Suggestions for Studying, Reading, and Test-Taking from the Department of History
In order to help students improve their study habits, writing ability, and test-taking skills, the faculty of the Department of History has drafted the following set of suggestions or guidelines. Individual instructors may want to alter or amend these proposals to reflect more closely their personal sentiments and the needs of their particular classes. In any case, this material is offered solely for the benefit of students who should feel free to use these suggestions at their discretion.
PREPARATION FOR THE COURSE
Take your college education seriously.
Attend class regularly.
Bring necessary learning aids to class.
Be willing to participate, if necessary, in class discussions.
Prepare assignments conscientiously and on time.
Utilize available educational resources, including the text, library, UNC-Wilmington writing lab, and instructor.
Budget your time to allow for sufficient study time.
Prepare a daily schedule and adhere to it as closely as possible.
Find a proper study environment. Studying is usually a personal, lonely task that demands solitude and quiet. Avoid distractions as a general rule. However, team or group study might be possible or desirable in some instances. Above all, studying is an individual exercise. Choose the format of studying that best suits you.
READING THE TEXT
One method among many for reading the text profitably (and most other written material) is called the SQ3R – survey, question, read, recite, and review.
Survey the text by reading headings, subheadings, and any other suggested study aids, which provide the framework around which the text is written.
Then convert the subheadings, etc. into questions. Under each subheading search for minor headings and turn those into questions.
At that point begin to read, bearing in mind the questions that you have formulated. In the process, examine carefully pictures, maps and other visual aids.
Reading should be followed by recitation, or attempting to answer the questions that have been formulated.
Review concludes the exercise. It consists of making an outline from the previously devised questions, and studying the outline, headings, subheadings.
TAKING NOTES IN CLASS
Concentrate on the material, whether lecture or audio-visual.
Do not attempt to write every word spoken by the instructor.
Remember the key points. Voice inflection and verbal admonitions (“Remember this”) by the instructor are indicators of important information.
Devise abbreviations and “shorthand” symbols where possible to speed notetaking.
Ask questions for clarification or additional information.
As soon as possible, after class rewrite or type your notes for better legibility and future study.
On Writing a History Paper
A good paper has three three identifiable parts: (1) an introduction (2) a body (3) a conclusion. The purpose of the introduction is to identify and present to the reader your thesis and some of the major points you will be discussing in the essay. The body of your paper should consist of a number a paragraphs in which (at some length) you describe, analyze and present evidence to support your thesis. The conclusion (your last paragraph) is a summation of your paper. Re-state the thesis and explain (briefly) how your evidence supported your argument. If you choose, you may use your conclusion to hypothesize about the larger significance of your thesis.
Each paragraph should begin with a “lead” sentence, which alerts the reader as to the content of the paragraph. Remember that a paragraph consists of several sentences, which should expand upon the content of the lead (or thesis) sentence.
Most writers illustrate their ideas by citing examples from outside readings. Generally, if you use more than three (3) words written by another individual in your sentence you must put quotation marks (“”) around either the phrase or the entire At the end of the sentence containing the quotation place a footnote (see below). Use either the bottom of the page or a separate page at the end of the paper labeled NOTES to identify the author of the quote. Writers who do not follow the above format run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. To plagiarize is “to steal and use (the ideas or writings of another) as one’s own.”1 Plagiarism is a criminal offense. A person caught plagiarizing may be dismissed from the University.
William Morris, ed., The American Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969), p. 1001. The correct citation for any article is as follows: Gerda Lerner, “Early Community Work of Black Club Women," The Journal of Negro History, 59:2 (April 1974), 158-167
If you are unsure how to begin working on your history assignment, start by preparing an outline. You might contact your History or English professor for assistance or make use of the resources in the Writing Place. Remember the more prepared you are, the more helpful we can be!
Four final thoughts on writing a history paper:
- Write your essay as if the reader has no expertise on the subject.
- Construct more than on draft of your paper. Few writers can "turn out" a well-organized , well written, concise essay the first time. "Rough drafts" tend to be sloppy, incomplete, choppy and imprecise.
- Pay attention to correct grammar.
- Last but not least, use a dictionary! Misspelled words distract the reader's attention from the purpose of your paper.
On Writing A Book Critique
A book Critique is not a book report. A book report summarizes the main points of the text and provides additional descriptive details of those points. A book critique evaluates the work of an author. This is done by identifying the author’s main idea (the thesis), by analyzing the “soundness” of the thesis and by assessing how well it is developed. Be critical. Ask yourself, does the evidence used by the author support his/her argument?
A popular format used when writing a critique follows:
- an identification of the thesis
- a brief ( no more than 3 paragraphs) summary of the book/article
- An analysis of the evidence/methodology used by the author
- Your evaluation of the strengths/weaknesses of the author’s argument and its development.
Finally, be sure to follow the guidelines for writing a paper. If you base your argument of the work of other scholars, be sure to provide the proper citations.
- Be prepared physically in terms of proper rest and diet.
- In studying concentrate on material which you do not know or about which you are unsure.
- Avoid cramming. Study on a day- to-day basis.
- Review all available materials: texts, maps charts, Illustrations, notes, etc.
- Be prepared for different types of tests.
2. TYPES OF TESTS
- Such tests require a single response – a word phrase that best answers a question or completes a sentence; deciding whether a statement is true or false; filling in a blank with a word or phrase; or matching similar or dissimilar words or phrases.
- Suggestions for taking objective tests
- Read the directions carefully.
- Read the entire test quickly to ascertain its length and the manner in which your time should be budgeted.
- Leave time to go back over the test to correct your work.
- Read each question carefully.
- Seek assistance if possible in those instances in which you do not understand the question.
- Do not linger on difficult questions at the outset. Answer the easier ones first. Note those for which you do not have a ready answer and come back to them later.
- While first impressions are often correct, they are not necessarily so.
- Guess at an answer unless the test has built-in penalty to discourage guessing.
- Such tests require the respondent to bring together various pieces of information, to understand concepts, and to answer questions in clear, readable prose.
- Suggestions for taking essay tests.
- Read the questions carefully, at least twice.
- Be sure that you understand the question, particularly the meaning of such words a “analyze,” “compare,” “contrast,” and “explain.”
- Budget your time for the entire test.
- Take a few moments to organize your thoughts. Prepare a short outline of what you intend to write or put down salient points that you wish to cover.
- Write legibly. Slow down even if it means omitting some material.
- Use appropriate grammar and spell correctly. Reread your answers, correct grammatical and spelling mistakes, and make all additions.
Parts of the above were adapted from 101 Easy Ways to Get Better Grades (Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1979), and Robert V. Daniels, Studying History: How and Why (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966).