Step Nine…Learning Techniques

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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The most common skills used in study are reading and writing. The following hints will help you to improve the way you use these at work


Skimming, Scanning and Careful Reading

Skimming means glancing at an article or book very quickly to get a rough idea of what it is about without going into much detail. You do not read every word. You could do this by looking for key words, reading the first line of each paragraph or skimming along the contents, index, chapter headings or sub-headings.

Scanning is searching through a piece of text for specific items of information, for example, a date, a figure or a name.

Careful Reading is when you need intensive reading and it can be done in five steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review (SQ3R).

SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review)
is a study technique. It is not suggested that all of your reading should be done by this method but it is very useful when you are doing intensive study of a text.

Survey Look over the chapter or section you are about to read and try to get a general idea of the content from the headings, charts, illustrations and by a quick read of the first and last paragraphs.

Question Set yourself some questions that you want to find answers for from the reading and note any questions, which the Survey has suggested to you.

Read As you read the chapter or section through, vary the speed to suit the material and mark the text, which contains essential information.

Recall Jot down a summary of your reading including the main points and the answers to the questions that you noted earlier.

Review Look back over the Chapter or section and see if it bears out your Recall. Make any amendments or additions which you will need to make your notes complete.

Making Notes


The main purpose of making notes is to help you remember things. You tend to remember things better when you write them down. Making your own notes will also help you to understand what you are learning. Notes will help you to revise what you need to know for an exam.

When you make your own notes you are more likely to link new information to what you already know which means that you will be better able to understand it and remember it. Making notes helps you to concentrate on what you are learning when you are reading a book or listening to a lecture. Finally, you can make notes as a starting point for a project, an essay or some other piece of writing.


Good notes should be clear and concise.

They should also be easy to read and understand (otherwise you won t want to be bothered looking over them again). You should organise your notes to suit the way you learn. Your notes should only contain the information that you need to learn. If you set out your notes in a striking way, you will be better able to remember the information.


There are a number of different ways of making notes, so it s up to you to decide which method suits you best, that is, suits your way of working. You may want to use a combination of methods.

The most popular types of notes used are:

(sometimes called sequential notes) which are in lines.

(also called nuclear notes )

Linear Notes are made in lines. Some people find them easier for memorising.

Making notes helps me:
Make Links

Notes Should:
Be Clear
Be Easy to Read
Be Well Organised
Suit My Way of Learning
Set Out in a Striking Pattern

Types of Notes:

Pattern Notes are more visual.
They are useful for planning an essay.

Spider Plans help you to make links between different ideas. They also help you to recall information. Some people find it easier to remember this kind of notes.


Ask yourself what information you hope to get from the book. What is your purpose in reading the book Which parts of the book are relevant to your study

Once you have decided which part or parts of the book are needed for your study, you should read those sections in depth.

Making notes in your own words will help you to recall the information you have read. Look for the main topic areas and note them down. For each topic, write a short list of the most important points in as short a form you can. Don t copy out chunks of text; the mental activity of putting the information into your own words will actually help you to understand it. Make a note, however, of any technical terms or special vocabulary that you need to know for your subject. If you are not sure of the meaning of a word, look it up in a dictionary and write out a short explanation of the


Taking notes in a live situation, such as a lecture or a talk is different from making notes from a book or a handout because you will probably only get the one chance to get the information down. Before the lecture, be sure you know what the topic is so that you can look out for the main points.

During a lecture or talk, it is better to listen to what is being said. Don t try to take down everything that is said. Concentrate on listening and try to get an overall picture of what is being said. Write down the main points. Use symbols, abbreviations and shortened words to help you get the information down quickly. For example, these are commonly used symbols and abbreviations.

i. e. that is
N. B. note well
e. g. for example
cf. cross-reference
v versus
C18th 18th century
&(or +) and
= equal
b/e because
x times or multiplication
+ plus or positive
% percent

From Waterford Institute of Technology s WIT Adult & Continuing Education
Study Guide

Frank Bolger

Step Three...Goal Setting
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