"There is so much to read - how do I know if it's relevant?"
Rule 1: You don't have to (or shouldn't) read all of it and everything!
You will have lost focus by the end of it. Be selective!
Rule 2: If you think that the resource is not relevant, move on!
You will be saving yourself precious time and energy for more relevant resources.
Rule 3: Good academic writing depends on engaging with wider reading.
Do you just describe the information or do you think critically?
Rule 4: Make notes of your reading!
You'll read many articles, books, etc and you need to be organised.
Developing Academic Reading
'Think of reading as a "treasure hunt": an active search rather than an attempt to soak up and absorb everything you come across.' Peter Levin Write Great Essays! (2004, p.2)
At University you will be expected to do a good deal of reading. You will have extensive reading lists that can seem quite intimidating. This is why it is important to develop an effective reading strategy. A key element of such a strategy is to develop an active reading approach.
When reading for academic purposes it is useful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I reading this?
- Do I need to read it all?
- Where should I start?
- Which parts will be most useful?
- How can this text help me?
These questions should help you to start to engage with the material from the outset and become a more focused reader.
Different ways of reading
The way we read depends on the material we are reading and our purpose for reading it. Some of the different approaches to reading include:
Skimming: Reading to form a general impression of the text. You do not try to read every word or in too much depth or detail. You can skim the introduction and conclusion to a book, or the opening and closing paragraph to a chapter or article. You can quickly skim through the content page, index or chapter sub-headings. The main purpose when skimming is to get the gist.
Scanning: Looking for a particular piece of information. When you scan you ignore all the other information and focus on finding what you want. We scan when using a telephone directory. When we scan for information we usually know what we are looking for.
Critical reading: close and detailed reading of a text. When you read critically you need to continually analyse, question and evaluate what you are reading. Some useful questions include asking yourself:
- What is the main argument?
- What evidence does the author use to support and develop this argument?
- Is the evidence valid? (Is it up to date, relevant or biased?)
- Is the author's argument similar or different to others you have read?
- How does the author's argument develop this particular area of study?
- Do you agree with the author? (Why? Why not?)
- How can you use this information? (e.g. in an essay, report or presentation)
A useful reading strategy to use is known as SQ3R. This stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review.
Survey: Quickly skim through the text. This should give you a general idea of what the text is about and help you to decide whether it is of any use to you.
Question: Can this text help me? Does it give me any useful information that I can use? Which part of the assignment can it help me with? Asking questions will help you stay focused on your subject
Read: Make a more careful and detailed reading of the text. Still try to remain focused on your reason for reading this text. Read through the text and make note of any key/significant points. Use the critical reading questions listed above.
Recall: Put the text and your notes to one side and try to recall the information you have read. Make a note of any points you are still uncertain about.
Review: Re-read the text to check your understanding and seek clarification of points you were uncertain about.
SQ3R may seem to make reading a time consuming process. However, with practice this will improve. The most important point about a reading strategy like SQ3R is that it will help you to become a more active reader. It allows you to engage with a text in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to you.
If after the first two steps you feel the text is of no use to you move on to another text. If the text is useful to you continue using SQ3R