Reading Tips and Tricks

Book-Pile_fullThey start to pile up and everything seems as though it is a thousand pages and how can it all be done? Sometimes it feels like we are on a constant quest to tackle the ever-growing pile of readings we are faced with each week.  Daunting, should this be your first go at a university workload but not impossible and (with luck) eventually well manageable!

Some days I will be asked to read a handful of poems no more than ten lines each and others I will be tasked with seventy page articles but regardless it is important to go into a reading with a purpose. Whether it is a research paper, a multiple-choice exam or in preparation for class, try to approach the article with an idea of what kind of information you need (if it is a bigger picture approach for a summary, minute details for quizzing, looking for an argumentative stance to counter etc.).

It is important to deduce the root of what the article has to offer by isolating the purpose of the paper from the introduction and conclusion. Take note of the stance the writer means to stand on throughout the article. When reading (or skimming) for notes or summary make sure to look out for signposts that mark key factors rather than the obscure extra tidbits of information. These are things like “I will argue that…” “My point of reason is…” “I thereby define this as…” “Finally, I conclude that…”

Other useful things to take note of, should the piece be lengthy, are titles that divide the article into separate areas. Take note of them and use them as a guide to be sure to capture the fundamental issues or, if you are looking for something specifically, read them over first to skip to the content you really need. If you’re uncertain you’re capturing the right information it is also useful to compare points to the original stance from the introduction and general conclusion. This way you know you’re finding the points meant to support and round the main point of the piece.

Finally, the best advice I can give on understanding a reading is to make sure you have a dictionary (well, dictionary.com) on hand and double check those footnotes. Comprehension is key and if you’re unsure of a specific point then make a note of it and be sure to question in conferences or after class.

When it comes to readings, we all fall a bit behind sometimes or miss something- don’t sweat it! You’ll master your readings and find a pattern that fits for you.

Best of luck!

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