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Learn to Read Like an Academic

Mar 02, 2009

College reading isn't like high school reading. College students are expected to pick out themes, read critically and intelligently discuss academic points while covering vast amounts of reading material. As intimidating as this might sound, it is possible. All you have to do is learn how to read like an academic.

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Study Literature Guides and Summaries

In college you will be asked to succinctly and intelligently summarize book plots, chapters, characters, settings, themes and quotes. If you want to learn how to read and speak like a scholar, you should pick out a book that is familiar to you and find a literature guide or summary that matches your choice. Study the guide and make note of how the summary writer picked out the most important points in each category.

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Think about What You're Reading

If you want to learn how to read like a scholar, it is essential that you learn to read and think critically. As you are reading, ask yourself what the author might be trying to say. Then, ask yourself whether you agree with it or not. Other things to think about while reading include the author's position, contribution and understanding of the topic. If you're reading fiction, you should consider other points as well in addition to substance, such as writing style, social context and theme.

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Take Notes

Scholars always take notes while they read, and you should too. Taking notes will organize your thoughts and help you to keep track of important points. You can take notes however you want--in the margins of your books, on a separate piece of paper or on the computer--just make sure you are able to keep your notes in order to save time later on.

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Read Fast

Although reading a book from cover to cover is always best, it can be downright impossible to read every single word of your assigned reading in college. You are better off skimming and taking in the important parts of the book. Important parts include the table of contents, introduction and conclusion.

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More Tips and Resources

  • If you have time, preview books prior to reading them. Look through the table of contents, skim the pages and read the back of the book to figure out what it is about.
  • Don't confuse critiquing substance with critiquing style. In academic texts, substance is more important. In novels, substance and style are equally important.
  • If you can't read the entire book, look through the table of contents to find the chapters that seem the most important.
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