Summary Writing, Reciting, and Encoding Technical Vocabulary
One strategy for encoding new information from required readings is to write summaries. Summaries function to reduce the amount of information to be remembered and to organize the information in a way that aids encoding. The following rules and steps for summary writing are quoted from REFERENCE. Strategies for reading comprehension are given in the Reading Comprehension page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack. Summarizing is also covered in the Writing and Proofing page.
Four rules of summary writing (REFERENCE):
- If you see a list of things, try to think of a word or phrase as a name for the whole list.
- For example, if you saw a list like eyes, ears, neck, arms and legs, you could substitute 'body parts.' Or if you saw a list like ice skating, skiing and sledding, you could use 'winter sports.'
- In short, substitute a superordinate for a list of items or actions.
Use topic sentences.
- Often authors write a sentence that summarizes a whole paragraph. It is called a topic sentence or a main idea.
- If the author gives you one, you can use it in your summary.
- Some paragraphs do not have explicit topic sentences or main ideas. You may have to invent one for your summary.
Get rid of unnecessary detail.
- Some text information can be repeated in a passage. The same thing can be said in a number of different ways, all in the same passage.
- Other text information can be unimportant or trivial.
- Since summaries are meant to be short, you should delete trivia and redundancies.
- Paragraphs are often related to one another.
- Some paragraphs explain one or more other paragraphs. Other paragraphs just expand on information presented in previous paragraphs. Some are more necessary or important than others.
- Decide which paragraphs should be kept, which can be deleted and which can be joined with others.
Five steps of summary writing (REFERENCE):
Make sure you understand the text.
- Ask yourself, 'What was this text about?' and 'What did the author say?'
- Try to say the general theme to yourself before you begin to summarize the text.
- Reread the text to make sure you got the general theme right.
- Also reread to make certain that you really understand what the important parts of the text are.
- Star or mark the important parts of the text.
- Now use the four specific rules for writing a summary.
- Reread a paragraph of the text.
- Try to say the theme of that paragraph to yourself.
- Is the theme a topic sentence? (Main idea?) Have you marked it?
- Or is the topic sentence missing? If it is missing, have you written one, in the margin, for example?
Check and double check.
- Did you leave in any lists? Make sure you don't list things out in your summary.
- Did you repeat yourself? Make sure you didn't.
- Did you skip anything?
- Is all the important information in the summary?
Polish the summary.
- When a lot of information is reduced from an original passage, the resulting concentrated information often sounds very unnatural. Fix this problem and create a more natural- sounding summary.
- Adjustments may include but are not limited to: paraphrasing, insertion of connecting words like 'and' or 'because,' and the insertion of introductory or closing statements.
- Paraphrasing is especially useful here, for two reasons: It improves your ability to remember the material and it avoids using the author's words, otherwise known as plagiarism [Paraphrasing and plagiarism are discussed in detail in the Writing and Proofing page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack].
Reciting is an encoding strategy that involves verbalizing the information to be remembered. The student reads the information aloud while studying, engaging both visual and auditory paths of processing. Or, the student may verbalize and record the information on audio tapes and play them while reviewing the material.
When combined with repetition and spacing reviews, reciting is a simple and effective approach to encoding. Reciting is useful because it enhances concentration and it forces the student to use more than one sense in processing information.
Encoding Technical Vocabulary
Most courses in college require that students learn the meanings of a variety of technical, content-specific vocabulary terms. Encoding of such vocabulary may be accomplished using the following tips.
- After reading or listening to the definition several times, try to rephrase the definition into your own words.
- Encoding is more effective if the information is familiar, so paraphrase definitions.
- Eliminate all unessential words in the definition.
- Focus only on the key words that must be present in order to understand the definition.
- The less there is to encode, the more likely one is to remember the information.
- Try to link the term and key words to something you already know.
- Associate the information with past experiences, personal feelings or beliefs, pictures in the text book, songs heard on the radio, or images seen in movies.
- See the section on Personalization below for more ideas.
- Try to mentally picture the term and key words.
- Visualize actual objects or people referred to in the definition.
- Visualize objects that represent the words or ideas in the definition.
- Visualize what would happen if someone ate it, wore it, found it, believed it, or practiced it.