Study Skills: Reading
In college, there can be a lot of reading. There may be recommended textbooks and suggested readings for your course and recommended reading for individual classes. You'll probably have do some reading for your assignments too. Just as academic writing is a particular form of writing, academic reading is a particular form of reading, totally different from reading for pleasure. No academic textbook can be read like the Harry Potter books! Academic reading is slower as the language is more complex and technical.
Before starting to read, you should consider why you are reading and what you are trying to get out of it. You will need to change the way you read to suit your purpose.
- If you are reading for general interest in a subject or to acquire some background information for your classes then you can read more broadly about the subject, but you won't have to go into a lot of depth.
- If you are reading for an assignment or revising for exams, then you will need to read more narrowly around your subject, sticking to your assignment topic or exam subject and read about it in greater depth.
The SQ3R method
Created for college students, the SQ3R method is a suggested way of taking a more efficient and active approach to academic reading. SQ3R stands for
S for Survey (or Skim).
- Don't start reading from page 1, instead, survey the material and note:
- the title,
- headings and subheadings
- captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps
- introductory and concluding paragraphs
If it's a book you're going to read, do this for each relevant chapter
Q for Question.
- Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions and look for answers in the text
- Ask yourself:
- what is the section about?
- what question is this section trying to answer
- how does this information help me
- It might be helpful to write out these questions and have them at hand for
R(1) for Read.
- Look for answers to the questions posed above
- Reread captions under pictures, tables, figures, graphs, etc.
- Note all the underlined, italicised, bold printed words or phrases
- Reduce your speed for difficult passages
- Stop and reread parts which are not clear
- Look up in a dictionary or encyclopaedia, words and concepts that you don't know.
- If there are questions at the beginning or end of sections, try to answer them
- Read only a section at a time and take a break between sections
R(2) is for Retrieve/Recite/Recall.
- Put the text down and try to explain in your own words,with regard to this questions you asked above, what you've just read
- do this out loud (Recite) or
- write down the answers in a paragraph or two
R(3) is for Review.
- Look back over your questions. Did you answer them? Do you understand what you've read?
- If not, do you need to repeat the previous steps?
- Think about how what you been reading relates to what has been mentioned in your classes
- Review these notes on a weekly basis
Don't get overwhelmed!
If you find academic reading a bit much, then try to:
- Pick the best time of day and the best place to read
- Identify beforehand what you want to achieve by reading
- Plan your reading into manageable chunks
- Set targets - read a certain number of pages or for a certain amount of time
- Take frequent breaks - don't read for longer than 20-25 minutes at a time
- If you can't get into the right frame of mind - stop!