Thursday, 14 October 2010

Note Taking Basics

“Studies on memory have shown that, without review, 47% of what a person has just learned is forgotten in the first twenty minutes and 62% is forgotten after the first day. Therefore, having good  notes to review can determine how well you are able to perform on exams.”
1. Prepare for Class
  • You need to have all the materials necessary for taking notes, i.e pens, pencils, highlighters, notebook etc. Teachers often make comments like, "This is an important concept." Or, "Make sure you understand this." These are direct clues that this will more than likely be on an exam. Highlighting these notes will help remind you later that this is definitely something you need to know.
  • You may want to consider using a three-ring binder instead of a spiral or bound book. Pages can be easily removed for reviewing. Handouts can be inserted into your notes for cross-referencing. You can insert your own out-of-class notes in the correct order (Ellis).
  • You must read assigned material and previous class notes before class. Make notations about material or concepts you don't understand. Look up vocabulary words that are unfamiliar to you. You will have a better understanding about what the instructor is lecturing about and that will allow you to better decipher the more important points of the lecture.
2.  Sharpen your listening skills.
"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly." -- Plutarch (A.D. 46 - 120). Greek biographer and philosopher
  • Start by entering the classroom with a positive attitude. Going to class thinking, "This is the last place I want to be today" only sets the stage for internal noise. Approaching lectures with a positive attitude allows one to be open-minded and enables you to get the most out of the information presented.
  • Make a conscious effort to pay attention. Concentrate on concentrating. "Without concentration there is no focus, and without focus there is no learning”.
  • Adapt to whatever direction a lesson/lecture takes. When a lesson/lecture takes an unexpected detour, say a student asks a question you aren't particularly interested in, students have a tendency to "zone out." However the lesson/lecture may get back on track five minutes later and you would have missed crucial information that should have been noted.
3. Develop a notetaking strategy  that works for you.
"Learn, compare, collect the facts." - Ivan Petrovic Pavlov (1849 - 1936), Russian physiologist.
In order to increase your notetaking speed and comprehension, fine-tune the structure and organization of your notes later.
  • Start each new lesson/lecture on a new page, and date and number each page. The sequence of material is important.
  • Write on one side of the paper only. You can set them out side-by-side for easier reviewing when studying for an exam.
  • Leave blank spaces. This allows you to add comments or note questions later.
  • Make your notes as brief as possible. "Never use a sentence when you can use a phrase, or a phrase when you can use a word" (Berkeley). For example, The food of the tainos, the caribs, the Axtecs, the Incas and the Mayas, we may say the food of the Amerindians.
  • Develop a system of abbreviations and symbols you can use wherever possible. And=&, the=t ,
  • Note all unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts you don't understand. This reminds you to look them up later.
  • For examples of popular notetaking formats, see Notetaking Systems at
4. Play close attention to content.
"There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it." - Charles Kettering (1876 - 1958), American electrical engineer and inventor
Knowing what and how much to write down is sometimes difficult. Rely on some of the following tips for what to include in your notes.
  • Details, facts, or explanations that expand or explain the main points that are mentioned. Don't forget examples.
  • Definitions, word for word.
  • Enumerations or lists of things that are discussed. 
  • Material written on the chalkboard or on a transparency, including drawings or charts. 
  • Information that is repeated or spelled out. (University of Texas at Austin)
5. Review and edit your notes.
"Ideas won't keep; something must be done about them." - Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947), English mathematician and philosopher
Academic skills centers and other authorities on effective study skills consider reviewing and editing class notes to be the most important part of notetaking and essential to increasing learning capacity.
  • It is extremely important to review your notes within 24 hours. 
  • Edit for words and phrases that are illegible or don't make sense. Write out abbreviated words that might be unclear later.
  • Edit with a different colored pen to distinguish between what you wrote in class and what you filled in later. 
  • Fill in key words and questions in the left-hand column. 
  • Note anything you don't understand by underlining or highlighting to remind you to ask the instructor.
  • Compare your notes with the textbook reading and fill in important details in the blank spaces you left.
  • Consider rewriting or typing up your notes. (Ellis).

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Evaluating Types of Discourse/Rhetorical Modes

Hello Students please be reminded of the reading for the next class which is on Analyzing Discourse Types. Please see below:

1. Cape Communication Studies (McDermott) pg 46-52; 74-83
2. Writing in English (Section 3) Chps 8-11

In your reading you are to look for:

a. The Definition of 'Discourse'
b. The Definition of 'Main Idea'
c. The motives for choosing a particular type of discourse
d. The differences between the different types of discourse: description, narration, exposition, persuasion, and argumentation.

Technical/Scientific Writing vs Artistic Writing
There are two (2) major Prose discourse types - Technical/Scientific Writing and Artistic Writing. Below is how the two differ:

Technical Writing                                                 Artistic Writing
1. Objective                                                            Subjective
2. Scientific data, figures & statistics                 Opinions, Biases
3. Precise language                                                  Figurative Language
4. Denotative/Concrete words                                 Connotative Words
5. Neutral Tone                                                       Affective Tone

There are at least five (5) modes of rhetoric that may utilize either one or a combination of technical and artistic writing depending on the topic, purpose for writing, and audience. Rhetoric is simply defined as the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience.It also refers to the specialized literary uses of language and the ability to use language effectively in communication.

Types of Discourse/Rhetoric
The main purpose of this type of discourse is to explain or describe some concept, person or setting, thought to be unfamiliar, to the audience. Descriptive writing uses various organizational/spatial strategies. For example in describing a house on a hill, a writer may start describing what it looks like starting from the base of the hill upwards (ground view). Another writer may start by describing how it looks from the skies going downwards to the base of the hill (aerial view).
The main purpose and distinguishing factor of this writing is to explain some concept according to a given time sequence. For example, The first thing Tory did when she arrived in the beautiful island of Jamaica was to take a dip in the beautiful azure ocean of the North Coast. Afterwards, she went to the infamous jerk restaurant, 'Scotchies', for some delicious jerk chicken, festival and roast corn. She then ordered two glasses of refreshing red stripe beer, which she savored as she rocked to the irie music floting in the island breeze. As the sun was about to set, she contacted a reliable tour company and went for a relaxing drive along the sea coast culminating in a tour of the alluring fern gully which covered with miles of the most gorgeous indegenious ferns.
The main purpose of exposition is to define, inform, teach or explain some concept. As such, the expectation of expository writing is for it to be objective, precise and neutral (free from bias and prejudice). In otherwords, it mostly uses technical/scientific writing. Writers also employ a combination of varied organizational strategies in expostion, depending on their topic, audience and purpose for writing. These may include, cause and effect, comparison/contrast, definition, description/illustration etc.
The main purpose of this type of writing is to convince or influence readers to accept a particular point of view. Persuasive writing does this by mainly appealing to readers' emotions. In this type of writing you may find the use of emotive words, repitition, figurative language, opinions, biases etc. In otherwords, this type of writing relies heavily on artistic writing.
The main purpose of this type of writing is to convince or influence readers to accept a particular point of view. Argumentative writing does this by appealing to readers' logic. Readers expect  a strong piece of argumentative writing to be as objective and neutral as possible, and to convince them by presenting them with statistcal/scientific data, quotes, facts and other information that can be tested/substantiated. In otherwords, this type of writing relies heavily on technical/scientific writing.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Forms & Context of Communication

Speaking & Writing (MODULE 3)

There are TWO (2) major forms of communication – verbal and non-verbal communication.

I. Verbal Communication
This form of communication is characterized by the use of oral and written language. In this form of communication words are used to bring across a certain message. There are two main ways in which human beings communicate verbally, that is, through speech and writing. Reading, writing, speaking and listening are the four ways in which we use this verbal communication. Each of these is a skill, and effective use of each is necessary for communication to take place.

Your notes, for instance, are in a written format. However until it is read and interpreted by an audience/ receiver (you, the student) no communication has taken place. In addition to this, the entire process is incomplete unless some feedback, in the form of presentations/periodic tests/assignments, is provided.

For communication to take place, both writing and reading skills must be employed. Similarly, speech communication does not end with speaking. For communication to effectively take place, the receiver/audience must employ listening skills.

It is important, then, for us to be able to not only write and speak effectively, but also to read and listen effectively.

II. Non-Verbal Communication
This form of communication relies on elements other than speech and writing. Non-verbal communication is equal in importance to verbal communication. According to Leathers (1992), non-verbal communication is the use of interacting sets of visual, vocal, and invisible communications systems to convey and interpret meaning.
Non-verbal actions often tell a different story from the one we are telling with words. For example, if you are making an apology to someone for a wrong done with a smirk on your face, the person may not believe that you are serious and genuinely apologetic. Some major categories that fall under non-verbal communication are paralanguage/vocalic, Space/proxemics, objects/artifacts, posture & movement, time and the senses. These basic elements of non-verbal communication may be used to enhance communicative behaviours and can have a significant impact on your total message.

The use of volume, tone, rate, pitch, and quality of voice to give dimension and meaning to words. This is also referred to as paralanguage as the voice ‘surrounds’ the words. For example you raise your pitch at the end of a sentence to indicate that you have completed a thought.

This is the use of space to communicate. For example if someone comes to sit next to you in the library when the whole table is empty it can communicate a range of things about relations/interests/personality types.

Artifacts are those items, such as jewelry, clothing or a vehicle that may communicate something about the type of person you are. If a male wears extremely tight pants or shaves his eyebrows, it may communicate something about him to others.

This includes posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact. Waving, smiling, gazing at someone, or slumping at your desk, are all instances of movement. Movement communicates messages.

The way you use time, or chronemics, can communicate attitude or status. For instance, one may show/communicate respect by being early for an appointment or job interview. Conversely, lack of respect may be communicated by turning up half-an-hour late for a class.

Finally, messages can be sent through the five senses – taste, touch, smell etcetera.

Functions of non-verbal communication
There are also six (6) functions of non-verbal communication. That is, we use non-verbal communication for six main reasons:

i. Substituting is where we use non-verbal communication to replace verbal communication. Waving goodbye instead of saying it out loud is one example of this.

ii. Reinforcement. We also use non-verbal communication to reinforce or complement our verbal communication. Pounding your hand onto a table when arguing may reinforce whatever point you’re making.

iii. Regulating. The regulating function of non-verbal communication is used mostly in conversation to control the flow of messages. Raising your hand to answer or ask a question in class helps to regulate the communication going on in the room.

iv. Contradiction. Sometimes we use non-verbal communication to contradict our verbal communication. The most common example of this is using vocalic sarcasm – when you say one thing, but your tone of voice says the opposite.

v. Manage Impressions. We often manage impressions through the use of non-verbal communication. The way we dress, for example, often coincides with the impression we want others to have of us.

vi. Establish Relationships. Finally, we use non-verbal communication to establish relationships. The wearing of a wedding band is a non-verbal indication that the person is married.

The Context of Communication
As stated earlier, the context of communication is its environment. Context is particularly important in choosing the types of verbal and non-verbal communication we use every day. A doctor does not wear short pants and slippers at the clinic; this would be inappropriate. A lawyer may choose to speak in simple language to a client while using more complex language to a colleague. A hip-hop star covers himself in “bling” and speaks a version of English that is not standard when addressing his fans. All of these are examples of how communication context influences form of communication.
When deciding on which form of communication to use, always ask yourself these questions:
* Who am I communicating with?
* What is the attitude of my audience?
* Where is this communication act taking place?

Usually, communication contexts occur along a scale from formal to informal. Formal contexts require certain types of communication and communicative behaviours; informal contexts require others. A conversation between employer and employee, for example, is not the same as one between friends, even if the subject matter under discussion is the same.

Basically, a formal situation is one where behaviour is dictated by social norms and patterns, and an informal situation is one where there are no constraints on behaviour and communication.

Communication Settings

  1. Intrapersonal
This means communicating within yourself. When you think, daydream and solve problems that is seen as intrapersonal communication. Hunger, pain and pleasure are said to be physical feedback mechanisms.

  1. Interpersonal
This form of communication refers to the interactions of two or more people. All communication involving other people and oneself is seen as interpersonal. It is characterized by oneself being in direct contact with one other person or a few other people. Interviews, conversations and intimate communication are all examples of this type of communication.

  1. Small Group
This form of communication is characterized by leadership, a somewhat equal sharing of ideas, peer pressure, roles and norms, and focus on a common goal, usually in face-to-face interaction. The small group is one of the most important communication settings. Examples of small groups include the family, interview teams, roommates, workgroups, legislative subcommittees and military and business groups.

  1. Public Communication
This occurs where one person talks to several others and is the dominant focus of the communication in a public setting. It is characterized by having a speaker and an audience. Here, the speaker is the primary sender of messages, while others function primarily as receivers of those messages.  The number of the audience is not important here.

  1. Mass Communication
This occurs where a message needs help to get from point A to point B – from its source/sender to its destination/receiver. Some form of mechanism is needed to connect the sender to the receivers.  These include print (newspapers or magazines), electrical (radio, television or video), or electronic (computer modems).  There is usually some delay in sending and receiving. There is also some delay in the feedback, if any, that the sender gets from the receiver.

  1. Organizational Communication
This is a very specialized area that focuses on interpersonal, small-group, public and mass communication as they interact in a complex, multi-group setting. It is especially important to business, government, and educational institutions. It accounts for what happens to messages as they travel up, down and around a large collection of individuals.

  1. Intercultural Communication
Otherwise known as cross-cultural communication, it describes what happens when the sender of a message is from a different cultural background than the intended receiver. It may be found in any other context of communication whenever one individual speaks to another individual from another country. It is important to take into consideration the differences in cultures in order to ensure successful cross-cultural communication.

Introduction to Communication Studies

Communication is the transfer of information from a source to a receiver.
Communication is a vital part of the human experience. It enables the passing on and sharing of information and is necessary for survival. Humans must communicate in order to express/convey their interests, wants, needs and desires. Consider a newly born baby who cannot yet speak. He or she cries to express hunger, sleepiness or discomfort. Likewise, when happy he or she will coo or smile.
We may now conclude that communication is an inborn/innate and therefore inevitable part of being human. Consider this story:

The Story of Djuma (The Wolf Boy)
Djuma was found in 1962 at the age of 7 in the company of wolves. He walked on all fours like a wolf, bit like a wolf, ate raw meat and howled like a wolf. He was a victim of civil unrest in Russia whereby all his family members were killed and he was somehow found and raised by wolves. This story brings out the point that human beings need to communicate by whatever means necessary. This story also alludes to the fact that human beings are not the only beings that can communicate. Most animals possess some kind of communication system. For example, spiders and crabs have a complex communication system for courtship and mating. The bees also have a complex communication system for alerting other bees to a newly found food source.
None the less, human beings are said to have the superior communication system, characterized by the use of language and gestures in a systematic way. Zeuschner (1994) defines this communication as ‘the process of people interacting through the use of messages.’