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Too much to read? Don't know how to remember stuff? Not sure what most of it means? Can never find the right quotes?
Getting organised right from the start will make your study life much easier and virtually painfree. Download this Reading Organisation Grid. You will need several pages for each work being studied.
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Using the Grid
PIck out words and phrases which catch your eye, or which you don't understand. Perhaps an everyday word has been used in an unusual way--write out the whole phrase or sentence. Be careful to copy quotes exactly and remember to note which page you found each on, in case you have to check some details later (e.g. Who said that? Where? Was it before or after the policeman was killed?)
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In the Questions column, write in anything you want to know about this part of the plot, the characters etc. Why did she smile when she said that? Why don't they like each other? Where is this taking place? What does he want?
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As you go on reading, some of your earlier questions should be answered. Go back to your initial questions and use the right-hand column to record the answers you have found. If there is not enough room on the grid, number the entries and use footnotes to refer to the answers.
You may still have unanswered questions even when you have finished reading the entire text. These may have been left deliberately vague for the reader's own interpretation. Use the clues you have to form your opinion or to come to a reasonable conclusion.
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What's the Use?
Looking back over a completed grid, you should have a neat collection of interesting quotes from the text. Reading over these can help you pick up main themes and motifs. You could use highlighters to colour code each quote to show the theme, the speaker, etc. You can see how long you had to wait to get your answers. For example, was the author deliberately building tension or leading you up the wrong path at any point?
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Don't lose the grid after you have "finished" studying the text. Keep it somewhere safe until revision time. Now that you know the ending (if there was one), it can be hard to remember what you were confused about on first reading. Revisiting the grid will remind you of what you found difficult or surprising: use these ideas to show a personal response to the literature rather than the "right answers" approach.
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Save the reading organisation grid from this download to use with all your texts.