Dialectical Journals


The Overview of the Journals

You are being graded for your dialectical journals over the novel, not just annotating the novel. The How to Read work should help you in the creation of your journals.


The term “Dialectic” means “the art or practice of arriving at the truth by using conversation involving question and answer.” Think of your dialectical journal as a series of conversations with your summer reading book. The process is meant to help you develop a better understanding of the texts we read. Use your journal to incorporate your personal responses to the texts. You will find that it is a useful way to process what you are reading, prepare yourself for group discussion, and gather textual evidence for your Literary Analysis assignments.


Use your HARDBOUND COMPOSITION BOOK. No exceptions to this. Neatness in this journal is absolutely essential

(AP Exam readers must be able to read your ideas without difficulty) Your journal should be free of drawings and doodles, and must have good titles and clear demarcations. It must be hand written.


Divide your pages into two columns. Head the Left-hand column as “note taking” and the Right-hand column as “note making.”

§ As you read, choose passages that stand out to you and record them in the left-hand column of your T-chart (ALWAYS include page numbers). Cite the source according to MLA : “quote” (author page).

Do not make a separate column for pages numbers as in some sample journals.

§ In the right column, write your response to the text (ideas/insights, questions, reflections, and comments on each passage)


( use How to Read…Like a Professor for topics to get you started. )

In addition, look for quotes that seem significant, powerful, thought provoking or puzzling. For example, you might record:

§ Effective &/or creative use of stylistic or literary devices

§ Passages that remind you of your own life or something you’ve seen before

§ Structural shifts or turns in the plot

§ A passage that makes you realize something you hadn’t seen before

§ Examples of patterns: recurring images, ideas, colors, symbols or motifs.

§ Passages with confusing language or unfamiliar vocabulary

§ Events you find surprising or confusing

§ Passages that illustrate a particular character or setting


You can respond to the text in a variety of ways. The most important thing to remember is that your observations should be specific and detailed. As an “APer”, your journal should be made up of 25% Basic Responses and 75% Higher Level Responses. Generally each response should be at least 5 sentences and should include your analysis of the literary techniques present in the quotations, the author’s attitude, purpose or tone, and relation to personal experience.

Show that you have read the entire book by responding to the novel from the first to the last page. Make sure that you note the page number for the quotes.

Basic Responses

  • Raise questions about the beliefs and values implied in the text
  • Give your personal reactions to the passage
  • Discuss the words, ideas, or actions of the author or character(s)
  • Tell what it reminds you of from your own experiences
  • Write about what it makes you think or feel
  • Agree or disagree with a character or the author

Higher Level Responses

  • Analyze the text for use of literary devices (tone, structure, style, imagery)
  • Make connections between different characters or events in the text
  • Make connections to a different text (or film, song, etc…)
  • Discuss the words, ideas, or actions of the author or character(s)
  • Consider an event or description from the perspective of a different character
  • Analyze a passage and its relationship to the story as a whole