Study Skills Essays

Study skills, academic skills, or study strategies are approaches applied to learning. They are generally critical to success in school,[1] considered essential for acquiring good grades, and useful for learning throughout one's life.

Study skills are an array of skills which tackle the process of organizing and taking in new information, retaining information, or dealing with assessments. They include mnemonics, which aid the retention of lists of information; effective reading; concentration techniques;[2] and efficient notetaking.[3]

While often left up to the student and their support network, study skills are increasingly taught in high school and at the university level.

More broadly, any skill which boosts a person's ability to study, retain and recall information which assists in and passing exams can be termed a study skill, and this could include time management and motivational techniques.

Study skills are discrete techniques that can be learned, usually in a short time, and applied to all or most fields of study. They must therefore be distinguished from strategies that are specific to a particular field of study (e.g. music or technology), and from abilities inherent in the student, such as aspects of intelligence or learning styles.

Historical context[edit]

The term study skills is used for general approaches to learning, skills for specific courses of study. There are many theoretical works on the subject, including a vast number of popular books and websites. Manuals for students have been published since the 1940s[citation needed].

In the 1950s and 1960s, college instructors in the fields of psychology and the study of education used research, theory, and experience with their own students in writing manuals.[4][5] Marvin Cohn based the advice for parents in his 1978 book Helping Your Teen-Age Student on his experience as a researcher and head of a university reading clinic that tutored teenagers and young adults.[6] In 1986, when Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids was first published, the author had written 22 books on taking standardized tests. A work in two volumes, one for upper elementary grades and the other for middle school, the Guide has methods for taking tests and completing schoolwork.[7][8]

Types[edit]

Rehearsal and rote learning[edit]

Main article: Rote learning

Memorization is the process of committing something to memory. The act of memorization is often a deliberate mental process undertaken in order to store in memory for later recall items such as experiences, names, appointments, addresses, telephone numbers, lists, stories, poems, pictures, maps, diagrams, facts, music or other visual, auditory, or tactical information. Memorization may also refer to the process of storing particular data into the memory of a device. One of the most basic approaches to learning any information is simply to repeat it by rote. Typically this will include reading over notes or a textbook, and re-writing notes.

Reading and listening[edit]

The weakness with rote learning is that it implies a passive reading and listening style. Educators such as John Dewey have argued that students need to learn critical thinking – questioning and weighing up evidence as they learn. This can be done during lectures or when reading books.

A method that is useful during the first interaction with the subject of study is REAP method. This method helps students to improve their understanding of the text and bridge the idea with that of the author's. REAP is an acronym for Read, Encode, Annotate and Ponder.[9]

  1. Read: Reading a section to discern the idea.
  2. Encode: Paraphrasing the idea from the author's perspective to the student's own words.
  3. Annotate: Annotating the section with critical understanding and other relevant notes.
  4. Ponder: To ponder about what they read through thinking, discussing with others and reading related materials. Thus it allows possibility of elaboration and fulfillment of zone of proximal development.

Annotating and Encoding helps the student reprocess the content into concise and coherent knowledge which adds a meaningful symbolic fund of knowledge. Precis annotation, Organizing question annotation, Intentional annotation and Probe annotation are some of the annotation methods used.

A method used to focus on key information when studying from books uncritically is the PQRST method.[10] This method prioritizes the information in a way that relates directly to how they will be asked to use that information in an exam. PQRST is an acronym for Preview, Question, Read, Summary, Test.[11]

  1. Preview: The student looks at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
  2. Question: The student formulates questions to be answered following a thorough examination of the topic(s).
  3. Read: The student reads through the related material, focusing on the information that best relates to the questions formulated earlier.
  4. Summary: The student summarizes the topic, bringing his or her own understanding into the process. This may include written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings.
  5. Test: The student answers the questions drafted earlier, avoiding adding any questions that might distract or change the subject.

There are a variety of studies from different colleges nationwide that show peer-communication can help increase better study habits tremendously. One study shows that an average of 73% score increase was recorded by those who were enrolled in the classes surveyed.[citation needed]

Flashcard training[edit]

Flashcards are visual cues on cards. These have numerous uses in teaching and learning, but can be used for revision. Students often make their own flashcards, or more detailed index cards – cards designed for filing, often A5 size, on which short summaries are written. Being discrete and separate, they have the advantage of allowing students to re-order them, pick a selection to read over, or choose randomly for self-testing.

Keywords[edit]

Summary methods vary depending on the topic, but most involve condensing the large amount of information from a course or book into shorter notes. Often, these notes are then condensed further into key facts.

Organized summaries: Such as outlines showing keywords and definitions and relations, usually in a tree structure.

Spider diagrams: Using spider diagrams or mind maps can be an effective way of linking concepts together. They can be useful for planning essays and essay responses in exams. These tools can give a visual summary of a topic that preserves its logical structure, with lines used to show how different parts link together.

Visual imagery[edit]

Some learners are thought to have a visual learning style, and will benefit greatly from taking information from their studies which are often heavily verbal, and using visual techniques to help encode and retain it in memory.

Some memory techniques make use of visual memory, for example the method of loci, a system of visualising key information in real physical locations e.g. around a room.

Diagrams are often underrated tools. They can be used to bring all the information together and provide practice reorganizing what has been learned in order to produce something practical and useful. They can also aid the recall of information learned very quickly, particularly if the student made the diagram while studying the information. Pictures can then be transferred to flashcards that are very effective last-minute revision tools rather than rereading any written material.

Acronyms and mnemonics[edit]

A mnemonic is a method of organizing and memorizing information. Some use a simple phrase or fact as a trigger for a longer list of information. For example, the cardinal points of the compass can be recalled in the correct order with the phrase "Never Eat Shredded Wheat". Starting with North, the first letter of each word relates to a compass point in clockwise order round a compass.

Exam strategies[edit]

The Black-Red-Green method (developed through the Royal Literary Fund) helps the student to ensure that every aspect of the question posed has been considered, both in exams and essays.[12] The student underlines relevant parts of the question using three separate colors (or some equivalent). BLAck denotes 'BLAtant instructions', i.e. something that clearly must be done; a directive or obvious instruction. REd is a REference Point or REquired input of some kind, usually to do with definitions, terms, cited authors, theory, etc. (either explicitly referred to or strongly implied). GREen denotes GREmlins, which are subtle signals one might easily miss, or a ‘GREEN Light’ that gives a hint on how to proceed, or where to place the emphasis in answers [1]. Another popular method whilst studying is to P.E.E; Point, evidence and explain, reason being, this helps the student break down exam questions allowing them to maximize their marks/grade during the exam. Many Schools will encourage practicing the P.E. BEing method prior to an exam.

Spacing[edit]

Spacing, also called distributed learning by some; helps individuals remember at least as much if not more information for a longer period of time than using only one study skill. Using spacing in addition to other study methods can improve retention and performance on tests.[13] Spacing is especially useful for retaining and recalling new material.[13] The theory of spacing is that instead of cramming all studying into one long study session an individual would split that single session to a few shorter sessions that are hours, if not days apart. Studying will not last longer than it would have originally and one is not working harder but this tool gives the user the ability to remember and recall things for a longer time period. The science behind this; according to Jost’s Law from 1897 “If two associations are of equal strength but of different age, a new repetition has a greater value for the older one”.[14] This means that if a person were to study two things once, at different times, the one studied most recently will be easier to recall.

Time management, organization and lifestyle changes[15][edit]

Often, improvements to the effectiveness of study may be achieved through changes to things unrelated to the study material itself, such as time-management, boosting motivation and avoiding procrastination, and in improvements to sleep and diet.

Time management in study sessions aims to ensure that activities that achieve the greatest benefit are given the greatest focus. A traffic lights system is a simple way of identifying the importance of information, highlighting or underlining information in colours:

  • Green: topics to be studied first; important and also simple
  • Amber: topics to be studied next; important but time-consuming
  • Red: lowest priority; complex and not vital.

This reminds students to start with the things which will provide the quickest benefit, while 'red' topics are only dealt with if time allows. The concept is similar to the ABC analysis, commonly used by workers to help prioritize. Also, some websites (such as FlashNotes) can be used for additional study materials and may help improve time management and increase motivation.

In addition to time management, sleep is an important lifestyle change that could effect your studying. Sleeping less means that you have more time to study. This is a true fact, but just because you are “studying,” does not necessarily mean that your brain is processing everything that you are trying to learn or memorize. It is a proven fact that sleeping more can help you study better, because your brain can process more facts when it has had the rest it needs every night.[16]

In addition to time management and sleep, emotional state of mind matters when a student is studying, according to Benedict Carey in his book “The Surprising Truth About How We Learn and Why It Happens” when speaking about studying versus test taking “we perform better on tests when in the same state of mind as when we studied”[17] If an individual is calm or nervous in class; replicating that emotion can assist in studying. With replicating the emotion an individual is more likely to recall more information if they are in the same state of mind when in class. This also goes the other direction; if one is upset but normally calm in class it’s much better to wait until they are feeling calmer to study. At the time of the test or class they will remember more.

Study environment[edit]

Studying can also be more effective if one changes their environment while studying. For example: the first time studying the material, one can study in a bedroom, the second time one can study outside, and the final time one can study in a coffee shop. The thinking behind this is that as when an individual changes their environment the brain associates different aspects of the learning and gives a stronger hold and additional brain pathways with which to access the information. In this context environment can mean many things; from location, to sounds, to smells, to other stimuli including foods. When discussing environment in regards to its affect on studying and retention Carey says “a simple change in venue improved retrieval strength (memory) by 40 percent.”[18] Another change in the environment can be background music; if people study with music playing and they are able to play the same music during test time they will recall more of the information they studied.[19] According to Carey “background music weaves itself subconsciously into the fabric of stored memory.”[20] This “distraction” in the background helps to create more vivid memories with the studied material.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^"Contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence". Educational Resources Information Center. ISSN 0279-6015. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  2. ^Bremer, Rod. The Manual: A Guide to the Ultimate Study Method (Second ed.). Fons Sapientiae Publishing. ISBN 978-0993496424. 
  3. ^http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/colleges/seh/freshinfo/vs/StudySkills2008b.pdfArchived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^Preston, Rah (1959). Teaching Study Habits and Skills, Rinehart. Original from the University of Maryland digitized August 7, 2006.
  5. ^Kranyik, Robert and Shankman, Florence V. (1963). How to Teach Study Skills, Teacher’s Practical Press.
  6. ^Cohn, Marvin (1979). Helping Your Teen-age Student: What Parents Can Do to Improve Reading and Study Skills, Dutton, ISBN 978-0-525-93065-5.
  7. ^Gruber, Gary (1986). Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids, Grades 3, 4, 5, Quill, ISBN 978-0-688-06350-4.
  8. ^Gruber, Gary (1986). Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids, Grades 6, 7, 8, 9, Quill, ISBN 978-0-688-06351-1.
  9. ^Sheryn Spencer-Waterman (9 January 2014). Handbook on Differentiated Instruction for Middle & High Schools. Routledge. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-317-93008-2. 
  10. ^Gopalakrishnan, Karthika (2009-01-08). "Students tackle stress as board exams draw". The Times Of India. 
  11. ^Stangl, Werner. "The PQRST Method of Studying". stangl-taller.at. Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970). Effective study. New York: Harper & Row. 
  12. ^Royal Literary Fund: Mission Possible: the Study Skills Packhttp://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowshipscheme/writing/mission_possible.cfm
  13. ^ abCarey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 
  14. ^Carey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 
  15. ^College Success: Study Strategies and Skills, Jean A. Reynolds, ©1996 by Allyn & Bacon, Boston
  16. ^Study Efficiently TeenLife Media, January, 2015
  17. ^Carey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 
  18. ^Carey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 
  19. ^Carey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 
  20. ^ abCarey, Benedict (2015). The Surprising Truth About How We Learn And Why It Happens. New York: Random House. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-8129-8429-3. 

Sample essay: The internet

The question

The internet has become an essential component of people's lives in the 21st century. However, there are concerns that the disadvantages of the internet may outweigh the advantages.

Referring to current literature and drawing upon the perspectives of a minimum of four authors from this unit's recommended reading list, argue either in favour or against the impact of the internet in the last decade.

Analysis of the question

Orientation: The internet has become an essential component of people's lives in the 21st century. However, there are concerns that the disadvantages of the internet may outweigh the advantages.
Topic: The internet
Focus: The impact of the internet on people's lives
Directions: Argue (present an argument) either in favour or against
Scope: In the last decade

View the following video and try out the interactive activity on how to analyse an assignment question.

Taxonomy: the internet

Sample essay

Argue either in favour or against the impact of the internet on people's lives in the last decade.

As an avenue of entertainment and communication, and as a research and reference tool, the internet has had a huge impact on the modern societies of developed nations. At the same time, there is concern that the disadvantages and negative influences may outweigh the benefits to the society. This essay argues that, in the last decade, the advantages of the internet far outweigh the disadvantages. This claim is addressed with the support of current authoritative sources which provide the framework for making such a claim. This essay first explores the effect of the internet on the social structures of family life, and religious and spiritual practice. Subsequently, this essay examines the repercussions of the internet on national cultural identity and multiculturalism.

Firstly, in the last ten years, modern family life has been enhanced by developments in technology, and the internet is no exception. The advent of the internet affords parents the opportunity to use the World Wide Web to work from home, removing the need to place pre-school age children in day care centres in the care of strangers and so reinforcing the family unit (Jenkins 2010). However, the benefits of the internet not only have implications for immediate family; members of the extended family can overcome the barriers of time or distance to remain close through such channels as email or social networking sites, for example Facebook. Despite this, Fenech (2007) asserts that the internet has eroded some aspects of family life. Where previous generations may have forsaken dinner conversation in order to watch television together, the practical dimensions of a laptop screen now preclude this act of "togetherness" (p342). Nevertheless, any avenue that generally allows more opportunity for contact between members of an immediate or extended family has to be seen as advantageous. Moreover, the internet allows a sense of inclusion that goes beyond the family sphere.

Secondly, due to the increasing accessibility of the internet in the last ten years, participating in a religion no longer necessarily depends on a person's ability to attend a place of worship. The virtual 'congregation' may offer a person more opportunities of interaction with both the spiritual leader and other devotees by providing facilities such as blogs, chat rooms and video links. Moreover, this creates a sense of belonging to a religious or spiritual community where one may have not existed before, as more and more people commute, work longer hours and, indeed, are required to work on public holidays, which often coincide with religious festivals (Wong 2009). Though Goldstein (2008) ascertains that the flagrant consumerism promoted through such mass media outlets as the internet is responsible for a turn away from religious practices and a rapid decline in religious service attendance, her research focuses solely on, Christianity, Judaism and Islam and is not inclusive of growing sects such as Jews For Jesus and alternative religions such as The Baha'i Faith. Groups such as these use the internet to unite their followers globally (Wong 2009).What is more, the internet is uniting people on a more personal and intimate level.

Thirdly, the internet offers the opportunity to maintain cultural ties with one's country even when living abroad for work purposes. Expatriates can view electronic versions of newspapers, stream and download news, current affairs programmes and local dramas from their country of origin, so keeping in contact with the culture. It could be argued, as Azhad (2008) does, that this process could be facilitated just as easily by print media and DVD recordings being sent through the mail, as would have been the norm a decade ago. Nonetheless, it is the 'live' experience of being able to access news from home "as it happens" that reinforces a national's ties to the home culture, and simulates a feeling of "being there" (Olsten 2008 p.6). This connectedness to home alleviates feelings an expatriate might have of dislocation or alienation from their countrymen, as 'real time' exposure to the home vernacular creates common reference points, making communication a much smoother process (Wong 2009). Equally, other facilities afforded by the internet, such as Skype, enable someone away from home to still have a presence in the home country as they participate in the celebration of cultural festivals and national holidays, thus reinforcing their commitment to nationalism in the eyes of their compatriots and tightening the ties that bind. Alternatively, just as the internet serves to strengthen national identity, it can also provide a point of reference for those who live in a multicultural context.

Finally, in a globalised world, the last ten years have seen the internet augment a multicultural society by creating a venue to air diverse cultural opinions and to construct diverse cultural identities. Mainstream newspapers, radio and current affairs programmes are representative of a perceived norm and do not reflect the complexity of a multicultural society. In turn, ethnocentric or non-mainstream media reach a narrowly targeted audience and serve to further ghettoize "the other" (Zadrow 2010 p.11). The internet thus provides the opportunity for any voice to be heard alongside and equally with all other voices in the country, community, or indeed, the world. In this way the internet equips the global citizen with a fluidity they can use to exist and interact both globally and locally, rather than being confined to a fixed and marginalised identity. Notwithstanding the fact that the internet is English based and broadly advocates a western lifestyle, this does not necessarily mean it must lead to a homogenized world. Citing the research of Kennard, Zadrow (2010) maintains that the internet acts as an interactive archive from which an individual can draw all the elements to both create and, more importantly, preserve cultural identity.

In conclusion, this essay explored the effect of the internet on people's lives in the last decade and found that the advantages of the internet far overshadow the disadvantages. It found the internet has had positive effects on family life, allowing the hands on parenting of pre-school children by those parents who are able to use the internet to work from home. In addition, it has reinforced the extended family by harnessing email and social networking sites as a means to stay in direct contact. Furthermore, blogs, chat rooms and video links have offered an alternative to attendance at religious services, which have suffered such rapid decline in recent times. Another positive effect of the internet is its ability to re-assert national identity, particularly for those living abroad, as they retain remote access to the home culture by being able to download or stream current affairs or local drama. Finally, the internet enhances multiculturalism by offering an alternative to mainstream media representations of the norm to those who identify as 'the other'. Arguments which support the negative impact of the internet on people's lives in the 21st century focus on very narrow aspects and fail to acknowledge the broad range of benefits the internet has borne on contemporary society.

References

Azhad, S 2008, 'Is digital dumbing us down?', Journal of Australian Initiative, vol. 20, no.1, pp.5-7, viewed 30 October 2011, via JSTOR.

Fenech, P 2007, Western culture: its psyche and the internet, Hobson Press, New York.

Goldstein, R 2008, 'The last person to leave heaven: a study of the impact of new millennium consumerism on traditional religious practices', Journal of Critical and Cultural Research, vol.2, no.3, pp. 9-18, viewed 30 October 2011. http://www.prb.australasia.com/content/documents/JCCR%23.pdf

Jenkins, M 2010, 'Earn $$$ from your home: the domestic revolution in e-com industry', Women's Business Today, vol.8, no.2, pp.120-127, viewed 28 September, via Sage.

Olsten, H 2008, 'Broadsheets online good news for expats', The Weekend Australian, viewed 2 September 2011, via Newsbank.

Wong, Z 2009, 'Why kneel when you can click!' paper presented to the 7th International Conference on Digital Religion, Southern Cross University. Lismore, NSW, 28 to 31 July.

Zadrow, K 2010, The well in the mirror: theories of subjectivity in the digital age, Elliott McGill Ltd, viewed 28 July 2011, via Ovid eBooks.

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