Reading to learn is very different to reading for pleasure. When you read a novel you read passively, starting at the beginning, letting the text guide you, and reading everything without question. When you study you need to read more actively looking for key points and trying to understand different concepts.
• Know what you need to know: You should be selective about what you read. Think about what you need to learn from the reading and focus on texts/ chapters that are the most relevant to the topic.
• Use core texts as signposts to further reading: A useful text will refer you onto other sources. Utilise these supplementary resources to increase your knowledge of the target subject.
• Skim or browse the text: Skimming involves going through the text rapidly to see how useful it may be. Look at the index, chapter headings, introductory and concluding paragraphs as well as skimming through the main text. This will help you to filter out topics that are not relevant.
• Ask yourself a question: Set yourself questions that you need answered and try to filter out the information that is relevant as you read.
• Read effectively: Start by reading the chapter/ passage quickly and see if you understand it. What is the key point? Then evaluate what you have read - how convincing is the text, can you think of any examples or alternative ideas?
• Recall key points: Try and remember some of the key facts or ideas that you have read and jot them down.
• Review: Look back through the text and check your notes. Correct any mistakes and ensure that you have covered the key point of each paragraph.
Taking Effective Notes
Taking effective notes is a useful tool when studying. Taking notes helps you concentrate when reading and forces you to make decisions about which bits of information are useful and helps you to process and understand what you read.
When taking notes it is important to remember the following:
• Don't try and write down everything you read
• Select the main points
• Summarise information in your own words as this helps you to understand
• Create your own shorthand/ abbreviations
• Structure your notes
• Focus on making notes on the most relevant topics
It is important that you find a style of note taking that suits you and the way you learn. There are lots of different ways to make notes and you may use different methods at different times. Experiment with different options to see what works best for you. See below for a few examples:
Linear Notes: Separate out different points/ themes and indent subsections to keep things clear and consistent. You may also find it useful to use visual prompts such as highlighting or underlining to emphasize key points.
Mapping Notes: If you learn better through visual cues you may find it easier to structure your notes by mapping out key points in a diagram - flow charts, spidergrams and bubble diagrams are all good examples.
Reproduced with kind permission from Perpetuity Training, Tel: 0116 222 5550 or firstname.lastname@example.org