How to read a complex and lengthy book and retain most of it
The usual way to study text or non-fiction is to start the book from the page one and read, reread incomprehensible area, take a break, force yourself to go back to where you left off, continue reading, rereading and taking breaks until the book is finished. Then going back and revising it, sometimes multiple times for retention and still not succeeding.
It is like starting the jigsaw puzzle from bottom left-hand corner and insisting to build the entire picture step by step from that corner only.
The normal steps we take to solve a jigsaw puzzle are:
- Find edges and boundary pieces.
- Sort out colour areas.
- Fit ‘obvious’ bits and pieces together.
- Continue to fill in.
- Leave ‘difficult’ pieces to end ( for reason that as the overall picture become more clear, and the number of pieces used increases , so does the probability increases that the difficult pieces will fit in much more easily when there is greater context into which they can fit).
- Continue process until completion.
Tony Buzan proposes that the jigsaw analogy can be applied directly to study.
The similar steps in reading a book would be:
For a book it would be
1. Overview – Review the book for all the material other than the actual text such as table of contents, illustrations, photographs, chapter headings, graphs, footnotes, summaries etc. Use a pen or a pencil to provide visual aid to the eye. This stage is equivalent to finding the edges and boundary pieces.
2. Preview – Cover all the material not covered in the overview. In other words the paragraphs, language content of the book. This is likened to organising the colour areas of the puzzle. During the preview, concentration should be directed to the beginnings and ends of paragraphs, sections, chapters and even whole text, because information tends to be concentrated at the beginnings and ends of written material.
3. In-view – This involves filling in those area still left, and can be compared with the filling in process of the jigsaw puzzle, once the boundary and colour areas have been established. Major reading is not necessary as in some cases most of important material will have been covered in previous stages. Jump over the difficult sections, leaving them for the next stage.
4.Review – This stage is to concentrate on the difficult areas. It is aided by making notes on the book itself or separately in a note book including making mind maps. Notes such as following can be made on the book itself.
- Personal thoughts generated by the text
- Critical comments
- Marginal straight lines for important and note-worthy material.
- Curved or wavy marginal lines to indicate unclear or difficult material.
- Question marks for areas that you wish to question or that you find questionable.
- Exclamation marks for outstanding items.
- Your own symbol code for items and areas that relate to your own specific and general objective.
5. Continued reviewing – Apart from immediate review, a continue review program is essential. It is seen that memory didn’t decline immediately after a learning session but actually rose before levelling off and them plummeting. By reviewing just at the point where memory starts to fall leads to longest retention.