I am in my second week of graduate school and I have probably read over a thousand pages of literature in that time. Luckily, I had the fortune of reading this heavily for my sustainability minor in my undergraduate experience. Others probably don’t have this experience under their belt, and while that’s okay, I can understand the frustration that’s bound to occur if you’re pursuing a higher education. Here are three of my tips to help you skillfully get through readings in college.
First, you should never read every single word. It’s true! There is no reason for you to read absolutely every single word of a two-thousand-word paper or textbook chapter. The author probably doesn’t even want you to. When you’re reading for college, it’s a bit like a game. You must play it to not be overwhelmed. Always read the headings, the introduction or abstract, the first sentence, and the conclusion. Everything in between is fair game for skimming. But how do you skillfully skim?
Moving on to tip number two, the art of skimming lies in key words. Always check if there is a glossary, definitions section, or bolded words throughout the text. Always make sure you understand their definitions and functions and read around those. If there is an example or explanation following, feel free to read, but if you get the gist of what the author is saying, there is no need.
My third tip might be more useful if you use it first. Although, I typically save it for skimming if I see an interesting explanation or example. Ask yourself, what does your professor hope you learn from this? What is their point in assigning it? There is usually a point, whether to show an example of a technique you’re learning, to allow another author to explain a difficult concept, among others. This is really context based but can be applied to any discipline at any university. If you find extremely useful information in the introduction that relates to what you’re learning in class, but there appears to just be extraneous explanations and information in the rest of the paper, it is usually safe to assume that’s what your professor wants you to focus on.
I hope these tips help you skillfully read your way through your undergraduate or graduate studies! Good luck!