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8 Tips To Remember What You Read

4) Be Judi­cious in High­light­ing and Note Tak­ing

Use a high­lighter to mark a FEW key points to act as the basis for men­tal pic­tures and reminder cues. Add key words in the mar­gins if you don’t find use­ful clues to high­light.

Almost all stu­dents use high­lighter pens to iden­ti­fy key parts of a text. But many stu­dents either high­light too much or high­light the wrong things. They become so pre­oc­cu­pied in mark­ing up the book that they don’t pay enough atten­tion to what they are read­ing. A bet­ter approach is to high­light just a few key words on a page. If many pages don’t require high­lights, sticky tabs on pages with high­lights can great­ly speed a study process for whole books.

It is cru­cial to think about the mean­ing of text. High­light­ed text needs to be rehearsed in the con­text of how it fits with the pur­pose, why it needs to be remem­bered, and how it fits with impor­tant mate­r­i­al that pre­ced­ed it. Every few para­graphs or pages, depend­ing on the infor­ma­tion den­si­ty, the read­er should stop and self-quiz to make sure the impor­tant mate­r­i­al is being mem­o­rized. Mak­ing out­line notes of such mate­r­i­al after it is first read can be an impor­tant rehearsal aid for form­ing imme­di­ate mem­o­ry and for lat­er study. The act of cre­at­ing such an out­line from work­ing mem­o­ry, and check­ing it against the con­tent just read, sup­ports mem­o­ry for­ma­tion in very pow­er­ful ways.

5) Think in Pic­tures

A pic­ture may not be worth a thou­sand words, but it can cer­tain­ly cap­ture the essence of dozens of words. More­over, pic­tures are much eas­i­er to mem­o­rize than words. Those mem­o­ry wiz­ards who put on stage shows owe their suc­cess (as do card coun­ters in casi­nos) to use of gim­micks based on men­tal pic­tures. Ordi­nary read­ers can use to good effect the prac­tice of mak­ing men­tal images of the mean­ing of text. The high­light­ed key words in text, for exam­ple, if used as a start­ing point for men­tal pic­tures, then become very use­ful for mem­o­riza­tion. One only has to spot the key words and think of the asso­ci­at­ed men­tal images. Some­times it helps to make men­tal images of head­ings and sub-heads. Pic­tures also become eas­i­er to remem­ber when they are clus­tered into sim­i­lar groups or when they are chained togeth­er to tell a sto­ry.

Men­tal pic­tures are not the only way to facil­i­tate mem­o­ry for what you read. I under­stand that actors use anoth­er approach for mem­o­riz­ing their lines for a play, movie, or TV show. Actors “get into the part” and study the mean­ing of the script in depth, which seems to pro­duce mem­o­ry auto­mat­i­cal­ly for them. When the same script is mem­o­rized with men­tal images, it appears that the text is being looked at from the out­side, as some­thing to be mem­o­rized. Actors, on the oth­er hand, appear to be look­ing at the same text from the inside, as some­thing to be expe­ri­enced. The actors probe the deep mean­ing of the text, which inevitably involves attend­ing to the exact words. For exam­ple, they seem to explore why their char­ac­ter would use a giv­en set of word­sto express a par­tic­u­lar thought. This is still a process of asso­ci­a­tion, except that actors are asso­ci­at­ing words with real mean­ing and con­text as opposed to con­trived visu­al image mean­ing and con­text.

Both approach­es require engage­ment. The read­er has to think hard about what is being read, and that is what helps you to remem­ber what is read.

6) Rehearse As You Go Along

Read in short seg­ments (a few para­graphs to a few pages, depend­ing on con­tent den­si­ty), all the while think­ing about and para­phras­ing the mean­ing of what is writ­ten.

To rehearse what you are mem­o­riz­ing, see how many of the men­tal pic­tures you can recon­struct. Use head­ings and high­light­ed words if need­ed to help you rein­force the men­tal pic­tures. Rehearse the men­tal pic­tures every day or so for the first few days after read­ing.

Think about the con­tent in each seg­ment in terms of how it sat­is­fies the pur­pose for read­ing. Ask your­self ques­tions about the con­tent. “How does this infor­ma­tion fit what I already know and don’t know? Why did the author say that? Do I under­stand what this means? What is the evi­dence? Do I agree with ideas or con­clu­sions? Why or why not? What is the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion?” How much of this do I need to mem­o­rize?” Apply the ideas to oth­er sit­u­a­tions and con­texts. Gen­er­ate ideas about the con­tent.

It also helps to focus on what is not said. To do that you also have to keep in work­ing mem­o­ry what was said. This not only helps mem­o­ry, but you get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain cre­ative insights about the sub­ject. In short, think­ing not only pro­motes mem­o­ry for­ma­tion but also under­stand­ing.

Keep read­ing…

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7 Responses

  1. deepikaur says:

    Excel­lent arti­cle! I just read that entire post, out loud, and retained the main points from it. These tips will cer­tain­ly come in handy. Thank you.

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  6. Jacob says:

    This arti­cle has real­ly helped me with the abil­i­ty to com­pre­hend what I am read­ing, thank you.

  7. Liz says:

    The first step in learn­ing how to read and retain infor­ma­tion from schol­ar­ly works is to under­stand how they are orga­nized. Each field has spe­cif­ic con­ven­tions regard­ing the com­po­si­tion of peer reviewed arti­cles and books. Most sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles include an intro­duc­tion which sets the stage for the research study, a meth­ods sec­tion which describes how the research was con­duct­ed, includ­ing sam­ples and mea­sures, a results sec­tion dis­cussing the sta­tis­ti­cal analy­ses con­duct­ed and whether the hypoth­e­sis was sup­port­ed or refut­ed, and a dis­cus­sion sec­tion that con­sid­ers the study s find­ings in light of the research lit­er­a­ture and draws over­all con­clu­sions. Books con­tain struc­tured argu­ment, gen­er­al­ly lead­ing from an intro­duc­tion to chap­ters that make and sup­port spe­cif­ic points, and con­clud­ing with a dis­cus­sion that draws con­clu­sions. Learn the con­ven­tions of your dis­ci­pline.

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