As a graduate student or scholar, it is essential to master the skill of reading and taking notes effectively. However, this skill is not something that can be learned overnight, and it requires time and practice. Reading is not just about glancing over the words but processing their meaning, understanding the structure of arguments, and developing a strategy for retention and understanding. In this blog post, we will discuss how to read and take notes like a Ph.D. student.
Read for Class
When starting a new term, it is essential to read through the syllabi and determine which readings are most pertinent to your long-term goals in research. Professors do not expect students to read everything, so it is essential to read with a strategy in mind rather than wasting time on subjects that may not be useful in the future.
At the beginning of each week, go through the index of your books and readings to determine which chapters or sections you should pay attention to the most. For example, if you are a student interested in history, you may want to focus on chapters related to slavery and the law. Set up your class notes using an organization app like Notion to categorize your notes into major themes, scholarship, and questions.
Read for Retention
Reading for retention is all about long-term memory. It is essential to read thoroughly and take your time. When taking notes, consider which chapters or sections pique your interest and take notes based on the categories we discussed earlier. For long-term retention and research, take your time with the introduction, take notes in the margin, and check the footnotes and citations.
When taking notes for retention, consider the following categories: main argument, supporting arguments, subjects and sites, sources, methods, scholarly debate, terms and themes, and questions and notes. Note-taking software like Notion is useful for students to organize their notes.
Read for Research
Reading for research is all about finding information that is most pertinent to your project in a timely manner. Focus on the key takeaways of your project and use specific tactics when going into the text to find the information you need. Do not overlook the index of a book or the find feature on a PDF, as it can help you find information quickly and efficiently.
When reading for research, establish a set of key terms, look them up in the index, and see which pages and sections directly reference your subject matter. Reading for research requires a strategic approach to finding the information you need.
Reading and taking notes like a Ph.D. student requires a purposeful and strategic approach. Reading with a strategy in mind and taking notes based on the categories we’ve outlined can help you retain information in the long term. Use note-taking software like Notion to organize your notes and establish a long list of applicable terms to find what you need efficiently. By following these tips, you can read and take notes like a Ph.D. student, regardless of your reading speed or research stage.
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