Reading Assignment Strategies
To get the most from your class readings, use the following tips:
Read texts that you deem most important or relevant for a course first, particularly when your professor mentions a passage or when a reading is to be covered in class. Prioritize readings by determining what will be reviewed in discussion sections and by knowing test dates and due dates for papers. Be sure that you have enough time to complete your reading assignments by scheduling more time than you think you need.
Take margin notes and highlight important points within readings. When it is time to study for tests, focus on the notes you've taken and the passages you've highlighted.
Be an active reader
In a separate notebook, write down ideas and questions that arise while you're reading. This will help you think critically about what you've read, and will serve as a guide as you study for tests, write papers, and ask questions in class.
Identify sequences of events in your readings and make lists to put events in order. Gain a broader understanding of what you read by visualizing characters and working to grasp their motivations. Be attentive to cause-effect relationships that are central to knowing why events happen.
Prioritize your reading assignments
Read the assignments that you deem to be most important first. If you know some readings will be covered in class, or if your professor has mentioned specific reading assignments, those may be your priority. Similarly, you may want to prioritize assignments in which you're reading about things you don't know over assignments that cover subjects that you're familiar with. Generally, you may want to read primary source assignments for a class before reading secondary sources.
Find an appropriate place to read
Find a place to read where you feel comfortable. An ideal place to read minimizes outside distractions and is well lit. Evaluate the reading progress you make where you currently study. If you feel you could read better elsewhere, give a new place a try. Would the library be a good place for you to read? Norris? How about an empty classroom?
Become an active reader
To become an effective reader, you must be an active reader. That means doing more than just reading the words on each page of a reading assignment; it means becoming involved with material and thinking about it while you read.
The basic steps for becoming an active reader are:
- Know generally what you're going to cover in a reading assignment and why
- Make a rough outline of the reading assignment as you go
- Watch for key terms and take notes with brief definitions
- Take notes on the main points and general themes
- Summarize your reading assignments in short paragraphs
- Write a short reflective response about the reading assignment after you're finished with it
Use highlighters wisely
Use different colored highlighters for specific purposes when reading. You may want to use one highlighter to identify key terms and definitions and another for main points. If you find utilizing highlighters to be a useful strategy for you, a third highlighter could be used for concepts you're unfamiliar with or confused by, and a fourth could be used for specific quotes that may be helpful or useful later for papers.
Skim texts (only if necessary)
Skim texts and read selectively only if you don't have enough time to devote to reading an entire assignment.
To skim a text:
- Read introductions, conclusions, and summary paragraphs
- Read the first and last lines of paragraphs
- Look at all illustrations, graphs, and tables
- Read all words and phrases that are highlighted in bold or italics