Reading at undergraduate level

Reading at undergraduate level
Sara Steinke
[email protected]
Aims of the session
• How to cope with the large amount of reading
expected of you
• How to increase your understanding of the
reading for academic study - the importance
of critical reading skills to enhance your
critical thinking
• To recognise the link between critical reading
and note making skills
• To consider how to understand your reading
• Common problems
students encounter when
reading for academic
• What is meant by reading
for academic purposes are you a smart reader?
Writers are not
• Reading skills for
authorities. They are
undergraduate study participants in a
public exchange of
views. Be critical of • Importance of reading
skills for critical thinking
their work.
Common difficulties with reading
These are some common difficulties mentioned
by undergraduate students. Which of them apply to
1. I read the words on the page but am not taking them in.
2. I spend too much or too little time on the reading.
3. I have difficulty expressing what I have read in my own
4. I simply do not understand the material.
5. I find the language used too complicated.
6. I can not remember everything I read.
7. I find the amount of reading overwhelming.
Academic reading
Reader is:
Non academic
Reader is:
• active
• passive
• selective and
interacts with the
reading material
• reads from page one
till the end
• has a particular
question in mind
• re-reads with a
• does not ask
• expects the author to
guide them through
the narrative
Survey - before you read, survey the entire
text, including the table of contents. Read
titles, subtitles, introductions and conclusions
and review any graphics.
Question - write questions for the key points
you have identified. Turn heading and
subheadings into questions. Ask who, what,
where, when and why.
Read - read through the text from beginning to
end, pausing at the end of each section to
answer the questions you have created.
Highlight key points in the text as you read, or
make brief notes.
Recite - answer the questions out loud to
reinforce your learning. Make a list of key facts
you need to know. Try to stop after each
section in the text.
Review - reviewing the concepts in the text
after you are finished reading and reciting each
section, and come back to it periodically over a
few days. Summarise difficult passages and
rewrite the major points in your own words.
• To get particular
information from a text
• Look up a word in an index
or dictionary
• Find a phone number or
address in a directory
• Check what time a
television programmes is on
• Look up details and prices in
a catalogue
• Pick out a website you want
from a Google search
• To get a general idea of the
• See what is in the news or
on a website
• Browse through a book to
see if you what to read it
• Look through a television
guide to see what is on one
• Flick through a catalogue to
see what is on offer
• Look through the options
on a Google search to see
what sites it suggests
Reading - recap
Can you:
select and use different reading strategies
(e.g. skim, scan, in-depth)?
think about what you need to find out before
you start reading (are you reading to verify
facts, to understand a subject in general or to
analyse a particular argument)?
critically evaluate reading?
deal with new vocabulary?
Useful sources (for reading)
Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study Skills Handbook, 3rd
ed., (London, Macmillan) Chapter 6 ‘Research
skills’ pp.111-136
Northedge, A. (2005) The Good Study Guide
(Milton Keynes, Open University Press) chapter 5
‘Reading’ pp.101-128
• Common problems
students encounter
when note making for
academic purposes
• Importance of note
making for critical
• Note making skills for
undergraduate study Active reading (SQ3R)
linear notes, mind
and effective note making
go hand-in-hand
Common difficulties with notes
These are some common difficulties mentioned
by students. Which of them apply to you?
I try to take down everything that is said/on the
PowerPoint presentation in lectures.
I am unsure what the purpose of note-taking is.
I am uncertain about how many notes to take.
I am unsure what to make notes on.
I do not take time to organise my notes so that I
can retrieve them later on.
I only know one way for note-taking.
What is the
note taking
and note
Note taking is when you are
taking notes on material in
class; on what a speaker is
saying; on what is happening
around you.
Note making is when you make
notes on your thoughts; things
you think you should study for,
or remember; your own
individual thoughts or
information that you recall, and
want to write down to remember
or study.
Importance of note making for critical thinking
• To focus attention on what you are reading
• To help you make sense of what you read/hear
• To help you remember the key points
• To alert you to what you have not understood
• To help you when you are planning an assignment
• To help you when you are revising for exams
• To enable you to distinguish between facts,
opinion and evidence - critical thinking skills
Techniques for linear, sequential notes
• Make headings and
• List key words
• Number the points
• Underline, colour, use capital
letters for emphasis
• Use abbreviations. Examples: =
for equal, < less than, > more
than, increase, decrease, re
regarding, cf compared with
• Only use one side of a page in
case you want to add more
• Note name of authors you
want/need to read in margin
Techniques for radial, concept notes or
mind maps
• Turn the paper sideways, A3
• Write the topic in the centre
of the page
• Write related ideas around
this centre
• Add secondary ideas to the
main ideas
• Link up these ideas to show
• Use colours, different line
thickness, symbols, pictures
• Add details to points as you
go along
Condensing notes
• ‘Boil’ notes down to essential information.
This is often easier to do a few weeks later,
because your understanding of the subject has
increased. You can see more clearly what is
important information and what is not.
• Note gaps knowledge, confusions and
contradictions in the reading or your
• Move from linear notes to conceptual notes
(linear notes to mind maps)
Organising and storing your notes
• By systematic from the beginning
• Make sure you can (re)read them before filing them
away - but do not rewrite them ‘neatly’
• Condensed notes can be copied and filed in at least
two different ways:
- chronological order (as you go along)
- topic order (e.g. in anticipation of an assignment)
- personal interest (for your own research later?)
• Write subject clearly in top right hand corner;
number pages; colour code them; index cards
Note making - recap
Can you:
make effective notes when reading?
make effective notes when listening (e.g.
during lectures)?
use more than one note making technique?
do you have a way of organising your notes?
Useful sources (for note making)
Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study Skills Handbook, 3rd ed., (London,
Macmillan) chapter 6 ‘Research skills’ pp.111-136
Northedge, A. (2005) The Good Study Guide (Milton Keynes, Open
University Press) chapter 6 ‘Making notes’ pp.128-156
Buzan T. (rev. 2003) Use Your Head (London, BBC)
Buzan, T. & B. (rev. 2006) The Mind Map Book (London, BBC )
Buzan T. (2007) The Buzan Study Skills Handbook (London, BBC) ahead/skills/notetaking
• Understanding your
reading list
• Understanding the Library
• Citing and managing
Reading lists
• Lecturers give out lists of recommended
resources to help you gain a greater
understanding of your subject
• Use the reading list as your first ‘port of call’
for a topic
• These lists include references to:
-sections of books/chapters
-journal articles
-web sites
Understanding book references
Author’s name (surname first)
Date of publication
Title of book, edition if appropriate
Place of publication
Understanding journal article references
Author’s name
(surname first)
Date of publication
Title of the article
Name of the
Page numbers
Understanding web sources references
Author’s name or company/organization
Date document was produced or updated
Title of the document
URL (web site address)
Date you accessed the web site
Birkbeck Library (2012) Birkbeck eLibrary. (Accessed: 25
June 2012)
The Library catalogue
Use the catalogue to
find information
print journals
ejournals - access
via eLibrary
This information
• Publication details
• Shelf mark
• Number of copies
• Loan length
• Availability
• Link to access
Citing references: why?
• To acknowledge the use of other people’s
• To avoid plagiarism
• So those that read your essays can see how
widely you have read
• So those that read your work can see what
influenced you to draw the conclusions
you did
Citing references: how?
• List all the resources that you have read or
consulted at the end of your essay in a
• List the resources in alphabetical order of
• There are different ‘styles’ of citing references
- be consistent
• Check your course handbook for your
department’s preferred style
Library and IT skills - recap
Can you:
use the library catalogue and online database
efficiently and effectively?
undertake research, both primary and
produce documents (essays, dissertations,
reports) using Word and Excel?
Useful sources (for library)
Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2013) Cite them right:
the essential referencing guide. 9th ed.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Presentations can be found at
Recap of the session
• Do you understanding the importance of ‘smart’,
active reading strategies for academic study?
• Have you thought about how to use SQ3R to increase
your reading speed and comprehension of the
• Are you familiar with the importance of effective note
making strategies for academic study?
• Have you an idea of how to understand your reading
• Do you feel confident to start using the Library
Next session
• Monday 1 September, 6pm-7.30pm, room 421
• Writing at undergraduate level
- what makes English academic
- style and conventions of academic writing
- the writing process
- developing your academic writing skills for
undergraduate study

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