Aug. 21, 2021

Ready to read? Put these principles into play for a productive session

When it comes to university classes, chances are you have no shortage of reading material. Be it lecture notes, textbook chapters or journal articles, you will need to set time aside for reading. Here is a three-step process you can implement to make your reading time as effective as possible.
Student with books

1. Prepare

Before you even begin reading, prepare for the session by doing these things:

  • Deciding on a reading place
  • Identifying your purpose for reading
  • Previewing your reading material

Where is your favourite reading place?

Are you the type of reader who likes a bit of background noise, or do you prefer a quiet spot? Whatever your preference, designating some go-to reading places that are devoid of your primary distractors will set you up for a productive session.

What is the purpose of your reading session?  

Are you looking for specific information to add to a research paper? Is this session intended to supplement what you learned in your lecture? Whatever your reason, identifying it will remind you of your reading goal.

Have you previewed your reading material?

Previewing involves skimming through the material to get the gist of the content. By looking at the text headers and layout, try to determine what questions you will be answering as you read. You can even write them down in your notes. For example, if you had previewed this blog, you might have identified this question: What steps should I take to prepare for reading?

2. Perform

Thanks to your preparation, your mind will be primed to perform the reading itself. In this step, you will want to focus on actively reading your material. You do not have to read an entire chapter or article at once; you can choose to break your reading into smaller sessions.

As you actively read, try making some notes. Be sure to avoid copying everything down – instead, try pausing after a lecture slide or a textbook paragraph to write down and/or highlight key points and connections that come to mind.

3. Practice

You’ve finished your reading – now what? Practice reviewing what you read by summarizing the key content in your own words and checking your understanding. This could include seeing if you can answer the questions you came up with in the preview step or creating self-testing questions from the material. If you’d like, practice this now by summarizing the main points from this blog post.

To learn more about effective reading, check out the SQ4R Method Tip Sheet. For support with improving your reading and note-taking strategies, book an appointment with the Academic Support staff in the Student Success Centre.

Happy reading!