At university, you will be expected to read large amounts of information. Rather than reading texts from start to finish, be selective and identify key parts (shown below).
Search for chapter headings related to your subject in the contents.
The introduction outlines key topics covered. Use it to decide if the source will be useful. In journal articles, read the abstract (which gives a summary of the entire piece) and the introduction.
Read the beginnings of chapters and first sentences of paragraphs to gain miniature overviews.
Visuals, headings and subheadings also give clues about content.
The conclusion summarises the key findings.
Search for words, names and phrases in the index to identify important pages.
Use Control + F (PC) or Command + F (Mac) to search digital documents.
Steps within reading: SQ3R
Try following the SQ3R sequence to aid reading.
Skim read to gain an overview of the source. Look at areas such as the contents, introduction and index page.
What do I hope to answer?
What key words or phrases will I search for?
How reliable is this source?
Pick a relevant area to read. Start by skim reading to gain a general understanding. Read again in more detail and note-take.
4.Recall & Review
Recap what you have just read.
Check your understanding and the accuracy of your notes. Consider taking further notes.
Methods of note taking
1. General tips
Organise your notes: order notes in a folder or keep digital documents for different topics. Alternatively, try an online note taking system such as Evernote.
Include clear references: always capture the Harvard reference, including the page numbers for books and journals. Consider an online tool such as Zoterobib.
Make information accessible: use subheadings and spaces between different topics.
Colour-code: highlight important information such as quotations or other sources. You might also want to use a different colour for paraphrased or quoted material.
Capture your thoughts: as well as noting quotations and key points from sources, write your initial responses. So what does the evidence show? Why is this a relevant example? How does it link to my research?
Collate your notes: use a research matrix (table) to summarize your research.