Mining Reading

Mining Reading

Overview: This activity introduces the concept of mining reading, a way of reading for research that asks students to mine texts for ideas and extensions for a research project.

Authors: Tesla Schaeffer and Lisa Swan

Activity brief description: This activity introduces the concept of mining reading, a way of reading for research that asks students to mine texts for ideas and extensions for a research project.

Course: PWR 1; PWR 2

Activity length and schedule: This reading strategy takes approximately 60 minutes to introduce and practice. It works best when introduced at the outset of the TiC or RBA research process. It can be returned to later in the RBA process to fill in research gaps. It is most effective when coupled with a reflection assignment asking students to independently practice and reflect on mining reading a text relevant to their research project.

Activity Goals:

  1. Introduce different ways of reading, underscoring specific approaches to reading for research
  2. Practice using and reflecting on a reading strategy, mining reading, that will enable students to read for research and conversation
  3. Investigate the ways one text enters conversations and identify how a text intersects with students’ ideas and research plans  

Activity Details:

  1. Begin by introducing the concept of reading.
    • Many students are likely to think of reading in terms of decoding words for information, reading for meaning.
    • If you have taught rhetorical analysis, you can remind students of reading rhetorically and how it compliments reading for meaning. You may also remind them of reading critically, which they’ve likely used in high school English courses.
    • You can also use a modified version of Sarah Pittock’s Ways of Reading handout to foreground various reading strategies. Ask students to highlight the ways they’ve read before. 
  2. Using the handout, then introduce the idea of mining reading: reading strategically in order to mine a text for ideas or extensions to your research project. Stress that mining reading asks students to focus on the text’s overall contribution to the conversation, field, or subject, and how this contribution might intersect with their own research process, interests, and topic.
  3. Explain how mining reading can help their research process. It can help you understand the conversation the text is engaging, consider how to use the text in your own research, and open up new avenues for research. 
  4. Highlight the essential questions mining reading poses and the reading strategies:
    • Students may be familiar with several of the reading strategies used by mining reading. For instance, when students read a text and follow up to learn more about an issue or topic, they are following citations trials or going down a wiki-hole.   
  5. Then model and practice mining reading. We’ve done this in two different ways.

Option 1: Whole Group/Small Group Practice

  • As a whole class, practice mining reading on a text. This text can be one the class is already familiar with or a new text on a topic related to the course theme. 
  • Ask students to read the text aloud. Pause periodically to ask questions and highlight the following:
    • conversations the text is engaging and how you can tell
    • connections the text makes to the course theme
    • questions the text inspires for follow-up research
    • key concepts, topics, subjects, authors you’re encountering
    • steps you might take to follow up, such as citation trails or google-holes
  • After it seems like the class has started to grasp the mining reading strategies, ask students to work in small groups continuing to practice. Remind students to annotate the text where they employ mining reading strategies.

Option 2: Think Aloud

  • Explain that you are going to show them how you mine a reading by using a think aloud. A think aloud is a composition research method: an instructor reads a text orally and pauses periodically to describe the things he or she is thinking and doing as he or she reads.
    • Stress to students that mining reading doesn’t require you to use a think aloud process. Instead, you are simply showing them (in a very artificial way) how you apply the essential questions and reading strategies of mining reading. 
  • Begin reading a text aloud using the think aloud process. This can be a text the class is already familiar with or a new text on a topic related to the course theme.
  • Pause your reading to describe your in-the-moment thinking about the following:
    • conversations the text is engaging and how you can tell
    • connections the text makes to the course theme
    • questions the text inspires for follow-up research
    • key concepts, topics, subjects, authors you’re encountering
    • steps you might take to follow up, such as citation trails or google-holes 
  • (Note: To prepare for the think aloud, you may choose to read the text earlier and take notes to help guide your descriptions. Alternatively, you can model your in-the-moment thinking. It can be helpful for students to see when things are messy, unclear, and a struggle, even for experts).
  • After you have modeled the strategies long enough, ask students to pair up and practice thinking-aloud to their partner.
  • Provide students with time to practice mining reading. Halfway through, ask students to switch who is thinking-aloud
  1. After the class has practiced mining reading, debrief the activity. Ask students to report: what ideas did mining reading generate for their group? What questions did they pose? What conversations is the article engaging? What follow up might they pursue for this text?
  • If taught with a think aloud, you may also want to debrief the think aloud process itself too. Frequently, students are interested in understanding the method. Stress that mining reading does not have to be done through a think aloud process. They can take notes on the text and follow up with particular mining strategies. Alternatively, they can try the mining strategies as you read. Encourage them to experiment with what works best for them and their reading processes.
  1. Conclude by brainstorming how students can apply mining reading to their own research projects. When might they use mining reading in their research process? What types of texts should they “mine”?

Additional Notes: We recommend following up this activity with a reflection assignment. Ask students to select one, highly salient article on their research topic and read it using the mining reading questions and strategies described in the handout and practiced during class. Then write a 250-400 word reflection on mining their text. This assignment scaffolds students’ research process in the TiC or RBA and can provide insights into their reading strategies. It can also be a useful formative assessment in identifying students who may struggle with reading.