Study Skills for your Students

With examinations round the corner, here are strategies for pupils.

M.U.R.D.E.R (Ah! What a pleasant thought for those struggling with studies!!!)

Set a positive mood for yourself to study in.
Select the appropriate time, environment, and attitude
Mark any information you don’t understand in a particular unit.
Keep a focus on one unit or a manageable group of exercises.
After studying the unit, stop & put what you have learned into your own words.
Go back to what you did not understand and reconsider the information.
Contact external expert sources (e.g., other books / your teacher / your study buddy) if you still cannot understand it.
In this step, ask three kinds of questions concerning the studied material.
If I could speak to the author, what questions would I ask or what criticism would I offer?
How could I apply this material to what I am interested in?
How could I make this information interesting and understandable to other students?
Go over the material you’ve covered.
Review what strategies helped you understand and/or retain information in the past and apply these to your current studies

Adapted from Hayes, John R., The Complete Problem Solver, Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, Hillsdale, NJ: 1989. ISBN: 0805803092


Skim the headings of the entire chapter. Your most important goal is to find out how the chapter is organized.
If the major terms in the headings are unfamiliar – look them up.
The same material could be organized more than one way. If the way it is organized helps you to remember the main topics, then use that organization. If you notice some other way it could have been organized that makes more sense to you, then use that method.
Turn the subheadings under the major headings into questions that you expect to be answered in that part of the text.
Try to see if the questions you anticipated are answered. Reflect on what you read; put it in your own words. Try to connect what you are reading to things you already know. Don’t mark or highlight words or passages as you come to them the first time. Wait until you have reached the end of a small section, maybe a paragraph or two and look back to decide if there is anything there that you probably wouldn’t remember without highlighting it. Try to learn through trial and error how much marking is the minimum you need to do to remember all the material.
This is the most critical part.
After reading a small section, perhaps a page or two CLOSE THE BOOK and try to write down the main ideas and as many details as you can, and then check yourself.
Put  main ideas & details in your own words; don’t just memorize exact words in the text.
When you check, look for important things you omitted or got wrong.
Do it again. Do it as many times as you need to until you can close the book and reproduce the material accurately, but meaningfully, not just by rote.
Once you can do that immediately after closing the book, then start trying to do it after being away from the book for a while. First take short gaps, like an hour, then longer gaps, like a day or two.
This is hard work. You might start by first trying to be able to make just a skeletal outline and build up the ability to fill in details.
Develop your own mnemonics for memorizing points that you find confusing.
After some time has passed, try to reproduce the material as you did above. The key here is that you must give yourself enough time to forget some of the material so that you are forced to really re-generate the material. Re-generate means that you use your mnemonics and connections from the easier-to-remember main ideas to pull up the details.
Research has shown that reflection, spacing your study, and organizing all improve learning significantly.

Found this method in Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., Smith, E. E., & Bem, D. J. (1993). Introduction to Psychology Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, but could not trace its original source

S.Q.3R (S.Q.R.R.R)

Survey (1 minute):
Before beginning reading look through the whole chapter. See what the headings are — the major ones and the subheadings; hierarchical structures seem to be particularly easy for our brains to latch onto — check for introductory and summary paragraphs, references, etc. Resist reading at this point, but see if you can identify 3 to 6 major ideas in the chapter.
Question (usually less than 30 seconds):
Ask yourself what this chapter is about: What is the question that this chapter is trying to answer? Or — along the curiosity lines — What question do I have that this chapter might help answer? Repeat this process with each subsection of the chapter, as well, turning each heading into a question.
Read (slower for some of us than others!):
Read one section at a time looking for the answer to the question proposed by the heading! This is active reading and requires concentration so find yourself a place and time where you can concentrate.
Recite/write (about a minute):
Say to yourself or write down a key phrase that sums up the major point of the section and answers the question. It is important to use your own words, not just copy a phrase from the book. Research shows that we remember our own (active) connections better than ones given to us (passive), indeed that our own hierarchies are generally better than others.
Review (less than 5 minutes):
After repeating steps 2-4 for each section you have a list of key phrases that provides a sort of outline for the chapter. Test yourself by covering up the key phrases and seeing if you can recall them. Do this right after you finish reading the chapter. If you can’t recall one of your major points, that’s a section you need to reread.

Adapted from: Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970) Effective Study (4th ed.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060455217

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