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Highlighting: OK if it works for you

Many students equate highlighting a textbook with studying it. If they are reading text on a computer, these students will print it out just so they can highlight it.

Many swear by the technique of highlighting. They would not sit down to study without a highlighter pen in hand.

I am somewhat biased against highlighting because it sometimes indicates a superficial memorization strategy. Why bother coloring words? In order to repeat them again and again? In order to memorize sentences?

If the objective is to find the material later, a better alternative (in my humble opinion) is to draw a little line in the margin with a pencil. It is quicker, does not break up the text, and it serves the same function as highlighting. It shows where to find the material later if you want to come back to it.

However, I must also admit that some students do well by highlighting. Perhaps this is their way to get actively involved with the text. Therefore I offer a compromise:

If you are highlighting, and you are pleased by your grades, keep it up.

If you are highlighting, and you are NOT pleased with your grades, try a different strategy.

The different strategy I recommend is discussed here in Chapter Zero. Read first as if reading a story. You might even ignore the study questions the first time through.

Do what it takes to get absorbed. Read three times if necessary. Use the study questions later to locate any blank spots in your knowledge.

What is the author's compromise on the subject of highlighting?

Reading closely means taking your time, reading every word, and getting engaged with the subject matter. You will know it when it happens to you.

Time will pass without you noticing it. You will enter a hypnosis-like state. You will find yourself talking about psychology concepts with your friends. You will give your teacher a high evaluation. Later, you will not remember reading this passage, but you will give your teacher a high evaluation.

Now you are feeling relaxed, feeling good, with a smile on your face. You are ready to embark on your psychology class with a positive attitude and growing confidence that it will be an enjoyable experience.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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