A lot of people underestimate the importance of reading while at university, similarly, many people struggle with the volume of reading which they are faced with. This section contains some strategies on how to manage your reading and making the most of the time you spend reading.
I think there are two different types of reading really: there is reading for understanding, and there is reading for gaining extra knowledge and extra depth on a topic. So, if you are struggling with a topic, then usually, it’s best to start with just reading so that you understand it better. A book might go into it in more detail, and therefore you will begin to understand certain things better than during the lecture a formal talk given to a group of people (usually students) by a subject specialist, where only a minute may have been spent on it during the lecture. So that’s the initial thing. And then, if you want to go and bring in new ideas, or new theories, or go into more depth on it, that’s when I would read.
Yes, it was quite a shock, but as long as you are disciplined and you make time for it ... it is fine. It takes a few weeks to get into, definitely. If you want to do it for the whole lecture or just what was recommended. But if there was a specific bit that you obviously didn't understand, then I would generally look that specific topic up and read through that. So I would read through the lecture first, how it was explained and if I wasn't quite sure, I would then go and find a more detailed version and then read through that, and then kind of link it in to the lecture. So then hopefully, the lecture would then hopefully start to also make sense, and then to be able to link things together. So that's how I would read for understanding and if you wanted to do a more detailed explanation, you could always write that down as well, so you remembered it in a few weeks time.
The first bit of reading that I would do would be to understand the topic. So, I would read a wide range of sources, and maybe books for the initial information, so I understood where I wanted to go, what topics I wanted to address, what I wanted to do, and just to make sure that I could link everything together. And then from that, I would maybe use more specific books and find relevant journals, specific journals that related to what I was talking about. Basically, at first again, it is reading for understanding, and building upon that and bringing in new information that you have found on your own as an individual.
If I was struggling to understand the topic at first, I would read through the page, and maybe read through it one more time, to pick out everything, because it is difficult to just pick out the relevant bits when it is just the first time. So, just read through, for understanding, and then, read through and just pick out what is really going to be relevant. And that second time, it is really going to be a lot easier as things will stand out or link into the lectures, things that you find interesting. So, read it a couple of times through I would say.
A tip that I can give about reading is: don’t think that you have to read everything. Because if you get bogged down and think, ‘ok, they have given me 30 sources I need to read, I should actually start today and finish this whole book and finish.' No, just take what you need. Just be objective driven. So, ‘my objective for today is to understand all about this’. So, just search the index for that, that you need, and then you go onto that source and then you find out if that topic is in that journal, if that article is in here, and then you bring it all together. Don’t think that you should read everything. They are just trying to give you a big pool of information, so that you can filter off what you don’t need and use it to make an argument to make a point or a rational conclusion for yourself.
The best thing to do is to read every single week. The module I did, the lecturer actually wrote the text book. So what he actually did was base his module on the text book. That’s rare. But you find that every week, he is giving you say, chapter 6, chapter 2, is lecture 2, so read chapter 2. And then the coming next week, we are talking about lecture 3, which is chapter 3.
If you fall behind, it is hard to catch up too. So to read say 3 chapters in one week, it is hard to do because you have three other modules that you are doing. You may have 6 modules in a term, and if you think about it, every one of those modules is asking you to read something. You are going to fall back. So take bite size chunks and read read read.
In my first term this year, I had three modules, so what I’d try and do was at least on two days, I would say, ‘ok, on this day of the week, I am going to do the reading for this module’, and then ‘this day, I would do the reading for the other module’. So, I had specific days, and I would come into the library, and I had all the books that I needed, I had internet access if I needed it too, and then I had my target for the day, which was to keep up to date with it. Because, if you do it week by week, it is just not as daunting when you get to the end, because you know that you have done it. There may be a few bits here and there that you have to do at the end. In fact, that is how I did it, just to stop it all from building up at the end.
Ok, critical reading. It is related to critical thinking This is a skill which you will be required to demonstrate within your university studies and this includes a range of thinking skills:
iii) application of knowledge
v) development of ideas , because some people have critical thinking in A Levels, and it is supposed to teach you how to think broadly about information and about the world. If you take that concept and apply it to reading, then, it is ‘to not take things as just given. To look deeply within it’, and also, around it and outside it, and think ‘so, ok, I’ve got this text book, or I’ve got this journal article:
So you think deeply about this article, so, an example would be, say, an example of an article that I have just been given. So, you see an article and you like the argument that is in it. And you say, such and such a scholar talks about this thing, and they explain it really well, and they give you the evidence for ‘that thing’, but yet it should be kept in mind that this scholar is also affiliated with this organisation which supports this whole agenda, therefore they may be omitting certain pieces of information that they feel may reduce their argument. So, critical reading is trying to think deeply into ‘what can I take of what I am reading as given, what is missing, what is additional and where is the bias?'
Critical reading being able to, basically, read a piece of information and then pick out what is relevant to what you want and what links to the guide that you have been given. It is very easy to just sit there and write out the whole page that you have just read, but that won’t be useful in the long run, because it is just too much information. You need to be able to synthesise the information, pick out the bits that are relevant to the lecture, or to the assignment that you are doing and that will most benefit you I think.
I think it shows that you have understood the topic well. I think that if you just read something and then write everything out, anyone can do that. Whereas if you are able to pick out the bits in the extra texts that you have been given, and if you are able to pick out the most important parts and the bits that link well, then I think that shows that you are really understanding the concepts. You understand where the overlap is, and that you realise that there are multi-factoral issues. They really like it when you link in topics and you relate things and see where they overlap, that really does show a depth of understanding.
A reading listThis is a list of books/articles that your lecturer thinks are important and relevant to your course. However, you may not necessarily be expected to access and read every text on your list. can be for a whole module or it could be specifically assigned to one lecturer as well. But generally when you go into BlackboardThis is Aston University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) where you can find information about each of your modules, details about assessment, course materials which your lecturer may upload and much more. You will find that it is essential to use blackboard in order to manage your studies. and look at a module, you’ll find a reading list and it will be a series of set text that maybe one that will recommend that you buy but others that they recommend that you might read. but besides the books they will also recommend some journal articles, that will help you to put flesh on the bones of the lecturesa formal talk given to a group of people (usually students) by a subject specialist so if you think of the lecture as giving you the core information, the information that you really need to know to understand the topic, the books and the journal articles, other things that will give you more depth of knowledge, enrich your knowledge and so it’s there to support the student learning, to support your own individual learning, and it might be that they also give you a website to look at and read because there’s so much information available now on the Internet. We’re really very lucky to live in an age where we can access such rich information and it’s really about developing what you get from the lectures and actually finding that depth of knowledge that you wouldn’t get from fifty minutes of a standard lecture.
People shouldn't worry and think that they have got to read everything that is on a reading listThis is a list of books/articles that your lecturer thinks are important and relevant to your course. However, you may not necessarily be expected to access and read every text on your list. because sometimes the reading list can be quite long, the book that they often put as the recommended text is the key one that I would say that you get from the library or go and buy because that's the one that the lecturerthis is the title given to somebody who teaches at a college or university is expecting for you to have read. The other things they are encouraging you to read because again you'll get more from the topic or subject if you do that reading. But you cannot read them all, we're human. So choose the books that work for you, because there are different styles of writing will be easier for you to read than others. So some books that some people enjoy reading other people don't. So find the books that work for you, that have the information, choose those, choose those journal articles and also they give you a long list so that not everyone is after the same book in the library so if you can't get one book look for a different one.
Given the nature of Aston, I would also encourage you always not just to rely on books but to look at journal articles if they’ve been given advice to look at those they’re the up to date research, the key research that’s going on, it’s the things that bring a real currency and immediacy to the subject you’re learning and so you’ll see what really going out in the real world in terms of research and how our knowledge in a subject develops.
Well I do have some advice that I give every year to students and that’s about topic sentences. And I give this to all students that they seem overwhelmed that they have got all these things to read but actually I use my own experience. I read English literature at university, and there we had to read about fifteen to twenty books a week and we had to write an essay a week. Submitted essay a week so we had to do a lot of reading and a lot of writing and you just could not do that unless you were quite ruthless in your reading. So the thing to do when you first start, good literature, a journal article or a book chapter, so what you do is you read the introduction and then you read the first sentence of every paragraph, that’s the topic sentence. The same with writing, you should write a topic sentence at the beginning of each of your paragraphs and what that is, is a summarizing sentence which summarizes the argument in that paragraph and then the paragraph will go on to expand that. But if you want to get through some quick reading just read the topic sentences and make a mark or note, or maybe colour it in if it’s not a library book, to note the sentences, the topic sentences that are important to what you are working on, and then go back and just read those paragraphs. You don’t have to read everything. When you’re getting into more detail in a piece of work you go back and you do that but people read a lot more than they should. It’s better to read widely and then narrow down.
A reading listThis is a list of books/articles that your lecturer thinks are important and relevant to your course. However, you may not necessarily be expected to access and read every text on your list. is normally in two parts, there is essential reading and then there are usually options for background reading. Depending on the topic and on the lecturer, it does vary a bit as to how these are managed. The way that I manage them is that I would be precise about the reading that needs to be done because I think that I’d like to, I’m a simple person who thinks things should be made as simple as possible. Other topics it is not possible to do this where a number of indications are given. You would hope that on the list there would be set reading which you absolutely must have and subsidiary ones which you may well only go into depth in if you’re writing an essay on that topic, if you’re particularly interested in it or if you find that the main text doesn’t explain things in a way that you can understand particularly well. There may well be a different way of putting things so that you can understand them more clearly.
I remember when I was at university and was completely awe struck by the amount of reading and thinking that I needed to read it all and realising that I couldn’t possibly and I don’t think that it’s expected that you would read it all. Mainly the thing about reading is to focus on the topic concerned. So if you’re given a book title and you’re researching on a particular sub topic within that just read that chapter maybe that doesn’t completely make sense but most of the time it would. So only read the things which are of relevance to the thing that you’re studying and don’t feel that you have to read the entire work. I know many people who’s proud boasters about never reading an entire book. Focus on the bits that you need.
I’m a great believer in writing it into your diary. If you had an assignment to do, you would write it into your diary, of when the deadline was, and maybe block out a bit of time to write that. I think that it’s a really useful thing to do a similar thing with reading, because I think that reading is one of those things that people always put off. And they think, well, they can ‘put it off’ or they think, ‘I can do that later, I can do that later’, and then they end up doing something much more interesting, and then they end up doing something much more interesting, you know, like going out, or chatting to your mates, whatever comes along, and you don’t do the reading. So I think that actually, putting a time in your study timetable for doing reading is a really good practical and simple solution to that. I think you need to keep up with the reading, there is nothing worse than, you know, getting to the middle of term and thinking ‘oh, my goodness, I don’t know what’s going on’, you know, ‘I haven’t done any of the reading to be ahead of myself’ and then you actually end up being behind. I remember when I was at university, this used to happen to me. I used to rush to the university bookshop and buy all these books, thinking that the books would ‘jump into my head’ and that I would become really clever at the subject. Whereas in fact, what I really needed to do was read something, rather than nothing. That would be my first tip, it would be to actually timetable it into the study.
I think that it is a good idea when you are reading to read with either a question, or an issue or a problem, in mind, so that what you are reading is actually responding to something that you have identified beforehand. Otherwise, I think that what happens a lot of the time is that you read (again, this has happened to me), and then you get to the end and you think ‘well, what was that about?’, or ‘what was the point of reading that?’ So, rather than going into reading blindly, go in with something that you would like to address, and realise that everything that you read isn’t necessarily going to address that issue.
A really important thing, and you will save yourself loads of time if you do this, in the future, in your academic career, is when you are reading, to make a note of:
So, they should be the first things that you write down.
And then, I think that it is really quite useful to write down quotes that jump out at you as being really useful. But then, after the quote, write down the page number, because if you don’t do that, what happens is that if you are writing your assignment, and then you think ‘oh, that’s really good, where did that come from?’ or ‘that’s really good’ or ‘ooh, I want to put in that quote without the page number’. So, you end up producing yourself with a huge set of extra work for yourself if you don’t write those things down’. So, do do that and you will save yourself a lot of time.
It should now be apparent that reading is one of the most important skills which you have to use whilst at university and when you come to university and you're studying your various modules you will be faced with a reading list. Hopefully the information prepared by the lecturers and the students on this site have shown you that: Even though you have a reading listThis is a list of books/articles that your lecturer thinks are important and relevant to your course. However, you may not necessarily be expected to access and read every text on your list. you are not expected to read everything on the reading list. Instead it is the case that some sources or some things which you have to read on that list are more important or more useful than others depending on what or how you are being assessed. So you need to identify which sources are going to be of most value or which sources are going to help you the most in order to succeed within that module.
Another part of the assessment criteria This is a specific set of skills which you are required to demonstrate in order to achieve certain marks in a module. This is a very useful document to use when preparing coursework and revising for exams and can usually be accessed through blackboard modules when at university is to demonstrate that you have read a variety of sources. That means that you need to be able to demonstrate that you have not just looked at one text book, you need to demonstrate that you have looked at a variety of things which are credible, reliable and academic. So for example when you're reading and you're preparing for an assignment or preparing for your exams, make sure that you have looked at the core text book, additional text books and journal articles. You've looked at studies, you've looked at websites, you need to demonstrate a broad range of knowledge, you need to be able to show that you have an awareness of different aspect, of angles, and viewpoints within that subject area.
My key tip for you is to make use of reading strategies and by that I mean, whenever you read ask yourself:
Always have a question in mind, by doing that you will focus your reading. Additionally the notes which you make on that text will be focused, hopefully focused towards the exam or the assignment which you are preparing for which will save you time in the future.
Look at introductions to chapters, chapter summaries final paragraphs of chapters, in order to glean the key pieces of information. Also from these sections of text you can form an understanding or you can already start to predict where certain pieces of information will be positioned within a text and therefore you can save your time when you are reading.
Link to this is your ability to be critical, you need to demonstrate your critical thinking
This is a skill which you will be required to demonstrate within your university studies and this includes a range of thinking skills:
iii) application of knowledge
v) development of ideas
within your academic work. And this means you need to demonstrate that
You need to demonstrate that you have thought about the pieces of information which you have read and evaluate whether or not you are in agreement with this information, whether or not you disagree with this information, whether or not if it is credible or unreliable. And in order to demonstrate your viewpoint you need to be able to refer to different pieces of information i.e. the texts which you have read in order to support your opinion.
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