Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

How do you skim through a digital book?

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

How do you skim through a digital book? by Chloe Roberts.

From the post:

We’ve had a couple of digitised books that proved really popular with online audiences. Perhaps partly reflecting the interests of the global population, they’ve been about prostitutes and demons.

I’ve been especially interested in how people have interacted with these popular digitised books. Imagine how you’d pick up a book to look at in a library or bookshop. Would you start from page one, laboriously working through page by page, or would you flip through it, checking for interesting bits? Should we expect any different behaviour when people use a digital book?

We collect data on aggregate (nothing personal or trackable to our users) about what’s being asked of our digitised items in the viewer. With such a large number of views of these two popular books, I’ve got a big enough dataset to get an interesting idea of how readers might be using our digitised books.

Focusing on ‘Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere’ (the 18th century one about demons) I’ve mapped the number of page views (horizontal axis) against page number (vertical axis, with front cover at the top), and added coloured bands to represent what’s on those pages.

Chole captured and then analyzed the reading behavior of readers on two very popular electronic titles.

She explains her second observation:

Observation 2: People like looking at pictures more than text

by suggesting the text being in Latin and German may explain the fondness for the pictures.

Perhaps, but I have heard the same observation made about Playboy magazine. 😉

From a documentation/training perspective, Chole’s technique, for digital training materials, could provide guidance on:

  • Length of materials
  • Use of illustrations
  • Organization of materials
  • What material is habitually unread?

If critical material isn’t being read, exhorting newcomers to read more carefully, is not the answer.

If security and/or on-boarding reading isn’t happening, as shown by reader behavior, that’s your fault, not the readers.

Your call, successful staff and customers or failing staff and customers you can blame for security faults and declining sales.

Choose carefully.

Advice on Reading Academic Papers [Comments on Reading Case Law/Statutes]

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Advice on Reading Academic Papers by Aaron Massey.

From the post:

Graduate students must learn to read academic papers, but in virtually all cases, these same students are not formally taught how to best read academic papers. It is not the same process used to read a newspaper, magazine, or novel. The process of learning how to read academic papers properly can not only be painful, but also waste quite a bit of time. Here are my quick tips on reading papers of all stripes:

Less detailed than How to read and understand a scientific paper…., which includes a worked example, and not as oriented to CS as Now to Read a Paper.

In addition to four other guides, Aaron includes this link which returns (as of today), some 384,000,000 “hits” on the search string: “how to read a scientific paper.”

There appears to be no shortage of advice on “how to read a scientific paper.” 😉

Just for grins, a popular search engine returns these results:

“how to read case law” returns 2,070 “hits,” which dwindles down to 80 when similar materials are removed.

Isn’t that interesting? Case law, which in many cases determines who pays, who goes to jail, who wins, has such poor coverage in reading helps?

“how to read statutes” returns 2,500 “hits,” which dwindles down to 97 when similar materials are omitted.

Beyond the barriers of legal “jargon,” be aware that even ordinary words may not have expected meanings in both case law and statutes.

For best and safest results, always consult licensed legal counsel.

That perpetuates the legal guild but its protective mechanisms are harsh and pitiless. Consider yourself forewarned.

How to read and understand a scientific paper….

Friday, February 26th, 2016

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists by Jennifer Raff.

From the post:

Last week’s post (The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google) sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that their paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority?

It’s not just a fun academic problem. Getting the science wrong has very real consequences. For example, when a community doesn’t vaccinate children because they’re afraid of “toxins” and think that prayer (or diet, exercise, and “clean living”) is enough to prevent infection, outbreaks happen.

“Be skeptical. But when you get proof, accept proof.” –Michael Specter

What constitutes enough proof? Obviously everyone has a different answer to that question. But to form a truly educated opinion on a scientific subject, you need to become familiar with current research in that field. And to do that, you have to read the “primary research literature” (often just called “the literature”). You might have tried to read scientific papers before and been frustrated by the dense, stilted writing and the unfamiliar jargon. I remember feeling this way! Reading and understanding research papers is a skill which every single doctor and scientist has had to learn during graduate school. You can learn it too, but like any skill it takes patience and practice.

I want to help people become more scientifically literate, so I wrote this guide for how a layperson can approach reading and understanding a scientific research paper. It’s appropriate for someone who has no background whatsoever in science or medicine, and based on the assumption that he or she is doing this for the purpose of getting a basic understanding of a paper and deciding whether or not it’s a reputable study.

Copy each of Jennifer’s steps, as you follow them, in a notebook with your results from applying them. That will help you remember the rules but help capture your understanding of paper.

BTW, there is also a fully worked example of applying these rules to a vaccine safety study.

Compare this post to Keshav’s How to Read a Paper.

Their techniques vary but both lead to a greater understanding of any paper you read.

How to Read a Book:…

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

I should have thought about this book when I posted How to Read a Paper. I haven’t seen a copy in years but that’s a flimsy excuse for forgetting about it. I was reminded of it today when I saw it in a tweet by Michael Nielson.

Amazon has this description:

With half a million copies in print, How to Read a Book is the best and most successful guide to reading comprehension for the general reader, completely rewritten and updated with new material.

Originally published in 1940, this book is a rare phenomenon, a living classic that introduces and elucidates the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.

Also included is instruction in the different techniques that work best for reading particular genres, such as practical books, imaginative literature, plays, poetry, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and social science works.

Finally, the authors offer a recommended reading list and supply reading tests you can use measure your own progress in reading skills, comprehension, and speed.

Is How to Read a Book as relevant today as it was in 1940?

In chapter 1, Adler makes a critical distinction between facts and understanding and laments the packaging of opinions:

Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to, and insofar as knowledge is prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.

One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.

I can’t imagine Adler’s characterization of Fox News, CNN, Facebook and other forums that inundate us with nothing but pre-packaged opinions and repetition of the same.

Although not in modern gender neutral words:

…he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.

In a modern context, such viewers, listeners, or readers, in addition to the “play back” function are also quick to denounce anyone who questions their pre-recorded narrative as a “troll.” Fearing discussion of other narratives, alternative experiences or explanations, is a sure sign of a pre-recorded opinion. Discussion interferes with the propagation of pre-recorded opinions.

How to Mark a Book has delightful advice from Adler on marking books. It captures the essence of Adler’s love of books and reading.