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History is one of those “important” subjects that many students find dull and boring. But learning history can be fun and exciting, especially if you approach it from the right perspective. Jorge Santayana, a Spanish philosopher, said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In other words, if you fail to learn from past mistakes, chances are you will make them yourself. But there are many other reasons to read history. Apart from imparting knowledge of the past, studying history helps in developing transferable skills that will prepare you for a variety of career opportunities in different fields.

How to understand history better, how to study history


How to understand history better, how to study history

So now that you are excited about learning history, let’s try to figure out some useful techniques and strategies that will improve the effectiveness of your studies.

Develop ideas. Make contact.

This may sound obvious, but we’re going to point it out anyway—history is based on a chronology of events. The order in which events occur is central to the study of history. As a result, it is very important that your notes are in chronological order. When organizing your notes, divide them into order by (1) subject, (2) then years, (3) decades, and (4) centuries.

History is full of facts, events, and details. In fact, there is so much information to learn and remember that it can sometimes seem impossible. One of the tips for studying and learning history is to make connections between facts. The best way to do this is to start by developing an understanding of the big picture and then work your way up to detail. During your lectures, and when reading your textbook, always try to put events, facts, and details in the context of the bigger picture. How do they fit? Why are they important to what is happening? How do they support the sequence of events to occur? If you adopt this technique there is nothing you can’t memorize or learn.

Another effective strategy is to employ mind maps to visualize and harmonize historical information at a glance. Mind mapping literally enables you to map historical information, events, and ideas in a logical way using symbols, words, colors, and images that bring clarity improve comprehension, and allows you to remember large amounts of information. enables it to be retained.

Consider the following example.

After you’ve created your mind map, develop the ideas and connections you see now into usable notes. Then try to link your notes with what you learn from reading your textbook and listening to class lectures.

Retain important information

Even though we recommend studying and learning important data within a contextual understanding of the big picture, sometimes memorizing important dates, names, and events requires memorizing techniques and strategies that you can learn from in your history. can be seen in the examination. In such cases, flashcards are an excellent tool to memorize information, improve recall, and test your level of retention. To make a flash card, write an important event, date, or fact on one side of a 3 x 5 card. On the contrary, write the definition, description, or explanation. The use of flashcards for memorization is centuries old. But it is as effective today as it was a hundred years ago.

Watch historical movies!

That’s correct! Watching movies can be an effective way to learn and study history. There is a range of films and documentaries that accurately depict historical events. While educational, most historical films and documentaries are also very entertaining. Unfortunately, some movies depicting historical events are not true to the historical facts. The “Schindler’s List”, which depicts German-occupied Poland during World War II, offers a somewhat accurate historical depiction. Unfortunately, the movie “Brave Heart”, as moving and entertaining as it is, is not historically accurate. If you’re serious about learning history, make sure the movie you choose is true to the historical facts.

Reading your history book

Most of history is recorded in written text. So it should come as no surprise that learning history requires a fair amount of reading. But reading more does not mean that you will learn more. The main thing is to extract as much information and knowledge as possible from your history lesson as efficiently as possible. History textbooks are made up of words, but not all words are equally important. By exploring the hierarchy of words, you can extract up to 75 percent of the textbook’s content while reading only 25 percent of the text.

 Start by reading the title. The title of most history books is the one providing the most insight into the central logic of the book. For example, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin gives you instant information about what the book is about, where the different species of animals came from and how they evolved. Not every title is going to be so descriptive and straightforward, but it takes time to figure out why the author chose that title.

Now open the book and review the chapter titles listed at the beginning. Depending on the type of history book you are reading, chapter titles will be arranged in chronological order of events, or in a fashion that will provide additional insight into the structure of the argument being presented. Reading the chapter titles will give you a rough idea of ​​the book of history.

Before moving on to the body of each chapter, be sure to take a few minutes to read the introduction and conclusion of the chapter. The introduction and conclusion are often the most important and practical parts of a chapter. Here the author will provide the main arguments, the research presented in the chapter, and a summary of the conclusions obtained. Reading the introduction and conclusion before reading the body of the chapter will (1) give you a better context for understanding and interpreting the information presented and (2) Help you share what you’ve read from your own history book with the author’s arguments. will do. Chapter introductions and conclusions in history books may be clearly identified by a boldface heading or blank line or may contain only the first and last paragraphs of the chapter.

It is not uncommon for history books, textbooks, in particular, to have chapters that are divided into sections arranged by heading and/or chronologically. When a chapter is divided into sections, each section is usually identified by a boldface title followed by a blank line, or by using boldface text for the first sentence of the paragraph. Quickly reading the section headings before moving to the body of the chapter will give you a better understanding of the main ideas presented in the chapter. Again, remember, as we mentioned earlier, you want to develop an understanding of the big picture first and then work your way up to detail.

 You will find that in most history books, each paragraph or text of the next section or hierarchy is the first sentence. The first sentence of a paragraph is used to introduce the main point of the author, while the following sentences provide supporting evidence and analysis. In a typical history textbook, reading only the first sentence of each paragraph will summarize the entire chapter. And don’t forget to review all the pictures, including photographs, maps, and charts. If the author included them, they did so for a reason.

Once you’ve read the title of your history book and figured out its importance, review the chapter titles at the front of the book, and the chapter title, introduction, conclusion, section title, and the first sentence of each paragraph. If you have read it, you will be well acquainted with the author’s point of view. Now is the time to read and understand the main text, examining key data, events, and information, to develop your understanding and opinion.

When you have read any chapter, try to answer the following questions:

  • What is the author trying to argue?


  • On the basis of what evidence has the author supported the arguments in the book? 


  • Is the author’s argument persuasive? Why? Or why not?


  • What is important to the author?


  • Where did the author’s information come from? primary sources? second source?


  • Did most of the material present come from just one source?


  • How does the book fit into my curriculum?


  • Why did my professors give me this book?


  • Does the book support what I learned in class?


  • What do I like about text? What do I not like? Why?

Make sure to note down the main points when you are studying. If you own your textbook and do not plan to sell it, we expect you to jot down your thoughts, ideas, and insights in the margins of each page as you read. If you don’t have your own book or plan to sell it after reading it, you’ll need to take notes elsewhere. Good notes will ensure that you are prepared for your next essay or exam where your knowledge, understanding, and work will be tested and assessed.

 Making notes in class

The class begins and your professor immediately starts talking about the antebellum era, a period in United States history, from the end of the 18th century to the start of the American Civil War in 1861. She is excited and information comes out of her mouth. You listen for a few moments and then start making notes. You write down everything about them. By the end of class, you will have five pages of copious notes. You noted down the entire lecture on paper! Your arm is cramping and you feel like you just ran a marathon. There’s just one problem. You haven’t heard a single word from him.

Making notes like this is a common problem among students who are so scared that they will miss something important that they write down everything their professor says. This is an especially common practice among history students who are not sure what is important and what is not. The key to taking notes in history class is to only write down the things that are really important. But how do you do that?

The following are the keys to effective note-taking in your history class.

    Arrive in class after completing all prescribed readings. The more prepared you are with prior knowledge when you get to class, the easier it will be for you to follow along and make good notes. Typically, your professor will discuss topics that have come up in your textbook. If you are already familiar with the topic being discussed and make good notes while reading your textbook, you won’t need to write everything down. When you listen to your professor’s lecture, compliment your reading notes with new information and insights you learned during the lecture.

    Note what topics are important to your professor. Some professors are direct and will tell you which points and topics are more important than others, while others will not. It is your job to decide which are the most important points during the lecture. If in doubt, raise your hand and ask.

    Your notes should be legible and organized. It’s no use making a note that you can’t go back and review later. Immediately after each lecture, review your notes to make sure you understand what you wrote while the lecture is still fresh in your mind. If something you wrote is unclear, make it clear. Organize your notes by subject, then by years, decades, and centuries. Use asterisks, arrows, and other notation devices to identify the really important information.

    Always enter the date and title of each lecture in your notes. Recording the date and title in your notes for each new lecture will allow you to look back on specific lectures as you write an essay or prepare for an exam. Also, make sure your notes follow the order in which your professor presented the information during the lecture.

    Pay attention during movies. How rarely would your professor show a movie during class purely for entertainment purposes? If your professor has scheduled a movie, pay attention and make notes. It’s quite possible that your next test or essay will ask you to consider a specific topic that was addressed in the movie. If you’re not sure whether you need to take notes, ask your professor.

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