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Reading Effectively

When you are new to university study, the amount of reading you are expected to do can be daunting. However, you can learn how to prepare yourself in advance and find ways to make the going easier. What appears to be an impossible task (tackling all that text) becomes possible when you start becoming an active reader; that is, asking questions about what you need to find out, taking a strategic and critical approach, and then selecting readings that relate to your questions and tasks.

Reading FAQ

Does uni study involve lots of reading?

In a word - yes. Most courses involve a great deal of reading, which is why you need to learn new techniques to manage the workload.

What will I be expected to read for?

The aim of most of your reading will be to seek information related to an assignment or course material.

I read novels and newspapers - will reading uni material be the same?

How we read usually depends on our purpose for reading. For example, while you might start reading a novel on page one and read every word until you reach the end, this wouldn't’t be an effective approach to take with academic reading. To get the most out of academic reading and to use your time effectively, you need to take a strategic approach.

I have a reading list - am I expected to read everything on it?

Lengthy reading lists for courses and essays can be confusing, particularly when the subjects are unfamiliar. However you don’t have to feel lost. Although only rarely will you be expected to read absolutely everything, if the thought of all that reading is daunting, don’t hesitate to take a strategic approach and be selective.

Tips for Active Reading

Reading at university = reading with a purpose

Successful study at uni is often about meeting competing demands and deadlines, so you need to get the most out of your reading in the limited time available. Before you begin, make sure you have identified a) the purpose for doing the reading and b) what you need to achieve.

Always read with a purpose in mind. Before you begin, you should have an idea of why you are reading and what you are looking for/ what you want to achieve. Are you reading:

Think about the way you would read to get a broad idea of what an article might be about, compared to how you would read to understand a complex and detailed concept - you might use previewing for the first task and intensive or critical reading for the second (more about this in the Reading Strategies section).

Working out why you are reading something (what you need to achieve) will determine the way you will read it (or which reading strategies to use).

Be selective about what you read

Uni study requires a lot of reading within a limited time, so it is important to be selective about what you read. You need to make decisions about what is essential.

How to select?

Focus on the question/ task

Before you read, establish what you already know

Any prior knowledge of a topic you are reading about, and linking new material with your past experience will help you read more effectively.

You will remember more if you read with questions in your mind, rather than adopting the ‘sponge’ approach - simply trying to absorb everything.

Break reading into manageable segments

If you are finding reading overwhelming, break the reading up into manageable segments (e.g. chapters, individual articles, a specific number of pages).

Keep track of what you read

Always note where information and ideas come from. Record details of author, title, place of publication, publisher and date so that you can find the text again if necessary. Always record page numbers with any notes you take.

Use reading strategies

(See the next page)

 

Links

Reading Effectively Murdoch University

How to do a Close Reading Harvard University Writing Centre

Reading Techniques Curtin Learning Centre

Reading and Remembering The University of Canberra

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Email: learningcentre@unsw.edu.au • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 9am - 5pm, Friday: 9am - 2.30pm
Authorised by The Director, The Learning Centre, UNSW • Last updated 17 August, 2012
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