Friday, March 12, 2010


This is actually a companion piece to my earlier blogpost pertaining to video-based learning strategy, which I have shared with a blog reader, Elliot.

I thought it would be useful to be replicated here - with a minor edit - for my other blog readers.

1. Don't use any biaural beat & isochronic tone music in your reading/studying. Because of their brainwave entrainment & frequency following response, they are good for quick stress reduction.

However, you can use them as a preamble to your reading endeavour.

2. I suggest you use Baroque & some selections of New Age music in the background, while you read or study. Because the music is designed for an ambient environment, it does not interfere with your reading or studying.

3. If you have ceiling lights installed in the form of flourescent tubes, I suggest you get hold of a 3M polarising reading lamp to be used over your reading surface.

Flourescent tubes generate strobe effects, which interfere with the eye/brain connection.

4. Use your regular relaxation routines or meditation sequences as a preamble to creating a resourceful mind/body state for reading & studying.

5. I suggest having a scratchpad to go with your reading endeavour. If you have rambling thoughts, just jot them down.

Of course, you can also use it to capture any interesting thoughts that may come to mind while you are reading.

I always have an idea scratchpad by my side whenever I read.

7. Before reading, especially important text, set out your principal purpose.

8. Do a quick survey of the chapter or book, especially when it is a new chapter or book.

The purpose is to allow you to generate a rough idea about the layout of the book & the various parts e.g. headings/subheadings, that make up the chapter or book.

[In military jargon, this is your reconnaissance patrol.].

More importantly, it allows you to activate your prior knowledge, so that you can connect what you are reading or learning about with what you already know.

9. Learn to segregate "core material" from "elaborative material" when you read. "Core material" refer to key concepts, principles, definitions, laws, theorems, rules, terminology, etc.

"Elaborative material" refers to ilustrations, examples, anecdotes, etc.

In terms of academic text, 80% of exam questions generally come from "core material".

10. Turn each heading/subheading in the chapter or book into a question (?) when you read. Doing this automatically sets your brain into search mode for the answer.

Use the 5W1H questioning framework.

[From your quick survey, you probably will come across end-of-chapter questions or discussion questions, especially in academic texts.]

Having questions in your head keep you "awake" in a sense.

11. Learn to understand text organisational patterns & signal words.

Every academic discipline has its own patterns of organisation.

With the understanding of patterns, it is much easier for you to look for the relevant key ideas.

12. Use a pacer to go with your reading. The pacer helps to "direct" your eye-balls.

More importantly, the physical act of using a pacer (it can be your finger, a pencil or a a colur marker; my personal favourite is an orange-colour marker) helps you to focus.

13. Annotate as you read. That is, highlight/underline/circle/write notes in the margin as you read. This facilitates your "interactive dialogue" with the author.

You can also use whatever white space in the book to draw simple micro-maps to pull out key ideas next to the passage.

When you come across an important passage, containing the key ideas, draw two parallel vertical lines, & mark an "asterisk" next to it. If it is an important definition, just mark 'DefN' in the margin next to it.

When a particular passage "bugs" you in terms of understanding, just write a question mark next to it so that you can come back to it after you have finished reading the entire text. By doing it, you avoid getting stuck midway of your reading.

The same applies to any conflicting passage you may come across.

When a particular passage refers to an earlier passage, write the page it refers to & jot down some notes for comparison/contrast.

Whe examples are given in a particular passage, try to enumerate them accordingly.

When a particular passage calls for action, list out the actions in the margins, in bullet points, & write A2T (Action to Take) or T2D (Things to Do) next to the passage.

When a particular passage "intrigues" or "puzzles" you in some way, write P2P (Points to Ponder) next to the passage.

When you come across interesting snippets, just draw two parallel vertical lines next to the passage, & mark "Interesting!" or draw a light bulb.

To me, marginal annotations serve as powerful aids to reading. All fast readers practise this methodology.

Be creative with your marginal annotations!!! No book is sacred.

When you go back to review the chapter or book, all you need to do is to go through your marginal annotations.

As a matter of fact, all your marginal annotations will eventually form the important "raw materials" for your map of the chapter or global map for the book. Revision thus becomes a breeze!

14. Remember, the hand is always the cutting edge of the mind. A resourceful mind/body state is only part of the reading equation. You need to take a proactive as well as an active role in the reading process as described above.

15. Pause every 15-20 minutes to review what you have just read. Make this a habit.

Remember the primacy & recency effects when one reads a book.

16. Reading, as my good friend Dilip Mukerjea has described so eloquently in his book, 'Unleashing Genius with the World Most Powerful Learning Systems', is an active, dynamic process.

In his book, Dilip offers a whole gamut of different reading strategies for professionals as well as students.

Readers are welcome to get hold of a copy of 'Unleashing Genius', which you can easily procure from Kinokuniya Bookstores.

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