1.Understandably, these students feel like they have reached their academic limit; they believe that unless they forgo sleep or any semblance of a social life, there are simply not enough hours in the day to stay on top of all their schoolwork.
Let’s start by getting one thing clear: This belief is false. The problem here is not the amount of available hours, but rather how each hour is spent. I know this from firsthand experience.
The answer, as it turns out, has much more to do with how we work than what we’re trying to accomplish.
2.work accomplished = time spent x intensity of focus
3.Part One will teach you how to satisfy these requirements. It begins with the presentation of a simple time-management system, customized for the busy college lifestyle. Don’t be frightened, the system is incredibly lightweight—it’s designed to require only five minutes a day of planning and can survive periods of neglect.
The goal of Step #1 is to present a time-management system that helps you achieve this stress-free balance without requiring you to sacrifice the spontaneity and excitement of college. Specifically, we present a system tailored to the typical undergraduate lifestyle that meets the following criteria:
1. Requires no more than five to ten minutes of effort in a single twenty-four-hour period.
2. Doesn’t force an unchangeable minute-by-minute schedule on your day.
3. Helps you remember, plan, and complete important tasks before the very last moment.
4. Can be quickly restarted after periods of neglect.
Record all of your to-dos and deadlines on your calendar. This becomes your master schedule, the one place that stores everything you need to do. The key to our system, however, is that you need to deal with your calendar only once every twenty-four hours. Each morning, you look at it to figure out what you should try to finish that day. Then, throughout the day, whenever you encounter a new to-do or deadline, simply jot it down on your list. The next morning, you can transfer this new stuff from your list onto your calendar, where it’s safe. And we’re back where we started.
Figure 1. Sample List
Things to Remember
• 10:00 to 12:00 Econ class
• Econ study group, Thur. at 9 P.M.
• 12:00 to 1:00 Lunch with Rob
• French quiz moved to Friday.
• 1:00 to 1:45 Government reading
• 2:00 to 4:00 Government class
• Start researching summer internship opportunities.
• 4:00 to 5:30 Finish government reading
• 5:30 to 6:30 Start French essay
Here is what you should do instead: Try to label each of your to-dos for the day with a specific time period during which you are going to complete it.
Figure 2. Stephen’s calendar entry for Monday
• Finish reading for Tuesday Gov class.
• Gift for Dad’s birthday
• First step of research for Gov paper—find books, Xerox relevant chapters.
• Pay cell phone bill.
• Return Mark’s CD.
• First half of Econ problem set (due Wed)
• Pick topic for Anthro paper (due tomorrow).
• Read five chapters from Anthro book (need to catch up for Friday’s quiz).
• Dinner with guys—7 P.M.—Molly’s
• Ill-conceived toga party—10 P.M.—Alpha Chi
Figure 3. Stephen’s list from Sunday
Today’s Schedule Things to Remember • 1:00 to 3:00—read article for Anthro. • Call home. • 3:00 to 6:00—write Government essay. • Start researching summer internships. • 7:00 to 8:00—dinner with Sarah • Create schedule for practicing guitar? • 9:00 to 10:00—edit Government essay. • 10:00 to 11:00—start reading for Tuesday’s Government class
In between class, from 10:30 to 11:00, I can squeeze in my three small tasks—pay cell phone bill, buy a birthday gift for Dad, and return Mark’s CD. After my second class, I will need to get lunch, but then I should get right to work on my Government reading because it’s due tomorrow! Let’s see, I have three Government articles to read, which will realistically take two hours, so I will label this task with 1:00 to 3:00. Hmmmm, I am running out of time here. I need to start that Econ problem set because those suck, and it’s due Wednesday morning, so I’ll label that task with 3:00 to 4:30. Okay, I am down to my final half hour. What else has to get done? My Anthro paper topic is due tomorrow, so I will have to squeeze that in at 4:30 to 5:00. And that’s all I have time for.
4. Instead, I’m going to describe some targeted strategies to help you sidestep this unavoidable urge when it arises—not destroy it altogether. This is how straight-A students prevent procrastination from destabilizing their schedule. They don’t rely only on willpower and good intentions, but instead deploy an arsenal of specific, tested rules that help them short-circuit their natural desire to procrastinate.
If you failed to complete some tasks, record this, along with a quick explanation.
In general, the morning and early afternoon are the best times to find these consistently free hours. Time in the late afternoon and evening is much more susceptible to being hijacked by unexpected events as your friends finish up their classes and start knocking on your door.
Fridays are for chipping away at your History reading assignments, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are for making progress on your weekly Statistics problem set.
5.Finally, you should also have one folder for each class. Every piece of paper you receive during a lecture—outlines, assignment descriptions, reading excerpts—should be dated and put in this folder. The same goes for graded problem sets and papers. The folders will make it much easier to find materials when you need them later for review.
The key to doing well in these courses is straightforward: Identify the big ideas. That’s what it all comes down to. Exams in nontechnical courses focus entirely on big ideas—they require you to explain them, contrast them, and reevaluate them in the light of new evidence. If you are aware of, and understand, all of the big ideas presented in the course, these tasks are not so difficult, and strong grades will follow.
6.You should take advantage of this reality by recording all your notes in a Question/Evidence/Conclusion format.
7.Notes on excerpt:
QUESTION: Was there really a big “fall” of the Roman Empire?
• Roman Empire having a catastrophic decline and fall, at the hands of savage barbarians, popular idea since eighteenth century.
• Edward Gibbon—wrote book blaming fall on Christians and barbarians. Christian beliefs replaced heroic virtues, weakened military, let barbarians take over.
• Rostovsteff and Toynbee—wrote books with similar arguments
– EXCEPT: Not Christians’ fault, but social and political problems that led to weak empire.
• HOWEVER: These views are “geographically narrow.”
– Authors lived in Europe, so they focused on Europe, only place where it looked like Empire had a big fall.
– Loss of power in Mediterranean region not nearly so pronounced…no real big decline and fall there.
CONCLUSION: The idea of a catastrophic decline and fall of the Roman Empire became popular in European circles, but it overstates reality…too much emphasis on what happened to the Empire in Europe.
8.Readings that make an argument are more important than
readings that describe an event or person, which are more important than
readings that only provide context (i.e., speech transcripts, press clippings).
9.First, set aside a little block of time to familiarize yourself with a couple of problems, and make sure you understand exactly what is being asked. You may need to review your notes to refamiliarize yourself with the relevant concepts.
Next, try to solve the problem in the most obvious way possible. This, of course, probably won’t work, because most difficult problems are tricky by nature. By failing in this initial approach, however, you will have at least identified what makes this problem hard. Now you are ready to try to come up with a real solution.
The next step is counterintuitive. After you’ve primed the problem, put away your notes and move on to something else. Instead of trying to force a solution, think about the problem in between other activities. As you walk across campus, wait in line at the dining hall, or take a shower, bring up the problem in your head and start thinking through solutions. You might even want to go on a quiet hike or long car ride dedicated entirely to mulling over the question at hand.
More often than not, after enough mobile consideration, you will finally stumble across a solution. Only then should you schedule more time to go back to the problem set, write it down formally, and work out the kinks. It’s unclear exactly why solving problems is easier when you’re on the go, but, whatever the explanation, it has worked for many students. Even better, it saves a lot of time, since most of your thinking has been done in little interludes between other activities, not during big blocks of valuable free time.
10.most effective way to imprint a concept is to first review it and then try to explain it, unaided, in your own words.
11.As with nontechnical courses, try to provide an articulate answer for each problem, and if possible, give your explanation out loud, as if lecturing to a class. Otherwise, write out your answers clearly. Don’t skip any important details.
12.have at least a vague understanding of every topic that will be covered on the exam.They provide a solid defense against unclear ideas and will allow you to start the study process with an explanation in mind for all relevant topics.
13.Strategy #1: Review First, Answer Questions Later
In other words, while you toil away on an early question, another part of your brain, working in the background, will begin to retrieve information relating to the topics still to come. This actually happens, and it helps you answer the later questions more quickly.
Strategy #2: Build a Time Budget
Strategy #3: Proceed from Easy to Hard
Strategy #4: Outline Essays
Strategy #5: Check Your Work
14.However, there is hope. Paper writing is hard, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be as hard as most students make it. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the paper-writing process itself, which can be broken down into three separate components:
1. Sifting through existing arguments.
2. Forming your own argument.
3. Communicating your argument clearly.
15.The straight-A strategy is made up of eight steps. We start by discussing how to find a topic that will hold your interest and how to locate a thesis within the topic that is both interesting and supportable. From there, we move on to the research effort. This step is crucial, as research, perhaps more than any other part of the paper-writing process, is where the most time can be wasted. We present a streamlined system for gathering and annotating the right material as quickly as possible. After research comes argument construction. There is, unfortunately, no simple system that guarantees a smart argument. But we do describe helpful strategies for gathering feedback on your argument and recording it in an outline format that best facilitates the steps that follow.
16.Don’t get the wrong idea—these essays are not necessarily easier than research papers. College writing assignments follow a simple rule: The required precision of your thinking works in direct proportion to the constraint of the material. That is, the more specific the assignment, the more subtle and detailed your thinking must be. So beware. If your assignment covers only one chapter, then you’re going to need to understand every word of that chapter and be able to articulate your analysis with precision.
Target a Titillating Topic
Remember: A topic does not equal a thesis. A topic describes an interesting subject or area of observation. A thesis presents an interesting, specific argument about that subject or observation. Let’s look at some examples:
Choosing a Research Paper Topic
Conduct a Thesis-Hunting Expedition
Start General, Then Move One Layer Deep
Seek a Second Opinion
Research like a Machine
18.you should make a habit of discussing your targeted thesis idea with your professor. Go to office hours, or make an appointment, explain your topic and thesis, then ask the
1. Is my idea appropriate for the assignment?
2. Does it cover too much?
3. Is it too simple?
19.Sounds pretty cool, right? But how does it work? Their system is based on these four steps:
1. Find sources.
2. Make personal copies of all sources.
3. Annotate the material.
4. Decide if you’re done. (If the answer is “no,” then loop back to #1.)
20.At the college level, there is no set structure that allows you to fill in the blanks and automatically produce a smart paper. As mentioned in the opening to Part Three, the intro/body/conclusion nonsense introduced in high school won’t do you any good here. It’s too simplistic, and your professors will be expecting more.
In general, a good college-level argument should accomplish the following:
1. Draw from previous work on the same topic to define the context for the discussion.
2. Introduce a thesis and carefully spell out how it relates to existing work on similar issues.
3. Support the thesis with careful reasoning and references to existing arguments, evidence, and primary sources.
4. Introduce some final prognostications about extending the argument and its potential impact on the field as a whole.
21.they are tips for how to get your brain fired up and your creative juices flowing.
Tip #1: When it comes time to craft the storyline of your paper, put yourself in the right mind-set. Grab a copy of Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Harper’s, or any other publication that features well-crafted discussions. Peruse some articles, and then go for a walk along a quiet path. Alternatively, as David from Dartmouth recommends: “Talk to friends—if they are good friends they will allow you to bounce ideas off of them and talk through your work.” You can also cloister yourself in a dusty, wooden-shelved, overstuffed-armchair-filled corner of the library, or argue with your professor during office hours. Reread related articles and chapters from your course syllabus. Watch a PBS documentary. Do whatever it takes to get the reasoning portions of your mind inspired and curious.
Tip #2: At this point, grab your source material from the previous step. If your assignment is a critical analysis essay, this will consist of only a couple of books and your reading notes. If it’s a research paper, you might have a large stack of photocopied chapters and articles. In either case, dive into this information, and start letting the relevant facts and arguments settle into your mind. This is where your annotations will point you toward what’s interesting, and help you avoid the irrelevant.
Tip #3: Take a break. Do something else. Let the pieces float around in the background noise of your mind. “The first thing I do when I have a paper to write is take a nap,” explains Laura, a straight-A student from Dartmouth. “I crawl into bed and just think…as long as I’m thinking about the subject when I fall asleep, I will dream about the material and usually come up with some sort of interesting idea.” Similarly, start looking for any opportunity to do a little thinking about your argument. “I think about my paper when I go around completing my daily chores, when I walk to class or when I wait on line in the dining hall,” explains Anna from Dartmouth. Use this downtime to slide the pieces of your argument around in your head and play with the structure a bit. Keep returning to your research material as needed to find more details and to increase your understanding. You need to expose yourself to the source material again and again to fully internalize it. Only then can you really pull together the best possible argument.
22.We start the outlining process by constructing a topic skeleton.