Changing our Pattern of Study

Common problems

In our note-taking we will continue to argue, quite reasonably on these misplaced assumptions, that when we take notes in tutorials, seminars and lectures, or from the source material we use for research, we cannot leave anything out, because these are the facts, the right answers, and if we omit them we will not have all the facts we need to pass the examination.

As a result we take vast quantities of verbatim notes. Even worse, they’re unstructured, because all we’re doing is recording them accurately – we’re not processing them in any way for fear of getting them wrong.

Consequently, we’re left with masses of unusable notes, most of them irrelevant to the questions we’re going to have to answer in the examination. This presents us with the most daunting of problems, which leaves even the most resourceful student dispirited when it comes to revising from them for the examination.

In effect, those students with a will of steel will revise by starting from page 1 and continuing until they have gone through them all. In the end their grasp of the subject is likely to be confused, with little structure and organisation. But this is only the fate of a few


But now consider the impact of these assumptions on other areas of our pattern of study. Quite reasonably we will argue that when we come to read books and articles we cannot exercise any flexibility by adopting different, more appropriate reading strategies, like skimming and scanning, for the different types of passages and texts we have to read. We argue that the text must be read word-for-word, otherwise we might miss something vital.


Much the same goes for our essay writing. No matter how many times we might be told by our tutor that we must try to put things in our own words, this makes no sense if we accept the assumption that education is dominated by authorities, and our job is just to understand and recall the facts.


In fact plagiarism illustrates the point we’ve been making in this chapter perfectly. As we’ve seen, one of the causes of it is this belief that exams are passed as a result of giving right answers. But unfortunately all too often the solution to plagiarism reflects the same assumption, thereby compounding the original problem.

We argue that the only way to avoid plagiarism is to give a reference for every idea quoted, paraphrased or borrowed in any way. In other words, students come to realise that to get good marks they must continue to trade for marks as many right answers as possible, only now in the form of references

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