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Double Entry Journal Assignment Example

This journal assignment is unique in its format. It suggests students divide their papers into two columns. The first column is for summary-oriented material such as key phrases, main ideas, important characters etc. The student then prints this information out and writes (in pencil or pen) reactions to the first column's information. This ‘dialectical' method, as the instructions call it, encourages students to spend more time with thinking critically about the text's ideas and concepts. Students can use this information for longer essays or class discussions.

Spring 2009

T h e   D o u b l e – E n t r y   J o u r n a l

A double-entry journal takes the form of two vertical columns of text, one of which comments on the other.  First, you’ll have to create a Word document in a specific format:

  1. Create a new document and click on “File”
  2. Click on “Page Setup…” (For Word 2007: “Page Layout” > “Margins” > “Custom Margins”)
  3. Change the right margin to 3.5”
  4. Save document as “dejournal” or “E238journal” (etc.) so that you can retrieve this document in the future instead of having to reformat again and again

Your journal will place critical reading alongside close reading. In the left-hand column, type a roughly one-page response that addresses the text’s main ideas, and key features such as important evidence. When you’re through, print this column of ideas and read them over, recording your own questions and reactions in the right-hand column with a pen or pencil. Pretend you’re writing a large paper, and you want to keep detailed notes so you can understand your ideas later. In fact, these notes are often very useful for larger projects you’ll do later.

This process is a slow-motion version of what your mind does all the time as it interacts with itself in a dialectic fashion, a word derived from the Greek for “art of debate.” Ann Berthoff writes in The Making of Meaning: “The reason for the double-entry format is that it provides a way for the student to conduct that ‘continuing audit of meaning’ that is at the heart of learning to read and write critically.” With the double-entry journal, you are creating a written record of your internal reading “debate” where you’ll make connections between the texts we read and your own experiences and ideas. By writing about your writing, you’ll be thinking about your thinking, and as a result you’ll become a stronger, more deliberate writer and thinker.