Study Skills

Study Skills

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Organize key ideas along with the necessary supporting information

That is, determine how the key ideas relate to each other, to ideas from other lectures and to themes of the course. This leads to you generating a "bigger picture's view" of the key concepts in a course of study. Some examples include the following.

When reading, use chapter outlines or theses as organizing guidelines and look for relationships between items in the outline or thesis. When note-taking, consider Cornell notes format with key terms in a margin or a cover page for sections and lectures of a course. Finally, consider a visual information map or charting information to show how the course concepts, themes and issues are connected. Relational Understanding refers to the idea of grouping related information together and choosing a key word, short phrase, or mnemonic retrieval cue to act as a trigger for your recall of the related details.

By practicing recall using the retrieval cue, you build up a strong association between the cue and the details. Eventually, when you see the cue, you can recall easily the associated details and related ideas. Some studies of memory suggest that the retrieval cues are most effective when they are selected at the time of the initial learning. Strong, precise nouns and verbs are probably the most useful kinds of cues. In addition, organizational charts or relational diagrams -- often referred to as mind maps or information maps-- can also be a way of grouping and organizing a large amount of information in a small space for the purposes of making it more concrete and easy to review.

Four questions can guide you to making an information map: what are the major sections, concepts, ideas of the course? what do we need to know for each one? what questions will help me understand and recall and relate these sections, concepts, and ideas? how can I structure these questions and information relevant to answering them into visually or spatially organized study aids?

Whichever strategy you choose to organize your ideas, be sure to study in a way which is related to how the course is organized - eg., it is probably not very helpful to spend the bulk of your time just memorizing definitions when the emphasis of your course lectures and readings has been to apply theoretical models to various social phenomena. Where there are definitions or concepts to memorize, use key words as memory cues and practice reciting definitions both in the terms given and in your own words. Where many theories or time periods or phenomena are compared or contrasted, consider developing summary charts and practice articulating the similarities and differences. Where perspectives on a series of issues are central, become fluent in what each perspective holds to be true, how they differ, how they sit on issues, whether one or more is superior to others and why. When the vocabulary of theory seems to be the focus, understand the following: which terms are associated with which theory; what the course or text uses as a common definition; how you would define the terms by example; what the theory that groups the terminology is about and how it differs from other theories; what the theory and terminology are when stated in different words; and what the key defining details are between one term and another.

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