Tag Archives: essays

How to Read a Book

Source: Livinganawesomelife.com

Reading is the key to developing a comprehensive understanding of any subject by yourself. By the end of Year 12, you’ll need to have mastered the skills of independent readingnote-taking, and asking for help. Today, we’ll focus on the first of those key skills: independent reading.

There are three main types of reading: inspectional, analytical and synoptical reading. How you read depends on your purpose for reading.

1) News articles require Inspectional Reading

In a magazine or academic journal, skim over the headlines and pictures to find articles that might interest you. I recommend reading New Scientist as an excellent source of up-to-date science news. I used to read this magazine each morning before reading the day’s textbook chapter(s) while I was a student in Cambridge. Inspectional reading involves skim-reading then re-reading if the article is particularly relevant to you. You might even want to cut it out and keep it for future reference.

2) Your Chemistry textbook requires Analytical Reading

The key to analytical reading is to make annotations and excellent notes. If you’ve purchased a printed copy of the book, then you’ve purchased the right to annotate that book with ink, Post-it Notes® and highlighters. In difficult/technical sections of the book (such as the introduction page to NMR spectroscopy in Heinemann Chemistry 2), summarise each paragraph in 7 words or fewer in the margin. Transfer your notes to A4, lined paper and file your notes in an organised way. Note-making is the best way to learn while you read a technically difficult text such as your Chemistry textbook.

3) When you have an assignment due, you’ll need to do a Synoptical Reading of your source materials

When you need to build a bibliography, you’ll need to glean pieces of information from many sources and summarise them into your own words. You’ll also need to keep a properly-formatted references list to append to your assignment. You can read the entire text or just relevant parts – but make sure your reading is varied. Read books or articles from the references sections of books that are particularly relevant to your assignment. When writing your essay, much of the structure of the essay will ‘magically’ emerge when you link together in a logical way the dozens of sentence-long summaries that you created during your synoptical reading.

How do you read?

Is there a special reading/note-taking technique that works well for you? Do you make flashcards or mind maps? Let us know in the comments section below.

Mind Mapping: Tea Categories

I dream at night, during the day, and in colour. I carry an A4 pad with me everywhere I go (even to the park or the market) and make notes on whatever enters my mind when I’m awake. I make notes as mind maps for everything.

Mind-maps help me think. The best essays I wrote in Cambridge, the best speeches I’ve given and the best lessons I’ve taught also started as mind-maps. All were made on a thick, ring-bound A4 pad at varying times throughout the day.

Here’s one I typed up. It’s a collation of many smaller maps I made while reading about Chinese tea culture.

The best mind mapping software for Mac is undoubtedly iMindMap 5It’s available here for 14-days completely free of charge.

All The Tea In China, India and Africa
All The Tea In China, India and Africa. Click to enlarge it considerably. © James Kennedy, 2011

Every node here has a much deeper meaning than I’ve written down. Reading every piece of information on this mind map reminds me of the book that contained it, where and when I read it (and can subsequently recall most of the books). Mind maps thus carry individual meaning to the person who made them. They prevent plagiarism and make our own thoughts more clear.

Lastly, but most importantly, mind mapping look really impressive. Even if it’s only for this reason, I encourage my students to map all their university assignments on paper before writing. Mind mapping looks sophisticated and intimidates everyone else.

I’ve also been using the Reminders app for iPhone recently. There are many disadvantages compared with an A4 pad (it’s small, fiddly and only does linear bullet-lists) but it does give you one major speed-advantage: it fits in your pocket 🙂