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California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Created: August 1, 2002
Latest Update: August 7, 2002

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Site Teaching Modules Focus on Note Taking

Teaching Module Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individaul Authors, August 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

This teaching module is based on Focus on NoteTaking.

  1. Preparatory readings for module.

    • Understanding Plagiarism in the Real World.Link added August 7, 2002.
    • Objectivity, Truth, and Method Pay particular attention to the split in methodological approaches to empiricism and objectivity, and to the note taking aspects in this file, and the care required for using quotes. Link added August 7, 2002.
    • Excerpt from Objectivity, Truth, and Method:
      "It is well-known in the human sciences today that the concepts of objectivity, truth, and the authority of empirical standards have come under serious challenge by some critics of the social sciences. Feminist critics charge that the concepts and methods of the social sciences reflect an essential patriarchalism that discredits the objectivity of social science knowledge. Marxist critics sometimes contend that the social sciences are enmeshed in a bourgeois worldview that makes objectivity impossible. And post-modernist writers seem to disdain the ideas of truth and objectivity in the social sciences altogether, preferring instead the slippery notions of multiple discourses and knowledge/power.

      These points of view are apparently reinforced by a number of philosophical worries about the claimed objectivity of scientific knowledge. For example: Scientific disputes are inherently underdetermined by the evidence. There are no pure "facts," but only facts as couched in one conceptual system or another. There are no pure observations, but rather observations couched in a theory-laden vocabulary. Theories bring with them their own empirical criteria, which bias the findings in support of them. The relations between observation and theory are hopelessly circular, with theories generating the observations that supposedly support them. Research projects are guided by antecedent assumptions about the structure of the phenomena which shape the eventual empirical findings in an arbitrary way. Scientific research communities are regulated by other criteria altogether (individual career advancement, the political demands of funding agencies, etc.) rather than epistemic criteria (evidence, logical coherence, etc.). Social phenomena are not objective in the first place, but rather defined by the fluid and changingintentions, meanings, and beliefs of the participants and observers. All observation in social science requires the interpretation of behavior, so there are no brute facts at all (Charles Taylor); the investigator constructs the world he observes (Peter Berger); or all social observation depends upon the perspective of the investigator, so that there are no perspective-independent facts.
      Scroll down the file about two inches to find this passage.

  2. Discussion questions.

    1. Is it possible to take careful notes and still screw up in remembering whether some bits of your notes are quotes are your own words?

      Consider both what the celebrated historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin has to say about this. Consider also the enormity of notes for a book, and the possibilities for faulty communication. Give detailed examples, based on the note taking discussion in Objectivity, Truth, and Method.

    2. Where and how could bias enter into your note taking?

      Consider the level of interpretation involved when you read and take notes from a reference book. Is your perspective bound by your interest in a given topic, by what you already know or believe to be true about that topic, by the subtopics you pay attention to and those you ignore? When you come back to our notes later to write an essay, will you be likely to recall the subtleties that were not included as you filtered them through your own perceptions? How would you deal with the criticism, "The book either says it or it doesn't."? Recall agency and structural context.

  3. Experiential activities related to module.

    1. Work in a small group. (Unless you have a vested interest in working alone - I'm tyring to establish interaction during our face-to-face sessions. I like the interactive approach. The ideas of the "other" matter.) Take notes for excerpt from . Use our true/false self test to help you. Then share you notes with us in one of our face-to-face sessions or on the site.

  4. Self-test questions related to module.

    True or False? And explain briefly why it's true or false. (25 words or less)

    1. Feminists take an antiempirical approach, claiming that objectivity is not possible.
    2. Paternalism so distorts the perspective of science that objectivity fails.
    3. Marxists take the empirical approach.
    4. The bourgeois worldview is normative, so that it is objective.
    5. All knowledge is biased in its perspective by the power to decide what is knowledge and what is truth.
    6. Truth depends on interpretation.
    7. All knowledge is interpreted. Even the Bible.
    8. "There are no pure 'facts'; " only interpretations of facts.
    9. If you develop your hypotheses from theory, they will be unbiased.
    10. Social phenomena are not objective.

  5. Conceptual linking we had in mind as we prepared the module.

    • Practical results in a non-ideal world.
    • The denial of truth in a system that fails to take account of the "real" world out there.
    • Dominant discourse assumptions that we are all rational all of the time, and that "good" work means no lapses of carelessness.
    • Justice and fairness in a system that does not account for the individual context.
    • Hermeneutical and empirical approaches and how each would view Doris Goodwin's case.
    • The question of accountability in a hermeneutic, interpretive approach to the world.