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PolSci (Political Science 101) & readings

I have nothing negative to say about this course, as I have just joined it. However, I am surprised by the sheer length of the readings…I read an article that honestly I spent a few days going through…due to the length of 29 pages. Unit one has a lot of assigned readings…and I’m slowly making my way through them all. This is my number one reason for being grateful that there are no deadlines. Has anyone else encountered this in any other courses? How to best get through them? Thank you, Sunny.

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This, I think, is what makes Saylor courses nearly unique, the fact that there are realistically substantial required readings. If we were studying at college it would be common to have a chapter or two as assigned reading once or twice a week.

As you have observed, the self-paced nature of the courses means you can take as long as needed to get full value from the readings. For ‘difficult’ pieces I’d strongly advise that you first do a fast reading; don’t get bogged down with details, just get a general feeling for the content and the overall shape lof the piece. Then (preferably in a separate session) go through more slowly making sure that you chase down any obscure references or meanings. Take notes to summarise the key points!

Coincidentally, I commented on this course nearly three years ago in my blog:

It gets underway with a nine page reading from Jean-Marc Coicard on Political Legitimacy, followed by twenty nine pages of analysis of soft power under Obama then back to the 18th Century for twenty two pages from Jean Jacques Rousseau’s A Discourse on Political Economy followed up by two chapters from Harold D. Lasswell’s 1935 Politics: Who Gets What, When, How?. There are a few more readings and then a rest for an hour while you take in a video lecture. Finish off with two lengthy entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and it’s time to complete the first assessment. Official ‘Time Advisory’, 11.5 hours. It took me over twice that although I did get tempted off into some interesting sidetracks.

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You have a nice blog. :slight_smile:

@Wordsgood95 Thanks. I think I need to be a bit more disciplined about writing it. I had a two year gap then a flurry of activity but have now gone a month again without posting. I have outlines of the next five postings but, ironically, keep getting distracted by completing MOOCs.

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Thanks for that answer Paul. Have you found that that is what has helped the most with these lengthy readings or do you know of any other methods that go beyond just pacing yourself over time or speed reading?

As I wrote earlier, I have found that the best approach for me is to read through quickly without worrying too much about fine detail. This gives an idea of the main themes and the ‘shape’ of the reading. This helps when doing a more detailed reading as you can avoid the feeling that it is an endless task; you already know when the next change of topic is coming, how much of the later material is new rather than analysis or review and you can see how the part you are reading fits into the big picture.

As well as taking notes, for a particularly long reading I sometimes also produce a mindmap or at least some sort of visual representation outlining the main ideas and how they connect. However you record your notes I always recommend producing a brief summary–ideally, no more than a few paragraphs–which helps both to focus the main points in your memory and acts as a quick reference when you come to revise later.

The revision aspect is also important when you are listening to lectures as it can otherwise be virtually impossible to find the part you want, especially in courses which use a lot of video lectures.

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You’re welcome, Paul! Write whenever you have the time and inclination. I’ll still be around to read it, as I’m sure your other readers will be too.

With regard to notetaking, my problem is that I completely suck at being concise. That said, if I didn’t take copious notes, I never remember a damn thing.

I also use mindmapping. I find hand drawing them more effective than using computer models, though the latter has the advantage in that you can store entire files in a particular node.

Essentially, my method for learning new material is to use active reading techniques and repetition.

When thinking about repetition, consider trying to include the idea of ‘spaced repetition’ which research has shown to be more effective than simply revising at random. The idea, if you are not familiar with it, is to gradually increase the time between revisions so you might review material after a day, then 2 , 4 and 8 days or until you have achieved mastery. There’s lots of information about spaced repetition on the internet so I won’t try to cram a twenty page research paper into a forum posting.

Spaced repetition gained a new lease of life with the advent of personal computers, and more particularly, the internet. There are now lots of sites which use the idea of spaced repetition (for example, Duolingo uses this in language learning) including a number which allow users to create their own ‘flash cards’ which are then presented using the spacing technique refined by varying the frequency depending on mastery–once you get a question correct that will drop into a lower repeat frequency, if you get it wrong it will remain on a short repeat cycle until you do get it right!

I use mindmaps both as a way of collating the resources for a whole course (using Freemind to hold links to all the relevant files including my own notes) and to examine individual areas within a course. In the latter case I always draw by hand initially then either convert to a computer-based mindmap or scan the hand drawn version and write an outline summary. Either of those two helps to crystallise the memory through the action of reviewing and reformatting.

I used to be very sceptical about the merits of mind mapping, even after being sent on a course by my then employers. It was only when I realised that I had unconsciously always been using the method when faced with a complex problem that I reconsidered.


Aside, after reviewing my post, I realize it might come across as me being whiny and seeking attention. I assure you, that is not my intention, I’m just feeling chatty at the moment! :smiley:

Yes, I’ve heard of it, but thank you! :slight_smile:

I’m working on using a combination ever-evolving study techniques, which includes elements of the spaced repetition method, the SQR5 method, mindmapping and copious amounts of notetaking. I say “ever-evolving” because my MS (multiple sclerosis) has been super active the last several years and how I feel when I’m able to study, and how much of my body is cooperating with me at that time, means that I have to constantly make small adjustments in how I study anything during any given study session.

Which is why I lurk around the forum frequently looking for new tips and/or resources from fellow students like yourself, and as posted by Saylor Staff. I might end up being the Saylor Student who goes down in history for taking the longest possible time to complete a course. If I ever finish any, that is. :wink:

I don’t care though, my only goal is to keep learning. Having a records of participation saying I completed any courses or transcripts of any kind, were never part of my goal in taking online courses here or at any other site. If I do, great! But if not, I’m okay with it. My kids are long since grown and on their own, the decades of caring for sick and/or elderly relatives are finally over, I’ve lost much of my mobile independence so seldom go anywhere except to yet another doctor’s appointment and will never be able to work again…so…this is what I do now.

I live in my books and in the virtual world, always trying to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) new knowledge and skills that I’ll never put to practical use. And I’m okay with that. It’s better than dying of utter boredom! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thanks again, Paul. I enjoy reading your posts and want you to know that I’ve picked up several handy tips from them. I hope summer is starting off in a great way.


About deadlines. Kinda of wish there were some now.

Still mt biggest challenge is the mindless, repetitive, heady reading. It’s killing me. How the world am I suppose to digest all of this , excuse me, psycho babble bull. Each unit that I’ve read sounds like someone completely full of themselves and their head knowledge. They don’t seem to have any desire to teach anyone or anything. Only that they can say a bunch of complicated words.

Hi Holberg?
my name is Yahya. I’m from the Africa continent , in particular, I’m from East Africa and Kenyan by Extension.
First and foremost,I’m passing my sincere regards to you and the entire members of this course.
I have done this course for the past few years. Im yet to take the final exams.
My main goal of studing this introduction to political science course wasn’t just to complete and pass the final exams. My aim was to get better understanding in poltical science as a subject and actualize in practice the knowledge in politics
I can assure you today that the understanding I gained in the taking this course is anomalous indeed.
It didn’t oly help my political role as an active citizen but as a politician in practice.
The free courses in the Saylor online free courses is known to benefit students who have the patience to read ,take time to complete the quizzes and ask or answer questions from peers. I don’t see why you can’t appreciate reading through the vast free reading materials that are designed by experts in helping the learners understanding .
Remember,most of the students participanting in this courses are adults who had no time to acquire this kind of knowledge by going to the traditional classroom or pay fees . They are either busy committed in other responsibilities or paying fees can jeopardize them in some other areas of their respolife. Out of my personal experience, I’m advising you to have the courage and strength to do the necessary reading as demanded by the course descriptions. Beside free , taking courses from Saylor have many advantages. You can complete the course at your own pace. You can schedule the time to take your final exams. Therefore Let you not be disappointed or discouraged by going through the entire reading resources . That is the only sure ways you can get better understanding of the subject. when you take all the required time in going through the topic or go through as many times as possible, you’ll need no teacher and you can never fail the exams.
Thanks and hope to be with u again soon.