Organizing Knowledge

Nathan Sheffield, PhD
www.databio.org/slides
## Global scientific output doubles every nine years ![](http://blogs.nature.com/news/files/2014/05/Cited-publications.png)
> The honest critic must be content to find a VERY LITTLE contemporary work worth serious attention; but he must also be ready to RECOGNIZE that little, and to demote work of the past when a new work surpasses it. - Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading
# How to read a book Adler and Van Doren, 1972 ![](https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51EG8AyJiQL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_FMwebp_.jpg)
> Many books are hardly worth even skimming; some should be read quickly; and a few should be read at a rate, usually quite slow, that allows for complete comprehension. It is wasteful to read a book slowly that deserves only a fast reading. (p.39) > The ideal is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds--and to know when the different speeds are appropriate. (p.39)
## The 3 levels of reading 1. Inspectional reading 2. Analytical reading 3. Syntopical reading
### 1. Inspectional reading You are trying to answer 3 key questions: 1. Category: What kind of paper is it? 2. Thesis: What is the main point (or primary conclusion) of the paper? 3. Outline the arguments made to defend the point.
> Most people, even many quite good readers, are unaware of the value of inspectional reading. They start a book on page one and plow steadily through it, without even reading the table of contents. They are thus faced with the task of achieving a superficial knowledge of the book at the same time that they are trying to understand it. That compounds the difficulty. (p.19)
### 2. Analytical reading You are diving in the details of the paper. 1. Stage 1: Classify. What's it about? 2. Stage 2: Interpret. Grasp the arguments and their evidence. 3. Stage 3: Criticize. Only criticize after you understand. Identify where the author is: 1) uninformed; 2) misinformed; 3) illogical; or 4) incomplete. Also, ask: so what?
> The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging (p. 137)
> A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised. As Thomas Hobbes said, "If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are". (p.164)
> The great writers have always been great readers, but that does not mean that they read all the books that, in their day, were listed as the indispensable ones. In many cases, they read fewer books than are now required in most of our colleges, but what they did read, they read well. Because they had mastered these books, they became peers with their authors. They were entitled to become authorities in their own right. In the natural course of events, a good student frequently becomes a teacher, and so, too, a good reader becomes an author. (p. 164)
### 3. Syntopical reading Analytical reading applies to a single book. Syntopical reading applies to a group of books. Preparation for syntopical reading 1. Construct a bibliography (the "literature search") 2. Inspect all articles on the list. Classify the articles to determine if they are relevant to you.
> Analytical reading is also active, of course. But when you read a book analytically, you put yourself in a relation to it of disciple to master. When you read syntopically, you must be the master of the situation. (p.309) > In syntopical reading, it is you and your concerns that are primarily to be served, not the books that you read... you are reading it for an ulterior purpose--namely, for the light it may through on your own problem--not for its own sake. (p. 308)
## Steps of Syntopical Reading 1. Step 1: Finding the relevant passages 2. Step 2: Bringing the authors to terms. Use your language, rather than the author's, to construct a neutral terminology that spans authors. 3. Step 3: Getting the questions clear. Establishing neutral propositions. 4. Step 4: Define the issues 5. Step 5: Analyze the discussion
> Above all, remember that your task is not so much to achieve an overall understanding of the particular book before you as to find out how it can be useful to you in a connection that may be very from from the author's own purpose in writing it. (p. 309)
How do you organize knowledge?
- My Statistics PDF - Literature search documents - [Encyclopedia](http://memex.cc/) - Notable/jekyll