Your Argument Part One: Close
reading is a term used to describe how you ought to be using
your sources. The most important element of close reading
is questioning; it is imperative that you actively engage
the text in order to develop your own ideas to use as arguments.
at all possible, make your close reading your second reading
of the source. If you've read it once already, you will
have a basic understanding of the text, and you can focus
on a more intensive questioning.
Use highlighters - Take note of any and all points
of interest in the text. If you've got a thesis in mind
already, use several different colors of highlighter, each
for information relevant to a separate prong of your argument.
This will make your life much easier when you go back to
integrate your sources, particularly if you've got an extensive
amount of text to cover.
Look for patterns - Be aware of recurring
techniques-both literary and rhetorical-which the author
uses to illustrate a concept. Specific sorts of imagery,
allusion, or dialogue, which seem to be similar or related
inevitably, reveal a larger intention that can be made into
Ask questions - In expository work, continually
ask yourself "Is this true? What evidence supports
this statement? Can other conclusions be drawn from the
facts of this text?" By deciding whether or not
you agree with the arguments of your source, you'll begin
to crystallize more subtle arguments of your own. In literature,
question the author's purpose in using particular narrative
structures. "Why is this metaphor used? What does
the comparison signify? Why do we learn this particular
piece of information in such a manner? Why is the setting
dwelled on so much in this passage? What is the relationship
between setting and character?” Write these questions
in the margins as you go along.
Get down to the details - One
of the most sophisticated close reading techniques you can
incorporate into your work is an analysis of the multiple
connotations of a specific word. Be aware of every single
word the author uses. When you find one of particular interest,
literally look it up in the dictionary and consider how
each and every definition might be applied to the text.
Even if the author uses it with one literal definition in
mind, see if the connotations of the other definitions can
be applied to your idea (This is particularly true of
Consider the source in relation to other texts - If
something in the work reminds you of something else you've
read, there's quite possibly a good reason why. Consider
how your source is a response to or a continuation of other
texts. Always be on the look out for Christ symbolism and
Greek mythological allusions; both are fairly easy to spot
and can be effectively analyzed in support of a particular
From Coleridge's Kubla Kahn: "In Xanadu
did Kubla Kahn a pleasure dome decree; Where Alph the sacred
river ran through caverns measureless to man; into a sunless
Your assignment is to write about how the poem illustrates
the power of human creativity. In light of this, here are
some questions to ask yourself right off the bat:
does Coleridge select an Oriental locale and a historical
figure to open his work?
is the significance of the word "pleasure,"
is Alph, and does Coleridge use it as the setting for
Answering these questions might involve a consideration of
distance, in both time and space, related to the vastness
of human capacity. You might also consider "measureless"
and "sunless" as descriptive of types of
knowledge or ignorance; in breaching the "sunless"
sea with his dome, what sort of power is Kubla Kahn exhibiting?
A trip to the dictionary (or, more likely, a glance at
the inevitable foot note) will provide the information
that the Alph is a magical river in mythology. This begs
the question, "how does a fantastic setting relate
to Coleridge's view of the imagination?”