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Finals are here! Are you ready to hit the books? Are you procrastinating or dreading the thought of pouring your heart and soul over three months of data, information, and techniques? Are you wondering what information will be on a test? During my first years as a freshman, at Southern New Hampshire University, I learned that my high school study habits were not college ready? I needed to revamp my entire study method – but how?

I began Googling study habits, and I learned that I do not fit with index flash carders, memorizers, or crammers. What study method works for one, does not work for all. Individuals are unique in every way. And our study methods reflect those differences. By combining several study techniques from various college students, I formulated my own study plan, techniques, and goals. Although there are many great study tips out there, none of them worked for me. I learned how to read actively (that is making notes, highlighting, and drawing boxes around key information), create outlines from lecture notes (great for essay and short-answer questions), and color code my notes for fill-in the blank or multiple-choice questions. These methods helped me achieve my goals, and it is my hope that they will help you achieve yours.

Maintaining What You Read:

After you buy your textbooks, you will need to read the front and back matter of each book. This will give you an idea of the information that will be covered in the lectures. I would not read any chapters yet. Many professors skip around the textbooks and sometimes they do not use them. You will be given a syllabus at the first day of class, KEEP THESE. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY. They are your guides to your course, lectures, material, and research papers. They also list your professors name, office number, and office hours.

Purchase a folder for each of your courses to keep your syllabuses and studying guides on hand. Review each of them, highlighting key information. Afterwards, review your first week or module (for online courses) and begin reading the required chapters for the week. As you read, underline key information with a pencil (you will want to erase your markings later). If you are not understanding the concepts, events, methods, or scientific data, you will need to focus on these issues. This information will be on the test. Your goal is to begin mastering these problems early, to prevent cramming. I like to break down concepts into a bulleted list, create graphs, or flow charts. Afterwards, study your home-made study guides for about 30 minutes. Do this for each of your courses, taking fifteen-minute breaks in between.

Lectures and Notetaking:

You want to make sure all your reading is completed before your next lecture. This will help you pick out the main ideas and concepts. Do not write everything you hear in your lecture. Focus only on important information such as names, dates, and key events. Also, you want to write down quotes and who said them. Once you get home, type your notes in a word document and print them out. Place them in your folder. Review all the above the next day. Color code your notes with a designated study key. For example, Red ink is for dates. You can underline or box dates in, but make sure that Red Boxes or Red Underlines are all for dates. This will help you when you begin studying for your finals.


Most likely, you will have a final research paper. Undergraduates normally write 5-15 pages, depending on the course and professor. Graduates are expected to write 15–30 page papers. Just know that if you are having to write a thesis, you will need at least fifty sources and expect to write 75-100 pages. No matter where you are in your academic careers, researching is the key to your university success. Research papers are worth a lot more points than your tests. And in most cases, if you do not pass the paper, you will fail your course (no pressure!). Here is a breakdown to make sure you have all your bases covered:

1. Reliable and Unreliable Sources:

NEVER under any circumstances should you use websites like Wikipedia,, blogs, or other unprofessional sites. You may use these to help you form your topics or ideas. But do not cite them or use their information in your research. Why? They can be edited or changed without any given notice, making you look like an amateur in the research fields. Also, it can run your credibility as a researcher or writer. The best reliable sources are from websites that end with .org or .edu. If the website is .org, make sure it is a library, museum, historical society, or database for outdated books. Furthermore, you want primary sources that come from archives and newspapers. And you always want to look beyond the Internet for more primary and secondary sources. JSTOR and ProQuest databases are amazing, and I use them all the time. For books, make sure they are published by universities, and that the author has a lot of experience in the field.

2. Analyzing Sources:

Like your textbooks, make sure you read all the chapter headings, front and back matter, and read the first five chapters of each book. With a pencil highlight the author’s thesis statement, research methods, and note the kind of sources he or she used to conduct his or her research. Once you complete this, see if there are any chapters that will add depth to your topic or argument. With primary sources, highlight key information that the writer witnessed, experienced, showed, argued, or proved.

3. Research Questions:

What did you want to learn? Did you learn or discover what you desired to learn? What left you wanting more? Is there information that the author did not cover? Would you like to explore that gap? Is there another gap that you would like to explore? What is that gap? How many other scholars have written about this gap? Is there something that they missed that you caught? By asking yourself the latter, you can add to existing research, which will build onto your field of study. This is the best way to get your name out there.

Researching and writing is the key to a successful college or university career. You need to be willing to put as much effort into these skills as you can, especially if you are studying The Humanities. Always remember to look beyond Wikipedia, blogs, and .com websites. Focus on the sources that are written by scholars in your field. This is the key to make your research valuable and your voice creditable.

If you have any question or concerns, just let me know. I am more than willing to help you become successful in your academic and research careers.

Research. Learn. Discover.,