Strategy #1 "Don't you dare
read that chapter!"
Strategy #2 "Label
in the Margin"
3. alternative sources
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The following strategies are presented with the intent or providing you with
ideas of how to absorb written information more efficiently. This is oriented
toward science and technical applications but are generally just as effective
for other applications where the primary information source is a written
document. These also can be applied to web based content with some modifications
to accommodate, or leverage, the technology.
Using strategies like these, if you do not already, will have at the very
minimum one of these results:
1. Either you will learn what you learn now in less time,
2. You will learn and understand much more in the same
amount of time
The first approach was commonly used by myself and my fellow Engineering majors
for required non-core electives at UCI, normally in Humanities or Social
Science. Some of us took it to the extreme of showing up for the first class,
the midterm, and the final and still getting As in the courses. On more
than one occasion this was done by reading only the chapter summaries for the
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dare Read the Whole Chapter'
This strategy is based on the knowledge that few subjects in school, and in the
real world, require that you read a specific text in its completely to suit your
purposes. Rarely do you need all of the information contained in a text.
At the same time it is rare that every word, sentence, paragraph, or even
chapter contains information of value to you. So why read it?
Many of you may do it now for some things you read. Do you do the same with
reading for school?
Think about what you do when reading your favorite magazine or newspaper like
such as a sports page or music magazine. Maybe you do it with manuals for
your computer or stereo or a repair book for your motorcycle or car. How about
the program at a ball game or other event? (Normally you would not use
these strategies for recreational reading but I do use some of them to check out
a book before I invest much time into reading it.)
Think first about why you read something.
What do you do first?
What do you notice first?
What would make you stop and read something?
Do you just look at the pictures? read the captions?
How do you know you aren't missing something you would want to read?
When do you actually read an article or section, if ever?
Why did you pick that one?
Do you always finish reading what you start even if you find it boring?
Do you ever finish reading something and not had a clue what it said?
Have you ever read an article that was not about what you thought it was based
on its title or headline?
have headlines and pictures just like those papers and magazines! They even have
more tools to help you out. Things like summaries and questions to ponder are
scattered throughout most textbooks.
Nearly every author, especially those writing textbooks, use visual clues
to help focus your attention on important concepts and facts. In fact,
they do such a good job that it is rarely necessary to read a complete chapter
to get the required content from it. Modern textbooks are so full of pictures
and illustrations that many people can get away with just reading the captions
for the pictures and diagrams! Virtually every text has fluff in
it. This fluff consists of extra or redundant information that do nothing to
enhance ones understanding of an idea or concept. Why read something if you
don't want to or don't have to?
Important stuff is covered more than once in most modern textbooks. In an effort
to address readers with different learning modalities or intelligence biases
crucial content is presented in more that one form. These various formats
include detailed language based explanations (i.e. wordy definitions), language
based analogies and comparisons, graphical illustrations of a real world
examples, shorthand symbolic representation (formula), schematic drawings
(Free-body diagrams, circuit schematics, magnetic flux flow lines, emf lines),
charts, graphs, plots, data tables and others. What this means to the reader is
that if he recognizes his preferred mode he can more quickly cut to the chase
and not spend time trying to decipher the info in forms that are not his
preference. By hitting the preferred format first you have a better chance at
getting it 2quicker. It may be that your preference is not addressed
by a particular text. This is where alternative or supplemental references would
Many jobs require that a great deal of information must be absorbed to not only
do your job at hand but to also keep up with current technology, market trends,
competition, and other essential aspects of survival in the business world. Most
people do not have the time to read everything they should so in order to use
their time effective, successful people employ pieces of these strategies to
stay ahead of the game.
Here is a sequence of things I do before I ever even consider reading something
completely. The bottom line is: Do not start right in and read straight through to the end.
Make A Crib Sheet for Future Reference
Start out with a blank sheet of paper and make a outline of the reading by
listing the section headings from the table of contents
Compare the topics with your list from your homework problems, note which
sections look like they would apply.
Look at the table of illustrations (if there is one) and note any of them that
may be important on your note sheet
Take a Quick Test Drive
Take a quick lap through your text. Look at the pictures, graphs, tables, etc.
and get a feel for the layout and organization
Look at any example problems and read the problem statement. Don't worry
about the solution yet. Do any of them sound (or look) like your assigned
1Skim the Introduction and the Chapter Summary
Fill in Your Outline With Things in Bold Type (or otherwise
highlighted as IMPORTANT)
These will normally be definitions, laws, concepts, people, dates, constants
Add a short note in your outline where you find them including the page #
Use post-its or similar to mark locations where you find things that are listed
on your crib-sheet.
Add locations of definitions or concepts for each section, these are usually in
bold type or in a box separate from the main text.
Read captions for any illustrations that appear to cover concepts from your list
Go back through your questions again
Answer the ones you can and note where the answer was.
Note the ones that you can't solve or answer on your outline where you think the
answer may be.
Look up keywords from the questions in the index in the back of the book and in
the chapter summary an write down the page numbers on your crib-sheet
straight to those pages and sections and skim the body paragraphs and
illustrations to find information or examples for the specific problems.
Learn to know when to quit
Never go at a particular text for so long you go cross-eyed, take a break and
give your eyes and mind a rest
Finally, learn to use 3alternative resources
Other books, web sites and study guides are available by the thousands fro
virtually every subject.
One of the worst mistakes is to continue to flog a text that is not well suited
to your learning style. It is far better to read 5 different articles about
something than it is to read one article 5 times.
The internet makes this a simple process. Learn how to search for relevant
pages. I would be willing to bet that there are examples of worked out problems
for virtually every question on the web! If you can find an answer you either
need to learn how to search better or you aren't trying very hard!
When sites work for you, bookmark them.. You may find that your textbook becomes
your secondary resources rather that your main one.
this strategy on your next unit. There are many other benefits to approaching
your assignments this way. Some of them serve to make your time in class more
fun, interesting and rewarding. The worst things that could happen is you will
free up time to do something you really want to!
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Did you ever find yourself reading a chapter in a textbook and not being able
to remember what you read? There is a sure way to remedy this. It's called label
in the margin.
You should begin by surveying what you are about to read. Look at
the major heading, the charts and pictures, read the summary, study the review
questions. In addition, search your memory for anything you already know about
what your assigned reading. The more you know about what you're reading, the
easier it will be to process it into your long-term memory.
Read only one paragraph at a time, and before you begin to read
that paragraph look for a reason to read the paragraph. Use clues such as the
heading or topic sentence. Do not mark as your read.
When you finish the paragraph, put yourself in the position of your
professor. What test question will you ask from that paragraph? Actually
write that question in the margin of your textbook.
Now mark the answer to the question by underlining, numbering,
boxing, circling, etc.
Want to make sure you always do well on pop quizzes and cut down on study
time for major tests. Put this information in your long-term memory now by
covering the text and asking yourself the question written in the margin.
Recite the answer in your own words.
You are now ready to read the next paragraph.
It may take you longer to read a chapter this way, but there are definite
You can read it a bit at a time--a page here and a page there--taking
advantage of short periods of time you usually waste or didn't have time for a
You never have to re-read the chapter.
You know the test questions in advance.
You have a systematic way to study you textbook.
of 'notes in the margin'
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1. Skimming is an art in itself. One approach is to
simply read the first and last sentence in each paragraph. A slightly more
thorough method is to also read any sentences with bold, italicized,
underlined, or otherwise highlighted text at the same time. This
idea can be expanded on to a section or complete chapter by skimming the first
and last paragraphs of the introduction and summary sections first and then
skimming the first and last paragraphs in each section.
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Alternative resources: books, videos, tapes,
web pages, software tools, hands-on experiments
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