How to read at university

Keeping track of your reading

when you've finished this page you will be able to...

When you start reading, you'll find that there's an awful lot of material out there, and for this reason, it's vital to make notes while you read - it will save time later if you aren't struggling to remember where you found that fascinating article you read weeks ago. While it's a good idea to make a note of everything you read, it's especially important to keep a record of your reading if you're undertaking a large scale piece of work, like a dissertation, literature review, or a project.


Keeping a record of what you read doesn't just mean making a note of references - you should be using EndNote, or another reference management programme to do this - it also involves making brief notes to summarise what you've read and note anything of special interest. It can also be useful to jot down some quotations.

Activity: keeping a record of your reading - 5 minutes

You should create an entry in your reading record each time you read something new.

1. Divide the first page of your notepad, or a filing card, into 3 columns.

2. Title the first column Reference.

3. Title the second column Notes.

4. Title the third column Quotations.

5. For an illustration of what your record might look like, take a look at the example below.

Keep your record up-to-date; it prove useful when you need to write an assignment or revise.

Reading record
Reference Notes Quotes
1. Wiles, P. (1988) 'Teaching children in hospital' British Journal for Special Education. 15(4):158-62 In-depth study, 50+ hospitals in UK and US. Teachers make hospital stays more pleasant. "For all children of whatever age, teachers can make the world of the hospital an exciting one where significant learning can take place" pg. 59
2. Gabbay, M., V. Cowie, et al (2000) 'Too ill to learn: double jeopardy for sick children' Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 93:114-117 Sick children miss out on education and suffer education disadvantage. "Without education, sick children are further disadvantaged, and they, their families and society continue to count the financial and social costs for generations" pg. 116

On the next page we look at how you can decide whether a text is worth reading in greater depth. With the amount of reading you need to do at university, this is a vital skill.

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