Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tips to cultivate a lifetime reading habit

First, realize that reading is highly enjoyable, if you have a good book. If you have a lousy book (or an extremely difficult one) and you are forcing yourself through it, it will seem like a chore. If this happens for several days in a row, consider abandoning the book and finding one that you’ll really love.
Other than that, try these tips to cultivate a lifetime reading habit:

  • Set times. You should have a few set times during every day when you’ll read for at least 5-10 minutes. These are times that you will read no matter what — triggers that happen each day. For example, make it a habit to read during breakfast and lunch (and even dinner if you eat alone). And if you also read every time you’re sitting on the can, and when you go to bed, you now have four times a day when you read for 10 minutes each — or 40 minutes a day. That’s a great start, and by itself would be an excellent daily reading habit. But there’s more you can do.

  • Always carry a book. Wherever you go, take a book with you. When I leave the house, I always make sure to have my drivers license, my keys and my book, at a minimum. The book stays with me in the car, and I take it into the office and to appointments and pretty much everywhere I go, unless I know I definitely won’t be reading (like at a movie). If there is a time when you have to wait (like at a doctor’s office or at the DMV), whip out your book and read. Great way to pass the time.

  • Make a list. Keep a list of all the great books you want to read. You can keep this in your journal, in a pocket notebook, on your personal home page, on your personal wiki, wherever. Be sure to add to it whenever you hear about a good book, online or in person. Keep a running list, and cross out the ones you read.  
  • Tech trick: create a Gmail account for your book list, and email the address every time you hear about a good book. Now your inbox will be your reading list. When you’ve read a book, file it under “Done”. If you want, you can even reply to the message (to the same address) with notes about the book, and those will be in the same conversation thread, so now your Gmail account is your reading log too.

  • Find a quiet place. Find a place in your home where you can sit in a comfortable chair (don’t lay down unless you’re going to sleep) and curl up with a good book without interruptions. There should be no television or computer near the chair to minimize distractions, and no music or noisy family members/roommates. If you don’t have a place like this, create one.

  • Reduce television/Internet. If you really want to read more, try cutting back on TV or Internet consumption. This may be difficult for many people. Still, every minute you reduce of Internet/TV, you could use for reading. This could create hours of book reading time.

  • Read to your kid. If you have children, you must, must read to them. Creating the reading habit in your kids is the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up … and it will help them to be successful in life as well. Find some great children’s books, and read to them. At the same time, you’re developing the reading habit in yourself … and spending some quality time with your child as well.

  • Keep a log. Similar to the reading list, this log should have not only the title and author of the books you read, but the dates you start and finish them if possible. Even better, put a note next to each with your thoughts about the book. It is extremely satisfying to go back over the log after a couple of months to see all the great books you’ve read.

  • Go to used book shops. My favorite place to go is a discount book store where I drop off all my old books (I usually take a couple of boxes of books) and get a big discount on used books I find in the store. I typically spend only a couple of dollars for a dozen or more books, so although I read a lot, books aren’t a major expense. And it is very fun to browse through the new books people have donated. Make your trip to a used book store a regular thing.

  • Have a library day. Even cheaper than a used book shop is a library, of course. Make it a weekly trip.

  • Read fun and compelling books. Find books that really grip you and keep you going. Even if they aren’t literary masterpieces, they make you want to read — and that’s the goal here. After you have cultivated the reading habit, you can move on to more difficult stuff, but for now, go for the fun, gripping stuff. Stephen King, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, Dan Brown … all those popular authors are popular for a reason — they tell great stories. Other stuff you might like: Vonnegut, William Gibson, Douglas Adams, Nick Hornby, Trevanian, Ann Patchett, Terry Pratchett, Terry McMillan, F. Scott Fitzgerald. All excellent storytellers.

  • Make it pleasurable. Make your reading time your favorite time of day. Have some good tea or coffee while you read, or another kind of treat. Get into a comfortable chair with a good blanket. Read during sunrise or sunset, or at the beach.

  • Blog it. One of the best ways to form a habit is to put it on your blog. If you don’t have one, create one. It’s free. Have your family go there and give you book suggestions and comment on the ones you’re reading. It keeps you accountable for your goals.

  • Set a high goal. Tell yourself that you want to read 50 books this year (or some other number like that). Then set about trying to accomplish it. Just be sure you’re still enjoying the reading though — don’t make it a rushed chore.

  • Have a reading hour or reading day. If you turn off the TV or Internet in the evening, you could have a set hour (perhaps just after dinner) when you and maybe all the members of your family read each night. Or you could do a reading day, when you (and again, your other family members if you can get them to join you) read for practically the whole day. It’s super fun.

How to Improve Reading Habits

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading.
It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites,
it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind.
It is a moral illumination.” — Elizabeth Hardwick

Reading is a passion. Reading is a hobby. Reading is a habit. Reading is a skill. Once you get hooked to reading, the time spent on reading books will become your favourite activity. Like any other skill,
reading habit can also be improved. There are no hard and fast rules to improve reading habits. Every reader has his/her own way to improve this habit.

Make yourself Comfortable :Reading improves concentration. Also concentration is needed while reading. So whenever we are reading any books we should make ourselves comfortable in a chair or on our bed so that we can concentrate on the book we are reading. We should cherish the content we are reading and for that to happen it is important that we are choose a comfortable position for ourselves. I personally prefer to lay on an easy-chair or rest my back on a pillow in bed and then read. I am not saying that sitting or laying the most comfortable position as it can vary from person to person. I have friends who stroll while they read. Just make yourself comfortable while reading.

Buy books with pictures : If you are new to reading and find yourself lost in the ocean of words then prefer to buy books which have some pictures or pictorial representation of the story or the content you are reading. Basically the pictures will give you a brief idea about the content of the books. Your natural inquisitive nature will tend to know more about the pictures and as a result you will start reading and as you read you will try to relate the contents to the picture. This will also help you to improve your imagination skill.

Read Regularly : Like any other habit it is important that you should read regularly to improve your reading skill. If you are very disciplined then you can make a routine and allot one hour of time every day for reading books. If you do not have a regular routine schedule then try to read at any moment. Don’t always depend on story books for improving reading habits. If you are very busy or have a hectic schedule, try to read the entire newspaper every morning. This will not only help you to improve your reading skill but will make you aware of the current affairs and increase your vocabulary.

Read aloud : I have personally felt that sometimes when our concentration is low, then after reading a paragraph I realize that I have not understood the meaning of paragraph. When you are improving your reading skill, it means that you are reading fast and also understanding the meaning of the sentences at the same time. You should not revisit the lines to understand the lines. But it do happens that due to low concentration or tough vocabulary, we have to read the paragraph more than once to understand the meaning. In this scenario, I would personally prefer to read the sentences ALOUD. Actually when we read silently, we read faster than usual. But when we read aloud, we pause and read a bit slow. This helps our brain to understand the meaning. Reading aloud does not mean that your neighbours can hear you but you can murmur the sentence in your own.

Buy books : To improve the habit of reading it is important that you should improve your habit of buying books.

Gift Books : Remember that books are one of the finest gifts you can give. Neither do they wear away nor do their value depreciate. With time value of a book increases. When I was a kid, I used to gift my friends books with my pocket money. I used to buy the books a week before the occasion. I used to read the book before wrapping it in gift paper.  Now whenever I buy books as gifts, I prefer to buy 2 books so that I can have a copy for myself .

Set Target : When reading books, you can set a target for yourself seeing the number of pages to be read. Gradually you can increase your target and judge your improvement.

Visit Library : Be a member of the local library. Visit atleast once on a week. You will get diversified books in library. This will help you to choose from varied range of topics and you can find out the topic which interests you the most.
Always have a book around : Try to have a book around you always. If you have any waiting time during any work, try to read a few pages from the book. I personally keep a small short story book in my hand bag. When I am in a taxi or flight, I try to complete atleast a story. Reading books while travelling shortens my journey. I don’t feel that I am travelling for a long time. I also read while cooking. Sometimes when we are boiling or frying or making gravy, we have 10-15 min of free time. I try to read the newspaper during this time. Newspaper have articles ranging from 5 lines to 500 lines. Depending upon the time you are free while cooking you can choose what to read.
A good reading habit can become an addiction which will enhance your knowledge, vocabulary, concentration, IQ, analytical skill and once you have mastered this skill you will never complain about loneliness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Use Search Engines?

A Search engine is a tool used to search and retrieve information stored on computer systems, mostly on the Internet. To search for information, the search engine makes use of specific keywords that we type in and returns a list of documents that contain the keyword. The information can be stored within web pages, documents or databases on computer system, or we can search for these documents themselves using search engines. Some of the most popular search engines used today are Google, Yahoo!, Alta Vista, and Lycos.
Search engines help us find the right information from the comfort of our workstations and faster than any other means. For example, there are thousands of documents that we can find on the web on any particular topic, besides scientific papers, journals, and magazines. In addition, we can store and access information in digital form such as photographs, video images, computer games, and so on from the web. The Internet also has free computer software that we can access and download free of cost using search engines.
Types of Search Engines
There are various types of search engines available today. These search engines and their functions are listed in the table below:
Search Engine Type
Web search engines
Used to search information on World Wide Web (Internet)
Enterprise search engines
Used to search on intranets
Personal search engines
Used for searching the contents of a user’s computer files (Desktop search)
Mobile search engines
Is the convergance of search engines and mobile devices such as mobile phones
How Search Engines Work
A search engine provides an interface where a user can search for relevant information by providing certain criteria (keyword or phrase), for which the search engine finds the matching information. There are various steps that search engines follow to help us find the information we need. These steps are given below with their description:
The keyword or phrase that a search engine intakes for a search item is called a query. A query can be either a formal query or a non-formalized query, depending on the syntax used for querying. Formalized queries require a strict, logical, and algebraic syntax. On the other hand, non-formalized queries are less strict with the syntax.
Natural Language search is a common form of non-formalized querying where Web Search engines use natural language processing in some form or the other. For example, instead of entering just one or two words, complete sentences can be used as search criteria.
Typically with all Web search engines, the mose relevant items are placed on top of the list and the least relevant items are placed lower down the order so that the user can easily locate the most relevant item. This is called ranking.
A search may return either items that are exactly matching with the keyword or will return nothing. However, we can also search for items that more or less match the search criteria that we enter. These matching items are then sorted or ranked so that the items that match the most are placed on top of the order.

To provide fast results in case of a search, a search engine will store information in advance on a server about important items of search. This information is called metadata. For example, a search engine may determine and add the title, author’s name, or the number of pages to the description of each book, on a server in the form of an index.
As a result, users can add these details as search criteria with the description of the book, which will enable a faster search. This is because the search engine can now calculate faster the similarity between the query and the set of items stored on the server.

Different Search Options
Simple Search
To search information on a particular topic, identify key concepts related to the topic. These concepts are then used as key words for the search. For example, to find information on the mobile tariffs charged by Airtel, you can enter the keywords “Airtel Mobile Tariffs”.

Boolean Search
A Boolean search requires the use of the Boolean operators AND, OR, or NOT, or a combination of these with the keywords. This helps in getting better search results in contrast to a simple search.
1. AND
Connecting search terms with AND ensures that the search engine retrieves pages containing ALL these keywords, which will help in getting fewer but more accurate results. For example, the key term “Airtel and Mobile and Tariffs” will only return pages that contain all the three keywords.
2. OR
Connecting search terms with OR ensures that the search engine retrieves pages containing ONE, SOME or ALL the keywords. For example, the key term “Airtel or Mobile or Tariffs” will return pages that contain one, some or all the three keywords.
Note: Surround OR statements with parenthesis for better search results.
3. NOT
NOT is used to search for Web pages that contain one word but not the other. For example, Mexico Not New Mexico, will display documents that contain the word Mexico but exclude New Mexico.
4. Implied Boolean: PLUS and MINUS
In many search engines, the plus and minus sign can be used instead of Boolean AND and AND NOT respectively. For example, Alta Vista’s simple search process requires the use of the implied Boolean symbols.
Note: There is no space between the sign and the keyword.
For example, +search +process
Advanced Search
Advanced search provides more effective ways to improve search results compared to Simple and Boolean searches. Some of the advanced search methods are described below.
1. Phrase Searching
Phrase searching is a powerful search technique where a group of words is included within double quotes so that only those documents where these words appear together are listed.
2. Plural Forms
Enter the search keyword as a plural if you want to see the documents with only the plural form of the keyword listed.
3. Alternate Spellings
To see alternate spellings of a word, you can use wild card features with the keyword. For example, Gen* will return pages with words such as Genius, Generation, Gerund and so on.
4. Use of Parenthesis
To clarify relationships between search items, use parenthesis. For example,
(Delhi or NCR) and Companies, will search and display companies in Delhi and NCR.
Steps for Effective Search
For the most effective search and to get the best results, you need to follow certain basic steps. These steps are listed below with brief descriptions.
1. State clearly and briefly what you want to search for.
For example, What are the different Learning Theories?
2. Identify the keywords in the sentence.
For example, What are the different Learning Theories?
3. List synonyms, alternate spellings, and variant word forms of each keyword.
For example, different, various
4. Combine synonyms, alternate spellings, and variant word forms of each keyword.
Combine synonyms with Boolean OR, and place parenthesis around the statement.
For example, (different or various)

Combine keywords with Boolean AND. For example,
(different or various) and Learning Theories
Note: In case of alternate spellings, use the asterisk symbol to indicate different spellings within the statement.
5. Check Spellings Thoroughly
To get accurate search results, check the spellings thoroughly in the keywords. This will eliminate Web pages or documents where the spelling is not the one you intended.
Search Engines: Common Examples and Functions
The following table lists some of the commonly used search engines and their functions and features.
Search Engine Name
• To search for items using specific keywords
• To search for an exact phrase- is very adept at returning relevant results
• Has the largest database of 1.5 billion pages
• Supports Boolean and advanced searches

Yahoo Search
• To search for items using specific keywords
• To search for an exact phrase
The best option after Google
MSN (Live) Search
• To search for items using specific keywords
• To search for an exact phrase
The best option after the above two, is being improved.
Alta Vista
• Provides various powerful search features not found elsewhere
• Provides for Simple and Advanced searches
• Claims one of the largest search engine databases with over 550 million Web sites
• Offers specialty search engines like an image finder, an MP3/audio finder, a video finder, and a people finder

Hot Bot
• Has an index of about 500 million pages
• It supports implied Boolean logic, full Boolean logic, and truncation
• HotBot also offers phrase searches as well as several media-type searches such as audio, video, and images

Microsoft Encarta
Provides information and data for specific questions

Provides information and data for specific questions

Provides information and data for specific questions

Provides information and data for specific questions

Provides information and data for specific questions

Yahoo Directory
Provides overview of a subject

Google Directory
Provides overview of a subject

The Open Directory Project
Provides overview of a subject

Ask IQ
Provides top searches, movies, news, advancing searches of the week

Yahoo Buzz Index
Provides various options, mainly entertainment

Google Trends
Provides various options for search, but not too impressive

Lycos Top 50
Provides listings on various topics

How to Write a Good Dissertation?

A dissertation is a common academic requirement and serves as the main qualifying criterion for gaining a master’s degree or a PhD in several countries. Knowing how to write a good dissertation is crucial towards academic success during and after graduation. Yet, most students remain sadly unaware of the basics of writing an acceptable dissertation. Even though most universities have specific requirements and instructions related to dissertation writing, the foundations remain the same. In this document, I will try to cover the main areas that a dissertation is generally expected to address.
There are 3 main elements that any good dissertation should concentrate on – the structure, the contents and the language. Each of these is equally important and can make or break your dissertation. The following sections outline a few important points about these elements.
The overall structure of dissertations is similar across most universities irrespective of the subject you are specialising in. While certain aspects of the dissertation might be different depending upon your choice of specialisation, the following section outlines the mandatory common elements:
  1. Abstract - This is the very first portion of your paper and is written before the beginning of the actual dissertation. The aim of this section is to introduce your work to the readers. This should not be longer than 200 words and should explain the basic idea behind your research in clear, lucid sentences.
  2. Introduction - This is the first part of your actual dissertation. This should give a clear idea of what you plan to do in the coming sections and the rationale behind the subject choice. It is very important to explain the objectives and goals of your research in this section. It is also a good idea to mention how the remaining part of the dissertation is going to be structured.
  3. Literature Review - This is one of the most important parts of your dissertation. The objective of this section is to conduct a comprehensive study to understand the theory behind the subject. This study is usually conducted through secondary sources like books, journals and internet. The key towards conducting a good literature review is to begin with the objectives of the research and then set about proving them in theory. By the end of the literature review, you should be in a position to define the hypothesis for your research and build a framework for the work.
  4. Methodology - This section outlines the methods which you plan to follow to gather the data relevant for your research. Data can be gathered through primary or secondary means. Gathering data through primary means involves direct interaction with the participants through surveys, interviews, observations and so on. There are several qualitative and quantitative methods defined to accomplish this. While explaining about the type of methodology you plan to follow, you should touch upon the rationale behind choosing that particular methodology and how you plan to accomplish it.
  5. Data Analysis - Once the methodology is finalised, the actual data gathering and analysis needs to be conducted. This section is meant to give information about the data collected and its analysis. Analysis can be done manually through excels and spreadsheets or, in more complex scenarios, with the help of tools like SPSS or Nvivo. The analysis should be logical, clear and conforming to the objectives of the research.
  6. Discussion - This is the section in which you discuss the results obtained by analysing the data gathered. You should also discuss whether the data analysis has been successful in accomplishing your research goals and if there were any anomalies or deviations from the expected results.
  7. Conclusion - This is the concluding portion of your dissertation in which you discuss the learning and outcomes of your research. You should also mention any difficulties encountered by you during the research and the future research that can be carried out in this area.
  8. References - This is one of the most important aspects of the dissertation. It is very important to provide references to the sources of your information. There are several referencing styles which are accepted by universities. You should find out the style which you are expected to follow by your university and make sure you conform to it. The references need to be provided in between text (in-text reference) as well as at the end of the dissertation (bibliography). Failing to do so will count as plagiarism which is grounds for severe penalties in universities across the world.
The most important thing to remember about the content of your dissertation is that it should be logical and meaningful. Each section should follow from the previous one in a sequential manner and statements should be substantiated with data. Overall, the dissertation should work towards accomplishing the research goals defined at the beginning. It is also important not to take statements you read at face value. Any theory you quote should be followed by evidence. Also, you should aim to strike a balance between description and analysis. You should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of your chosen topic.
The language of your dissertation should be formal and written in third person as far as possible. It is important to articulate your ideas clearly and succinctly. Do not ramble or repeat points. While usage of simple sentences is permissible, it is very important to remember that the sentences should be coherent and logical. Wherever required, you should use points and numbers. Last but not the least; it is very important to make sure that your dissertation is free of grammatical errors, punctuation and spelling mistakes. Use word’s built in spell-checker to ensure your paper is free of such mistakes. It is always a good idea to have someone who has a good command over English read through your document before you submit it.

How to Write a Book Review

A book review is a critical summary of a book. It is an open forum where one analyses and forms an opinion of the writers work. This critical evaluation is not only a useful source of information for the reader, but for those who intend to read the book.
The essential step for writing a book review is to read it thoroughly and understand the contents of the book. One has to understand that it is simply not a summary but a critique. The three important steps in writing a book review are:

Step 1: Introduction

Start by mentioning the essentials like the title of the book, author’s name and relevant publishing information. You should also specify what type of literature it. For example it could be a sociological analysis, a historical book, a purely academic one or a lighter piece of work. Normally, the background about the writer is not required but one should not omit it if it’s of special relevance - for example a refugee writing on refugees. This helps to put the text in a specific context.

Step 2: Main Section – Description and Summary

The main section ideally consists of two sections – the description and the summary. The description can have excerpts from the book that give valuable insight into the work. However, while reviewing the storyline one has to make sure that the suspense of the story is not given away.

Step 3: The Critical Analysis

In this section, one has to remember not to critically analyze the entire book but take out those points which are intriguing. For example, if the book is on the urban poor, one can perhaps focus on their politics and culture. Your opinion on the book is crucial here as it shapes your analysis. It helps to provide an insight into the attributes of the book - Is it worth reading, is it interesting and so on. This section should also talk about one’s learning’s from the book and whether it holds an important or interesting message that caught your attention.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meditation makes you an excellent student!-

Meditation is the finest solution to many problems, but many have failed to recognise the fact. 
Meditation is the best medicine, which is preferred by every one for mental depression and tension. Success falls at the side of a student, who practices meditation regularly.
Meditation is good for all the ages, especially it is very important for students because this stage determines future life.
Students can obtain lot of benefits through meditation. Peace of mind, good sustainability, good health, concentration and attention are some of the major outcomes of meditation.
Students encounter lot of mental stress (for example: a student cannot concentrate on particular thing in a particular time) at that peculiar stage. But, meditation can alleviate such defects.
Despite knowing about the benefits of meditation, students tend to ignore meditation.  They are very much reluctant about meditation, thinking that it is a strenuous act. But actually, it is very simple exercise to mind and body.
Start doing breathing exercise, as it is considered as the first step towards meditation therapy.
Whenever you get little free time you can do this exercise. Morning and Night (just before sleep) are pretty appropriate for breathing exercise. A quiet place, which has good ventilation, is rightly appropriate one to do breathing exercise.
In this exercise, you should concentrate only on your breathing. Initially, you might feel it little tough, but as days go by you will find it easy. At the beginning stages, your mind will wander but slowly you will be able to focus your thoughts. So, do not worry about wavering mind - it is common, which you can bring it under control.
Breathing exercise is one of the best tool, but should be done at the right time and place.
It not only relaxes your mind, but also the body. Meditation is a good master for an excellent student.