As you know, most of your work as a history student involves reading. You will have been reading history books since your A-level studies, but university reading is different.The tendency at A-level is to read looking for 'relevant' information (and especially quotations) to put in essays on particular topics. At university you should be reading in order to understand what it is that the author is trying to say to you. What is the point they are trying to make? And just as important, how successful are they?
Since the quality
of an essay or other piece of work is significantly affected by how much
you have read and understood, it is useful to be able to maximise
the amount of meaning you can extract from your reading in the shortest
possible time. This is where gutting books comes in.
What is gutting a book?
Gutting a book
means quickly establishing the book's thesis (i.e. the main
point the author is trying to make), together with the main lines of
argument and the main evidence used to support those arguments.
It can be a prelude to more detailed reading, or you might never need to
look at the book again, depending on what you are trying to do and what
you need to find out.
How do I do it?
You probably already know. A well-tested method is to follow the sequence below, taking notes as you go (remember to include page numbers, and mark out your own ideas as your own).
What will this achieve?
Once you have gutted a book, you should be able to answer the following questions:
Your lecturers commend this method to you.
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