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Applying your reading skills

Watch this video, in which educator, Joan surveys an article and tries to decide if it's worth reading in more detail for a written assignment.
When approaching the reading of a text, you can understand a lot by simply looking at sections of it. The abstract is a good place to start because it provides a summary of the whole text. If you look at this abstract here for example, you can see the opening sentence gives key background information; if we want a sustainable food system, people have to eat less meat. And the second sentence identifies the focus of the article. So this paper looks at motivations, strategies and experiences of eating less meat. In other words, the reasons why people eat less meat, what they have to do to make this happen, and what they have learned from the experience of eating less meat.
So already this article does look relevant to your needs. As we skim through the abstract we can see that this article provides a report on some research; data were generated, twenty in-depth interviews, Accounts from three meat-reducing respondents, Findings suggest. These are all phrases which tell you there is information here about the research. We are interested in the findings, and we can see that these suggest that there are many reasons why people eat less meat. So there is the impact that meat production has on the environment - that’s concerns about animal welfare, are we treating animals properly?
There are concerns about health, nutrition and vitality, and there are also factors related to personal relationships and to the way that food is bought, prepared and eaten. The relevance of some of these factors may be unclear, so you would want to read parts of the body of the text in more detail to understand them better. This is where critical reading comes in. You might, for example, think that if a friend invited you to dinner and served a lot of meat, you would eat the meat because you didn’t want to offend your friend.
Or, for example, that if another member of your family is vegetarian, then it might be easier for you to be a vegetarian (or just eat less meat), particularly if you normally have meals together. So when you are reading you might see whether these ideas are confirmed, or not, in the text So overall, just reading the abstract gives you a good idea about whether this article is useful for your purpose or not. From the abstract you can see that the main idea is about the different reasons for eating less meat in everyday life.
Next, if we look at the introduction, and in particular the second part, it gives you an overview of how the article is organised. Here, Section 2 looks at the design and rationale for the study, Section 3 discusses the themes that emerge from the research, and Section 4 considers the implications of the study. This clear outline is helpful in signposting what the reader can expect.
Next it is helpful to look at the conclusion; in this case you can see that the discussion and conclusion sections have been put together. You can see that sentence 4 summarises the key findings of the research paper. Here the key finding is that the most important reason for eating less meat is concern about one’s health, and that concern about the environment is less important.
So as far as the students written assignment is concerned, this article is definitely relevant and well worth reading in more detail, but it suggests that governments should emphasise the health benefits of eating less meat, even if their objective is to reduce the environmental impact of meat production.
Looking at these 3 parts of any paper, as well as the headings or any tables, charts or diagrams in the paper, gives you a global view of the content before you read in detail, and this will greatly help in your understanding of the detail. If the topic is not familiar to you in terms of vocabulary, it may take you a long time to read these sections, but is it time well invested in terms of building up your knowledge of the subject.
Finally, its always worthwhile looking at the list of references. You may recognise some of them from your reading list a good sign as these books come recommended by your lecturer. Or you may find titles that you would like to follow up on, related to your area of focus. To summarise, this approach means you are in a good position to decide if the article is worth reading in detail, and if so you can apply the questioning reading strategies outlined in the previous Step, to ensure that you are engaged in thinking and reading critically.

In the previous Step, you were asked to survey this journal article and decide if it would be useful for the assignment question below.

“What strategies should governments adopt to encourage people to eat less meat, as a means of ensuring a more sustainable food system?”

Watch this video, in which Joan surveys the article, and tries to decide if it’s worth reading in more detail for the written assignment.

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