COMM 460
Fall 2014

How to Study a Unit

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The course is divided into a series of units, each concentrating on a particular American community and the uses and characteristics of discourse in that community. Over the years, this is the method that students have recommended for mastering a unit of the course. If you follow it you will be working on two units each day, one in which you are applying what you have learned about the community to discourse from your book or elsewhere and preparing for discussion in the process; the other in which you are preparing for the classroom lecture.

  1. If this unit is the one for your semester project, beginning a week or two before the unit is scheduled:

    • Do your bibliographic work. Read the sources on the bibliography and annotate them.

  2. For all students, before the classroom lecture on the unit:

    • Read through the commentary and speeches for this unit once. Read quickly, for a general knowledge, making note of any questions you have about the times or the community.

    • Some students like to read through (or even print for bringing to class) the notes for the unit.

  3. During the classroom lecture on the unit:

    • Take notes on the material. You may do this either separate from or by expanding on the notes from the website, choose whichever will help you learn the material best.

    • Be an active note taker. In short, don't just record the lecture in note form, shape the material to your understanding. Your understanding should be shaped by the fundamental questions about each community that you encountered in the first week of the course.

    • Make special notes on differences with other communities you have studied.

    • Ask questions on material you do not understand, or insights that you have in comparing the community with others.

  4. After the lecture and before the class discussion on the unit:

    • Take the notes from the lecture and compare the characteristics of the discourse of the unit to the speeches for the unit. This should be intense studying. You should be using the speeches you study to thoroughly understand the discourse of the community and clarify any questions you have about the lecture material.

      • Using the framework for studying speeches you learned in the first week of the course, work with each assigned speech.

      • Find as many of the characteristics predicted in the lecture as you can in the speech. Note how they work into the strategy of the speech; how they give the speech its character.

      • You may find that some characteristics are not present. Think why they might not be in the particular speech you are studying.

      • When there are more than one speech from the community, compare and contrast the speeches. How do they differ? What explains that difference? Are there characteristics you see that were not introduced in the lecture that you think characterize the discourse of the era.

    • Prepare your abstract on the speech. The abstract should fix the speech in your mind and record your observations above.

    • If the unit is the one for your semester project, go over your annotated bibliography and identify some sources that seem to you particularly appropriate to the speech. Prepare to add these observations and this material to our discussion.

  5. During the discussion of speeches on the unit:

    • Try out your observations. Articulating your discoveries is critial in final mastery of the material in preparation for the exams. This is not a time to take notes nor to just listen. This is the time to see how much you know.

    • If you are having to take notes, worry! You should have seen the same things others are seeing in your studying. Why did you miss it? Do you know the material well enough?

  6. After the discussion of speeches:

    • This is the time to add to your notes. Go over your notes for the lecture. Add comments that you acquired from the discussion.

    • Go over your abstracts a final time. Revise if necessary to master the material. This means your abstracts will be the final word for your studying for exams.

  7. In studying for the exams:

    • If you have done the things above you have two important resources for the exam: your notes from the lectures and your abstracts.

      • Review these.

      • Review the notes on the website.

      • Quickly reread the speeches, noting the things you have written about in your abstracts.

    • Construct charts for comparing the various communities and the various speeches you have read. This and other suggestions are available on the recommendations for preparing for exams on the Study Aid section of the website.

Using this pattern in your studying will prepare you for learn the material through a systematic repetition and study through stages:

  1. familiarity,
  2. careful reading and application,
  3. articulation of your knowledge in discussion,
  4. and review of your knowledge in preparation for exam.