Magoosh GRE

Being daunted

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Here are some of the thoughts that I had when I first attempted to do academic reading and first began to craft an essay.

“I will never understand this”

“I don’t know what I am doing”

“How can I read all that?”

I found myself as a first year historian sinking into a slough of despond, feeling that the whole task was far beyond me. I am now the head of history at a secondary school, I write history books and am hoping to do a PhD in the next couple of years, so obviously I was wrong.

That feeling of ‘dauntedness’ is a historian’s greatest enemy, it is something that has to be dealt with before you get started, and there is a simple method that will work wonders when you apply it to your study.

Let’s assume you have your first essay due, you’ve got your reading list and it is huge. There are books on there that you have never heard of, about things you barely understand and time is of the essence; that sinking feeling of panic is growing minute by minute.

Firstly you need to prioritise what to do first, if your reading list doesn’t indicate what might be essential reading, ask your tutor to show you. Once you know what to read in order to complete your essay, work out realistically the time you have to write it.

If the assignment is due in four weeks, look at how much time you can allot each week (be prepared to make some sacrifices) and then you need to dedicate about two thirds of that time to reading and planning.

Over four weeks you should probably be thinking of allocating something like thirty hours to what you are trying to achieve ( students who are recoiling in horror at such at all order should remember that all I’ve suggested is that they study for one hour a day).

You need a sufficiently large portion of time in order to methodically approach your reading, if you dip into the odd book here and there in an attempt to gain a smattering of knowledge which might give the impression of understanding, your tutors will see straight through it.

If you feel daunted by writing your essay, cut your tasks down into manageable chunks. If you give yourself 30 hours of study, get started by thinking to yourself ‘I just have one hour to read and make notes in, I am not going to make myself read the whole book now.’

Every great academic career started with one hour of reading, and it is very similar to any other kind of discipline, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Now that you have a time scale, your essential reading, and you are cutting your work down into manageable chunks, you should be in a far happier frame of mind regarding your study.

You need to have the discipline not to start making frenzied notes right away, simply read until you can identify in your own mind the core arguments of the historian.

When you start to make notes, ensure that you are actually addressing the question, not writing down vast tracts of historical narrative.

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Category: Articles & Advice

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