There are many different options out there for students who seek a shortcut in their studies. In order to make the most out of Internet study guide services, there are several important things to keep in mind. First, study guides—commonly referred to as cliff notes—should never replace actual research—you must always remember that effort equals results. If you scramble for a study guide at the last minute, your writing will reflect it. Second, not all study guides are equal. There are sites out there that simply collect information from the web. If a sixth grader in Des Moines writes a book report on Huck Finn, it may not be as accurate, beneficial, or analytical as the analysis of a graduate student or professional. Third, if the study guide uses references, you can check to see how accurate they are. If the guide does not use any, what can you do?
Once you have learned the purpose of study guides and realized that they are meant to supplement studying and not to replace it, there are a few steps you need to take to find what study guide service you will use.
The first step is to find the book note, summary, or study guide that is best for you. For each level of education, there are generally specific and unique expectations. For the sixth grader in Des Moines, a minimal amount of information on a subject with very little analysis is perfect—there are study guides for such a student. But for the graduate student, much more is required—and there are study guides for that individual as well. Additionally, all of the study guide services out there have literature guides, but not all of them have taken on other subjects. Don’t try to find tips on the Antiquities Act of 1906 from a service that specializes in Moby Dick.
The second step is to search the site you select for articles related to the topic of the study guide. If it is a quality service, you will be able to find plenty of additional information by researching the sources cited in each article. Again, book notes and summaries are not meant to replace actual studying.
Something to watch out for, beyond low-quality content, is value. Some sites require a membership, while others do not. If it is appropriate for you to become a member, go ahead and join. But be smart, there is no sense in paying $30, $50, or $100 for just one summary. If you are not going to use the membership to its fullest, it may not be a wise investment. There are other services out there that will allow you to register for free, or simply make a one-time purchase.
A final note regarding the optimization of study guide services (once again depends on you doing something): use the “contact us” link on the homepage of the service you use. Let them know what they may be missing. They won’t think to fix or improve anything if they don’t know what to fix or how to improve it. This is particularly beneficial if you plan on using their service again.
Wiley Publishing, Inc. (2000). CliffsNotes::About CliffsNotes . Retrieved December 28, 2006, from http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-106247.html
Academic Internet Publishers, Inc. (n. d. ). CRAM101 Textbook outlines, notes, tests, terms, concepts, events, persons, places, and organizations. Fastest, Easiest Way To Study. Retrieved December 14, 2006, from http://www.cram101.com/