Two psychologists, Pam A Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture's contents and reframe it -a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.


The case for not using computers in the classroom is also made here in an article by Dartmouth professor Dan Rockmore. This may help explain some of my own classroom exercises and polices.

The Summary

Early Alphabets
Early Alphabets

The ability to summarize is key to all writing for and about the media.


To summarize:


Identify the writer/show/website/whatever's purpose.

  • to inform: as in the primary purpose of most newspapers, TV News, etc.
  • to persuade: as in the advertisments for adult medical products that come before, during and after the 6PM News.
  • to entertain - entertainment is an emotional response not only comedy. :-) or tragedy :-(
  • or a combination - this is usually the case with one purpose being prime.


Identify the writer/show's structure.

  • What are the stages of thought. These are typically broken into paragraphs, scenes or segments. Write a one sentence summary of each.
  • If you are analyzing a film or television show, what does each scenes or segment convey? Write a one sentence summary of each.
  • Identify the thesis, main theme or idea
  • Write a first draft summary by combining the thesis with the summaries of each stage of thought, scene, or sequence.

The Synthesis

A written discussion that draws on two or more sources.


To synthesize:


Consider your own purpose

  • to inform
  • to persuade
  • to entertain
  • or a combination

Consider your sources

  • textbooks
  • interviews: either first-person or compiled by someone else
  • critical reviews
  • the internet: testing credibility is important here! Is the source known? For example are you on the NY Times website or The Citadel, a survivalist website?


Select and read sources, noting or marking ideas of significance.


Summarize those ideas. (See previous module.)


Formulate a thesis. What is your main idea. Use a model if necessary:

  • Process/example
  • compare and contrast
  • cause and effect, there are many more!


Develop an organizational plan. An outline is a good way to do this.


Write a first draft, documenting the sources used and drawing on the structure suggested by any model that you used in formulating your thesis.


Write a second draft. The revising process is the key to developing your writing skills.


Be flexible!


Always remember that citation or attribution, depending on the course or assignment, is necessary in academia!


Adapted from Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum by Behrens and Rosen, ISBN 0-316-08761-0