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Reading Strategies

This set of blog posts is intended to help undergraduate students, graduate students, and academics of all stripes find the best approach for them to read the ever-growing heaps of material. I’ve also collated here a couple of posts on time management.

On skimming reading material and the importance of The Second Round of in-depth reading

Frequently, you’ll see faculty members tell their students that they can skim articles and books for the most important points. This is true, but it is also important to let them know that a second round of in-depth reading may be necessary in many cases. In this blog post I discuss this strategy.

Triaging your reading workload: Developing heuristics to decide which articles/book chapters/books to focus on and read in depth

When feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of reading you need to do, you may want to do some “triaging” – which pieces deserve your full attention and which ones may be only skimmed (maybe using AIC?). I share my process here.

On developing a repertoire of reading strategies

In this blog post I explain different reading strategies and the rationale underlying my claim that we need to develop a repertoire of reading heuristics.

Legitimising reading as an integral part of the academic writing process.

I’ve always been of the thought that you can’t just produce words without actually reading other authors’ work and then synthesize from their ideas, and generate new ones. In this blog post, I argue that we should take reading into account in our writing time and consider it valid to spend time reading, as this is as important as writing.

Writing a synthetic note off a book or book chapter

While this blog post is also connected to my Literature Review ones, this one describes a process that is specific to how to read and take notes. So I’ll include it here and in my Note-Taking Techniques section too.

Carving time to read: The AIC and Conceptual Synthesis Excel Dump combination.

For me, it is very important that I carve time to read. For that reason, I have to make sure that I read at least one paper every single day. This process (AIC + Excel dump row entry) allows me to maintain my finger on the pulse of the literature and know when I need to come back to a paper later when I have more time.

A three-step method to capture the most important information in a paper (The AIC content abstraction technique)

While this post doesn’t cover reading in detail methodological sections or discussions, the three step method (AIC, Abstract, Introduction, Conclusion) gives at the very least the gist of a paper, journal article or book chapter. It can be expanded for a full book as well.

Reading Strategies for Entire Books (Single Author/Multiple Authors)

In this post I summarize my strategy to read an entire book, be it by a single author or multiple authors. As I noted in my post, while we could apply a similar strategy to AIC, it’s not necessarily applicable in the same way. However, the basic principle stands: introduction, conclusion, key chapters.

An Updated Version of my Colour-Coding for Highlighting and Scribbling Marginalia
This post is an updated description of the colours I use and what each one means when I highlight and scribble on the margins of articles, book chapters and other printouts.

Reading, highlighting, annotating, scribbling, note-taking: A walk-through my digital and analog systems.

In this post, I integrate my entire digital and analog workflow on how to take notes and read.

Reading Strategies For Full Books (Edited Volumes)

This post should help readers find ways to evaluate which chapters are most important to them, and then strategically read those chapters.

Different reading strategies I: Skimming and scribbling (and cross-linking)

This post summarizes a technique I use when I am short on time. I apply the AIC three step method and then I briefly read the paper over, looking for some key points within the paper. I always do scribble notes to myself on the margins, or write them in adhesive Post-It notes that I attach to the margins (in the case of books and printed journal volumes).

Different reading strategies II – Meso-level engagement

When I’m a little less pressed for time, I scan a paper for 2-3 relevant ideas per page. This post explains how I use this technique to create a summary of the manuscript.

Different reading strategies III – Deep engagement.

This post describes a three-pronged strategy I use to engage deeply with the literature. It requires more time investment, but it also generates written material that can be directly used in writing a paper.

8 strategies to make time to read during a teaching semester

It’s always hard to keep up with reading (ironic, since our profession is focused on learning from reading too!), but here are 8 strategies I use to make the time. Because if we don’t *make the time* our schedule will be fully focused on other things.

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5 Responses

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    You provided me good insights about reading for your research! Many thanks

Continuing the Discussion

  1. A synthetic memorandum on advice on academic research and writing – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on July 29, 2019

    […] Single, Jensen, Dunleavy, Heard, Sternberg: you need to pre-write (which includes outlining, reading, researching, synthesizing literature, gathering data, analyzing, etc.) before […]

  2. Writing a literature review assignment (and for instructors: providing guidance) – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on August 10, 2019

    […] to teach someone how to approach a new body of scholarly literature, in addition to teaching them Reading Strategies and Note-Taking Techniques, the sequence of blog posts that I would recommend they peruse (and I […]

  3. Developing a repertoire of reading strategies is extremely important – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on August 24, 2019

    […] is why I developed an entire page on Reading Strategies (and more recently, one on Reading Strategies for Undergraduate Students). Because while you […]

  4. A proposed sequence to teach/learn reading techniques for undergraduate students: Teach/learn how to write arguments first, then how to read in depth, then how to skim – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on May 1, 2020

    […] how to write memorandums, how to synthesize their research in an Excel dump and a whole lot of reading strategies, literature review writing processes and note-taking techniques. I do this because I know […]

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