Excellent “Academic Reading & Writing Workshop” at University of #Manchester

So, you’re doing a Masters, or even a PhD (wow, you must be soooooooooooooooo smart. Not).  You’d think you’d know how to read and right, write?

Not so fast.  You’ve probably picked up some bad habits, and even if you haven’t, there are other habits and tricks (“hacks” or “apps” or “patches” as the young folk call them) that could save you time and energy. (You can be done four months early, and catch up on the latest box sets.)

University of Manchester offers a  broad range of ‘how to’ sessions (and a shout out to their very efficient IT support folks here – el pueblo unido…).  I’ve been to some.  Some have been okay to good, but the one  on “Academic Reading & Writing” on Monday 5th October was…. wait for it… bloody excellent.

There’s only so much you can cover in a two hour session, but the guy leading it (Ben Walker, for the record) knew what he was doing and put in enough group/interactive work to keep you engaged and interested, without it ever being tokenistic.  And I clearly need to read Tony Judt’s Post-war, which Walker used as an exemplar of how it should be done..

There were lots of nuggets of advice, some of which I do (choosing when and where I read and write), some of which I do a bit (grokking the credibility of sources, skim-reading to judge about further investment of bandwidth) and some I have rarely done but will do all the time from now– reading a review of a book (well hello JSTOR) to have the main arguments and gaps summarised in advance.

Here’s Walker’s tips on the difference between working the hardest versus working the smartest.

  1. Find the ‘authority’ on the subject
  2. Only take a couple of books at a time
  3. Read a review on JSTO- easy critical analysis of ideas and short explanation of the whole thing
  4. Use the index as a key word finder, or if a PDF, use ‘Ctrl + F’
  5. The opening and closing paragraphs always have the most useful stuff
  6. If all these things suggest this text is a must read – then off you go
  7. Notes are only useful if accurately recorded (e.g. page numbers.)

Spend time getting full citations and getting them right. Two he recommends –



He bigged up Wordle   and also mentioned that when it comes to the crime of appalling writing, the butler did it.

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

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