Regardless of whether you’re studying literature or law, university study involves a lot of reading. Especially as a new student, the amount of reading you’re required to do can be quite daunting. Because you simply don’t have the time to re-read every text 10 times, one of the first things you need to learn is to read efficiently. But don’t worry, with the right strategies and a little bit of practice, everyone can become a skilled reader. Here are some helpful tips on how to read more efficiently:
- Write down pre-reading questions. Before reading a text, it’s always helpful to get a short overview and familiarize yourself with the text. Questions you should ask yourself include: Who’s the author? What type of text am I dealing with? When was the text published (context)? What’s the topic? What do I already know about the topic?
- Know your why. It’s always easier to read a text with a purpose in mind. Before reading a text, try to ask yourself why you’re reading it. Reading a text to gain knowledge, for example, is something different than reading a text for analysis.
- Set yourself reading goals. Break reading into manageable portions and set yourself a goal about how many pages/hours you’d like to read.
- Take notes. Paraphrase or summarize key ideas and write down important quotations (ideally on a different piece of paper). Use the margins to write down short headlines & annotations. If you’re reading an analysis or opinion piece, comment on passages you agree/ disagree with.
- Highlight important words and passages so that you can find them again quickly. I recommend using a maximum of three different colours as otherwise it might get too confusing.
- Underline unfamiliar words or concepts. Ideally, look them up after reading the text to not interrupt your reading flow. If the text doesn’t make sense without knowing the meaning of a word or concept, however, take a break to look it up.
- Take breaks! If you’ve reached your reading goal, reward yourself with a break. Taking breaks is generally super important because it not only helps reduce fatigue but also gives your brain a chance to process all the information from your reading session.
- Write down open questions/questions you like to discuss in class.
- Revisit any words or concepts you didn’t understand and reread the respective passage with the new knowledge in mind.
- Ask yourself how the text relates to other texts dealt with in class. Can you spot any parallels or differences? If you’ve read a text for a particular assignment, ask yourself how you can relate the information from the text to your assignment.
- Visualize the main ideas of the text by drawing a mindmap to structure your thoughts.
I hope that you found some of these tips helpful and can use them for your own studies. Don’t worry, you’ll become a more efficient reader with every text you read. So keep practising!
Do you have any further tips? Let me know in the comment section below!