Evaluating Details

Evaluating Details

Author: Sydney Bauer
This lesson explains how to evaluate the details in a reading
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Introduction to Psychology

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It can sometimes be difficult to know which details are important to remember and keep track of. This is especially true when reading the first few chapters of a new book. The author begins to build the world of the novel or story by layering descriptions and interactions, which are both detail oriented.


Tracking Details Early On:

Even the most experienced readers will spend the first few chapters of a book tracking several details because it’s hard to predict which details are important so early in the novel.

  • Tip: Look for points of focus within the narration: anytime the narrator dwells on a detail, topic, or event, it usually becomes important later on.
    • For example: in the first section of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the narrator includes a lot of Guy’s thoughts and feelings during his interactions with Clarisse. When we compare this with how the narrator shows Guy’s interactions with other people, we can see that the narrator spends more time describing the time he spends with Clarisse. It’s likely that those details will become important later on.
  • Tip: Ask yourself the following question:
    • How important is this detail to the characters, narrator, or events of the book? (How important is this detail in the world within the book?)


Continuing to Track Details as You Read:

As you read, the list of details you are keeping an eye on will usually get shorter, and you’ll start to see patterns of details forming in the narration. Specific details will begin to cluster together and their meaning will become clearer. You might find that some of the details you were keeping an eye on turned out to be unimportant. There is no way to avoid this when reading a new book because you can’t always predict where the plot is going to take you.

  • Tip: as you continue to read, ask yourself the following questions:
    • How does this detail connect with the plot/characters?
    • How does this detail help shape my understanding of the book?
  • Tip: Look for patterns of images or clusters of details that might help you answer those questions.
  • Remember that the only way to know the importance of a detail is by reading more of the book!