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How To Read Effectively: A Guide

It may seem that all it takes to remember something from a textbook or a book is vigorously taking notes. There are a few other factors that affect the way we learn from a text. With the help of a small guide I’ve purchased recently, Reading & Making Notes by Jeanne Godfrey (also in this post), I’ve come up with a few helpful points on how to read effectively and make it worth your time.

How to Read Effectively

Decide how to read the text

First, decide what your goal is when you read the text: do you want to just scan it to find some specific bits of info? Or maybe get the general idea of the entire text? Or perhaps you need to understand it really, really well, so you need to read it closely? If you want to read effectively, this is the first step!

Summarize what you’ve just read

Summarize every couple of paragraphs (or however you want to break it down) so you know what you’re reading. Don’t copy the text or try to include every.single.word., but if there is something worth noting, then note it.

Take notes, but…

Again, don’t write down everything when you’re taking notes (here are some techniques!). This will take too much of your time and eventually the notes won’t be as good/detailed, because you’ll get super tired. Take notes if you see some information that is the reason why you’re reading the text. If it’s a key term that you don’t know and want to jot down, use your own words! That way you’ll know you understand what you read. It may seem a bit difficult to learn to take notes and read effectively at the same time. I know my first instinct is to write down everything I see because it all seems important. However, it’s the next thing that really helps to wrap it all up.

Reflect and Read Effectively

Reflect on your readings. It’s one thing to read and memorize word-by-word, but it’s another to analyze the text and think about it critically. Every once in a while, stop and ask yourself: what did you just read? What did you learn from it? What was useful to know? What do you disagree with? And what didn’t you understand? (Perhaps write that down and ask in class, btw)

I think we all have different reading methods, but sometimes I find it quite hard to remember the facts, think critically and analyze all at the same time. Some texts can be just super boring to read, while with others I forget that I have to take notes. The key is to determine why you read what you’re reading and what you need to get out it. After that (with a bit of practice, perhaps), it will be easy-peasy!

For some more reading tips, read this really old post of mine