1. Navigating a text
- Be selective rather than reading from start to finish. Start by skim reading the key parts of a text, which are shown below.
- Use the contents page to see chapter headings. Find keywords related to your subject e.g. artists, theories or time periods.
- The introduction gives an overview of the chapters ahead. A journal article will have an introduction and an abstract (which gives a summary of the entire piece).
- Read the beginnings of chapters and first topic sentences of paragraphs to gain miniature overviews.
- Visuals, headings and subheadings also give clues about content.
- The conclusion will provide a summary of the key findings.
- Lastly, the index will help you to look for relevant words, names and phrases.
Tip: Use Ctrl + F to search a digital document.
2. Steps within reading
Try following the SQ3R sequence to aid reading.
- Skim read to gain an overview of the text.
- What do I hope to answer?
- What key words will I search for?
- Read selected areas.
- Try scanning to look for ‘something specific’ (Beale and Mullan, 2008, p.111) such as art movements or dates.
- Make notes; record page numbers and Harvard references.
Recall & Review
- Recall what was learnt out loud, in thoughts or in writing.
- Check your notes or the source for more clarity.
3. Evaluating a source’s worth
- Apply critical thinking to assess the reliability and usefulness of your reading.
- Watch the video below by the University of Manchester that outlines the CRAAP test to evaluate sources.
- You can also consider the following questions when looking at a source.
Context (authority and currency):
- Who is the author? What is their background?
- Are they an authority on this subject?
- Have they written anything else? How was this received?
- Has their work been published by a reputable publisher or website ( .org .gov .ac.uk)?
- When was it created? Is it still valid?
Author’s viewpoint (stance and accuracy):
- What key points are made?
- Has the author used suitable evidence to support these points?
- What is the purpose of the writing (to sell, to entertain, to inform)?
- Does the writer avoid biased or emotive language?
Your viewpoint (assessment):
- How reliable or relevant is this source?
- What chapters, pages, paragraphs or visuals might be used?
- How could it be linked to other research?
The following texts were consulted for this page:
Beale, A.M. and Mullan, P. (2008) The complete idiot’s guide to speed reading. London: Penguin.
California State University (2010) Evaluating information: applying the CRAAP test. Available at: hwww.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf (Accessed: 12 March 2019).
Chambers, P. (2013) Brilliant speed reading; whatever you need to read, however you want to read it – twice as quickly. Harlow: Pearson. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=cat06378a&AN=nua.9780273794585&site=eds-live&custid=ns195502 (Accessed: 8 March 2019).
Kump, P. (1999) Breakthrough rapid reading. London: Penguin.