Textbook Reading: It’s Just a Phase…

In my first year at college, a student approached me after class to ask a question.

“How did you remember that one sentence in the assigned chapter that answered the professor’s question, man?”  At the time, my answer was lame (and the irony is that I can’t remember the professors question or my answer):

“I just read the material.”

Though not exciting, that was the correct answer at the time.  I would skim the chapter, and then read it soon after.  Since then, I have refined my textbook reading technique into a phased approach.

It works for me, but it is by no means the “only” way to get through an assigned reading.  At the very least, I hope it will help you create an approach that works best for you.

Phase 1: The Set-Up

Set Aside Time

My usual is 4 hours in a morning for one subject, 4 hours the same afternoon for another subject.  If pressed, I can add additional reading or assignments (or a social life) to the middle of the day or evening.

If you’re taking a course that has a regular schedule, a regulated reading schedule will be helpful.  The routine will make it easier to actually do the reading instead of putting it off until later.  It will also make it easier for your brain to categorize and retain the information.

Grab a glass of water.  Fill a cup of coffee.  Make your lunch.  Whatever makes your study time comfortable and allows you to retain information; do it.

Study Space

I study at my dining table.  Always.

Just like the consistent timing of a study session, the consistent place will help you retain information.  It can also help with the next step.

Remove Distractions

Turn off the cell phone.  Log off Facebook.  Disconnect from the internet.  Lock your front door.  Seriously.

This is the most important step.  Do it right.  You are trying to create knowledge, so focus on that instead of the world around you.

Phase 2: Information Intake

Know What You’re Getting Into

Read the chapter overview.  It’s there for a reason: to tell you what you’re about to read.

Read the End First

Just like an awful novel you don’t feel obligated to read completely.

A well written chapter summary is worth its weight in gold.  It should tell you what you can expect from the chapter and the author’s writing style.

If the summaries in your textbook suck, write a list of the reasons why and discuss them with your professor.  Generally they choose the textbook for the course, so will appreciate the feedback.  If they don’t, then they aren’t much of a professor.

Skim the chapter

Read definitions of key terms.  Highlight sections that grab your attention.  Take a look over charts and graphics.

At this stage, you don’t need to think about the information.  By this point, you should have a general sense of what the chapter is trying to say.  If questions come to mind, write them down and try to answer them in the next phase.

Break

Take a 5 minute break.  Mentally bounce what you just read around in your mind.  There is no need to draw conclusions.

Phase 3: Knowledge Creation

Other than removing distractions, this is the most critical phase.  It will take time.  It may not be easy.  However, it will help you get what you need from the textbook.

Reading

Read the chapter word for word.  Re-read the summary.  Take the time to consider definitions in a way that will help you understand what the term means.

Highlight key concepts.  Think about them, too.  Ask yourself “what does this concept mean in the context of this class and my life?  How can I apply it?”

While reading, take notes based on how you understand what you are reading; you can always check your understanding with your professor.  These will be useful in class and later in life.  The way that you understand the content is more important than how the textbook presents it. Exact format is unimportant: mind maps are effective, but you may find other forms of notes to be more effective.

If there are example exercises, do at least a few of them.  This is especially important for math-heavy classes.  Do the math; it will make your in-class and in-exam life less painful.

Re-read sections that do not make sense.  Take a 5 minute break to consider a section if it still does not make sense.  Write down questions.

Review

Reading needs to be done first; however, review is just as important for retention of information and creating knowledge.

Open the textbook to the appropriate chapter, read over your notes, highlighted concepts, and sections that didn’t quite make sense.  Consider how it could apply to your life or how you assume it applies to the context of the class associated to the textbook.  Think of examples of putting the chapter concepts to use.  Spend at least 10-20 minutes reflecting on the material.

Review in a way that fits the class material.  For dense and complex textbooks like those I read for psychology and consumer behaviour classes, I recommend taking additional time for review.  When I took those classes, I would dedicate the first 4 hour session to reading with some time to review, and then a 2-3 hour block either the next day or later in the same day to review and re-skim the chapter.

Break Away

Organize and collect your notes.  Close the textbook.

You’re done…for now.

Phase 4: Final Review

Re-skim the chapter and your notes the night before or the day of (if you have the time) class.  I know some students that re-read the entire chapter.  Write down any new understandings of the material that come to mind as you revisit it; same for questions.

Bring your knowledge to class.  Answer questions.  Ask questions.  Feel smart.

How do you read your textbooks?  Is there a specific ritual like the one I’ve described?  Tell us about it in ta comment.

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Beer, Tweens, Cereal, and Space

Happy (late) Canada day!

Here’s my quick run-down of must-see articles in marketing last week:

How appropriate that this Molson Canadian campaign came up last week.  It’s adorable in a nostalgic-with-beer kinda way.  Not my favourite commercial of the year, but it’s fun reboot of a classic traditional media campaign, so I like it.

Next, here’s some interesting data about Tweens, as compiled and made pretty by these guys.  Or thing.  I’m not 100% certain which monriker is more appropriate.

Great information to have if you are thinking about marketing to Generation Y.  The pie chart about instant gratification made me laugh; it seems that most tweens don’t like delayed satisfaction.

Next up, I present some social media lessons!

General Mills Gets a Firm that Gets Social Media 

Spredfast being the firm in question.  Read the quote below (found here):

“…Aaron Miller, social media and marketing specialist for the CPG firm [states] “One is to set in place brand foundations that enable success in social media. We’ve established that each brand needs a purpose—reasons for being that go beyond selling Cheerios.

-Heine, C, for AdWeek

“…needs a purpose…”

Baseline social media strategy, ladies and gentlemen.  Lay down why your brand/company/not-for-profit/self/dog is on social media.

Think of it this way: “why would a customer want to meet with and engage me on social media?”  Once you have a “why” (and a “where your clients are”), then the “what” becomes easier.

The Take Away

Have a “why” in your social strategy.  Tie it into your overall brand.  Know your audience, and give them what they like.

Social NASA

Oh NASA.  You guys are so good at what you do.  And some of what you do happens to be social media.

I hope everyone remembers @cmdr_hadfield‘s 5-month journey into space.  He posted a bunch of pictures.  Go find ’em if you haven’t already had a look.  Earth is beautiful.

Back to the main point: Real live astronauts and scientists on the social web!  I can remember wishing I had a direct line into NASA and CSA in elementary school, and now you’re telling me it’s possible AND I can see it on my cellphone?!

Excellent.

The Take Away

Most (not all) accounts on social networks are connected to a real person in some way, so those real people want to see things written and posted by real people.  I guarantee that if a scientist at NASA is excited about completing an experiment (and they’re allowed to share it), who better than the real, excited scientist?  I can’t imagine trying to be the PR person trying to fake a “EUREKA!” on Twitter.

Down with the Sickness

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed there is no Marketing Monday today. I woke up and spent the morning in the bathroom: a bout of food poisoning struck. I am feeling better now, though utterly exhausted. Vomiting requires far too much physical energy.

I may get the chance to finish the post later this evening. If not, you will see it here tomorrow.

See you then!