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The Active Reader

Strategies for Academic Reading and Writing, Third Edition

Eric Henderson

The Active Reader offers a practical, integrated treatment of academic reading and writing at the post-secondary level. Thirty-four thought-provoking essays that highlight a variety of disciplines and rhetorical patterns are accompanied by comprehension and analysis exercises that encourage students to apply critical thinking skills to common assignments.

Readership : The Active Reader is a core text for introductory composition courses at the university level.


  • "The Active Reader provides a good survey of basic information relevant to the requirements of composition for academic work. . . . This text is not just about how to write; it is about academic work."
    --Dennis R. Nighswonger, Lakehead University

  • "I like the disciplinary variety of the readings, and the classification of readings by discipline. I also like the general discussion of critical reading and of how to write an academic essay."
    --Theresa Hyland, Huron University College

Part One: Academic Reading: An Introduction
1. An Introduction to Academic Prose
What Is Academic Writing?
General Features of Academic Writing
The Active Voice: Why Study the Humanities?
The Purposes of Academic Writing
The Influence of the Academic Community
The Active Voice: Climate Change and the Integrity of Science
2. Conventions of Academic Writing
Voice and Style
Strategies for Approaching Academic Essays
The Active Voice: The Historian's Critical Apparatus
3. Three Common Kinds of Academic Essays
Type A: Qualitative Essays?
Type B: Quantitative Essays
Type C: Synthesis and Critical Evaluation
Tables, Graphs, and Other Visuals
Academic Essay Formats and Student Assignments
4. Critical Thinking
When Do You Use Critical Thinking?
Inferences and Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking and Skepticism
The Spirit of Inquiry
Critical Factors in Critical Thinking
Drawing Conclusions
The Active Voice: Silent Witnesses to the Past
Sample Professional Argumentative Essay: Pipeline Debate Shaping Up as Propaganda War, Stephen Hume NEW
5. Reading Strategies
Interacting with Texts
Annotating Texts
Pre-Reading Strategies: Reading Purpose
Reading Strategies: The Big Picture
Reading Strategies: The Detail Work
Part Two: Academic Writing
6. An Overview of the Essay
The Stages in Writing
Relating Parts and Discovering Structure
The Structure of the Essay
The Active Voice: Brave New Words: Technology and the Future of Writing
The Active Voice: Report Writing - Aims and Goals
7. Writing Summaries
Times and Places for Summaries
Summarizing and Research
The Stand-Alone Summary: The Précis
8. Using Critical Thinking to Analyze Essays
The Rhetorical Analysis: Explaining the How and Why
The Active Voice: Rhetorical Analysis - What, Why, and How
9. Writing Argumentative Essays
Argumentative Purpose
Claims in Argument
Connecting Claim to Evidence
Kinds of Evidence in Argumentative Essays
Two Kinds of Reasoning
Giving Life to Logic: Strategies for Argument
Refutation Strategies
Organizing Your Argument
Using Critical Thinking to Analyze Arguments
Sample Student Argumentative Essay
Sample Professional Argumentative Essay: Supervised Injection Sites: Prejudice Should Not Trump Evidence of Benefit, Maria Zlotorzynska et al.NEW
10. Writing Research Papers
Coming Up with a Topic
Preparing for Research
Research Proposals
Recording Important Information
The Active Voice: A Beginner's Guide to Research in the Academic Library
Using Credible Sources
The Active Voice: Google and the Invisible Web: Using Library Resources for Deeper and Broader Research
Integrating and Documenting Sources
Documenting Your Sources
Major Documentation Styles
Sample Student Research Essay
Part Three: The Reader
Section One: University Issues
Catherine E. Snow: - Academic Language and the Challenge of Reading for Learning About Science
John McMurtry: - University Wars: The Corporate Administration vs. the Vocation of Learning
Simon N. Young: - Universities, Governments, and Industry: Can the Essential Nature of Universities Survive the Drive to Commercialize?
Mark Kingwell: - Intellectuals and Democracy
Kelly P. Arbour-Nicitopoulos et al.: - Social Norms of Alcohol, Smoking, and Marijuana Use Within a Canadian University Setting NEW
Section Two: Canada in the World
Andrew Nikiforuk: - Tarmageddon: Dirty Oil is Turning Canada into a Corrupt Petro-State
Amir Attaran: - The Ugly Canadian
Suanne Kelman: - Shooting the Messenger: Why Canadians Don't Often Blow the Whistle on Wrongdoing NEW
Douglas C. Nord: - Discourse and Dialogue Between Americans and Canadians - Who is Talking to Whom? NEW
John Ralston Saul: - Listen to the North
Section Three: Voices within Canada
Stephen J. Toope: - Of Hockey, Medicare and Canadian Dreams NEW
J.R. (Jim) Miller: - Which "Native" History? By Whom? For Whom?
Mitch Miyagawa: - A Sorry State
Christopher G. Anderson: - The Senate and the Fight Against the 1885 Chinese Immigration Act
Paul G. Thomas: - Developing Better Political Leaders: The Case for a School of Government NEW
Leslie Regan Shade: - Missing in Action: Gender in Canada's Digital Economy Agenda
Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale: - Sexuality and Sexual Health of Canadian Adolescents: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Section Four: Media and Image
Nicola Phillips: - Advice to Teens NEW
Renée Wilson: - In Defence of the iGeneration NEW
Daniel J. Dutton et al.: - A Ban on Marketing of Foods / Beverages to Children: The Who, Why, What and How of a Population Health Intervention
Laurie Ouellette: - Reality TV Gives Back: On the Civic Functions of Reality Entertainment
Ken Gillam and Shannon R. Wooden: - Post-Princess Models of Gender: The New Man in Disney/Pixar
Section Five: Aggression and Society
Michael A. Robidoux: - Imagining a Canadian Identity Through Sport: A Historical Interpretation of Lacrosse and Hockey
Youssef Hasan et al.: - The More You Play, the More Aggressive You Become: A Long-Term Experimental Study of Cumulative Violent Video Game Effects on Hostile Expectations and Aggressive Behavior NEW
Michael D. Cusimano: - Trends in North American Newspaper Reporting of Brain Injury in Ice Hockey NEW
Christine M. Wickens, Robert E. Mann, and David L. Wiesenthal: - Addressing Driver Aggression: Contributions from Psychological Science NEW
Russell A. Sabella, Justin W. Patchin, and Sameer Hinduja: - Cyberbullying Myths and Realities
Section Six: Intersections with Science
Joel Lexchin: - Pharmaceutical Innovation: Can We Live Forever? A Commentary on Schnittker and Karandinos
John William Devine: - Doping is a Threat to Sporting Excellence NEW
Bernard Lightman: - The Microscopic World NEW
Timothy Krahn: - Where Are We Going with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis?
Jeremy Foote: - Speed That Kills: The Role of Technology in Kate Chopin's The story of an hour NEW
Robert Gifford: - Psychology's Essential Role in Alleviating the Impacts of Climate Change
G.K. Healey et al.: - Community Perspectives on the Impact of Climate Change on Health in Nunavut, Canada NEW
Appendix A: A Note on Statistics
Appendix B: Characteristics of Type A, Type B, and Type C Essays (Chart)

Instructor's Manual:
Answer key for exercises and activities
Links to additional online resources
PowerPoint slides:
For each chapter:
10-15 lecture outline slides
Student Study Guide:
Additional activities
Comparison questions and essay questions for Part Three: The Reader
Interactive quizzes

Eric Henderson is an active author with Oxford University Press Canada, where his other books include Writing by Choice, 3e (2015), Becoming an Active Reader (2013), The Empowered Writer, 2e (2014), and Short Fiction & Critical Contexts (co-edited with J. Hancock, 2009). He has also published articles in leading journals such as Canadian Literature, English Studies in Canada, and Contemporary Literary Criticism. He teaches in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, where his teaching interests include composition, rhetoric, and style.

Writing by Choice - Eric Henderson
The Empowered Writer - Kathleen M. Moran and Eric Henderson
Becoming an Active Reader - Eric Henderson
Writing for the Academic Disciplines - Sally Hayward
Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin
The Canadian Writer's Handbook - The late William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, The late Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes
The Concise Canadian Writer's Handbook - The late William E. Messenger, Jan de Bruyn, The late Judy Brown and Ramona Montagnes
Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary - Edited by Katherine Barber
Paperback Oxford Canadian Thesaurus - Edited by Robert Pontisso

Special Features

  • Canadian readings, examples, and sample documents make this an ideal text for teaching post-secondary reading and writing in this country.
  • Classroom-tested approach extends beyond formulaic instruction, helping students become confident readers and writers at the university level.
  • Selection of readings drawn from a range of disciplines - such as health sciences, environmental studies, political science, history, and more - makes the text ideal for students with varying interests and academic backgrounds.
  • The Active Voice boxes offer expert advice on key themes and concepts from instructors and writing professionals.
  • Suggested activities throughout the text encourage classroom discussion and give students the opportunity to work both individually and collaboratively.
  • Key points in the rhetoric section are illustrated by excerpts from the essays, offering students cohesive and clear instruction throughout.
  • Fully cross-referenced to identify essays with similar content or subject matter, promoting comparative analyses among essays.
  • Marginal key term definitions ensure students understand key terms and concepts as they appear in the text, and a NEW glossary provides all of these definitions in one place for quick reference.
New to this Edition
  • Nineteen new readings provide accessible, timely selections on issues that are relevant to students - such as cyberbullying; doping in sports; and video game violence.
  • Separate chapters on Writing Summaries (Ch. 7), Using Critical Thinking to Analyze Essays (Ch. 8), and Writing Argumentative Essays (Ch. 9) provide thorough coverage of these essential topics.
  • New professional argumentative essays provide students with models of effective writing.
  • Increased coverage of MLA, APA, CMS, and CSE styles gives students access to the most current documentation requirements.
  • · Revised and reorganized for improved accessibility plus a refreshed layout and design enhances readability.