Study Tools

How to Take Notes

How to Read and Write Philosophy

  • Read the text several times and outline it. Follow the trail of knowledge wherever it leads, looking up key terms, words, ideas and philosophers you don’t know or have never heard of.
  • Analyze – Figure out and explain the author’s conclusion and supporting claims.
    • Identify Arguments
      • Deductive (Necessity) – Valid and Sound?
        • Categorical Forms (All are, Some are, Some are not, None are)
        • Propositional Forms (If, then; Either, or, Not)
          • Modus ponens
          • Modus tollens
          • Hypothetical Syllogism
          • Disjunctive Syllogism
          • Constructive and Destructive Dilemmas
          • Reductio Ad Absurdum
      • Inductive (Probability) – Strong and Cogent?
        •  Analogy (similarity and difference)
        • Generalization (large, timely, diverse, representative sample to whole)
        • Causal argument (causes and effects)
        • Prediction (past to future)
        • Probability (likely or unlikely)
  • Critique – Offer clear, relevant, and accurate objections to the the argument.
    • Ways to Object – point out or demonstrate:
      • Poor definitions
      • False premises
      • False underlying assumptions
      • Weak or invalid conclusion
      • Fallacies (false premises or weak connections)
      • Alternative Arguments
    • Response – how might the author respond to your objections to their argument?

Definitions:  A good definition is:

  • Clear and Precise
  • Stated in positive form
  • Non-circular
  • Wide enough to include all cases used in actual practice
  • Narrow enough to exclude all cases beyond range of usage in actual practice
  • Can be consistently applied
  • Is not just an example

Kinds of Definition

How to Read a Philosophy Text

How to Write Philosophy


Graduate School Research Tools

Learning Tools:  (find out what kind of learner you are, if learning styles exist):

Kaplan Test Prep on How to Manage Stress

  • Schedule study sessions on a calendar
  • Divide studying into manageable chunks, and allow for breaks. (After 3 hours, stop!)
  • If you become stressed, step away for a while.
  • Fuel your study with water, fruits, veggies, and healthy protein.
  • Get into a routine of good sleep and moderate exercise.
  • Spend time with friends and family—as long as they keep reminding you how great you are! (positive feedback)
  • Say “I can and will do this.”
  • Focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.
  • Trust the process. It works. It will work for you.
  • No test is out to get you. It’s out to reward you for what you know.
  • There is no second-best answer. The other answers are deliberately wrong.
  • Close eyes; breathe slowly and deeply, in nose and out mouth slowly.
  • Work on another topic or question type to wake yourself up.
  • Move on. Come back if you can, but keep moving.
  • Don’t look over your shoulder. Everyone thinks they’re doing worse than they are.

Test Taking Tips