What I’ve Learned – Brain Things

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I have always had a really hard time with “study techniques.” I’ve speculated a lot on why this might be. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really grow up learning these things. Maybe it’s because of the ADD I supposedly have. Maybe it’s because I’m just not very patient. Who knows. Who knows. Whatever the reason, whenever books or teachers have told me study techniques, I have sort-of stared at them blankly. Occasionally I try them but they do not tend to be very effective.

One thing I’ve noticed is that a problem for me with studying is that it is a solitary activity. I really learn best when I’m actually talking about the material, working through it verbally with someone rather than just passively looking at it. My retention is really terrible that way. So I was surprised this week while reading through my writing book on How To Construct An Argument (which I have to say is by far the most interesting book I’ve ever read on this subject, so good job teacher) when they suggested something that actually seemed to work.

They were talking about researching your papers. I have a big research paper for one of my classes coming up and I’m starting to work on gathering sources. They were saying that as you read each piece, you should take notes on your way through it. Now, of course people have been telling me to take notes on things forever, with no success because it never really occurs to me and I never know what to say. But they said something along the lines of that you should be “having a conversation with the piece” and for some reason that clicked with me. I’ve tried it so far with the research I’ve been doing for my paper and I think it’s had pretty good results, although there’s miles to go on that. I have had a harder time applying it to reading chapters in books, I think maybe because it’s not on the computer and it seems like pulling myself out of things to look away from the book, turn to the computer and write my thought and then go back to the book. I realize that’s not exactly a back-breaking amount of work but it’s all about flow. I know some people take notes in the margins, but I still hate writing in books and I hate my handwriting and if anything I feel like that is more of a break in my process. So I need to think it over.

Anyway, the whole thing has made me feel a little more cheerful about things. I have a stunning amount of reading at my new school and I have been concerned about my need to find a new way to be able to actually remember and get something out of it. I may not have perfected a plan yet, but I think I’m getting there. Just in time for midterms?

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