The above tutorial includes activities providing an overview of the topic; it will take around 30 minutes to complete. The sections below feature further activities and information on this area.
Before you start
Get a clear idea about the purpose of your reading and what you want to get out of it. Ask yourself:
Why am I reading this?
- Preparation for an assigment?
- Pre-reading for a lecture?
- Researching for a presentation?
- Finding ideas for a project?
What do I want to get out of it?
- General idea of the content?
- Specific facts?
- The author's viewpoint?
What do I know already?
How will I know when I have read enough?
Reading for an assignment
This is one of the most common purposes of academic reading, so make sure you start with a clear focus.
- Skills@Library Interpreting the task page
Detailed advice and activities to help you interpret assignment titles and understand what you are being asked to do.
Finding the information you need
- Finding the information you need
Comprehensive help from the Skills@Library finding and evaluating information page.
Reading at university level is all about making choices: choosing which texts to read, and which sections of those texts. The choices you make will depend on your purpose for reading.
There are a number of reading strategies, appropriate for a different purposes:
- Predicting: guessing what a text is about from the title
- Scanning: looking through a text for a specific piece of information
- Skimming: reading very quickly to pick up on the main ideas of a text
- Reading intensively: reading in detail to fully understand the argument of a text.
Choosing the most appropriate strategy for your purpose is the first step to making your reading more efficient.
- Speed reading test
Aim to read at least 300 words per minute without losing comprehension.
The two main strategies which can help you to train yourself to read more quickly are "chunking" and using a guide.
"Chunking" refers to reading several words at a time instead of reading words individually. These sites can help you to start using this technique; both allow you to try different speed settings and use your own text.
A simple interface, allowing you control over the text and background colour
"Chunks" your text by highlighting groups of words.
Using a guide for your eyes to follow across a page is an effective way of training your eyes to read faster.
- Reading with understanding e-workshop
Adapted from our face-to-face workshop, this 30-minute resource contains strategies for tackling complex texts.
Finding the argument
These three short demonstration videos show how to find the argument in an academic text:
Critical thinking is an essential skill which should be applied to all aspects of university education.
- Skills@Library critical thinking page
Detailed information, advice and activities to develop your critical thinking skills.
Barriers to understanding
- Identifying obstacles to effective reading (activity)
Find out if there is anything blocking you from understanding what you are reading, and what you can do about it
- Getting round obstacles
Once you've identified the factors which block your understanding, learn strategies for overcoming them
- Academic vocabulary
Practice in predicting the meaning of new words, suggestions for learning new words and ideas on how to select which words to focus on.
Copying out large sections from a book or journal whilst reading is bad practice: it does not help you to understand what you are reading, and can easily lead to unintentional plagiarism.
- ALLEN, K. L. 2005. Study Skills: A Student Survival Guide. Wiley: Chichester
- REYNOLDS, M.C. 2002. Reading for Understanding. Wadsworth: California
- COTTRELL, S. 2008 The Study Skills Handbook. Palgrave: Hampshire
- ROBERTS, J. M. 2004. Effective Study Skills, Pearson: USA
- FAIRBAIRN, G. 2001. Reading at University: A Guide for Students. Open University Press: Maidenhead.