Tuesday, May 6, 2008

how i study

a somewhat banal post; please forgive.

i have realized at several points during my academic career that i don't exactly study the same way most students do, especially those in graduate school. i'm very lucky to have a wonderful memory, so i don't usually need to take notes on reading. i hate taking notes on the computer, i don't often make flash cards or outlines of chapters, and, until this past year, i had a very bitter relationship with drafting and revising. however, the biggest distinction in how i study is one that i think i have a really good reason for (other than laziness and a good memory).

i have never once underlined, highlighted, annotated, or otherwise marked any passage in any book ever (other than a language book where you were supposed to).

a professor teased me for this recently and suggested that i wasn't fully engaging the material. i defensively replied at first that it pains me to defile a manuscript in any way; i literally feel sick thinking about writing in a book. upon further reflection, though, i realized there's another reason that i refuse to mark up my books. it drives me CRAZY when reading a used book or a copy from a professor's book where certain bits are selected because i find myself paying more attention to/assigning greater meaning to the selected parts and giving less credit to the rest. now, you might think that this is precisely the point: annotation makes it easy to find the important parts. what if, however, i don't agree with what someone else thinks is the important part? no problem, you might say; just annotate your own books. you're not going to disagree with yourself, right? well, first, anyone who believes that seriously underestimates my ability to argue (and win) with myself on a regular basis. more importantly, however, i find that i often get a richer read of a material the second, third, or eighth time through. an already-bracketed version might alter how i interpret the original text in all its glory (and CONTEXT)...and that, i think would be tragic.

what do you think? do you write in your books? do you think the tradeoff of effectively altering the original material (or your perception of it) to create your own interpretation is worth it?


Lauren said...

How did I not know that you have a blog? Or maybe I knew -- unlike you, I *don't* have a good memory!!!

Anyway, since my memory sucks, I'm a massive annotator. Highlighter and pen and pencil -- all three -- are all nearby me every time I read anything.

That said, I really get distracted when reading photocopies that have professorial annotations in the margins. I'm with you there -- I think all class readings should be clean of scribbles!

Anonymous said...

Mmm books. Books are sacred. No annotations. No underlining. No dog ears. No creases. How people can't read a book without half-destroying I don't know.