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Advice on Note-taking, Reading and Studying in PSY100



"...a little at a time rather than all at once..."





Note-taking is not instinctive; it’s an acquired skill.



Immediate rehearsal is best.





Some of the slides may be on the Web site, but they are no substitute for being there.






The three-Rs method of studying.





Tree diagrams











Review, review, review.

...and then review.




Study smart, not long.



Read the relevant material before the lectures.

     When you first read a particular chapter, begin by reading the chapter summary two or three times. Then, skim through the chapter, looking carefully at some of the key diagrams and pictures and noting the major chapter headings in order to get an overall view of the scope of the chapter. Since at this preliminary stage you will not likely know what is or is not important, it is not yet essential to underline concepts or take notes. Research on effective studying indicates that it is generally much better to read small amounts at a time attentively than to read a large amount passively or inattentively. You might also at this stage plan your reading times, breaks, and reviewing strategies.

Attend the lectures, taking notes on the key points.

     During the lectures, copy down points that are presented and make sure that you understand them. Note that a selection of the more important visual material will subsequently appear on the Web site. If there is something you missed or did not understand at a lecture, ask Professor Wall (or the guest lecturer) about it immediately after the lecture if you can, and then correct or complete your notes. Unless you are one of those very few who can take clear and legible notes during the lecture, it almost certainly will be necessary for you to edit or re-write your lecture notes soon after the lecture (while the material is still fresh and you can still remember your handwritten scrawls). Insert headings, sub-headings, numberings, definitions, and so on, as may be helpful. It is also more helpful for later recall if you do not wait too long to carry out your first review and study of your notes. Research indicates that retention is greater and less subject to interference if one rehearses material frequently soon after confronting it than if one delays rehearsals until just prior to being tested on the material.

     In note-taking, it is helpful to separate clearly the different topics as they arise in lecture. Indent, or otherwise subsume, any additional paraphrases of points, any related concepts, and any examples that fall under the major topic headings of the lecture.

     If you miss a lecture and cannot attend the same lecture from the alternative section (day or evening), obtain the notes from another student as soon as possible after the lecture. Review the notes and clear up any ambiguities with the person from whom you obtained the notes. Consider rewriting the notes, or portions of them, in your own words. (Please note that the Instruction Centre does not maintain a library of lecture notes or lecture cassettes to lend to students who miss lectures, although Lena Paulo Kushnir and Ming Lee are available for assistance if you have any questions concerning the content of the lectures.)

     You may audiotape the lectures, but only from your seat. Please do not place recording instruments on the stage or at the front of the lecture hall.

Read and review the relevant material a second time.

     On this occasion you should strive to organize, understand and recall the material in your own words. The "three-Rs" method—Read, Recite, Review—used in combination with the construction of tree diagrams is an excellent way to master the relevant concepts, ideas and research findings. (Click here to see some sample tree diagrams.) The "three-Rs" method involves reading the material in small chunks (two to three pages at a time, at most), then closing the text and reformulating in your own words (reciting) what you have just read: definitions, relations between concepts, distinctions between theories, and so forth. Being unable to articulate the material to yourself clearly requires reviewing the material and repeating the process.

     The purpose of a tree diagram is to help you see the relations among the concepts and to develop a conceptual understanding of "what goes where and why." In constructing a tree diagram you should pay close attention to the various headings and subheadings that appear in the text. (You should certainly include any concepts that appear in bold print or italics, but do not assume that only those concepts that are in bold print or italics are important. Some names and concepts in normal print are also very important.) A tree diagram can be likened to a blueprint for a chapter: it shows the essential structure of the chapter. However, many details and refinements will not appear in the tree diagram and will only occur to you as you "read, recite and review."

     You should organize and digest even your own written notes on the reading material. Without a cohesive structure, making extensive notes on a chapter is rarely useful. In fact, it is quite easy to spend hours copying notes from the text without really being aware of what you are writing, though you delude yourself into thinking that you are accomplishing something!

Review the material (again) about a week before the term test.

     Re-read the chapter summaries and go over your tree diagrams. Use the tree diagrams to assess how much you remember, and try actively to fill in what the diagrams omit: definitions of concepts, distinctions between concepts, examples, descriptions of evidence that supports or contradicts different theories, and so forth. Review your lecture notes to confirm your understanding of this material. Study as though you were going to write an essay test. Reliance on recognition alone will not allow you to rule out reliably the incorrect alternatives on PSY100 multiple-choice questions.

A final word of advice.

     Students in past years whose performance in the course did not meet their expectations could generally attribute their disappointing performance to two factors: first, they often had not reviewed each chapter frequently enough (most students requiring at least three reviews); second, they often had not been sufficiently active in their studying. Active studying requires you to engage fully with the material; to decide what relates to what, what is important, which concepts you might confuse with other similar concepts; and to formulate the ideas in your own words. The steps outlined above should help you to become a more productive learner. For more complete information on processing and organizing material to be remembered, see Chapter 7 on "Memory" in the Gleitman text, particularly the material on encoding and retrieval. (We cover this material systematically in the second and third weeks of November.)

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