Thursday, August 17, 2006

A hyper-interactive reading technique

On the bus yesterday, I noticed that one of my colleagues was ferociously scribbling on a printout that he was reading. As we walked to our next bus, I asked him about it.

He explained that he has a sort of hyper-interactive reading style. As soon as he comprehends and absorbs (or in his words, groks) a sentence, he jots a mark next it. He literally does this after each sentence. If he has any other connected thoughts, he'll write those anywhere -- not necessarily in the margin. He said that all of his reading material is heavily marked up afterwards, and basically unreadable by anyone else. But. He claims that this method does wonders for his retention of the matieral.  

I'm intrigued, and I'd like to give it a shot. I can see how the tactile element (moving your pen after you "grok") could be really helpful. I've wanted to improve my content retention, lately. Maybe I just haven't been interactive enough with my reading material.

Of course, you can't really do this with library books.



The Foo said...

just wondering, does the technique make the reader absorb and retain more at the expense of taking a longer time to read something? My impression of doing this technique is that one may be subconsciously worried about marks and the relevance of the marks that you would not read the article in as much depth as someone else normally would. Wouldn't you just be better off reading it, writing out the finer points and then doing the retention? Also, what if you "missed" out a point... do you rescribble the marks over the other ones where the page is already filled with marks - there is the confusion factor here too but that goes with getting used to it I guess.

Jonathan said...

Good questions! My colleague said that this technique does actually him to read faster. The physical motion of jotting the groks keeps him on task.

I think a lot of it depends on what you're reading, though. He primarily reads programming documentation, in which each chunk of text carries high conceptual weight -- you need to understand each chunk to move on. But I don't know that this technique would work so well with reading Proust, for instance.

I've been experimenting with this technique in the latest copy of Scientific American, on the bus. I'm not making a tick next to each sentence -- just the sentences with concepts or figures that I want to remember. I found myself making 3 quick ticks next to a sentence that introduces 3 concepts.

I'm still playing around with it, and perhaps I'll post some more on this in a month or so.