Reading: a few personal tips to get through it all.

I’m doing a Masters in Information Science through Victoria University (nee Library School), and I’ve found a few of my fellow students are struggling with the reading load.

Librarians are great at finding sources, and Library instructors are no exception, so the reading lists for each week’s work, or module, are comprehensive.  Fortunately they are also self aware, and have  really tried to make the readings as appropriate as possible.

Here a re a few tips to get through the readings efficiently.

1.  Read the guidelines

Each module has a set of guidelines and reading questions on blackboard.  These are the things they want you to know or to think about. They put a lot of work in preparing these, so take advantage of it!

2. Prepare the ground

I copy the reading notes into a document (you could print them out and scribble around them and call them notes if you like paper.  I use evernote, with a separate note for each module.  Download the readings and print them or put them in a directory so you know what you have to get through.  Do them all at once, because you don”t want to get half way through and not have net connectivity…!  For the paperheads, maybe a day of printing all the readings for all the papers.  Get into a routine of how you approach each module.

3. Read and answer

With  the reading questions in front of you, do the reading.  For a book chapter I tend to mosey through it, seeing what headings there are, and generally skim it.  then I go back to the reading question and see where I can find the answers.

With an article, its much easier: read the abstract and the conclusion.  that should tell you _everything_ you need to know.  To answer the questions (scribble them down, don’t try to remember them – there is no exam or feat of memory required on the course) hunt through the article to look for keywords.  tables and figures are nearly always important.

For articles with no defined abstract or conclusion: well, that’s an essay.  Remember, they have to have a beginning, middle and end too, so fine the start and finishes and read those.

Now, if you find an article interesting READ IT.  There will be plenty that aren’t, and don’t appeal, and skimming them is fine.

4. Appearing smart in class

We are all smart.  we wouldn’t have got to this point if we weren’t.  So, write down any questions you’ve got (I put them in square brackets in my notes so I know what the hell they were later).  Sometimes the reading will answer them, sometimes they don’t.  If you’re still intrigued by the time class comes up and the lecture doesn’t cover it, ask!  It does two things – one, it proves you did some reading (always good) and two, it really helps you understand by going through the process.

5. Assignment Strategy

Last, and not least, if you know what assignment topics you are going to do, then you can find course readings that apply and concentrate on those.  The implication of that is Choose Your Assignment Topics Early.  Last thing you want to have happen is do a bunch of assigned readings for the first time for an essay after the lecture.

Happy Studies!

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