Before you begin working on your reading skills, evaluate your current reading approach and environment for the following:
- Where do you currently read for academic purposes? Do you have a separate office in your home? Do you read in a comfy chair, at a desk, at the kitchen table?
- Is there music or white noise in the background? If so, do you find that noise helpful for concentrating?
- Time of Day.
- Do you typically read in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Some people read better in the morning, after a good night’s sleep, whereas others read better at night, when the house is quiet and other responsibilities have been addressed.
- Length of Time.
- How long do you typically spend reading in one sitting? If you just spend a few minutes on a text before distractions derail you, consider what those distractions are and how you can avoid them. If you do not have enough time to set aside for a longer stretch of reading, what can you shift around?
- How do you read? Is there a particular approach you follow (e.g., skimming, reading a certain section first, reading aloud)?
- Do you read on the screen or print out the material? On screen is certainly easier and less costly, especially if you are reading long journal articles. Hard copy is healthier for your eyes, and some research suggests that it is associated with increased comprehension.
- What kinds of notes do you take as you read (summary details, questions, keywords, etc.)?
- Are your notes electronic or pen-and-paper?
- Do you often reread texts to better remember and/or understand the content?
- Do you frequently look up terminology in the dictionary or online?
- Do you feel like you read slowly?
- Do you have difficulty synthesizing the information to write about it?
Once you have performed this inventory, you can assess whether to make any changes. Consider: How do your current reading practices align with your needs and preferences? What are your ideal conditions for reading?
Reaching those conditions may involve some trial and error. For example, if you are frequently distracted during reading, you could move to a new location and monitor how reading goes there. If that does not help, you could try a different time of day when you may be more focused.
To develop your reading skills and try new approaches, view the pages linked below.