Highlighting: OK if you are getting good results

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 that students claim for highlighting: it shows where to find the material later if they want to come back to it.

However, I must also admit that some students do well by highlighting a print copy or print-out. Perhaps for them, this is the way to get actively involved with the text as I recommended earlier. Therefore I offer a compromise.

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

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 and ignore the study questions. Get absorbed. Read three times if necessary. Use the study questions later to locate any blank spots in your knowledge.

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, ready to embark on your psychology class with a positive attitude and growing confidence that it can be an enjoyable experience.


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

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search

Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey