Approaching reading

With academic reading it is necessary to maintain a constant grip on what the author is saying. Yet, many academic texts are densely written in unfamiliar ways which make them much more difficult to manage than, for example, a novel or a magazine article. Although sometimes there may be reasons why you need to skim-read an article or book, this is likely to be only to get the general gist of what is being said, as a strategy for deciding whether it is appropriate reading material or not. In general, skim-reading is not a useful strategy for reading as a student, but you may well be used to doing this in other contexts, for example, skimming through a newspaper article, or skip ping through a novel, not bothering much about learning or pronouncing the names of characters or places, and paying little attention to some of the more complicated parts of the plot. You may also be used to skim-reading when you're surfing the Internet. So now, instead of skim-reading you will be developing ways of concentrating on large chunks of quite dense text and making sense of them. Even though you may only be concentrating for short bursts of time, it is likely that you will find it necessary to concentrate more intensely than you usually do when you are reading. This is why creating the right environment is an important part of approaching your reading. No student can make much sense of their reading unless they can create conditions where they can concentrate effectively on the task in hand. You will need to find the reading environment that suits you best. The list below gives you a few ideas about what may be important, but you will probably want to add to it or modify it to decide what would be best for you.

Creating the right reading environment

• Try to set aside reading time when you will not be interrupted.

• Try to find a physical environment that is conducive to reading: perhaps at home or maybe in the university library.

• Make sure, before you start reading, that you have all the things you might want to use for taking notes and highlighting: A4 paper; index cards; different coloured pens; highlighters; sticky notes; perhaps a laptop computer.

• Make sure that you are comfortable and can write notes from your reading without feeling cramped.

• Take frequent short breaks and during this time try to digest what you have read.

• Don't expect to be able to make any useful sense of your reading if you are tired, stressed or constantly interrupted.

• If you have family commitments you may have to readjust your time priorities and think through how you will fit in your reading time.

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