The long Labor Day holiday weekend means the end of summer. It is time for serious studying and reading. The neighborhood children have returned to school after the summer break, and my Study Guides arrived – two more signs it’s time to get a wiggle on the study plan. Despite reading all summer, I feel a little out of focus, and off the rhythm of a study routine.
That’s probably because I have not really established what I need to accomplish yet. It’s been challenging to decide what to read, how to study texts in-depth, what authors to focus on, and which points best match my interests for research. Maybe that is too many questions to answer this early in the term. Once some of those points are decided I can get a wiggle on the study process. I’ve been chatting with some of my colleagues who are also making study plans now, and thought sharing my process might be useful.
How should I decide what to read and how to study? How do I know my work will satisfy the requirements of study at the degree level? How should I manage resources to best accomplish the work? When my Study Guides arrived I decided to think about the work load, the study outcomes for each unit, and make some lists.
To begin my study plan for each unit I made two lists: first, everything I listed everything I already read for each course. Second, I listed the themes and points to research. This helped me understand how comprehensive my reading is now, and what reading to add. These two lists allowed me to make some notes about my interests, what I know about the texts and literary periods, and what areas should be developed. For example, it would benefit me to focus on linguistic and literary details, and how historical conditions intersect with the primary texts. Okay, that is a start.
Starting and maintaining a more focused approach to study is one of my SOP’s this term. That seems like the best way to get through the volume of work. But how to put that into practical terms? Reading widely means it is difficult to focus in-depth. Reading narrowly, only 2 or 3 authors or just 6 or 8 texts for each unit might be a weakness at exam time. A narrow level of reading makes me really nervous about understanding and communicating the influences and traditions of a literary era. The Examiners’ Reports are excellent tools, so this afternoon I decided to read a few years of reports for the courses I am reading. In nearly every report, the Examiners’ notes suggest first reading widely and then narrowing the focus for in-depth study. Here is the plan I decided to implement:
- September through DecemberA. Read at least 6 authors for each unit, and ideally at least 2 texts per author
B. Make sure all primary text are read at least 1 time by December
C. Break daily study time into sections for each unit
D. Take notes during each study session about formal elements of the text, use of themes,
and other significant points; summarize notes at the end of each session
- January – AprilA. Begin research papers for each unit for in-depth study
1. Plan separate research papers for each focus text on individual points like conventions, narration, or theme
B. Close reading and in-depth study of 2 or 3 authors and 6 to 8 texts per unit
C. Write a research paper for each of the units focused on the literary and historical period
D. Produce a research paper focusing on each author.
- May – Revise
With this plan I will read 48 texts and study 20 to 24 in-depth. It sounds ambitious, and I suppose it is. Our exam structure means a minimum of 4 texts are required to successfully attempt most papers, so that’s 16 texts for 4 exams. I like a little wiggle room, so I will add a few more texts to the in-depth analysis portion of the plan. My initial reading inventory showed I have already read the majority of the 48 texts at least one time, so I might be able to accelerate the in-depth study, we’ll see. This plan answers most of my initial questions. I don’t know what I study in depth yet, but I have a plan, and can get a wiggle on studying this term.