To read effectively, it helps to read with a goal. This means understanding before you begin reading what you hope to achieve through your engagement with the text. Having a goal is useful because it helps you focus on relevant information and to know when you’re done reading, whether your eyes have seen every word or not.
Some sample reading goals:
To find a paper topic or write a paper;
To have a comment for discussion;
To supplement ideas from lecture;
To understand a particular concept;
To memorize material for an exam;
To research for an assignment;
To enjoy the process (i.e., reading for pleasure!).
If you are looking for tips on how to develop reading goals or want to understand more deeply how they can help you save time and read more effectively, come to an ARC workshop on reading!
SQ3R is a form of reading and note taking that is especially suited to working with textbooks and empirical research articles in the sciences and social sciences. It is designed to facilitate your reading process by drawing your attention to the material you don’t know, while building on the pre-existing knowledge you already have. It’s a great first step in any general study plan. Here are the basic components:
Seeing Textbook Reading in a New Light
Students often come into college with negative associations surrounding textbook reading. It can be dry, dense, and draining; and in high school, sometimes we're left to our textbooks as a last resort for learning material.
A supportive resource: In college, textbooks can be a fantastic supportive resource. Some of your faculty may have authored their own for the specific course you're in!
Textbooks can provide:
A fresh voice through which to absorb material. Especially when it comes to challenging concepts, this can be a great asset in your quest for that "a-ha" moment.
The chance to “preview” lecture material, priming your mind for the big ideas you'll be exposed to in class.
The chance to review material, making sense of the finer points after class.
A resource that is accessible any time, whether it's while you are studying for an exam, writing a paper, or completing a homework assignment.
Textbook reading is similar to and different from other kinds of reading. Some things to keep in mind as you experiment with its use:
Is it best to read the textbook before class or after?
Active reading is everything!
Apply the SQ3R method.
Don’t forget to recite and review.
If you find yourself struggling through the readings for a course, you can ask the course instructor for guidance. Some ways to ask for help are: "How would you recommend I go about approaching the reading for this course?" or "Is there a way for me to check whether I am getting what I should be out of the readings?"
Marking text – making marginal notes – helps with reading comprehension by keeping you focused and facilitating connections across readings. It also helps you find important information when reviewing for an exam or preparing to write an essay. The next time you’re reading, write notes in the margins as you go or, if you prefer, make notes on a separate sheet of paper.
Your marginal notes will vary depending on the type of reading. Some possible areas of focus:
What themes do you see in the reading that relate to class discussions?
What themes do you see in the reading that you have seen in other readings?
What questions does the reading raise in your mind?
What does the reading make you want to research more?
Where do you see contradictions within the reading or in relation to other readings for the course?
Can you connect themes or events to your own experiences?
Your notes don’t have to be long. You can just write two or three words to jog your memory. For example, if you notice that a book has a theme relating to friendship, you can just write, “pp. 52-53 Theme: Friendship.” If you need to remind yourself of the details later in the semester, you can re-read that part of the text more closely.