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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 an important passage later, a better alternative (in my humble opinion) is to draw a little line in the margin with a pencil. It is quicker, it 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, some students who use highlighting do perfectly well in college courses. Perhaps it 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 this is happening if time passes quickly.

If you achieve a really deep state of absorption, you will know it when you stop reading. You will feel almost as if you are waking up from a dream.

As described on the previous page, that waking-up-from-a-dream sensation is a very good sign, if you have been studying (unless you are actually waking up from an involuntary slumber). It shows your mind was fully occupied with what you were reading.

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