Reading Complex Material without Headings
When a text has no headings or sub-headings to help you out, try the following strategy:
- Read only the first sentence in each paragraph and underline key words or expressions.
- Highlight or circle the most important of those terms.
- Use the highlighted/circled words to write a question that represents procedural knowledge (i.e., an essay type question which would demonstrate not only what you know but also what you can do with what you know).
Summarizing and Paraphrasing What You Read
- Include only major points with as many supporting details as necessary to recall the justification of an argument. Do not try to list every detail!!
- Follow the author’s order of development in your summary. Use the clues provided by transitional and syntactic markers.
- Use vocabulary you understand. Include definitions of difficult or technical terms.
- Avoid making evaluative statements when summarizing for your notes. The summary should reflect accurately what the author said. If you have any criticism or other information you wish to add, do so in a separate paragraph.
- Be concise!! A good rule of thumb to follow is that the summary should be no more than one-third of the original.
The Use and Abuse of Paraphrasing
The ability to paraphrase (i.e., restate material in your own words) is a useful study technique. It causes you to think about the meaning of what you have read and prevents you from simply parroting, by rote, key concepts which you do not really understand.
The danger in paraphrasing lies in the fact that most students simply change one or two words or combine sentences from the original. Changing material in this fashion does not allow you to use such statements in you own writing without proper acknowledgment. Failure to acknowledge the source of such material is plagiarism.
- an accurate restatement of material, presented in condensed form.
- an accurate restatement of a phrase, sentence, or sentences, worded simply.
Note: a summary is always shorter than the original statement, while a paraphrase may be longer than the original.
How to Summarize
Locate the main idea (usually in the first sentence):
- Underline the main idea twice.
- Underline important parts of the sentence.
- In SQ3R, headings can be helpful; look to the summary already provided to determine whether you have missed anything.
- When no headings are provided, pay attention to nouns and verbs.
Implied main ideas:
- If you cannot find a main idea in a single paragraph, put together your own from 2 or 3 paragraphs. Write your sentence in the margin of the text.
Details (supporting evidence):
- Details should be marked differently so that they are not confused with main ideas (see sample for marking a text).
- Do not underline complete sentences.
Writing the summary:
- Having identified the key words, write a summary of 5 or 6 sentences in your own words.
- Use the marked text and the summary to create a mind map.
How to Paraphrase
Place the difficult sentence in context
- Read the difficult sentence.
- Reread the sentence that comes immediately before and after it.
- Look up the meaning of difficult words in a dictionary or the glossary of the text.
- Divide up the sentence into phrases and clauses.
- Pay attention to punctuation.
- End stop: period, question mark, exclamation point, semi-colon.
- Pause: comma.
Identify the subject(s) and verb(s)
- Provide the core meaning.
Write your paraphrase
- Use your own words.
Complete the Exercises:
- Passage #1: John Milton, Areopagitica
- Passage #2: John Stuart Mill, On Liberty of Thought and Discussion
Proceed to: Lecture 5