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How to read at university

Deep reading

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Surface readers can put in the hours of reading, but still see very little reward for their efforts. Deep readers get maximum value out of the time they spend reading. If you're not already a deep reader, you need to plan to become one - fast.

Deep reading is very much like deep thinking: when you read deeply you think about what you're reading, reflect on how you feel about what you read, and think about the 'big picture'. Deep reading is something you can learn to do, and it's a skill that will serve you well throughout university and into your graduate career. The following activity introduces you to some questions you should ask when you need to read a text deeply. After time, you'll be asking these questions subconsciously every time you read something. You'll also start a reading record that will prove very useful when you come to revise for an exam.

Activity: deep reading - take as long at you like

1. Get hold of a notebook, or invest in some filing cards - you'll need something that will be suitable for recording what you read.

2. Next time you read something, create an entry in your reading record. Write the title and author(s) of the text at the top of your entry.

3. As you read, make notes under these headings:

  • In one sentence, what is this text about?
  • What are the main arguments?
  • How does this relate to other things I've read? (Does this article confirm or contradict things you're read previously? Where does it fit in the big picture?)

4. Ask these questions for each new text you read, and keep a record of your answers.

Becoming a deep reader is the first stage in becoming that most important of things: a critical reader...

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