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Chen Chun: In the seminar, the teacher taught me the reading method of English academic works in humanities

Author: Time:2020-03-12


After reading the article on the home page of my Alma mater, I always have the impulse to write a few words, but don’t know where to start. Because I have just finished my postgraduate study, at best, I just get a glimpse of the academic door. At present, it is a special time for the epidemic of war among the whole people. The students of our Alma mater should be in a state of self-study at home. They are likely to have some difficulties in reading academic works, especially English academic works. I would like to briefly introduce the reading method I learned in several seminars during my postgraduate studies at the National University of Singapore.

The reading requirements, the intensity of discussion, and the difficulty of assignment (mostly oral and written reports) of graduate seminars in foreign countries may even be three to five times higher than that of ordinary courses. The first seminar I took during my master's degree was "history: archives and methods". This course is a required doctoral course in the department of history, but as a master of Chinese Studies, I only have one opportunity to take an external course. My tutor recommended this course for me in the first semester, hoping that I could "survive" in the rigorous academic training. In the first class, the professor informed us of the reading list and course requirements, the weekly works for detailed discussion and the bibliography for reference (two or three), and a student led the discussion. Most of these works are regional historical works of young scholars published by top academic publishers in the past five years, and most of them are from unfamiliar regions such as the Middle East and South Asia. Although I was able to pass a standardized test in English, I had great difficulty performing in an academic setting, especially when the reading list was so different from my own project. To my surprise, the professor, after learning about my academic background, not only didn't persuade me to drop the course, but encouraged me with his own experience studying history at UC Berkeley. I had to spend a lot of time reading every words. In order to better participate in the discussion, I will also review the book before class. Although this raw reading experience was painful, it effectively improved my academic English ability. One of the central questions that runs through the course is "what is a good historical work?" and although we don't have a uniform answer at the end of the course, the process of reading is the process of forming our own academic judgment. Compared with academic classics, the new works of outstanding young scholars are also the reference for us to write master and doctoral theses.

Another seminar that inspired me was "western sinology" by my tutor. The faculty had just returned from a one-year sabbatical and had opened the door to lecture-based graduate students, so the class was close to 20, a very large seminar. In the first class, the teacher asked us to briefly explain our own research topic, and divided us into seven different topic groups, draw up a book list. The bibliography is also dominated by new works by outstanding young scholars, with an introductory section of three books to be read each week. Because of humanities in English academic writing practice, the introduction usually to comb, the subject of academic context justify its research question the legitimacy of the interpretation of the book's academic contribution, and this part determines the basic pattern and structure of the book is, so to the profoundness of intensive reading and critical test you very much and thinking ability. The teacher will expand and extend in the following classes, telling you that you should first look at the catalogue and the beginning and the end of the book, find the research problems and expected academic contributions, repeat each chapter, and finally judge the degree of completion. After a semester of practicing as many times as possible, almost everyone was able to grasp and even "nitpick" skillfully. The teachers and us emphasized that the legitimacy of an issue is not based on the fact that it has no precedent, but on the fact that it is based on the dialogue with previous scholars and predecessors. In other words, just because a topic is unattended doesn't mean it's worth studying. In addition, since the book list of this course is completely based on the topic of the students who choose the course, it varies greatly from year to year. The teacher also needs to read the latest research works with us, which also enables me to see the never-ending pace of a humanities scholar.

In the third semester of the master's degree, I took the "thesis seminar", a compulsory course for the master's degree and doctoral degree in our department. This course explains many aspects of academic paper writing, but I can't do all of them together. I would like to share with you the content of one of the assignments. The professor asked us to make a core reference list around our research topics, which should include three doctoral dissertations, two academic journals and two academic works. The selection criteria should take into account the importance and relevance and explain the reasons respectively. This assignment seems not complicated, but it took me a lot of time and energy to make a choice. In the process of judgment I consciousness out of the professor's intentions, the process of selecting the doctoral dissertation are to understand why the forefront of the research, identify periodicals especially overview catalog process is completed on the academic history of carding, clear important works is actually the process of investigation on academic classic reading, this a few series and staggered actually took to the academic Paradigm shift .This method of listing books became a crutch for me to think about new issues and enter new fields.

I hope the above reading method can give you some small inspiration, of course, more important than the method is to invest time and energy. However, I believe that we in our university never lack the attitude of steadfast and diligent study, as well as the ability to persist in learning in various environments, which is also the spiritual energy brought to me by my Alma mater.

About the author: Chen Chun, a graduate of 2017 Cuiying Honors College of Lanzhou university, national university of Singapore, master of Chinese studies.

(Translated by Shi Zhan; edited by Du Yanxia)

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