Like it or loathe it, you will find that you are asked to read an enormous amount of material during your time at University. Some modules will include substantial reading lists including a number of books, articles and papers, many of which will be long and complex in character. You'll also have the sometimes challenging task of working out for yourself which bits of this material are most relevant to the particular task or subject area that you are currently working on, and which are not.
In order to get the most out of any text or set of texts, you need to be ready to adopt a range of different reading strategies depending upon the task at hand and the amount of time you have available to complete it. Often this will require a process of selection and targeted reading that may be different from the ways that you have read in the past. There is no magic formula to become a faster and more selective reader, but there are a number of techniques that you can practise that will, over time, help you to increase both your reading speed and the quality of your reading.
"Do I need to read it all?"
Sometimes the answer will be yes. Some reading is mandatory for classes or coursework and if this is the case then you will probably need to read it all with focus and attention. You might want to consider taking notes on it too. However, much of the reading that you do as part of your coursework will not require reading every text from cover to cover. Instead, reading is often a process of scanning, skimming and selecting the priority texts and parts of texts for deeper engagement.
This interactive digital workshop explores approaches to reading and note taking to help you to stay on top of the reading required for your course.
Scan Reading an Academic Text
What do you do first when you encounter a new text? Read the title? Read the abstract? Read the full text? Reading a whole text from start to finish may not always be the most effective or efficient way to make use of your independent reading time.
For a systematic approach to selective reading that will help you to locate the most important information quickly and easily, have a look at the short Study Skills Hacks video here.
Explore the tabs below to find out more about different approaches to reading: Speed reading will help you to get an overview of a text quickly to help with this process of selection. Focused Reading will help you to dig deeper and improve your focused reading. Reading in a Second Language involves a range of additional challenges.
Speed reading is an approach to reading that can help you to get through a text more quickly and fluently. However, speed reading is not something that can be learned overnight; it takes time, effort and practice to increase your reading speed. The following techniques are ways to practice and experiment with speeding up your reading. Try them out over time and they should begin to have a positive impact on your overall ability to get through the reading on your course.
Use a pen, your finger or a ruler to help you pace yourself through a page of text. The pacer will help your eyes to move more smoothly and efficiently across the page. Pacing techniques include:
Read for 1 minute and mark where you get to. Next;
Read for 1 minute and mark where you get to. Next;
Reading with attention:
Read text with comprehension for 3 mins and mark where you get to. Write down one bullet point about what you’ve read. Next;
Setting questions gets you into ‘hunt mode’. The process of answering the questions will help you to stay focused and retain important information. As a rule of thumb, aim for no more than three to five questions, covering both the bigger picture and the detail. Questions should be conceptual rather than fact based. For example:
Preview and Review
There are a number of ways you can narrow the focus of your reading to ensure that you get everything you need out of a text. The preview and review technique is one of the most effective ways to read strategically and with purpose. Follow these steps to create your own reading plan:
3. Make a note of important pages/sections to return to
Study Skills Hacks: Reading for Memory
Watch this short video for advice on setting reading objectives and previewing and reviewing a text to improve understanding and recall.
|Second Language Reading||
Second Language Reading
It can be both rewarding and frustrating to read in a second language, especially when the flow of your reading is interrupted by the need to pause, re-read a section, look up a word in a dictionary, and so on. With a lot of reading to get done in a second language, some of your reading will need to aim for general understanding rather than detailed word-for-word comprehension. Second language reading can be broken down into two distinct and complementary approaches:
Whilst some of your reading will need to be 'intensive' (i.e. reading every word with a dictionary close at hand), most of your reading will be 'extensive' with the goal of reading for general understanding. The following is a process to encourage extensive reading:
With practice, this technique will become easier and provide a more rewarding way to approach texts in a second language.