Reading effectively

Reading at university can be an overwhelming and time consuming task.

There are required course readings, recommended course readings, textbooks, lecture notes, tutorial notes, and let’s not forget all the research you’ve acquired for your assignment.

With this amount of material, you may feel that you need to learn to read faster. But what you actually need to do is read smarter.

How do you read smarter? Well, the first step is to understand how you are going to read the content.

Would you read an academic article, a Facebook post and a bus timetable in the same way? No. We read different types of texts in different ways. It’s not always necessary to understand every word or to read the text from beginning to end.

So, the way in which you read something will depend on:

  • The type of material you are reading. Is it a textbook, novel or journal article?
  • Your purpose for reading it. Are you reading it for enjoyment or for an assignment?
  • The structure of the material. How is it set out?

Once you understand these elements, you will know whether to skim through the text, read a key section, or to read the entire thing. This is potentially the difference in time in takes to read a book or a book chapter.

But you can’t just read it. To be a successful university student, you need to be an active and critical reader, so it is important to take a systematic approach. There are a number of different reading techniques that you can use. One of these is SQ3R.

Follow the 5-step SQ3R process for critical reading:

1.  Skim
Skim quickly through the text to get an overall impression. Look at the abstract, conclusions and the format of the paper

2.  Question
Ask questions of the text: Who? What? Where? When? How?

3.  Read
Read the text in a focused, and fairly speedy way.

4.  Remember
Test your memory. How has it answered your questions?

5.  Review
Read the text in more detail, taking notes. Use your own words.