Academic research is a rigorous process that involves formulation of a research topic, collection, analysis and presentation of data (Booth, 2011). This paper discusses the process of critical reading of literature and how to avoid plagiarism.
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Most scholarly research activities involve critical review of secondary data such as books, articles, periodicals and journals (Jupp, 2006). Although there are various ways of reading text, critical reading is important in academics activities at college and university levels (Leedy & Osmond, 2012, p. 180). The process of critical reading involves comprehension and in-depth analysis of literature (Lesley, 2001, p. 182). Critical reading is not synonymous with reading and critiquing literature because it includes text evaluation (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2011). Text evaluation as an aspect of critical reading involves close examination of what is written (John, 2009, p. 99).
Elements of Critical Reading
As already mentioned, critical reading transcends mere text comprehension. Nonetheless, understanding text is the starting point in critical reading because analysis and evaluation of literature is not possible without proper text comprehension (John, 2009, pp. 98-99). Therefore, after recognizing what a text discusses, the next step is to interpret it (Leedy & Osmond, 2012). Text interpretation involves pondering what a text is trying to achieve. For instance, it is important to determine whether a book is explaining, discussing or arguing out a certain issue (Kuhn, 2012). Lastly, a critical reader should deduce what an entire literature is discussing.
Importance of Critical Reading
Critical reading is important because of the following reasons. First, it gives the reader a good understanding of arguments and ideas discussed in literature (Neuman, 2011). Secondly, critical reading of several texts enables a reader to understand a given subject from various perspectives, which is important in academics (John, 2009, pp. 99-100). Thirdly, it enables a person to interpret literature and make a logical conclusion from a personal point of view (Becky, 2011, pp. 90-92). Lastly, critical reading helps in identification of gaps and biases in literature, which creates the basis for further research in a given subject (Willis, 2007).
Research on Education Topic
When searching for research materials, it is advisable for researchers to use commonly used words in research topics. On the other hand, long phrases and sentences should be avoided because they hinder access to research materials. Some of the key words that can be used to search literature on education research topic include cause, impact, learning, challenges and effect. These words are often used in formulation of many research topics (Stribling, 2008, pp. 36-37). For instance, what are the effects of technology on education pedagogy in American universities? In this research topic, the word effect has been used in formulating the independent variable (Lesley, 2001, p. 182).
How to Avoid Plagiarism in Literature Reviews
Plagiarism is one of the challenges often experienced during presentation of academic research findings (Stribling, 2008, p. 35). Plagiarism is an aspect of piracy and can occur in various forms. In academic context, it refers to using an individual’s work without proper reference to it (John, 2009, pp. 108-109). Nonetheless, plagiarism can be avoided through proper paraphrasing. Proper internal citations and bibliography also help in avoiding plagiarism (Mannion, 2009, p. 332). Students should not cut and paste other people’s works without paraphrasing, quoting and making proper citations (Giroux, 2008, pp. 102-103).
Unintentional Plagiarism and its Consequences
Unintentional plagiarism often occurs unconsciously in the process of writing due to lack of citation and quoting skills (John, 2009, pp. 98-110). For instance, failure to quote an entire sentence can lead to plagiarism. In addition, careless paraphrasing of text by altering a few synonyms without reworking the entire sentence leads to plagiarism (Giroux, 2008, pp. 84-90).
Plagiarism has serious ramifications in academics and can lead to expulsion or suspension of a student depending on the degree of the offense (Jesson & Matheson, 2011). In extreme cases, it can lead to incarceration of an individual if he or she is found guilty of passing off another person’s intellectual work as his or hers.
Experiences with Plagiarism
Experiences with plagiarism are often disgusting because one has to face serious penalties if found guilty of committing it. In some cases, a student may have to rewrite an entire work due to plagiarism (Mannion, 2009, pp. 323-339). Rewriting an assignment is a long painful process because it requires a lot of time and resources. If a student is found guilty of plagiarism, he or she loses academic credibility, which can be really devastating (Becky, 2011, pp. 87-105). Sometimes it is not easy for students to detect plagiarism in an essay and this can lead to wastage of time. Therefore, plagiarism is a serious challenge to students.
From this discussion it is evident that critical reading is an intensive process that requires the reader to understand, analyze and interpret a text with an aim of finding out what the entire manuscript is intending to achieve. Students should therefore practice good critical reading skills.
Becky, R. (2011). From Apprehension to Critical Literacy. Journal of Education Thought, 45(1), 87-105.
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Christensen, L., Johnson, R., & Turner, L. (2011). Research Methods, Design, and Analysis. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Giroux, H. (2008). Reading texts, literacy, and textual authority. Journal of Education, 172(1), 84-103.
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Jesson, J., & Matheson, L. (2011). Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic. London: Sage.
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