Effective Reading

You will need to read widely at University, covering a range of authors and source types. Secondly, be critical about your reading and question its reliability. Look at suggestions from your lecturer, and use the library subject guides and online resources.

Find information on:

  • Navigating the key parts of a text
  • Steps within reading
  • Evaluating a source


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.

  1. Use the contents page to see chapter headings. Find keywords related to your subject e.g. artists, theories or time periods.
  2. 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).
  3. Read the beginnings of chapters and first topic sentences of paragraphs to gain miniature overviews.
  4. Visuals, headings and subheadings also give clues about content.
  5. The conclusion will provide a summary of the key findings.
  6. Lastly, the index will help you to look for relevant words, names and phrases.

Lightbulb iconTip: 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?


Study Skills Toolbox
You may find dictation technologies helpful such as Apple Text to Speech and Dictation or Dragon Dictate.  Changing the background colour or tinting your screen can also be useful. Download our guide on colouring/tinting your screen. Mind mapping software can be used to note key points whilst reading. Try using XMind.  

E-book resources 

Try these e-books available from ProQuest: https://tinyurl.com/u25rp23

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.