Relating Different Viewpoints
When you read a magazine or newspaper, your understanding of an articleA non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper. generally does not depend upon your understanding of another article; however, reading in your college classes will require you to be able to link one readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage). to another and to understand how they relate to each other. In other words, it is essential that you identify common themesThe main idea or meaning of a text. among various sourcesA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information.. In the contextThe larger setting in which something happens; the "big picture." of informational writing, themes are similar to main ideasThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. and thesis statementsA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader?; the theme of a piece of writing is the primary subject matter it discusses. (The word theme is used differently with respect to literature.) Recognizing themes is an important skill as you read many pages of research that may or may not be relevant support for your essays. It will allow you to choose evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. that works well together, even when it comes from a number of different readings. This lesson will present strategies that you can use to identify the relationships between several complex readings.
Understand each individual reading.
Before you can explore the relationships between readings, you need to understand each individual reading. These techniques will help you do that.
Find similarities between readings.
Once you understand the readings, you can compare the readings and find common themes. Here are some things that you can look for:
Let's see what this looks like in practice by reviewing three short abstracts.
Abstract 1: "Pit Bulls Bite: Evidence Supports the Banning of Pit Bulls from Community Living" by Abigail Caraway and Lindsay Dunn, The American Journal of Animal Behavior
This essay examines the evidence supporting the ban of pit bull dogs by landlords and condominium associations. A review of several research studies conducted across various American urban communities reveals two key arguments: while pit bulls may not be a "breed" per se, the dogs we refer to as pit bulls share a common tendency toward violence, and regardless of the home environment of the individual dog, pit bulls possess an innate propensity to be vicious and lash out and bite at any perceived threat. While there is a movement across the country to "stop pit bull discrimination," the research continues to support the restriction of certain kinds of animals for safer community living.
Abstract 2: "Pit Bulls Attack When Provoked: A Brief Look at how Pit Bulls Aren't That Different From Other Dogs" by John Davis, The Journal of Veterinary Research and Development
This article takes a look at the media frenzy around pit bulls. Common interest groups supporting the movement of community living across this country have presented the research conducted around pit bulls as blanket, unquestionable fact: all pit bulls are vicious and will attack, regardless of the environment in which they are raised or reside. In fact, this is biased and unsubstantiated. Pit bulls are not a "breed" per the standard definition and nurture plays a tremendous role in their propensity toward violence. Further, a discussion of the context of "pit bull biting stories" is necessary toward a greater understanding of these animals altogether.
Abstract 3: "My Pit Bulls Wouldn't Hurt a Fly" by Christina Miller, Dog Breeders' Monthly
This article is about my experience as a pit bull owner in America. I have encountered pit bull discrimination first hand, including being banned from apartment and condominium communities. People just accept the media-driven assumption that all pit bulls are vicious, mean, and will attack without provocation. In fact, pit bulls have absorbed the burden for dog attacks in this country. Not only are pit bulls not solely responsible for these incidents, there is research that demonstrates that it's not the breed of the dog but the temperament and treatment of the dog owner that determines how the dog behaves.
Now, review the abstracts using the three suggestions above to find potential similarities in the articles.
A review of these abstracts demonstrates similar thematic content. In other words, these readings share common themes: pit bulls, public safety, discrimination, and community living.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
The skill of being able to identify, understand, and discuss the relationships among different sources of information is one that is valuable in both the academic and professional environments. As a student, you may be assigned to write an essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. that requires you to research a topic and address the varying perspectivesThe point of view from which an author considers a subject or issue. or points of view on a specific aspect of that topic. Or, you may find yourself in a job where you are provided with a number of different reports on an issue and asked to summarize how those reports relate.
For example, imagine your company recently hosted a local event, and a large percentage of the attendees of your event became sick the weekend afterward and all emailed reports to your office. You are now tasked with taking this information and figuring out if it points to food poisoning from the catered event or some other ailment. This requires you to look at the emails and determine if there are common symptoms or the same foods eaten, as well as checking with the caterer to see if there were other events where attendees became ill. You may even need to go so far as to bring in the county health inspectors to acquire and test samples from those ill individuals.
Here are three examples of abstracts you might encounter when asked to identify common themes and ideas in several complex readings. Read the abstracts and then review the sample comparison and common theme analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing. that follows.
Abstract 1: "Raccoons Taking it to the Streets: The Infestation of Maplesville" by Allen Haply, The Maplesville Journal
Rabid raccoons are a growing problem in highly populated and congested neighborhoods of Maplesville, NH. They are responsible for a large percentage of the litter lining the streets and have infested entire vacant homes, frightening away potential business investors and homebuyers. They have also attacked and bitten city dwellers and visitors. This paper provides an overview of the recently identified behavioral trends of rabid raccoons as well as ideas for how we might contain the issue and promote a cleaner, healthier, and happier living environment in Maplesville.
Abstract 2: "It's Not Just the Raccoons: The Real Problems of Maplesville" by Nancy Smith, Maplesville Today
This article looks at the most prevalent issues of Maplesville today. According to the author, while some blame the more recent infestation of rabid raccoons for the increasing litter and declining commercial and residential population, the real problems are far more complex. The mayor of Maplesville recently revoked the contracts for most of its city services, opting instead to go with less expensive, out-of-state providers, and putting many local businesses in jeopardy. Additionally, Maplesville lacks affordable property for new businesses or homeowners. Maplesville has also grown too expensive for most of its own inhabitants. All of this reflects a trend: the people of Maplesville feel unsafe in their own environment.
Abstract 3: "Raccoons, Rodents, and Robbers: Maplesville is Going Down" by Sid Jones, The Maplesville Beat
This article examines the decline and fall of one of New Hampshire's wealthiest and most historic neighborhoods: Maplesville. While the local news media have attributed Maplesville's declining population and growing trash problem to a bizarre and unexplained infestation of rabid raccoons and rodents, its residents point to increased crime, specifically theft, as the real issue. As the streets become filled with litter, homes and shops are vacated and remain empty. The author argues that regardless of the "real" source of trouble in Maplesville, it is evident that it is in decline.
After reviewing the abstracts, the next step is to compare the readings in order to identify common themes.
After comparing common language, subject matter and tone, the last step is to write a brief summary that compares the abstracts.
Summary: After examining the language, subject matter, and tone of these abstracts, it becomes apparent that the summarized readings do seem to share thematic content. While the ultimate conclusion of the represented articles may vary, there is a common theme of rabid raccoons and their link to the practical and economic problems of a city.
Now that you've seen an example of this, try it yourself. Read the abstracts below and identify the common themes and ideas among the writings. Then, write a brief summary that compares the abstracts.
Abstract 1: "Condo, Townhome, or House? How Do First-Time Homebuyers Decide?" by Eleanor Jaspers, The Journal of Real Estate in Modern America
Every first-time homebuyer is faced with a difficult decision at the start: whether to purchase a condominium, a townhome, or a house? Research suggests that most first-time homebuyers are single and between the ages of twenty-five and thirty. Studies also show that the reasoning behind the decision to buy a single-family home has less to do with the personal status of the homebuyer at the time of purchase as what she or he projects her or his status will be in five-to-ten years. This paper examines the phenomenon of first-time homebuyers purchasing single-family homes in today's real-estate market.
Abstract 2: "The Purchase of Real Estate by First-Time Buyers" by Dan Young, Buying and Selling Real Estate
The purpose of this article is to review the research around first-time buyers and the purchase of real estate. More specifically, we review the question of what influences these buyers' decision-making process and why they tend toward the purchase of individual homes. While research presents varied perspectives, it is obvious that characteristics such as anticipated future family size, location, financing and mortgages, resale values, and professional affiliations play a role in nearly every transaction.
Abstract 3: "Buying a Condo or a House: It's a Question of Responsibility" by Anne China, Home Ownership and Social Trends Magazine
Current research suggests that homeownership is less a decision of the here and now and more a projection of future status. Research studies show that while most first-time homebuyers are young and single, fewer elect to purchase condominiums than single-family homes. This suggests that the majority of first-time homebuyers anticipate going from single to family status and introduces an interesting social question. Is it responsible for single persons to purchase single-family houses when it's more house than they need at that time? What if they in fact do not become a family? Will the market be flooded with single-family homes, as condominiums become a market rarity? This article attempts to examine all of these questions, ultimately determining that this trend may have a negative impact on the future of the real estate market.
These abstracts all employ the terms "first-time homebuyers," "single," and "single-family home." They use words to represent the youth of first-time buyers: "young" or "between the ages of twenty-five and thirty." Finally, they refer to decisions or the decision-making process.
The abstracts represent articles that are discussing the subject of the purchase of real estate by first-time homebuyers and what they elect to buy. While the second article appears to be larger in scope, i.e., looking at issues other than projected future family status, and the last article contains perhaps more subjective social content, all of the articles deal with a similar subject matter.
The first two articles seem to share a similar tone: informative and objective. The third article, while containing much of the same content of the first two, presents more of a theoretical and philosophical tone.
Write a summary that compares the abstracts.
The relationship among the articles these abstracts summarize becomes evident after a review of their language, subject matter, and tone. While the language, subject matter, and tone may not be identical, they do point to a shared theme: first-time homebuyers and the decision to purchase single-family homes.
Why is identifying relationships among readings important?
Identifying relationships among readings is not only important for an overall understanding of how the readings relate to one another, but also for the purposes of picking out common themes. Research requires you to sift through a lot of different material. Identifying and selecting those writings that share thematic content with your thesis statement is essential to providing evidentiary support for your main idea and supporting arguments.
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