Reading is one of my favorite activities in and out of the classroom. Over the years, I have several methods to help me become a better academic reader versus a pleasure reader.
Some of these tips may seem repetitive or “common sense” but they work!
Remember – academic reading is different than pleasure reading in numerous ways, so you have to approach them differently.
1. Do required reading on a regular basis. You should definitely have a weekly reading schedule set up. Experience tells me that you should schedule a minimum of 2-3 hours per week per credit hour to reading and studying. For example, if you are taking 15 credit hours, you should be reading and studying from 30-45 hours per week. Schedule this time in manageable blocks. Seriously, 30 hours may seem like a long time, but school is a full-time job! Some of this time should be spent reading new material and some on reviewing the material you have already covered, even if you know it!
2. Preview material to get an overview of the material to be covered. The first thing you should do when you start reading is to read through the introduction, the conclusion, any questions or terms at the end of the chapter, then go through the chapter and look for any bold words or terms. Now, you should have a good idea about what you’ll be seeing in the assigned chapter.
3. Think of questions to answer and reflect as you read through the material. Not only should you be reviewing the questions that are usually at the end of a chapter, but think of some on your own. Create acronyms or phrases to help you remember the material.Think about whether or not what you are reading has biases or is valuable to you. Does this material mesh with what you already know or believe?
4. Summarize what you have read. Make notes in the margins and in your notes. Honestly, highlighting doesn’t work for everyone; if you spend more time highlighting than actually reading and remembering what you read, you probably shouldn’t do it. Compare your reading notes to your lecture notes. Do they compare? Do they support each other? Write down any questions you may have for your professor and ask him or her via email, before or after class or at office hours.
5. Don’t forget to take breaks! The easiest way to tire of reading is to not take regular breaks. You should aim for 30 minutes of reading, a 2 minute break, and repeat. Take the 2 minute break to get up and stretch or get a drink of water! Don’t allow yourself to get out of the study mode during the breaks – so no cell phone calls or loud music!
Read more about academic reading via The University of New England’s Academic Skills Office.
Coming tomorrow: Test Taking Skills that Produce Results
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