Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

The majority of Indian
students are "holistic"
learners. They learn more
easily if they see the
whole picture first, then learn
the details as a part
of the whole
Sandra J Fox 1944
Oglala Sioux educator

Cooperative learning series

Studying with multiple sources

Course information can be delivered
through a variety of formats:

by teacher or guests
Textbooks Fictional story/novels
Interviews and biographies
eyewitness accounts
or commentaries
of (text) chapters, magazine articles
Original source material
as diaries, government documents,
proceedings, minutes
Electronic media
such as videos,
 radio programs
web site pages,
discussion groups

Stahl, et al (1998) found that using multiple-text sources can only be effective if we are taught to use them properly. As beginners, we tend to be more consistent in what information we select from short, well-constructed texts. Longer, less structured documents tend to be more confusing.

Text books

  • provide a foundation of facts and viewpoints to provide an overview
  • sequence information and facts to understand issues
  • create a context for comparing and understanding other sources
  • are written in a neutral, objective tone

Problems with a single text
for a subject or course include:

  • information is often "academic"
    lacking the drama of real life experience, adventure, and experimentation
  • bias is hidden or concealed
    ignoring competing facts, priorities, minority viewpoints
  • a single interpretation limits how reported facts are prioritized/sequenced
    restricting viewpoint (Euro/Caucasian) or subject testing (white male)
  • original/eyewitness sources of information are secondary to interpretative accounts

Additional readings and alternative sources
of information can assist you to

  • create a richer understanding
    with additional information and perspective
  • interact or engage with facts, actors, circumstances
    of the material
  • practice and familiarize
    yourself with new subject vocabulary and concepts
  • process opposing, even conflicting,
    points of view in order to assess, evaluate, defend

Conflicting information however can impede your learning,
unless you can

  • analyze it for commonalties
  • reorganize or synthesize
    your model for understanding it
  • consider the impact of, and evaluate, conflicts
  • filter it with a context presented in the basic text

Some Recommendations:

  • Read your text
    to provide the factual framework from which to begin
    (see also Taking notes from a text book)
  • Proceed to shorter, more focused sources
    of information especially if you are inexperienced in the subject
  • Practice with multiple texts to improve your evaluative skills:
    • compare and contrast your sources
    • analyze them for bias or viewpoint
    • note when and where they were written, and how that affects the viewpoint
  • Understand the connections
    between events, actors, and circumstances rather than learn a series of "facts" which can be easily be forgotten
  • Use in-class or on-line discussion time
    to test your understanding and ask questions!
Inspired and adapted from the study "What Happens When Students Read Multiple Source Documents in History?" Co-authors: Steven A. Stahl, Cynthia R. Hynd, Bruce K. Britton, Mary M. McNish (University of Georgia) and Dennis Bosquet (Clarke County School District) as found at (May 11, 00).
See also:

Effective study habits | A.S.P.I.R.E. - a study system | Index - a study system | Studying with flashcards | Studying with multiple sources | Finding the right study space | Studying text books in science