Political Sci and History majors: What are some strategies when reading college level history books?

Posted on November 23rd, 2011 by admin1 in political strategies

I have problems comprehending scholarly history books. I believe that it has something to do with the unfamiliar sentence structure, the big words and also the uneven flow. I’m used to reading fiction that has a narrative-like quality to it but whenever I read a history book my brain freezes and I struggle to make sense of the passages. I can’t imagine having the kind of private thoughts that historians have. Their thoughts are nothing but impartial analysis line by line.

The nice thing about history/poli sci is that if you go to class and take good notes on the lecture, the professor will usually tell you all you need to know and you won’t have to even look at the textbook.

If your prof sucks and you have to read, though, anything in bold or with its own separate heading is usually important to know. Ignore little details (unless they are dates, which you typically need for history) and focus on bigger theories, battles, legislation pieces, etc. For history, you can usually tell what’s important and what’s not in the text by seeing if an event/person/thing had an impact on later events. If they did, they’re important; if not, don’t worry about them.

If that still doesn’t help, I second what other people have said here about buying used books and group study. Professors at office hours are also usually more than willing to help you with outlining important things if you feel overwhelmed with information. Good luck! :)

4 Comments on “Political Sci and History majors: What are some strategies when reading college level history books?”

  1. Southern Proper

    Simple: buy used. It already comes highlighted/underlined.

    That, or study groups. Both are excellent strategies.References :

  2. Spongebong Stonerpants

    are you threatening me?References :

  3. Return of Bite My Shiny Metal...

    I never had a problem with history books because I’m interested in history. Political philosophy books are another story. I don’t know any tricks to making them easy to read. I just forced myself to find a quiet spot and dive in.

    A good way to get through some of the subjects is to find some recorded classes like those offered by Itunes U. For example, the Harvard "Justice" series by Michael Sandel is a good introduction to political philosophy and it’s rather interesting and a little bit entertaining. It’s available on youtube.References : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBdfcR-8hEY

  4. believinginluv

    The nice thing about history/poli sci is that if you go to class and take good notes on the lecture, the professor will usually tell you all you need to know and you won’t have to even look at the textbook.

    If your prof sucks and you have to read, though, anything in bold or with its own separate heading is usually important to know. Ignore little details (unless they are dates, which you typically need for history) and focus on bigger theories, battles, legislation pieces, etc. For history, you can usually tell what’s important and what’s not in the text by seeing if an event/person/thing had an impact on later events. If they did, they’re important; if not, don’t worry about them.

    If that still doesn’t help, I second what other people have said here about buying used books and group study. Professors at office hours are also usually more than willing to help you with outlining important things if you feel overwhelmed with information. Good luck! :)References : -History and Journalism Major
    -Poli Sci Minor

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