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Title

Study Methods

I don’t remember the title of the first book I read in college, but I do remember how I read it. It was a hefty tome on the state and as I read I wrote notes (“p 12 – state more capacious term than government” etc) on a pad. I remember feeling good -- all student-y, even intellectual, as I moved slowly through the text. After reading 50 pages, I decided to take stock. I had 20 pages of notes. I was new to the whole student thing, but I knew something was up.

February 16, 2010
 

I don’t remember the title of the first book I read in college, but I do remember how I read it. It was a hefty tome on the state and as I read I wrote notes (“p 12 – state more capacious term than government” etc) on a pad. I remember feeling good -- all student-y, even intellectual, as I moved slowly through the text. After reading 50 pages, I decided to take stock. I had 20 pages of notes. I was new to the whole student thing, but I knew something was up.

Next, I tried I highlighter pens, these were definitely prettier than notes, but I could never remember why it was I’d used the different colors. Did pink mean civil society? Was pale blue power, or representation? And, of course, it wasn’t much use if I was reading a library book.

Gradually, I developed my own method (using the word method in its very loosest sense) which involves, in no particular order, Post-Its, marginal glosses, computer files, index cards, scribbled phrases on the edge of lecture notes, and, naturally, the occasional use of the highlighter. It has, on the one hand worked beautifully, I have a Ph.D., but, on the other, not so well, I don’t have tenure.

I’ve been thinking about study methods all weekend long (well, occasionally) because the mid-term is suddenly looming (I guess it isn’t suddenly looming, more like I’ve suddenly realized that it’s looming – bottom line, I’ve got more than my share of loomingosity in my life) and I want to do well. In theory, a good study method should lead to a good grade, and I’d say that’s true in my own field: I expect a student to come to class having read the texts, thus having arrived at what understanding he can, and open, through discussion in class, to having his view tested and challenged. But that’s not what goes on in Energy and the Environment.

In the world of science, I have to know stuff. And this stuff I have to know isn’t, at least at my level, open to interpretation. This would all be terrifying me if I hadn’t overheard one student tell another that we’d get study questions, I’m not wholly sure what they are, but I’m awfully glad they exist. Now I can calmly work on my letter to a Congressman telling him why he should support a law banning sun-tanning beds (due on Thursday). I can’t, I assume, write a letter extolling the virtue of “freedom” and telling her to ignore ‘the science,’ the fact that I can’t remains a subject for another day.

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