One Article, One Idea

One Article, One Idea

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As you’re writing an article, other article ideas will intrude on what you’re trying to write. Don’t let it bother you. Cut them out as soon as they appear and add them to your ideas file. An article should communicate one clear idea for your reader to take away.

Following this rule, it looks like this article is done already. But I have an out.

I’ve been told I don’t put enough examples into my writing. Let’s have one now.

An Example of the Rough Article

“How to make notes on a textbook chapter”

The first step in making good notes is good highlighting. It can be done with a highlighter or, if you don’t want to mark the book, using a pencil. Notes on how to highlight with a pencil – lines and hooks. The pencil is actually the better way to highlight because you can erase the unnecessary highlights on the second read. But, if your notes are good enough, you may never read the chapter a third time.

The second step is reviewing your highlights and creating notes. The best notes will be in your own words. This forces you to think about the concepts in slightly new ways so that they will stick. You can improve your memory of the ideas even more by saying what you are about to write out loud. Memory is enhanced when you receive information in additional ways. That includes speaking and hearing as well as seeing.

At this point you may feel like you’re done. The highlights are now notes and that’s what you were going for. Not so.

The third step is to review your notes and see if a re-write is in order. This doesn’t mean the original author did a bad job. After having read the chapter, there will be quite a bit that you know now and won’t forget. You don’t need notes on every anecdote and illustration, for example. Most chapters also have introductory and concluding sections. Your notes are a summary of the chapter. You don’t need additional summaries. You will also find that some sections of a chapter can be merged while others can be left off entirely. And, lastly, some parts of a chapter will be irrelevant to your interests.

The fourth and final step is cutting. Review what you have for notes and cut everything that doesn’t add to your understanding. You’re being a writer here, so follow the best advice for writers on improving the quality. Cut big, then cut small. The final version of your notes will be a short version of the chapter. If you do this for an entire textbook you will be able to review the text very quickly when final exams come around.

Where Does the Example Fail to Stick to One Idea?

The first failure is talking about kinds of highlighting. The reader can figure out how to highlight on their own. There is an art to highlighting well and that could be a second article.

The second failure is talking about how to memorize. It is only necessary to explain the idea of putting concepts in one’s own words. Memorization is another subject that could be its own article.

The bit about using the notes when it comes time to study for your final exam is a bit off the point too, but probably doesn’t warrant its own article. Instead it shows one of the benefits of good notes. In the re-write, you would want to mention how the notes are useful for final exams, to review for work, or to refresh one’s memory on a subject of interest.

And that’s all I have to say about one article, one idea.


Article by Ivan Izo.

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