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Eggie's avatar

How to remember more when you read?

Asked by Eggie (5865points) December 4th, 2010

I find that when I read an article from my class I do not retain much information when I read. I have tried notetaking but I find that this takes too long and I do not get to cover as much topics as I want to study.

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7 Answers

Soubresaut's avatar

I think it’s really about experimenting with what works best for you.

I know a lot of people who like, when they’re done with whatever they’re supposed to read, to write a summary of what they just read in their own words.

Others like to read the section/article/story twice.

I’ve found that I like to write notes into the text itself—annotate, but in my own sort of way—while I read. That I remember best when I’m actively trying to make connections of what I read to itself or other texts/experiences I’ve read or had; or when I get the words to translate into mental images/movies.

Personally, I’m a pretty slow reader. If I try to read fast, I read all the words, but they become more or less meaningless and all jumbled together. It’s only when I read slowly, word by word, letting the sentences build to completion, that I get the content. But I know people who can read by looking line by line, rather than at words. The sentences somehow form in their heads. They read incredibly fast, and I still don’t understand how they do it.

Try to figure out how you best read, just purely reading (all other ‘tricks’ aside,) and make sure you’re doing that. Then, if you need to do more, figure out what little ‘extra’ best supplements your digestion of the words.

…hope at least one of those ideas help?

absalom's avatar

What works best for me is taking notes in the margins, but I also have time constraints and am usually unable to do that. So I do the easier thing, which is to underline or highlight certain lines I find important, to spend a second or to trying to encode them in my memory (which involves rereading, repeating).

I have, like, a three-tier system, in which the important stuff is underlined or bracketed or highlighted, the really important stuff is indicated with some kind of little marginal star, and the absolutely necessary stuff gets all of the above, plus the page on which it appears has its number circled. Later I can flip through the text easily and find what I need at a glance.

Just paying attention like this and being engaged with the text will help with retaining information. You’ve got to be as active a reader as possible.

Seelix's avatar

If you don’t want to make notes (which I think is the best method), I’d suggest highlighting. If you’re a visual learner like I am, when you’re trying to remember what you’ve read, you may be able to conjure a mental image of the page and then the important parts will just leap off at you.

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Jeruba's avatar

Assuming that the reading is for content knowledge rather than process knowledge (that is, it’s about the subject matter and not about how to do something), I use underlining and highlighting, but very selectively. If you look at a page that’s solid highlighter, it’s as good as not marking anything.

I try to organize things in my head as I go along, being aware of the outline that the author probably followed. This is why teachers sometimes make you outline chapters. In order to write the chapter or article, the author had an outline listing key points and subpoints and examples. If you can back it out and derive the same outline from your reading, you’ve got what they were talking about.

So I highlight ideas that seem like the main points. I underline sentences and phrases that strike me as really communicating something useful or new—something that moves my understanding forward. I don’t underline entire explanations—just enough to (a) allow me to find it again and (b) make it jump out at me when I’m reviewing.

In the margins I draw a little square window when i see a good example or illustration that helps me understand. I draw a little light bulb for anything that makes a light go on in my head—a bright idea. I write definitions of words if I had to look them up. And—this might be the best thing—I cross-reference by page number (in both places) passages that tie together with other passages—that connect in some strong way that helps it all make sense.

I also pay a lot of attention to what the instructor says in class. If you listen carefully and take good notes, you will find out what the instructor thinks is important to get out of your reading. I make sure I get that.

Now, if what I’m reading is not subject matter to be learned, but rather things like novels, plays, and essays, like for a literature course, that’s different, and I would not use the same techniques.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

Read your material three times.

First time through, just skim. Maybe read the first and last paragraphs, but otherwise, just go through and get the basic idea. The main idea of a paragraph will generally be in the first sentence, so read first sentences. If anything catches your eye, take a closer look. This could be bold or italic words, a statistic, or just something of interest to you.

Second time through, read it normally. You’ll notice this is easier. Since you already have the main idea of the thing, it’s less likely you’ll get bogged down in details.

The third reading is just a review. Look over the structure and main ideas again, maybe make notes if that’s the way you roll.

This is what many speed reading methods encourage doing for comprehension. At least, the better ones I’ve looked at do. Normally, I’m a fast reader anyway, but certain types of reading feel like they slow me to 10 words per minute, which I then fail to remember. This way of reading helps me a lot with dense, academic material.

mattbrowne's avatar

By using a pen.

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