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Reading and note taking skills


The sections below feature detailed information and advice to help you get through the reading involved in your studies.

Reading icon

Planning and preparing

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.

Finding the information you need

Selecting texts

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.

Reading efficiently

Reading strategies and speed reading

Choosing the most appropriate strategy for your purpose is the first step to making your reading more efficient.

This activity describes different reading strategies and how best to use them for different purposes. It also covers speed reading techniques.

Speed reading tools

  • Speed reading test
    Aim to read at least 300 words per minute without losing comprehension.
  • Spreeder
    A simple interface, allowing you control over the text and background colour
  • Eyercize
    "Chunks" your text by highlighting groups of words.

Reading with understanding

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an essential skill which should be applied to all aspects of university education.

  • Critical reading (activity)
    This activity gives you detailed information on reading critically and considers how to use evidence and develop convincing arguments.

Finding the argument

These three short demonstration videos show how to find the argument in an academic text:

Taking notes while reading

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.

Further reading: books and websites on academic reading