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Five Effective Reading Tips for Graduate Students

Graduate students need to do a lot of reading to familiarize themselves with theories and ideas along their field of specialization. This activity will help them develop their critical thinking skills to effectively engage in research work. If you are one of those tasked to do so, here are five effective reading tips that will help you reduce stress associated with the need to read an endless queue of reading assignments.

Once you commit yourself to graduate school work, you will face more academic responsibilities than you were in your undergraduate years. One of those responsibilities is to read more than you used to do. This is with the end in view of enriching your knowledge on theories or ideas that will help you build the conceptual framework of your thesis or research later on.

But how much reading should you really make? Does reading all those stuff really matter? Are there ways on how to read more effectively?

Of course, your reading assignment is not the kind of reading that you make for pure pleasure, but to get something out of it. And many of the assigned readings are not just a few pages of nonsense but thick pages of something to ponder upon. Usually, graduate students have to digest three to five books a semester. This is a challenge for those who are not used to reading books with thick pages such as novels.

It is to your best interest and advantage if you follow a set of reading guidelines before doing any reading. This is not only to help you finish the required readings on time and actively participate in class discussion on the topic, but also to help you get the most of your reading without necessarily giving you a nervous breakdown.

Here are five tips on how to make the most of your reading:

1. Find out why that reading material was assigned

Figure out first what you intend to get out of that article, handout, journal or book before embarking on that long journey across words devoid of refreshing graphics. Unless you fully understand  why that reading was given, it will be difficult to comprehend it.

Ask yourself the two most important questions: “What am I looking for in this reading material?” and “Where can I find it?” These questions will help you avoid wandering on not-so-important sections of your reading material.

2. If you are reading a book, browse the table of contents to give you an overview of the book

This is common sense but many students fail to do this, i.e., making full use of the table of contents (TOC). If you really are hard pressed due to the limited time given to read a thick book, skimming through the TOC will be an effective strategy. Just read those items that you are not thoroughly familiar with or those that are relevant to the questions posed in #1.

This works better than any speed reading technique ever devised. Why in the first place will you read something that you don’t need to? Just focus on those that align with your interest and get on with life.

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3. Write short notes on a record book as you go along reading

If you cannot make marginal notes right there on the reading material, you may just write notes and questions on a record book as you go along. Write the main topic on top and all your notes below. Notes remind you of the critical points you need to consciously store in your brain.

Why use a record book and not a notebook or a plain sheet of paper? This apparently unimportant suggestion is very important for the very reason that the record book allows filing and labeling for easy retrieval. You will, therefore, avoid that common mistake of losing your notes.

How should your notes be written? Make it as short as possible, noting only the important keywords. You need not rewrite the sentence, just make bullet marks for every important phrase and draw a star on those very important points made.

4. Read the summary if present

Reading the summary of a section, if present, can save you a lot of time. The summary serves to “warm up” your brain and gives you an idea of what to expect upon reading the composition. Thus, it will be easy to digest the contents.

5. Read only the lead sentence using the TSPU principle

Last but definitely not the least, use the TSPU principle in your reading venture. TSPU stands for Topic Sentence Paragraph Unity. Almost always, for a well-written composition, the topic sentence or lead sentence serves as the summary of the paragraph. A good book adheres to this principle.

If the lead sentence appears vague, you may read the supporting sentences after it. The main purpose of sentences after the lead sentence is to enable the reader to understand what it means by expounding more on it. If the first sentence is quite clear to you, then there’s no need for you to read the rest of the paragraph.

At this point, you will have a better idea on how to go about your reading assignments in the graduate school. Happy reading!

© 2013 August 5 P. A. Regoniel