Academic reading can often be seen as a very passive task, and individuals often skim over articles or textbooks, missing crucial details. Here we will discuss ways to avoid falling at the first hurdle in research, and how to get the most from your reading.
Academic reading is often perceived as a passive task, this is the first hurdle for learners wishing to expand their knowledge and expertise. Whilst reading is often a less intensive, and more passive form of learning, it is important to remember to be fully focused on the content and ensure you understand the concepts it presents and explores, doing so will enable you to truly learn what the article is conveying. Unfortunately, this means that you must consciously try to understand opinions, make links to other concepts and theory, critically question the content and apply the knowledge it provides to your work.
The first step to effective reading is understanding your goal. Why exactly are you reading this article? If it is to gain factual information for practical use such as reading a bus timetable we do not readily need to interpret or analyse the information. On the flip-side, if you are reading academic material you should aim to be critically reading the content, this means that you should actively question, interpret, analyse and understand the author's opinions and stance on the subject. This allows you to become engaged in the article, and once engaged you are no longer simply reading the content you are reading it effectively and usefully.
Another hurdle that reading presents is your own attitude toward the articles content, author or topic. If you are disinterested, you will be unable to critically read the article. The obvious answer is to knuckle down and push through the boredom; however, you can support your interest levels and therefore your attitude toward the reading by understanding that it is always possible to find an angle of which the subject can interest you. For example, if the topic concerned a building, you might abhor the notion of reading about it, but if you can find an angle to which you are interested in the entire topic suddenly becomes easier to read and explore. For example, if you are a fan of history, you may consider the historical aspects of the building and this can feed into the more mundane aspects. The key is finding the information that motivates you and using it to fuel the rest of your reading on the topic.
Understand and support your learning style, if you primarily learn through listening then try to fine auditory copies or read aloud and talk to yourself as a way of critically reading, do not simply read the article as it will do nothing to aid your learning. If you are a visual learner, you may find that writing notes on the subject and your critical analysis of the topic will supplement your reading as you are able to reinforce the learning when consulting your notes. Make the reading as appropriate to you as possible, as this makes the process as amenable and effective as possible for you.
When critically reading start by identifying the aspects of the article/topic that interest you the most as this will help to engage you and identify your reading goal. Secondly, ensure you are constantly questioning the author's opinions and challenging them as this creates an environment in which you are carefully considering the content being presented. Finally, ensure that you employ the reading strategies that support your learning style whilst analysing and interpreting the reading to help you truly learn and understand the topic.