Final Entry on Reading and note–making
Follow-up to Update to Action Point 3 of Reading and note–making from David's blog
In this entry I will summarise what I have learned from the reading and note-making workshop over the past few weeks and discuss the three action points since the workshop.
1. My first action point was to improve the speed at which I read.
Having been a slow reader for a long time, I found it difficult to fly through a book without stopping, restarting and getting hampered with details. However ever since the workshop I have found a slight improvement in my reading in certain areas.
I tried scanning, skimming and close reading during seminar and casual reading. I found that when I gave myself I deadline, such was the case with seminars, I tended to read quicker than usual and get the core ideas from my readings. In contrast when there was a much longer period to do the reading in, I found I was less focussed and took much longer. However, with the help of the scanning, skimming and finger following technique (as well as encouragement from one of my History tutors) overall I have at least been open to new ways of readings. Most importantly, I have found that there are different ways to read for different purposes. Thus, I believe overall I have found a slight improvement in the speed of my reading.
2. My second action point was to review my notes on a regular basis.
Before I usually took notes and then quickly filed them away and in turn usually forgot what I wrote about quite quickly. Thus, this action point was perhaps the most useful point I took from the workshop overall.
Re -reading my notes after taking them and then looking over them later in the evenings has been my most effective change since the workshop. Re-reading my notes has helped me remember a lot more than before and has contributed substantially to my learning. Looking over notes at least twice the same day I write them (once after writing them and then once in the evenings), has been a highly useful discipline as it allows me to think over and form my ideas more coherently.
3. My third action point was to make brief and concise notes.
This was the hardest action point to follow as I found it very difficult to change my notemaking style. A blank piece of paper would always intimidate me and force me to write long winded notes entangled with details and examples.
During the weeks after the seminar I tried different approaches to taking notes. Although I have used increaslingly more shapes and abbreviating techniques which has worked to condense my seminar reading notes, I have found if harder to shorten my dissertation notes. With the dissertation deadline a long way off, I have found I lose my focus for concise notes more easily. However, all in all I would say my note-making as a whole has improved nonetheless. I will have to work on my dissertation notes more thoroughly as the deadline approaches.
To conclude, I found the reading and note-making workshop quite useful. Reviewing my notes on a regular basis has in particular, really improved my learning and retention for information. With an improved ability for retention, I have also noticed an improvement in my application of historical information.
Although speed reading is still a challenge for me, I have learned that I can at least use different reading techniques for different purposes (e.g scan reading or light close reading). Likewise, my note-making is improving slowly, and with a little work at it, I believe I can compress my notes even further in the future.