppositions are involved in asking/framing the question the way the authors do?
  3. How is the work situated with respect to other previous work?
  4. How were the data gathered?/What sources of evidence are brought to bear?
  5. What potential for bias was there in the gathering of the data?
  6. How are the authors' presuppositions involved in the way they collected the data?
  7. What are the conclusions drawn?
  8. What presuppositions are involved in the reasoning from evidence to conclusions?

Back to main course page