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4.3 Does writing on a book seem wrong?

Obviously you have to take into account whether you own the text you are studying and, if so, whether you intend to keep it. Does it seem extravagant to write on a book and make it unfit for selling on? How important to you is selling it? Is it really a saving? If a book is important, why not assume you
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4.2 Notes in the margins

It is easy, with underlining or highlighting, to find that you have switched to autopilot without noticing. The process becomes too passive and you follow the flow of the text without asking enough questions. Writing comments or questions in the margins is a way to keep yourself more actively engaged.


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4.1 Underlining and highlighting

To be able to make sense of what you are reading, you need to read actively. One method that can help is to use a pen.

Activity 2

Did you underline or highlight any words as you read the Layard article? If not, go back over the
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3.4 Time chunks

Apart from sheer speed, there is the question of how to parcel out your study time. With a two-page article you would assume a single study session, but a chapter of a book might be spread over several sessions, depending on the content and on your own time constraints.

This is a message from a stud
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3.3 Choosing a reading speed

As a student you cannot afford to read at just whatever speed comes naturally. If you are trying to keep abreast of a course, you have to push yourself. However, reading speeds range from a lightning skim through a whole book to intense concentration on a difficult paragraph. You need to become skilled at working at speeds right across the range. How quickly you need to read will depend on:

  • what you already know about the subject,

  • how
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3.2 Reading to learn

In order to learn you need to follow the argument as you read. With an important text, you should slow right down and take it bit by bit. Here is a student describing how he tackled a particularly challenging chapter:

This intensive kind of reading is at the opposite end of the scale
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3.1 Skimming

Did you read the Layard article quickly enough, or perhaps too quickly? Reading speed is a persistent worry when you study. There always seems to be much more to read than you have time for, so you feel a tremendous pressure to read faster. But then, if you go too fast, you don't learn much. So what is the ‘right’ speed? The answer is – it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

It's surprising how much you can pick up if you push on quickly through a few pages.

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2.5 Poor environment

Were you held back at all in your reading by the environment you were reading in? Were you reading in bed, in the bath, sitting at a desk, on the bus, or in the park? Any of these could be a good time and place, but did it actually work for you?

Were you able to maintain your concentration fo
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2.4 Disagreeing with the author

It is clear from Kate's responses that from the outset she felt hostile to Layard's article and to Layard himself. As she later explained in a seminar, she felt that he looked down on people with low incomes, such as herself. She felt she was being told that she wasn't happy with her life and that she envied people with lots of possessions. In her philosophy, she said, happiness had nothing to do with wealth. She was just as capable of being happy as the richest people in the country. Because
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2.2 The ‘academic’ style

You might also be put off by the ‘academic’ style of writing. In everyday life, what you read is usually written to grab your attention and get a message across quickly before you ‘switch channels’. By contrast, academic texts often raise broad, abstract questions and are unconcerned about arriving at quick answers. For example, where a newspaper headline might say:

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2.1.1 Should you stop reading to look words up?

It depends. Looking up words slows you down, and you may be able to make reasonable sense of their context without having to. For example, I found it fairly easy to guess the meaning of ‘habituation’ in paragraph 8, from the way it was discussed. However, I looked it up on the internet anyway, as I happened to have my computer on. I also looked up ‘real income’ and ‘marginal tax’ and found useful clarification of their meanings.

You have to decide how important a word seems
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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • ask questions to make yourself think about what you read;

  • think about what the key concepts and issues are;

  • detach yourself from disagreements with the author's views.


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Introduction

Reading is easy, isn't it?

On any ordinary day without even noticing, you read shop signs, newspaper headlines, TV listings, a magazine, or a chapter of a paperback. So why would a message like this one appear in an online student chat room in the early weeks of a course?

Clearly, readi
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Acknowledgements

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Unit image

courtesy of For Inspiration Only at Flickr

1. Join the 200,000 students
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10.2 Sources of help

The internet

There is a wealth of useful information on thinking on the internet. Putting key words (such as thinking skills, clear thinking, critical thinking, analysis, argument and so on) into one of the available search engines (e.g. http://www.google.com  [accessed 10 October 2006]) will produce many useful links. American university websites contain some particularly interestin
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10.1 Further reading

There are many relevant books available from libraries and bookshops. Here are some suggestions to start you off.

  • de Bono's Thinking Course by Edward de Bono, published by BBC Books, 1999

    An interesting general consideration of thinking skills with tools and techniques for developing thinking in a general way.

  • Use Your Head by Tony Buzan, published by BBC Books, 1995

    Lots of useful information on how to mak
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8.1 Balanced argument

In many instances, we are not just concerned with arguing a particular case or taking a particular point of view, we are interested in looking at all sides of an issue and producing a balanced argument. This can be helpful in drawing conclusions on an issue.

7.4 Visual tools

Organising thought can be assisted greatly by the use of visual tools. These can include diagrams, mind-maps, tables, graphs, time lines, flow charts, sequence diagrams, decision trees or other visual representations. The process of making visual representations can itself involve using and developing a range of thinking skills, particularly higher order skills. So, whether you need the resulting product or not they can be worth doing. However, the resulting product can also provide an
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7.3 Systematic approaches

Having a systematic step-by-step process for thinking about certain academic tasks can be particularly useful so that everything is done as efficiently as possible.

For example, the DANCE system (Rose and Nicholl, 1997) is one of many tools for solving problems.

  • D - Define and clarify what the problem really is (sometimes it is not initially clear). What are your goals?

  • A - Think of a range of alternative ways of solving the p
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7.2 Other ways of structuring thought

Distinguishing between generals and particulars can help you in reading, note taking and writing for your course. But, looking at things in a hierarchical general-particular way is only one approach to giving structure to ideas and information.

Activity 14

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