Having a full class schedule and trying to live a normal life or work a job on top of it can leave very little time for reading and class preparation. It's very important that you get the most out of your time whenever you sit down to do schoolwork. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your reading. I hope they are helpful.
Carry your reading with you
- have a book with you and pull it out when you are waiting in line or stopping for lunch or whatever. While you might only get a little bit read, those little bits add up.
If you can, set aside regular blocs of time for reading
- if at all possible, make a part of your schedule consist of reading - even if only for 15 minutes to an hour every couple of days, make a habit of it and stick to it.
Don't be afraid to skim
- its best to read things carefully, but there are times when you just have to get through it. It's better for most classes that you have a good general idea about the whole of the assignment. Some good ways to skim include reading the first and last lines of each paragraph, or 'speed reading' by letting your eyes zoom over the page, picking up words along the way and getting a very general idea of the concepts being discussed. Make a habit of finishing your reading, even if it means skimming to do it.
It's alright to mark in your books
- underline, hi-light, jot notes in the margins. All of that is good to do. Also, Post-It makes little sticky flags that you can use to mark the pages, if you don't want to permanently mark the book. Whatever you do, do something to help you find the important parts later when you come back to look at the reading again.
Come back and look at the reading again
- reading is good, but re-reading is the best. You don't always have to re-read every word, but looking over it again (with the help of your marks) to get a solid hold on the important parts is very helpful.
Take notes as you read
- have a pen(cil) and paper nearby when you read, and write down notes. What kind of notes? It depends. Are there questions the professor has given to guide your reading? Then your notes would be answers to those questions that you find in the text. Is there a 'main idea' the author is trying to convey? Then write notes to help you figure out what that is. The possibilities are many - it depends very much on the context.
Use the themes of the class to guide your reading
- most often you aren't reading to learn everything about a text, but rather you are searching for the specific things that apply to the themes and discussions going on in the class. Use these themes as guides to help you concentrate on what is most important in the text. Doing that can help you figure out which parts you should read more carefully and what it's okay to just 'skim' through.
Talk to other people about the reading
- this is perhaps the most helpful thing of all. Have discussions with your classmates (or anyone who will listen) about what you are reading. Can you re-state the author's arguments in your own words? Does your reading agree with what you're hearing from your classmates who have also read it, or does it differ, and why? Talking to people will help you clarify and think through difficult texts. It is an essential part of the academic process.
I hope some of these suggestions are helpful. If you think of others, or have suggestions for how I could say what is already here better, let me know, and I will update the page.
Good luck, and welcome to the class!