No matter which course you’re taking, you’ll have to read articles about “theory” — in ethics, it’s ethical theory — in Intro to Philosophy it also includes theories about mind-body, free will, God etc..
The thing about these articles that is similar is that the philosopher has an idea, and they’re trying to put that idea down on paper — sometimes it works well, other times it’s a bit more difficult to understand what they’re thinking or trying to say..
So — some hints and tips..
- Read all parts of the assignment, the introductions and conclusions — the foonotes etc.. because you’ll often find clues there.
- Google the word, idea, or concept that seems central for another point of view on it…
- Skim the assignment first trying to get the general idea. Figure out how the parts of the article and argument go together.
- Go back and read carefully — taking notes as you go… write down each major move in your own words, and why the philosopher thinks that’s a good move. As you’re going, write down objections and questions you have — since those will be useful later.
- When you’re done reading and taking notes, look at your notes — do they make sense? If you had to use them to teach someone else what you just read, could you do it? If not, go back and check to make sure your notes reflect what you read…
- Then, think about ways that theory connects to the world around you — put it in context for you… (this is a good way to start a mid-term and final paper assignment… ).