When studying a piece of literature, is it more important to follow a clearly defined process or is it more important to reach an end result – an in-depth understanding of the text?

There are a number of different processes that could followed to study a work of literature. The list below is an outline of one type of process. Each bullet point itself is a smaller process itself.

  • The process of developing knowledge over a number years as a student moves up in grades and over time looks at more complex literary texts in more complex ways.
  • The introduction to a particular literary text which may include a look at genre, form, context, the author, etc.
  • In-depth text analysis – focusing in on scenes, extracts, stanzas, phrases, and diction.
  • Coming to a wholistic understanding of the text. This could include examining the text from different perspectives (e.g. Post-Colonialism, Marxism, feminism).
  • Looking at the text’s relationship to other works by the same author, other texts from the same time period, location etc.
  • A student creating an analysis of the text in the form of an essay, presentation, etc.

This is a formalized academic approach to studying literature (although of course there are academic approaches).

How important is to follow this type of formal process? How important is the process to achieving an end result? There are a number of “end results” but the core one for students to have a thorough understanding of a text.

A number of the steps in the bullet point list above could be skipped without preventing a student / reader from gaining valuable insights about the text. In what circumstances is the process of gaining knowledge about literature more important than achieving the end result?

Another approach to November 2020 Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Essay Prescribed Title #4 is to focus on different kinds of readers and look at the value of the process versus the end result.