Once you have identified some texts to read, you will find it helpful to use different reading strategies. You don’t have to read a whole text from start to finish, unless you think it will all be useful.
You should try using scanning and skimming to identify the most relevant parts of the text, and then use in-depth reading to read the material critically.
You can use scanning to work out how a text is structured, for example, what the sections are and what general topics are covered.
Let your eyes glance over the pages to scan the text for key information, such as statistics, dates, facts and keywords. You might be looking for a specific word or phrase, for example, a specific author or theory. You won’t be trying to read through the text, instead you’ll be scanning it until you find the words you’re looking for.
Skimming is the process of speed reading to get a general overview of the meaning of a text.
You can do this by reading through the introduction, conclusion, the headings, and the beginning and end of paragraphs to get the main ideas and build up a general overview. Focus on identifying the main ideas rather than trying to read the details. Identify which parts you need to read in depth when you go over the text again more slowly. You may decide you need to read it all again, but you will now know which are the most relevant parts.
Once you have identified a useful text, you will want to read it in more detail.
Read carefully and slowly and accept that you may have to read something more than once when you are reading for detail. Reading at a slower pace allows you to engage with the information – this will involve asking questions, making critical comments and thinking about how that information compares to your other reading.
Our critical thinking pages have more guidance on critical reading.
Remember to look at our note-making advice before you start reading, so that you can record your notes in a way that will help you to critically engage with the text.
When to stop reading
Using reading strategies should help you to read more effectively, and to engage with the texts to question them and extract relevant ideas. You won’t have time to read everything on a topic as you will need to balance it with other academic work commitments.
It might be time to stop reading when:
- information starts to repeat itself
- you’ve covered the core material
- you’ve answered the research questions
- you are coming across information not relevant to the research question
- the information does not offer anything new
- you’ve lost your concentration.