Oberlin Blogs

What it Means to Read for Courses

December 31, 2023

Phoebe McChesney ’25

As a Politics major and prospective East Asian Studies minor, I take a lot of classes where I do a lot of reading. Coming to Oberlin, I did not know what kind of course reading to expect or what it would be like. For those of you who are curious about it, here is a quick overview for two areas of study.



Academic Articles

These articles usually begin with an abstract or a summary of the argument(s) within the paper, then outline the methodology, break down the key takeaways from the particular study being discussed, and end with concluding thoughts. In Politics courses, methodology may look like surveys of individuals, collection of existing data (ex. voter registration information), or the analysis of political patterns to support or oppose a theory (ex. measurement parameters to understand how closely certain legislation aligns with the ideological center).


Books in Politics courses tend to make broader claims than academic papers. Each chapter within a book may focus on a certain topic or type of evidence which backs that claim. They may also give the reader overviews of historical, economic, and political context relevant to the time periods being discussed which may simply supplement the main arguments made or provide important substantiating evidence. These tend to be generally faster reads than academic articles because they are less dense and the intended audience members are not necessarily academics.


East Asian Studies

Academic Articles

East Asian Studies covers a broad range of cultures and points of focus. For instance, some courses concentrate on art while others focus on cinema, religion, language, or history. Thus, academic articles for these courses may differ depending on the topic at hand. There may be some articles similar to the ones in Politics courses, especially if the course falls under the both the Politics and East Asian Studies tags. However, others may concentrate more on new developments such as the unearthing of a ceremonial sword or the discovery of special tomb mounds. These discoveries are important in the field because they not only change a way of thinking but may also rewrite history depending on what was previously believed.


Like academic articles, books may have similar structures as in Politics courses. However, they may also consist of mythic or legendary claims. In these instances, books take the form of primary source texts from certain periods in time telling the cultural stories, fables, folktales, and myths of a group of people. They may also be first-person perspectives of life within a given period such as diaries or journal entries. These can read more like fiction or fantasy.


So here are my two cents! There is so much more reading you'll be able to do, but I hope you've got the gist of some of what you may be given. Until next time, signing off!

Similar Blog Entries