Scholarly Advice for Academic Mastery
A collection of insights and advice from some of the most successful university, graduate, and professional students and scholars.
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This tip is for graduate students and ambitious undergraduates. The first part of this advice is very simple and every student going to school knows it: DO THE READING. Do not fall behind with the reading, or not read it because you read it a year ago, or the myriad other reasons. At this point in your career you should be excited and into the readings so read it. If it is a book you read before, read it again because you will probably read it with new eyes and pick up things you missed last time. Also, the bibliography, work cited, reference page is your friend. If you notice that a certain author keeps being cited in the works you are reading, look in the bibliography and then go read their original work. This may blow some of your minds, but authors cite their sources for a reason one of which is if you want to question the assumptions, their reading of the author, or just find our what was said earlier - you use the bibliography. All graduate students should become friends with the bibliography and consider it part of their assigned reading. This will help prepare you for quals and your dissertation not to mention class.
PhD in Higher Education
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
What I have found to be the most useful in my studies was to read everything and make notes. I will generate appropriate questions and note these for discussion. Also I have found that it is very helpful to discuss concepts and course material with my classmates. Through discussion with classmates I am able to retain and understand information more concretely.
Frank Teller Sr.
Masters of Social Work
University of Wisconsin
For lecture courses I found that I had to approach the reading differently depending on the course. Although professors typically assign the reading before the lecture, I don't think there are necessarily any set rules on when a student should do the reading. I found for professors who were difficult to follow during lecture that it was best to study the reading ahead of time. I also found, however, that classes taught by professors who were easy to follow, it was beneficial to do the reading after the lecture. As a student I typically focus on readings better if I have some background information or if I have heard the material before. In these classes reading the material afterwards served to reinforce the lecture and remind me of details I may have missed during class. There are other classes in college in which I have found that the reading is a waste of time. Some professor assign textbooks which are meant for graduate or medical school students and are only going to test you on the material presented in class. I found for these classes it is best to spend your study time on the notes and lecture materials rather wading through dense text. Or it was beneficial to skim the text and reread the relevant portions which were mentioned during class. I would advise all college students to try and be aware of how they learn best and tailor their reading habits to the course and their study needs.
University of Virginia
Read your classes assigned material before you get to class. If your
teacher wants to lecture on chapter 8, make sure you have read chapter 8
before you get to class. This way you can easily follow along with the
lecture and participate in discussions. Also I you did not understand a part
of the chapter you can make sure the teacher clarifies that part for you.
You will also be prepared for a pop quiz if your teacher decides to give
I have found that when I have not read ahead, I feel lost and I have a hard time paying attention to the lecture.
Western Michigan University
Throughout my college experience, I have learned quite a bit more from textbooks than the actual reading material. For example, if the textbook you are reading has pictures, graphs, charts, or diagrams, pay attention to them! Several times, in several classes, I have had an exam with a chart or diagram on it from the book. However, if you simply read the material and never look at the extra supplements, you may be missing out on some points! In some books, there is a quiz or a summary at the end of every chapter. Do not neglect these either! For example, my biology professor assumed that most people were not keeping up with the reading. Therefore, she took questions for the exam right out of the end of the chapters! Most people in the class had no idea that they could have easily known the answers if they had just read and taken the quiz at the end of the chapters. My advice is that everything in the textbook should get your full attention because it might just pay off in points on exam day!
University of Tennessee
When you’re expected to read certain material and really know it, just reading it won’t be enough. Some students like to read it over and over again. Others like to highlight key passages, ruining any chance of resale. I strongly advise that you take notes as you’re reading the assignment for the first time. Textbooks are organized so that the most important information is easy to identify: capitalized titles and boldfaced terms. Write them down as you go. Summarize the paragraphs you read next to key names—even just a few words, to remind you what that section was talking about. Reading actively in this way is much more efficient than just skimming and hoping that you’ll remember all the information. With practice, your notes should be good enough that you never have to look over the chapter again. Of course, when you read the assignment, it will probably take three times as long as if you were just eyeing line after line. But if your goal is to truly learn the material, taking notes for yourself as you go is remarkably productive. It ensures that you understand the concept, because you have to explain it to yourself to jot it down in a few words. It gives you an annotated list of the most important things to remember, without any need for flipping through pages. And it’s surprisingly condensed; I’ve fit tens of pages of information on one piece of paper, which would be useless to anyone else in my class but is full of helpful reminders for me.
I find this strategy especially useful for classes which require hundreds of pages read over a long period of time. If you’re expected to go over a few chapters at the beginning of the semester, but aren’t tested on them until the midterm, just having read them won’t do you much good when you’re reviewing. A homemade outline of the information is much better at sparking your memory. Also, I don’t know if this is worth anything to anyone else, but even months later, I still remember the material fairly well for the classes for which I studied in this way. So if anyone actually wants to get some long-term knowledge out of their classes, and not just a passing grade, this practice is all the more valuable.
Scott E. Olmsted
Assigned reading is often
looked upon as tedious and time consuming. Though some might consider this
true, assigned reading is certainly important.
You should read every assignment given and never skip a reading. When given an assignment, it is important to start reading early, otherwise you will not have time to finish. For longer assignments, it helps to plan how much you will read a day. For example, divide a book by the number of days you have to complete the reading and write down each section as a separate assignment on your calendar. You may wish to skip a day or two for rest.
It is important to take notes while doing any assigned reading. The notes need not be detailed, especially for longer assignments. Use a separate notebook and write down key ideas and the page number in case you need to come back later for reference. I often find that for assignments over 100 pages I write down a note about every 2-3 pages.
Skim each section before reading it to get an idea of what the section is about. When reading longer assignments, try to skim through the chapter reading a few sentences from different paragraphs. This helps focus your mind on what you should be thinking about as you read the chapter. For shorter assignments, it helps to go through the entire assignment reading each section heading as well as a few sentences at the beginning of each paragraph before beginning any reading. Some people recommend reading short assignments twice, but if you skim through the assignment effectively before reading it, twice becomes unnecessary.
If you budget your time efficiently and develop good reading techniques, assigned reading can be easily managed--which will help not only in your class, but also in your overall education.
University of Virginia
Reading textbooks is an art. - We've all been there. Stuck with our nose in a textbook, reading words that are meaningless. Reading textbooks takes practice as well. Learn to skim passages and glean important information. Sometimes, you can read a passage twice quickly faster than you can once slowly. Bolded and italicized words also help to fine tune your speed reading skills. If you have continued trouble with accelerated reading, look into taking a speed reading course. Many universities offer these courses on site.
Master of Animal Science
Texas Tech University
One of the tips I use before I begin to read a textbook for class, is to read the Index first. If you read the Index first, you will get an idea of what is important in the book you are about to read. An Index gives you a good idea of what topics are important to the author, and as you read the book, you will have an idea of what to look for in the book.
Master of Arts in American Studies
One big difference between college and high school is that in college,
you have "reading" to do. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you fall
behind on reading, because it's like a marathon and a sprint combined--you
have to keep going, and you can't afford to be left behind, even by a little
bit. When you fall behind on reading, everything becomes more difficult and
it just gets harder and harder to catch up. People told me that for each
hour in lecture, there should be three hours of reading, and at first I
thought it was an exaggeration, but now I know that it's an underestimate,
if anything. And if you have a hard time motivating yourself to do it or
difficulty getting it done, here are some things you can try:
1. Change up the reading environment--when the textbook gets boring and the text just keeps going, it's natural to want some sort of change in order to stay sane. So instead of changing the activity (from reading to playing video games, for example), change the place, and often that serves as a refresh to keep you going. I read in my room, in the dormitory's study room, in the various rooms of the various libraries, by the lake, on top of the hill, in the dining hall, on the Arts quad, under the bridge etc. etc.
2. Schedule a block of time each day--it's so easy to say "I'll do it later" when it comes to reading, because people tend to be fooled into thinking that reading is an insubstantial activity. However, it's sometimes heftier than actual homework. So schedule a block (or a few blocks) of time each day specifically to do reading.
3. Plan to do something fun after reading--it's like the carrot they dangle in front of the horse's head.
4. Do something fun before reading--I can't find an adequate analogy for this, but it satisfies your physical/social needs so you can sit down and concentrate.
5. Log off Facebook, AIM, MSN, Myspace, Youtube etc. etc. Trust me, this will save you hours.
6. Try to enjoy what you're reading. Sometimes if you let yourself, you will find that it's actually pretty interesting.
That's it. Keep up the reading.
|Qi (Jade) Wu
One thing that can be tough about college is all the reading assignments. Many teachers want you to read the material before they lecture about it. The good thing about reading before class is you can participate from having a little knowledge and asking questions about what you still do not understand. I know reading assignments can pile up from all the teachers, so you may have to prioritize by due dates. I recommend at least skimming through the reading before class and reading chapter summaries so you know what the material is about. Also, try to focus when you read so you understand the first time, and do not have to go back and reread sections. Taking breaks from reading and studying also helps to refresh. After you have skimmed the reading and the summary, and have gone to class, pay attention to what the teacher emphasizes that will probably be on the test. Then after class, go back and look at your notes and read more in depth about those areas emphasized in class.
Arizona State University
Reading for Memory
review the selection you will be reading
pay attention to content lists, chapter title, subheadings, introductions, summaries, and questions
(by the time you start to read the content, you will have a general understanding of what you read)
Read More Than Once:
Reading the material more than once doesn't suggest reading it twice in the same day. Space the readings out by a day or two. Also, re-reading before an exam or at the end of a term is a good idea.
This doesn't suggest reciting word for word what the book says but stopping ever so often and recite what you have read in your own words to check for understanding.
Color has a powerful effect on memory. Underline key ideas and points in color. Later, underlined ideas can be organized into outlines or diagrams.
Summarize each paragraph in your own words while reading.
When finished with the reading, create an outline of key concepts. This will help you see how it all relates. You can use your underlined sections to help you create your outline.
You can also put key concepts into a diagram to help you visually see connections of ideas and key concepts.
Pre-read, read, and re-read: reading a passage once will likely not be committed to memory as well.
Masters, Instructional Leadership
Tennessee Technological University
One skill that will determine your success in the university
or college setting is reading.
Most universities have programs to help students with reading in their content areas. Many development areas deal with fluency and comprehension, but fail to help students with the ability to read in the content areas. If you are having difficulty, I suggest that you seek help. Many college students have already developed low-level processing skills such as letter recognition.
However, despite this assumption, many international students who are studying in English-speaking countries are not native speakers of English. For many of these students, low-level processing ability in their second language (L2) is still a major concern, because automaticity of lower-level processing abilities is essential to efficient reading comprehension. According to Perfetti’s (1985, 1988, 1991) verbal efficiency theory, automaticity of local text processes is the most important prerequisite of reading success. If lexical access is not automatic, it will tax the attention needed for high-level processing and as a result limit comprehension. Most L2 learners’ reading speed is much slower than that of first language (L1) readers. This phenomenon is well documented in studies on L2 online sentence processing (Marinis, 2003; Papadopoulou, 2005), which reveal that L2 learners’ local text processes are not automatic.
Marinis, T. (2003). Psycholinguistic techniques in second language acquisition research. Second Language Research, 19, 144–161.
Papadopoulou, D. (2005). Reading-time studies of second language ambiguity resolution. Second Language Research, 21, 98–120.
Perfetti, C. A. (1985). Reading ability. New York: Oxford University Press.
Perfetti, C. A. (1988). Verbal efficiency in reading ability. In G. E. MacKinnon, T. G. Waller, & M. Daneman (Eds.), Reading research: Advances in theory and practice (Vol. 6, pp. 109–143). New York: Academic Press.
Perfetti, C. A. (1991). Representations and awareness in the acquisition of reading competence. In L. Rieben & C. A. Perfetti (Eds.), Learning to read: Basic research and its implications (pp. 33–44). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Adjunct Instructor - Buena Vista University
Master of Educational Leadership
When reading, you must do more than just call the words in order to comprehend. Reading textbooks is a specialized type of reading. First skim the entire chapter. Then go back and read in sections. These may already be divided for you. If you don't know a word, look it up in a dictionary or on dictionary.com. Write the definition in the margin so you will remember it when you reread later. As you read each section, stop and ask yourself what the author is trying to convey to you. Why did he/she say that? What does that mean in this context? What does that mean to me? How does that connect to what I have already learned? How can I apply this knowledge? Again make notes in the margin. You may need to do this for each paragraph, depending on the density of the section. At the end of the chapter write a brief 3 or 4 sentence summary. When you get ready to go back and review for a test or to write a paper your notes and summary will be very helpful.
Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
Texas A&M University
Always read ahead and know what is to come. Any chance to get ahead start is an opportunity to put yourself ahead of the game.
Master of Special Education
Pittsburg State University