I hope you enjoyed the long weekend–welcome to the first post in the last week of SSC Academics Online! This week, the posts will all relate to the theme of being a university learner. Today, I wanted to think about what it means to read effectively. No matter which Faculty you are in, you will be doing some reading in your time at university, and this can be a daunting task. Journal articles, case studies, novels, essays, poems, and lab reports are some of the texts that you might encounter in your time here, so how should you approach them?
We asked our global voices for some tips and tricks that have helped them read academic texts quickly and efficiently if they speak English as an additional language, and this is what they said:
Gustavo Chen (Brazil), Engineering
I always have google translate opened on my laptop. However, as you get more experience, you get used to the terminology used in class and eventually English becomes easier. Just make sure to go to class and always review the material covered!
Katherine Grace (Indonesia), Engineering
Read the whole sentence first, and see if you understand the big picture of the sentence. If you’re worried that some words that you are not familiar with may change the meaning of the whole sentence, always write the translation on top. Then use these unfamiliar words when you write or speak to practice the use of the new words in sentences. Watch shows with English subtitles, this will help you practice reading faster.
Like I mentioned, reading academic texts is really tough, and it is definitely something that takes practice. In addition to Gustavo and Katherine’s tips, there are a number of reading strategies you could employ to help make it easier. In high school, I skimmed through journal articles in search of a perfect quotation to include in my assignment, but I definitely wasn’t always an active reader. I wish I had known about the SQ3R strategy sooner, so I wanted to share it with you!
Here is how the SQ3R method works:
Identify titles, subheadings, themes, and visual elements, as well as the summary and introduction which will help you navigate, structure, and visualise your reading. Consider this alongside the knowledge you already have about the text.
Why does this work?
“If the processing system ‘knows’ what to expect in advance, it can deal with the information in a much more efficient manner than if the new information is injected into the system with no forewarning” (Tadlock, 1978, p. 111).
Asking questions about the content of your reading material will help you to gain a deeper understanding of how it supports course concepts. A question bank or notes throughout your reading can also be useful when studying and completing assignments.
Why should I question?
“[…] questioning requires the reader to examine his/her uncertainty” (Tadlock, 1978, p. 111).
You want to be able to apply the knowledge and ideas on assignments and tests, and this is more important than understanding every single word. Try to connect concepts and think about your own interpretation of the text. If you encounter unknown words, circle them and keep reading.
What if I read passively?
“If we are not actively involved in reading, we will not receive maximum information from the print, and the information we do receive may not be appropriate to our needs in terms of reducing our uncertainty” (Tadlock, 1978, p. 111).
Reciting or recording important information from your reading material helps both your memory and your review notes. Highlight key points (be selective!) and make brief notes in the margins. Put information in your own words and try to explain what you read to someone else.
What is the real value of reciting?
“When we recite, we slow down the input of information, thus giving our processing system the time it needs to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory” (Tadlock, 1978, p. 112).
After reading the assigned work, reviewing can help crystallise your understanding of it. Try to address the questions you asked earlier, review the notes you recorded, and identify areas that need extra attention.
Do I really need to review?
“Immediate review interferes with the forgetting process and results in more complete retention” (Tadlock, 1978, p. 112).
Before I started my first year, I thought that reading was just an intuitive thing. I assumed that I would automatically know what to look for and how to isolate important points, but this actually came with practice and some critical thinking. I approached my readings passively at first, and didn’t realize that I needed to engage more closely than I would if I was reading a novel for fun. Also unlike a novel, you don’t need to read each section in order. You might consider the conclusion first, or find other ways to make the text work for you. Reading actively and using methods like SQ3R can help you to see the main points of a text more clearly. Since these texts support learning objectives in your courses and help instructors communicate concepts, it is important to know how to get through them. If you’re still feeling a bit worried about reading effectively at university, I get it! Keep this strategy in mind when you look at your assigned readings and see if you find it helpful to have steps to follow–you will get the hang of it with time!
I hope that you are feeling more and more prepared for your classes, Marauder; you have a lot of tools in your toolbox now!
Dolores Fadness, T. (1978). SQ3R: Why It Works, Based on an Information Processing Theory of Learning. Journal Of Reading, (2), pp. 110-112.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: DO YOU ALREADY HAVE ANY READING STRATEGIES THAT WORK FOR YOU?
How should I approach assigned readings? Are there any strategies I could use to be a more engaged reader? Would those strategies even work for me? Check out Reading 101 to find out!
Is the 'hamburger' essay model still going to work? What can I do to improve it? What are some dos and don'ts of university essay-writing? Essays 101 has the answers to these and other questions!
What should my lab report look like? Where should I start? What structure should I follow? Check out Lab Reports 101 for the answers to these questions!