Save Study Time with These Reading Tips
Jul 11, 2012
One of the lengthier tasks during college is reading, though it is the most essential part of the learning process. Without reading texts, you'll fall behind in homework, discussions and class. You'll have a difficult time writing a research paper and you'll receive poor grades. How, then, can you do all of your reading without spending your entire life with your nose in a book? Read on for time-saving tips on reading efficiently.
Read the Table of Contents
Most students skip over the table of contents because it's just a listing of what's in the book. But, it's a list of the topics that are in the book! Why wouldn't you read it over? It's basically an outline of the book that introduces you to its concepts. Especially when you're researching and want to skim through a book, you'll be able to quickly learn which sections will require more in-depth reading.
Let's say that you're writing a research paper on Betsy Ross and you find a book about revolutionary women. How will you know whether to use the book? The index may list her name in multiple places, but it may just be mentioned in passing. You could easily spend an hour checking each page where her name was mentioned, just to find that the chapter is not about her. This process works the other way. What if you look in the index and her name isn't there? You would discard it. However, if in the table of contents there was a chapter called 'Women's Roles in Philadelphia during the Beginning Stages of the War for Independence' - well then, you had yourself a resource that would've been tossed aside. It may not have mentioned her name, but she was definitely a part of that chapter in context.
If you're still unsure of the arguments the book is trying to present, skim the book. Flip through it (from front to back) and read a paragraph every few pages. You should be able to understand what each chapter discusses and glean the basic point of the book. It'll let you get through multiple books in one sitting, which is excellent for doing research.
First and Last
Follow the rule of the first and last. Reading the introduction and the conclusion for every chapter does exactly what it's meant to do - it introduces you to the material of the chapters and sums it up in a tidy closing paragraph. You'll be able to decide if the chapter will benefit your research based on these texts.
Many people have a hard time reading something in which they are unfamiliar. It's advisable to force yourself through material without disruption, though. Even when a word or phrase makes no sense to you, don't stop to contemplate it or look it up. Just plug away and it's likely that the context surrounding it will reveal the meaning. You'll find that you get through the book much more quickly and when you've finished, you're likely to be able to summarize the entire text.
Take Homer's The Odyssey for example. When a teacher makes you dissect each and every line of the prose, you'll miss out on the whole point of the story. If you read it through, you'll understand each scene and commit it to memory, like any other fictional book. It's similar to watching a movie. You may not understand what someone is talking about, but if you paused it to look up what a flux capacitor is, it would take that much longer to finish Back to the Future.
Graffiti Your Book
You paid good money to have your own copy of a college textbook, so don't treat it like a loan (unless of course it is a loan, then this tip is not for you). Get out pens and highlighters and every time something speaks to you, make a note of it. Star it, underline it, circle it, highlight it - whatever you need to do to know that this is a strong point. When writing a paper on it or going into a discussion, these points will be easy to find. If you have a question about something, ask the book. Write down that question or thought so that you can later reference what you were thinking at that moment. It could even lead to a persuasion paper.
Now that you know how to save some time reading, find out how to save time when studying.