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Study Skills


TIME Management AND GOAL Setting

Not enough time to get everything done? You might not be prioritizing tasks effectively. Think carefully about what you want to achieve and determine a clear course of action. Use a daily or weekly planner to help you manage your schedule.


Take time at the beginning of each week to assess your commitments and goals. Check daily to stay on track and add new tasks as they arise. Figure out how long you’re able to concentrate, break up scheduled time into smaller chunks, and don’t forget to give yourself breaks. Use short periods of time—15 to 30 minutes—for preview and review.

Be honest with yourself about your habits and internal clock and plan accordingly. For example, if you’re a late sleeper, don’t schedule study time at 7 a.m.

Set SMART Goals

State exactly what you want to achieve. Break larger tasks into smaller items.

Establish clear definitions to help you recognize whether you’re reaching your goal.

Outline exactly what steps you will take to accomplish your goal.

Set goals you can accomplish. Be sure to consider obstacles you may need to overcome.

Decide exactly when you’ll start and finish your goal.

Stay Motivated

  1. Identify your goal. Is it to learn more about the subject? To get a good grade? Both? What you want is also influenced by your expectations for success. If you believe that you’re not very good at math, for example, you may focus on just getting through the class rather than excelling in it.
  2. Think about why you want to achieve your goal. What is motivating you? Identifying this now allows you to remind yourself later what you are working to achieve.
  3. Make specific plans now for maintaining your motivation. These plans are sometimes referred to as reinforcers—rewards that you can use to propel yourself forward toward the goal.


Use these methods to unpack the biases, assumptions, and context in the works you read and use for research.

Consider the Source

Take into account the type of publication—textbook, scholarly article, blog—and read the biography to learn about the author’s background in the subject. Determine the audience and the author’s purpose for writing the piece. This kind of information is frequently available in the preface of the book or the introduction.

Recognize Assumptions & Implications

Consider what kind of prior knowledge the author expects readers to possess and what assumptions the author makes. Ask yourself if these assumptions are justified and if there is adequate support for the author’s arguments. Note how the author uses language and the attitude the author adopts toward the material and think about if the argument is objective or emotionally driven. Consider whether the author appeals to the reader’s emotions, prejudices, or biases.

Analyze Arguments

Take note of which of the author’s statements are supported and which are left unsupported. Think about whether conclusions reached in the piece are justified.


These steps toward active reading help you understand and engage with written material and increase information retention.


Before you tackle any reading, identify the main ideas to better comprehend and retain details you’ll encounter later. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the text as a whole. Check out the author’s biographical information, publication information, and the table of contents. Look at each chapter and read the introduction, subheadings, first sentence of each section, and the conclusion. Take time to read any charts or diagrams included in each chapter.

Make some projections about the reading by summarizing the main idea and thinking about how the text is organized. Consider how difficult the reading might be and how long it could take to read.


Set realistic goals for how long and how many pages you’ll be able to read. Don’t try to read the entire chapter nonstop. Instead, divide it into small sections, such as half pages or columns, and read them individually. Ask yourself a question before each paragraph or section and try to answer it as you read. Take short breaks when your mind starts to wander.


Recall mentally or recite the highlights of what you’ve read. As you read, ask yourself questions and answer them. Underline key words or phrases in each section, and write notes in your margins. Summarize the material in your own words.


To get started, formulate a plan. Work backwards from your paper’s due date and create a customized calendar or timeline for your project. Set a target date for each step.

Choose a Topic

Pick something that interests you. To generate ideas, review the indexes and bibliographies from class readings, talk to your instructor, and brainstorm with classmates. If your instructor chooses the topic for you, make sure you understand it thoroughly, then figure out what about the topic interests you.

Refine Your Topic

Choose a topic that has a narrow scope. Move from the general to the specific, such as

History of French art → History of 19th century French art → History of French art from 1895 to 1900 → Comparison of impressionism and symbolism in French art from 1895 to 1900

Collect Your Ideas

Scan a wide variety of sources about your topic to develop an overview of available information. Based on that overview, start reading and taking notes from the sources most relevant to your topic. Take advantage of bibliographic citation software to keep track of your sources.

Organize Your Ideas

Make an outline and look for patterns in ideas, notes, and sources you’ve collected. If you can’t find any patterns, try to arrange your ideas into a sequence that would make sense to a reader. Use a thesis statement as a magnet—once you create a thesis, you can direct everything else towards it.

Put Your Ideas on Paper

Start writing anywhere in the paper you feel you have something to say. It doesn’t need to be the beginning. Work diligently to get something down and set a goal for each writing session. Work quickly; don’t fret over selecting the perfect word or phrasing the most elegant sentence. Allow yourself to edit and revise later; this is only a draft. Use the outline you’ve already established, but be prepared to modify it if necessary.

If you get stuck, talk about your idea with a friend, with an instructor, or just out loud. The act of selecting words to voice your ideas can translate to selecting words to write. Imagine a real reader for the paper; think of yourself as telling a story to an interested audience.

Revise Your Rough Draft

Give yourself time to edit. Make sure you finish your paper at least 24 hours before it’s due.  Click here for more on revising.

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