How to read efficiently?

Textbooks, magazines, newspapers, articles, reviews – in order to fully understand a particular subject you are often required to trawl through an enormous amount of information. How do you find time for that? How can you find what you are really looking for in this excess of information? Finally, how can you achieve the desired results with the lowest possible effort?

What am I really looking for?

You should ask yourself this question every time you start reading something. What is that I need? What do I expect from the textbook or article? Before you start reading, it might be helpful to prepare a list of topics you want to explore. This will help you prioritize your reading. Such a list might also be helpful in identifying the value of a given text. You could then quickly compare the table of contents or the synopsis with the list and, as a result, check to what extent the contents meet your needs. After all, if the text does not contain valuable or relevant information, maybe spending time reading it is not worth the effort. You could use your time more efficiently looking for something that would better suit your needs. As soon as you fully understand what your needs are, it is important to think about which source of information would be the best. For example, if you want to gain general knowledge about a particular subject, you don't have to read university textbooks, something less in-depth will suffice.

Methods of reading

Firstly, you need to decide how deep you want to dig into the particular issue. If you only need general information, it is enough to read introductions to and summaries of particular chapters. A quick scan of the text, during which you pay attention to tables or diagrams, would also help you gather the 'general information' required. During such scanning you could highlight any key words, which could later help you find important issues. Moreover, this method saves time and energy, as you do not need to pay attention to the less useful pieces of information. Unfortunately however, sometimes it is just not enough to get a general overview and you have to read the complete textbook a couple of times. In order to effectively muddle through all the material you can use the active reading technique. This primarily consists in the verbal and visual elaboration of the material. Different coloured pens or highlighters are useful if you want to underline key information. You can also make notes of the most important data and use the margins to write down the overview of the paragraphs. All this will help you remember or quickly find necessary the information during your revision. Furthermore, underlining makes you more focused on the actual reading.

What do I want to know? Answering this question gives you the opportunity to read consciously. The preparation time makes studying more efficient and very often it turns out that when all is done you have actually saved time. 

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