1. The Lecture Thesis Statement - Identify the lecturer's Thesis. The thesis is the major point of the lecture, the main interpretive claim about the topic. The thesis should be up front and clear. If it is not up front you need to start worrying. Consider the possibilities. If the lecture is really bad the thesis may come at the end or not at all. Have fun with it. Come up with your best one-sentence Thesis Statement. If the lecture fits in a larger series (no doubt it does) there should be a context and collateral evidence to help you decide.
West Africa; 19th Century, middle decades; State Building, Slavery; Social History - Anthropology.
The objectives of the lecture may be difficult to separate from the main thesis. Objectives usually have to do with hopes of covering conceptual turf (topics, issues, interpretations) or a definable slice of stuff (ideas, individual, institutions) according to the mantra (space, time, theme). Develop skills in using categories to slice and dice your stuff. After you feel comfortable with the material avoid attempts to categorize except as first approximation. Instead, analyze how categories are used by focusing on how they often fail under scrutiny. Understand how and why we sort, categorize, rank, and make hierarchies. The relation of fact, theory, and value usually lurk in the interstices.
In sum, the structure of a lecture (like the structure of a book or a university-level course) should tell the listener in fairly simple terms the Thesis and Objectives, and there should be a clear outline that links up the various topics, themes, and arguments. But because this does not always happen, it is always useful (good or bad) to imagine yourself improving the presentation. In the strict sense of 'Sympathetic Listening' there is no alternative. At Level Three Listening you are active, critical, and constantly questioning and re-organizing the possibilities. But remember not to give up on the speaker. Your main job is to find and follow the speaker's map. Your second job is to interpret the speaker's signposts. Your constant concern is to make it better. Multi-tasking.
But enough already. In the end, what do you really think? Was it a 'good' lecture? A 'bad' lecture? These questions are simple but not simplistic. At bottom, what is most important is that you know why you think what you think. Was the lecture superficial? Too deep? Clear but irrelevant? Substantial but unsatisfying? Brilliant but useless? Too many notes? Think about it. Would you really rather be doing something else? What would you do? On balance, what is the single most important thing you need to do right now?
Above all, if lecture notes are worth taking they are worth reviewing. No one, however gifted, learns without repetition. It is good practice to review your notes, beginning to end, each week. Ask yourself how individual lectures relate to one another and how they relate to the required reading. Take time to consider another question: What does this course have to do with me? It's a serious question that warrants a serious response. As you review your notes each week take time to annotate them just as you would a book. You might consider keeping a separate diary or journal. Above all, remember these lecture notes are yours and they are perfectly useless unless you use them. Treat them with respect. Question them and work with them, read them actively, critically, and sympathetically. And as always, keep encouraged.