There are a number of ways you can approach reading, and it depends on your goal. Why are you reading in the first place?
Before starting to read, reflect on why you are doing it. Is it:
- background reading before a lecture
- preparation for a tutorial discussion
- doing research for an essay, or for
Before you begin reading, note down what you already know about the topic, and any questions that come to mind. You may find that you know more than you originally thought, and writing it down helps you engage with the text.
As you read, ask questions to help you focus on what you are trying to find out from the text. Think of some questions before you start reading in depth and keep these in mind as you go. Add more questions as you read and become familiar with the author’s ideas and arguments.
What do I want to find out?
What do I think now?
Why do I think this?
What is the author’s basic argument?
What would I like to ask the author?
What are the limitations or flaws in the evidence?
What examples would prove the opposite theory?
Can the theory be disproved or is it too general?
Is this convincing? Why/ why not?
What are the implications?
What are the alternatives?
Which bits of the author’s argument do I want to use/reflect on in my essay?
How does this fit in with my own theory/beliefs?
How does it fit with the opposite theory/beliefs?
How does it fit with other relevant theory/beliefs I’ve come across?
Is my own theory/belief still valid?
In order to answer all these questions, you’ll need to use different reading techniques depending on the type of text you are reading.
Scanning is done first to gain an idea of whether or not a document is useful to you. The aim here is to figure out what the work contains as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To do this, look at the following sections of these two types of text to find out the overall content:
|the cover||blurb or abstract|
|the contents page||tables or graphs|
|tables or graphs in the body of the text|
If you are still unsure what the text is about, glance through a few pages to get a sense of the content: what they discuss and how they discuss it.
To skim a text, quickly read:
- words in that are in bold, in italics or underlined
- an abstract, introduction or conclusion
- the first sentence of every paragraph (topic sentence)
- chapter questions (for textbooks) or chapter summaries
- discussion section and conclusion (journal article)
You may hear people promote ‘speed reading’ as a way to work quickly through a document. Reading faster is not sufficient to ensure you take in what you’re reading. Comprehension and strategy are the most important aspects to reading for study purposes.
Reading rates will differ depending on the material and your understanding of it. Think of how easy it is to read a magazine in the doctor’s waiting room compared with the time it takes to trawl through scientific text.
Reading quickly might sound appealing, but it can often result in you having to re-read sections to properly grasp the information, and that’s not good time management.
Once you’ve decided that a text is useful (whether in part or the whole), take time to read it carefully to ensure that you understand it.
This is when you take notes of key words and ideas and look up any unfamiliar terminology or phrases. You can then use these notes in your assignment, with the appropriate referencing.
Read more about effective note-taking.
This one you can do however you want. After all, you’re reading for enjoyment.
Download a handy helpsheet related to this topic: