Appendix 2 Effective Reading

(from Edith Cowan University)

Reading with a purpose

To read effectively you need to know very clearly the purpose for which you are reading a document. For instance why are you reading this section? What do you want or need to know? There may be sections which are totally irrelevant for you and thus you skim over them whilst other sections require close reading.

How do you see yourself as a reader?

  • Do you avoid reading as much as possible?

  • Does reading help quench your thirst for learning and thus for you is an exciting, desirable activity?

Your attitude to reading will affect your approach. If reading is a chore; a "have to do this", then your approach may be mechanical and less effective. However, when you are enthusiastic about reading then you will focus and concentrate better. You'll also have better retention. This is because you are more likely to work with the material in an interactive and reflective manner.

So, what can you do to read more effectively when reading seems like an unwelcome task or a heavy burden?

  1. Read with a clear purpose

  2. Read with relevance. Skim over unnecessary sections and details.

  3. Read actively. Forget about the comfortable chair and take hold of pen and paper. Take notes as you read.

  4. Read at a flexible rate. Many students request a speed reading course. But it's important to realise that academic reading is often intensive and full of new concepts. Thus the reading may require a fairly slow and systematic approach. Some parts you can skim over, particularly when you are already familiar with the ideas or they are not really important for your purpose.

  5. Read selectively. You are given recommended reading lists but this doesn't mean you need to read everything!

  6. Reflect and critically think about what you've read. Critical doesn't mean that you disagree or find faults, but you evaluate what you've read. For example, "Was the study a thorough one?, How significant were the findings? Is it similar to research undertaken by others? Furthermore you can employ the skills of analysis, synthesis and logical thinking.

HINT Don't close your mind when you close the book.

Reading Activity

  1. Find a journal or chapter you need to read for your study.

  2. Read it as a study task then return to this section.

  3. Consider the following questions:

    • How did you read the article?

    • Did you consider prior knowledge?

    • Did you do an overview?

    • Did you set a purpose?

    • Did you read flexibly / actively - i.e. take notes?

    • Did you concentrate well? If not, why not?

Reading at university requires an in-depth approach. You may have what seems to be a huge mountain of reading material to digest. Be careful to set limits to the amount you read. It is our experience that mature aged students in particular manage to discover a never ending quantity of seemingly appropriate references! The material is often very complex and full of new concepts and terms. Furthermore critical analysis is required. (See section on critical thinking for ideas on this.)

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