Study Skills

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Iwillheal, Apr 29, 2012.

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  1. Iwillheal


    Apr 11, 2012
    Okay, so I'm in grad school and all the work is kicking my ass. Clinical work, research, and courses in particular. I'm in a particularly tough program, where there is a lot of required reading, lots of books and of course there are also plenty of articles that I have to read (and summarize/memorize) for various courses each week. Thankfully most of the articles are in pdf format and take up no physical space like books do, so I can trick myself into thinking this is not so bad.

    Long story short, I have come to realize that my old study habits are not good enough. Anybody here would be so kind as to either share some tried and true method or recommend comprehensive books/articles that you deem helpful? I think I need help in all areas, time management, motivation, improved/active reading and retention, mnemonics, concentration, etc. Well, thank you. Now on to reading seven long articles packed with graphs and formulas, for Tuesday and my course in clinical assessment. Yaaaaaay!
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  3. EmotRegulation

    EmotRegulation 5+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2012
    I never would have made it through graduate school if I actually read everything I was assigned. Can you split up some of the readings with those in your cohort and share the summaries? I also became good at skimming articles for main points...reading the methods and results more closely and skipping through the intro and discussions. It probably takes me well over an hour to read an 8 page article to the point I truly understand it, and there just isn't enough time in the day for all of that. It's necessary for some papers, and not so much for others. Part of grad school is figuring out what is important and what is less so; that's the time management piece.

    As for active reading and retention, you have to hone the skill of being able to pull out the central arguments in a paper. After you read a paper, try to write your own abstract for it--make sure you understand approximately what they did, what was being measured, what they found, and why it was important. The more you do this, the easier it should become. Then try to tie it to something you already know or something that interests you. If you truly want to learn the material, you have to process it deeply, not just memorize.
  4. Iwillheal


    Apr 11, 2012
    Emotregulation, thank you very much for your post. And yes, that WAS my method, in undergrads, memorize EVERYTHING. And I was able to. I actually never used mnemonics either. I would essentially read everything multiple times, underline key passages...and read some more. I simply can not do that now. My profs throw papers at me all day long. Just the other day in stats, my prof mentions like a dozen papers on significance testing and says the reading is optional but highly recommended. It's the same in all my courses. I recently read two papers by Meehl a few times, in the same day, and I think it nearly destroyed my brain.

    I'm a bit of a perfectionist so been resisting the whole idea of splitting up the readings but I don't think I have a choice. I'll just have to trust that other guys are as thorough as I am. I also read a book on speed reading but it hasn't been helpful. I'll just have to learn a way to extract the central message of a paper quickly. Then memorize/understand it in a short time. Maybe read the topic sentence in each paragraph first, start there....
  5. vivaloca

    vivaloca 2+ Year Member

    Jan 31, 2009
    In my program's first year everyone reads Meehl's "Why I Don't Go To Case Conference," (~80 pgs) typically before classes really get underway. It's become something of a rite-of-passage that usually scares the bejeezus out of the first years before they learn that reading everything is just impossible

    Ahhh, memories...:D
  6. cara susanna

    cara susanna 7+ Year Member

    Feb 10, 2008
    East Coast
    Dude, my first graduate reading was Theodore Millon! I had to take it very, very slowly.
  7. heshmonster

    heshmonster 2+ Year Member

    Jan 9, 2012

    Everyone in my program reads this too... it's actually in the graduate clinical training manual. haha.
  8. IT514

    IT514 Neuropsychologist 10+ Year Member

    Oct 14, 2007
    Something that is easy to forget is to take a 5-10 minute break for every 50-60 minutes of work. Of course this depends on what kind of work you are doing. If you arent taking regular small breaks you're likely experiencing a diminished return on the quality of work you put in and are less likely to be able think critically as you are reading,writing, etc.

    Plus, as time goes by you will develop the ability to read quickly, and comprehensively, without missing anything important. Its a skill that simply takes time to develop in that first year or two.

    And as someone already said, just be able to pick out the main points from each article in the context of methodological flaws, and you'll be fine.
  9. roubs

    roubs Ph.D. Student 7+ Year Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Totally agree with the above. My productivity shot up when I started taking 10 minute breaks every hour.
  10. Ollie123

    Ollie123 10+ Year Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    I did read everything my first few years, and still try to though the reading is now mostly self-assigned things for research (rather than classwork).

    Personally, I would actually recommend trying to read everything rather than dividing it up...but the key instead is in HOW you read things. Read to understand, not to memorize (aside from some very basic concepts, I've found memorization to be largely unnecessary and irrelevant for the work I do). Learning to scan a complicated study in 10 minutes and understand it well enough to discuss it intelligently is a useful skill. Pressure to read lots of things will push you in that direction. Obviously this varies by the setting, the purpose of the assignment, etc. but in general, dividing things up (we did try at some points) seems to be symptom management without addressing the underlying problem.

    I will note that they do de-emphasize coursework here, so maybe others have enough readings where this truly isn't possible. It obviously varied by course, but we would typically have 3-5 articles (plus some book chapters for courses that used a textbook) per class, per week. Usually a mix of reviews and empirical articles. To me, that was easily doable once I "learned" how, and barely a drop in the bucket compared to the readings I did for non-class activities (i.e. related to my research).

    We were actually never assigned Meehl's article, but I suspect most of us have read it at some point on our own, given the nature of our program:) I came across it prior to entering grad school, but re-read it my first year. Meehl was undoubtedly one of the most influentional psychologists of recent history.
  11. Iwillheal


    Apr 11, 2012
    Thanks for the advice and suggestions guys, keep them coming. Yeah, I agree with taking five-ten minute breaks every hour of study. I also usually try to reward myself, like half a can of Pepsi (yeah, one of my weaknesses) or something like that. But definitely, spending part of the break physically moving around. Get the blood circulating again. p.s. The main Meehl paper I was complaining about was "Meehl, P. E. (1978). Theoretical risks and tabular asterisks." The horror...the horror... :) Seriously though, I have great respect for Meehl. A great philosopher of our field. I only wish he had dumbed it down for people like me.
  12. PsychPhDStudent

    PsychPhDStudent 7+ Year Member

    Sep 5, 2009
    Sometimes you need to readjust your study habits, which is what I had to do! :) I learned where and when worked best for me. I also tended to skim through everything, and we split up the heavy-duty outlining to complement that. I rarely found the material difficult in and of itself; the time management is the real problem! you can't do everything perfectly, so prioritizing needs to happen. And...know you're not alone!

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