Change what you read into your own words!

One of the hardest things for students, for British students as well as international students, is changing what you read into your own words. If you can understand WHY this is so important then you are on the road to doing well at university. It’s quite simple: if you don’t use your own words then you are not showing  that you understand what you have read. You don’t succeed at university in the UK by repeating what someone else has said or written. You have to rephrase it into your own words (this shows that you have understood what you read) and then you have to add some comment to show that you have thought about what you read. Let me give you an example of this. My students have an assignment in which they have to choose a newspaper article and present an oral summary of it to the class and say why it is a significant story for their course in International Finance. I found an article entitled Central banks seek to bolster economies (a link which might not work if you’re not registered with the Financial Times, so register!) which I used as an example for them. Look at this paragraph from the article:
The US Federal Reserve launched a full-scale “Operation Twist” on Wednesday in a bold attempt to drive down long-term interest rates to boost growth. The US central bank said that it would buy $400bn of Treasuries with remaining maturities of six to 30 years, financing the purchases by selling an equal amount of Treasuries with three years or less to run.

If a student just read this unchanged to the class – NO MARKS! FAIL! It doesn’t show any work at all. However, if a student said

The US central bank wants to make long-term interest rates lower in order to stimulate the economy. It will do this by selling short-term bonds and buying long-term bonds. This shows how weak the economy actually is.

Wow! The student has shown he understands what he has read, and he has shown he understands the importance of what he has read. TOP MARKS!

Some time ago I wrote a post about rephrasing what you read into your own words and it still reads well so here’s the link.