Reading Tips



# 1.  Read with a dictionary

w   Read with a dictionary right next to you (go out and buy a good pocket dictionary).  First, it is a good idea to try and figure out  a word from context.  If you cannot, look it up immediately.  If you have to get up, leave the room and find the dictionary, you will rarely be sufficiently motivated to do so.  Have the dictionary right at your fingertips.

#2.  Preview

w   Preview before reading.  At the beginning of the term, preview the textbook.  At the beginning of a chapter, preview the chapter.  This strategy allows you to see where you're going before you get there.  It is remarkably effective at improving your comprehension (and does not take much time).

#3  Read every day

w   Read some every day (or get as close as possible to that).  There is an effect called the spacing effect.  Essentially, if you are trying to remember complex material, you will do so more effectively if you spread out your study time.  For example, instead of studying for five hours on Friday, study one hour on each of Monday through Friday.

#4  Self-reference

w   Relate reading material to yourself.  At various times, stop and ask yourself "how does this apply to me?" or "can I think of an example from my life that illustrates this concept?"  This is a powerful method for enhancing deep understanding and memory.


#5. Realize what is expected

w   As many of you know, you are supposed to spend 2 hours outside of class for every hour in class. If you are nowhere near this, there is an obvious answer to the question of how you can do better.


#6. Organization (Module 4)

w   All course material is organized. It is important that you understand that organization. Even better, generate your own organization and relate it to the one provided for you.

w   This strategy essentially combines elements from Preview and Self-reference


#7.  Explain what you read

w   In order to understand what something means (and remember it), you need to ENCODE what something means (sounds obvious, doesnŐt it?).  DonŐt just repeat what you read to yourself.  Take very frequent breaks to explain, in your own words, what you have just read.

w   Elaborative verbal rehearsal in Module 4. 


#8.  Predict what will come next

w   To promote active processing and test your understanding while you are reading, try to predict the next section.  This works well at the paragraph level


#9.  The strategies are piling up

w   DonŐt think you need to use all the strategies, all the time.  Can you think of a self-reference example?  Do.  Can't?  Try explaining or predicting.  Etc.


#10.  Ruin your book

w   Face it; the book store isn't going to give you s**t when you try to sell it back.  So, you might as well get the most of it while you have it.  Highlight, write notes in the margins, do anything that will help you to remember when you are reviewing the night before an exam. 


#11.  Learn to recognize clues

w   This one applies to any course material.  There are many clues that something is important.  Introductory phrases, placement in the text, the size of the heading, and many other clues are commonly used.  Learn to identify the particular ones for your textbook and your instructor. 


#12. Don't buy a used book

w   At least avoid one that the previous owner has highlighted.  Research has shown that if he or she highlighted inappropriately, it will interfere with your learning. 


#13. Noticed a pattern?

w   Notice what many of the other tips have in common.  In short, you should read actively.  You are not supposed to sit there and let the words hit you in the eyeballs and hope that they somehow make to your brain and stick.  You must assiduously (tip #1, anyone?) work to process the reading material.  All of the strategies I gave you (plus many others I have not given you) are extremely effective ways of enhancing your understanding and memory of what you have read simply because they encourage you to process the material more actively.

#14. Make the strategies your own

w   Adapt, revise, refine to suit your own strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences. Similar to the self-reference effect, the more ownership you feel toward these strategies, the more effective they will be for you.


#15.  Never give up

w   It will seem difficult.  Sometimes, it will seem as if my way isn't working.  You will be tempted to go back to the old way.  Please trust me.  You will improve, and, perhaps more importantly, eventually the new way will seem as easy as the old way of reading.