Save Your Knowledge

No matter if we want to learn something or collect material for study projects and writing projects: Knowledge often waits for us in the form of texts. Knowledge that can be lost again or degenerate into mere baggage if we do not process it. One possible form of processing is excerpts. Exercise and extract from texts what you want to remember or use for your writing. That is how it is done. We humans are forgetful. Knowledge that we have just read in books or have been taught in seminars has almost disappeared after a few weeks already in the air. One of the reasons for this "loss of memory": the fact that we often have not really absorbed this knowledge. Because it is not enough, to only read or hear knowledge. We have to work it out for ourselves to understand and remember it. But even information that you research or collect for an exam, for example, for a professionally written material from paper writer or another writing project, is easily uselessly piled up ballast, if you only hoard it somewhere, without having to deal with text and content. The solution: Make an excerpt (excerpt from Lat. = Pull out). In other words, work out the main points of text, teaching materials, lecture notes and so on, and record them in writing. Not only does this familiarize you with the information, it also makes it easier to store as new knowledge. You can also file your excerpts for research projects, for example, for your writing projects, so that you can easily access well-prepared material at any time. Or easier to learn as meaningful learning material. And so you excerpt:

Step 1: Go ahead

Be specific: Do not randomly collect what you are getting into, or write off anything that looks important. Make a plan. Think about what you want to achieve with your excerpts or what you need them for and reduce your material accordingly. Example: You want to compile a script on the subject of brainstorming. Then there are no other creativity techniques like analogy. Corresponding passages in your books or documents can be omitted immediately. Or: You want to memorize the differences and similarities of these three creative techniques. Then do your memory a favor and record in your excerpts only the things that have something to do with it. Everything else just interferes with learning or unnecessarily burdening your memory, so fly out. If you know what you are looking for, you can choose your material more precisely and just pull out of your records what you really need.

Step 2: Work on the text

You will make better excerpts if you have previously worked thoroughly with the text. This saves you from writing off in a blunt way or overlooking the important points. So read before you excerpt. Read slowly and carefully. The time of a hasty flyover is over with the pre-selection from step 1. Now it is about not just picking the stone, but trimming it. Mark all the places that seem important to you. Pay particular attention to key words, key messages, theses, argumentation or even one or the other exemplary quote. Do not forget your preliminary considerations. Keep the topics that interest you in mind and "question" your text for possible answers. These places are suitable for exercising. Everything else you do not need to edit and mark.

Step 3: Excerpt your text

Now the big moment has come, your excitement is waiting for you. Start with a few bibliographic details: Which book, document, and source does your excerpt refer to? Write down author, title, year of publication or date and so on, and then you can assign your excerpt at any time. Also note some basic rules for excerpting:

  • Do not diverge from the original text, do not distort or add anything. If you like, an excerpt is a log of the read and should reflect it as accurately as possible. Identify what citations, summaries, own interpretations and so on are. (Do not forget sources and page numbers.)
  • Use your own words, images and thoughts. This is how you actively deal with the text and can process and retain it better.
  • Do not write novels, but try to focus on the essentials. Limit yourself to the most important thoughts and contents. So you can better process these for study projects, writing projects and Co. or even learn as exam material.
  • Structure your content as meaningfully and clearly as possible. Take the opportunity to work out a common thread. The easier it is for you to pick up on this later or remember the learning material.

And another tip: If you find it difficult to extract some text despite previous work on the text (step 2), then proceed in two stages.

  • Ask each section first: What is this section about? What are his key messages?
  • And then check it for the topics that interest you: What can I use for myself?

Incidentally, the form of your excerpts does not really matter. For example, you can create an index card for every single excerpt. This has the advantage that you can always rearrange and mix them for larger writing or student projects. (Or - like vocabulary cards - sort out what you already know and what you still need to learn.) Or you can do it like me and just type everything into the calculator. If you are not exactly a friend of the two-finger search system, this is faster, and you can copy and move the individual passages over and over again for later texts. But, as I said, do it the way you like best. The main thing is that you can process and retain your knowledge.