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Reading and note taking – preparation for study
Reading and note taking – preparation for study

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1 Reading and note taking

1.1 Preparation for study

One of the main purposes of this course is to help you develop two kinds of skills:

  • the general skills of being a student

  • some skills which are particularly associated with the way social scientists work.

Both are of fundamental importance to your success in studying other courses. This course is about the very basic study skills of reading and taking notes. These are basic in the sense that they are the foundation for all successful study. But that does not mean they are simple.

If you have no recent experience of reading academic texts you need to re-learn your reading skills. Reading magazines, newspapers or fiction is a useful basis, but entails very different skills from academic reading. The same goes for taking notes. Scribbling down the important bits of a recipe from a television cook or underlining some interesting advice from a magazine article helps, but of course there is a lot more to taking notes from a social science text. So we suggest that you spend the time working on these skills. Then, when you need to use these skills, you will be able to use them quickly, effectively and with more confidence.

In Sections 1–3 of this course we:

  • ask you to think about how you read now by testing yourself on a piece of everyday reading matter,

  • introduce you to some basic techniques for adjusting your reading to suit the purpose you have in mind, and

  • focus on some of the more common problems that students may experience when reading unfamiliar material and suggest some possible ways of dealing with them.

In Sections 4–8 we focus on techniques of:

  • highlighting,

  • note taking and shorthand,

  • processing information and interrogating key ideas,

  • writing in your own words, and

  • referencing and quoting sources.

In the final sections we focus on newspapers, and provide a number of activities to get you thinking critically about the press as a source of ideas, information and evidence.

This course is organized around a series of activities which focus on articles and extracts from a range of sources, including textbooks and newspapers. The articles chosen focus on crime and are pitched at about the same level as the materials you will work with on an introductory level course.

However confident you are about being an effective reader and an effective note taker, we suggest that you take some time to work through what follows. If it really is very familiar, keep moving quickly on to the next activity. You might find you complete the whole thing in a couple of hours, or you might spend weeks working through it – especially if you have time to follow up our suggestions for finding other pieces of material and practising on them. It really is up to you. We hope you find it useful.