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STEPS FOR READING, MARKING, AND REVIEWING A TEXTBOOK

A. Before you start

1. TIME SCHEDULING

Plan your time so that you read for 50 minute periods with a 10 minute break in between. If you try to study for long periods without a break, you loose your concentration and become inefficient. Time yourself so that you know about how many pages you can read in each of your textbooks in 50 minutes. This tells you how much time you need to schedule for a specific assignment. Read and study during daylight hours whenever possible. Also, identify when you tend to be most alert during the day and study your most difficult subjects then.

2. CONCENTRATION

Find a place to study that has as few distractions as possible. Make it a place where the only thing you do is study. Have room to work
and have all needed supplies handy. Noise, interruptions, poor lighting and inadequate work area all work against your ability to concentrate.

B. While you read

1. SURVEY THE CHAPTER

Read the introductory paragraph, the headings and subheading, and the summary or last paragraph. Glance at any charts, graphs, diagrams and tables. This step takes 1-2 minutes. By doing this, you will have a quick outline of the main points that are covered in the chapter. It also helps you ease into the reading assignment and gets you started.

2. ASK A QUESTION

Turn each heading into a question. For example, the heading "Basic Aspects of Memory" can become "what are the basic aspects of memory?" Asking question s before you reach makes you more active, keeps you more alert to what you are reading and forces you to read for specific information.

3. READ TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS

Read the subsection following the heading that you turned into a question, looking for the answer to the question you created. This forces you to find the main idea of the section and helps you to pick out what is most important.

4. UNDERLINE

After reading a paragraph or short section, go back and underline the words, not whole sentences, that provide the answer to the question you created. Underlining as you read leads to underlining too much, marking the same basic idea tow or three times. Being more selective in your underlining results in less material to review later. The following is an example of too much underlining:

Political theory (often called "political thought", "political ideas", political philosophy", or "theory of the state") is that branch of political science which attempts to arrive at generalizations, inferences or conclusions to be drawn from the data gathered by other specialists, not only in political science and the social sciences, but throughout the whole range of human knowledge and experience. Political theory may be called the "so what?" department - the place where findings by statisticians, psychologists, historians, and all the rest of the researchers and tabulators may be weighed, tied together, cross-referenced, and contemplated, to the end that meaning and significance maybe extracted from this mountainous mass of data. "Facts" - even if demonstrably incontrovertible - do not, by themselves, point to any single, inescapable course of action. The function of the political theorist is to consider facts in all their varied ramifications and at least suggest conclusions, remedies and public policies. This is not to say that most scholars in the field of political theory do in fact come to grips with all or most of our contemporary problems and suggest remedies. Indeed, too many of them rake over the ashes of the dead past. But if only a small proportion labor towards integrating our tremendous and rapidly growing fund of political knowledge, they perform an invaluable service in this age of overspecialization.

An example of good selective underlining is the following:

Political theory (often called "political thought", "political ideas", political philosophy", or "theory of the state") is that branch of political science which attempts to arrive at generalizations, inferences or conclusions to be drawn from the data gathered by other specialists, not only in political science and the social sciences, but throughout the whole range of human knowledge and experience. Political theory may be called the "so what?" department - the place where findings by statisticians, psychologists, historians, and all the rest of the researchers and tabulators may be weighed, tied together, cross-referenced, and contemplated, to the end that meaning and significance maybe extracted from this mountainous mass of data. "Facts" - even if demonstrably incontrovertible - do not, by themselves, point to any single, inescapable course of action. The function of the political theorist is to consider facts in all their varied ramifications and at least suggest conclusions, remedies and public policies. This is not to say that most scholars in the field of political theory do in fact come to grips with all or most of our contemporary problems and suggest remedies. Indeed, too many of them rake over the ashes of the dead past. But if only a small proportion labor towards integrating our tremendous and rapidly growing fund of political knowledge, they perform an invaluable service in this age of overspecialization.

5. RECITE

At the end of the section, recall the question that you created from the heading and see if you can recite to yourself the answers to the question. This forces you to check what you learned from one section before you go on to the next. Reciting also helps you know you understand it.

Continue this process, section by section, through the whole chapter.

a. Question - turn headings into a question.
b. Read - just to the end of the section, looking for the answer to the question.
c. Underline - after reading a whole paragraph or short section.
d. Recite - the answer to the question you created before you go on with your reading.

C. After you have read the assignment (same day)

1. MAKE MARGIN NOTES

Pick key words from the ideas you have underlined and write the key words in the margin of your textbook next to the place where that idea is discussed. These words represent the main ideas presented in the chapter. They become cues for you when you study by reciting.

2. RECITE FROM THE MARGIN NOTES

Recitation is simply saying aloud the ideas that you want to remember, as if you were explaining it to someone else. You can do this by covering up the page of the text. Using key words you have put in your margin notes, as cues, recite to yourself the ideas and facts in the chapter as fully as you can in your own words. If you can't remember a particular point, look back at your underlining, then cover the text and recite the ideas to yourself. Recitation is the most important step in transferring material from short term to long term memory. If you can recite the main points of the chapter to yourself, you know whether you understand the material, and you increase your ability to remember it.

D. Once a week

REVIEW all of the reading that you have done since the start of the semester. Recite form all of your margin notes, just as you did the day you read each chapter, by covering the page and recalling the information using the margin notes as cues. Schedule time each week (1/2 to 1 hour per subject) for this review. Frequent recitation over a period of time is much more effective than one long review just before an exam. With weekly recitation, studies show that you can retain 80% of the material. With no review, you may retain only about 20%.

E. Before an exam

1. REVIEW BY RECITING

The same procedure described above. To review the 80% you have retained weekly recitations and to pick up much of the remaining 20%.

2. GET A GRAND VIEW OF THE MATERIAL (i.e., the "big picture")

Think about what you have learned. Develop a brief, one page outline of the main ideas (i.e., 6-8 major points). Reflect on how the pieces of the subject fit together. If you'd like, meet with classmates to discuss these. Often on exams, in essay questions and even objective questions, you are asked not whether you remember a date or a formula, but whether you understand how major ideas or events relate to each other. Don't learn only details, but understand main ideas.


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Last Updated: 4/29/10