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Academic Communication


Effective reading


Reading effectively

Effective reading involves much more than just sitting down with a book or journal and reading from cover to cover. There are techniques to help you develop your reading, and there are tricks to help you overcome any problems with reading which you may have.

Presentation: Effective reading

Watch and listen to this presentation about reading effectively and getting more reading done in the time you have available.

Some tips for reading more quickly and efficiently.

1. Always read with a purpose


  • It helps you concentrate.
  • It reduces the time spent on unnecessary reading.


  • Have some specific questions in mind. A brainstorm session on your essay question should give you some questions to answer.
  • Rephrasing the essay topic as a question will also help, but try to come up with more specific questions too.
  • You might also find it useful to turn the topic sentence of a paragraph into a question.
  • Your tutorial and lecture guides will indicate the critical issues on which to focus.

2. Pre read

  • Pre reading gives you an overview or outline of the material. It helps you identify which information is relevant to your purpose.
  • Remember: you should never have to read the whole article or book.


From an article:

  • note the title and date
  • read the abstract
  • read the introductory paragraph
  • read the first sentence in each paragraph
  • read the discussion / conclusion

From a book:

  • check the table of contents for the relevant section
  • note any objectives listed in the preface or in the beginning of the chapter
  • read the introductory paragraph
  • read any summary or study questions at the end of the paragraph

3. Take notes


  • The act of taking notes will help you focus your thoughts and ensure you are reading actively.


  • Be selective; make judgements about the material you read. Not everything is important.
  • Take notes in your own words wherever possible. Remember that the temptation to take copious notes usually comes when you don't really understand what you are reading.
  • Evaluate as you read; question the methodology or the line of argument, assess the perspective from which the writer is arguing, relate it to material you have read earlier, or to your own experiences.
  • Always take careful note of bibliographic details, as well as page numbers and authors and dates for secondary citations.
  • If you do note down a direct quotation, remember to write it exactly. Don't forget to note page numbers.

4. Review


  • Research shows that material reviewed within 24 hours will more effectively be retained in long term memory.
  • This is particularly important if you want to remember material for an essay or for an exam.


Ask questions:

  • have your notes answered the questions you asked?
  • are there any concepts you don't understand?
  • how does this material relate to your other knowledge on the topic?
  • have you included all bibliographic details?

This is also a useful opportunity for those of you who have less than perfect handwriting, to dot your i's and cross your t's. You may well find it impossible to read your notes later if you don't!

Efficient reading practices will save you time. You'll also find that you will be reading much more evaluatively and therefore write more critically.

To read effectively

1. Have questions in mind

2. Preview

3. Take notes

4. Review