Learn to read like the pro that you are

Everybody thinks we library types spend all our days lost in the pages of a book (in between the shushing and the date-stamping of course), and alluring as that may sound (spoiler alert) it is far from the truth of your average daily librarian job.

Obviously reading is an important activity, but you have no doubt noticed by now that reading for study is very different to reading for pleasure. As busy students, perhaps with a job or family or other demands on your time, you just think you’ve got the whole time management thing sorted out then you’re handed a massive reading list. I’ve been obsessing a bit recently on how to make my reading time more efficient – I still want to read everything I need to but I want to get more out of it and in less time. What could be more reasonable? In my quest to perfect reading for study I’ve picked up a few good tips that I’ve found really helpful. Let me share them with you:

Read with a purpose. Where study is concerned, there is always a focus to what you’re reading. Think about your course objectives or assignment title and have a purpose, or something you are aiming to find out from your reading. This way you can target your reading more accurately and pick only those resources that are really relevant rather than wasting time reading stuff you don’t need to. Always have your purpose in mind when you are reading so that you can relate the reading to it.

Skim and scan. Read through the book or article quickly to start with picking out key, relevant sentences. You can then go back and read more in depth around these key areas. You DON’T have to read from cover to cover.

Read actively. Don’t just read, question it. Make notes in your book in pencil (only if you own it!!) or keep a notebook handy and note down any thoughts prompted by what you are reading, any questions, or things to follow up on. Think about who wrote the material and for whom. Bear in mind your reading purpose. Try the method of reading, covering up the page and summarising what you’ve read. Cornell note taking is a good way to keep notes. Write your notes in your own words as much as you can rather than copying quotes or highlighting passages.

Keep good references as you go along. Make sure you keep a note of the book or article the notes relate to, page numbers etc. as well as the assignment your notes relate to. This will save you a whole lot of time in the end. You can use a good reference manager like Mendeley or Zotero to help with this.

Consider not reading. Screen reading software can read your text out for you, and can be absolutely essential if you have specific needs or if you find this a better way to take in information. Also search for podcasts or videos that are relevant to your course. As long as you’re getting the information the format doesn’t matter, and it can help to have variety. The other points still count whether its reading or listening or watching.

Share. Make good use of your co-students and tutors advice and tips on what they recommend reading or what they have found helpful. And share your tips!

Photo “books-reading” by r. nial bradshaw licensed by CC BY 2.0

Categories: Education & Curriculum, Reading

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