Optimise your reading

Reading techniques


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    If you feel like you are behind with your reading, you might have an assumption that it is because you do not read quickly enough or because you are too lazy, and maybe you will think that others are much better at it than you are.

    The actual reason you often fall behind with your reading, is probably closer to your lack of a good and effective reading technique. When we read fiction or newspapers, we are accustomed to read from start to end. This is not an appropriate reading technique in relation to academic reading of the large quantities of material at University. That form of reading is closer to a process with the purpose of creating an overview and understanding both before and after reading it.

    Here you can read about three good methods to get the most out of that process.

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    You may not pay much attention to it, but it is actually rather important where and how you sit while reading as well as the arrangement of your study space.

    Make sure you are sitting in a place where you feel comfortable, and where you can sit in a pleasant and healthy position. Make sure you have the proper lighting and consider whether or not you have the right amount of space for your work tools as for example your computer and papers.

    Consider what material you can read where – a lot of material requires silence, contemplation and note taking, and is therefore not suitable to read at the park or on the bus. Turn off your cell phone completely, and make sure that you can generally avoid distractions. 

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    As you may have noticed, the curriculums at a University can be quite overwhelming. That is why you first and foremost have to choose which texts are most important to read.

    If you are in doubt of what to prioritise, it can help to look in your curriculum or speak to your teacher.

    Use this exercise to prioritise your curriculum:


    Do not despair over the many pages you have ahead. You do not have to remember each and every word. In fact, you can benefit from inculcating that your primary goal is to get an overview of the material, and get an understanding of the larger picture.

    Simply start with only reading the description on the back of the book, table of contents, preface, introduction and conclusion.

    Now close the book and ask yourself: “Do I have a sense of what the text wants?” Maybe you have gotten an impression that some chapters are more important than others are – which means that you can prioritise them over the others. 

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    Have you noticed that the material, which you gained the most knowledge from, is often the same material that you have been extremely motivated to read? Naturally, it is not everything that you think is equally exciting, but it can often help to use a playful approach.


    Place yourself as a detective, and explore the text. What is it, it wants to tell you? What secrets does it contain? Which new perspectives does it open your eyes to? React to its statements, and try to relate to it and think of what use the material can have.

    Some passages you will be able to look through lightly, while others require you to dwell and reflect more on them.

    Read summaries – take notes

    If you are having difficulties with a very challenging text, you can potentially start by reading others summaries of the material, for example from acknowledged reference works.

    While you are reading, it is important that you take notes. It improves your understanding in the moment, and makes it easier for you to remember your newly acquired knowledge. For example, write down your questions for the text, and the connections that you become aware of.

    Read about more good tips for note taking here

    After each chapter, it is a good idea to stop and give yourself a resume. Look for example through your notes, but not in the book. Can you remember the most important points, and put them into a context?

    Talk out loud to yourself – it helps your memory. When you are finished reading for the day in that book, you can now give yourself a whole resume. 

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    Here is the icing on top of the three methods

    In relation to study preparation, you are pretty much your own boss. Have you thought about how your motivation is affected by how you lead yourself? Avoid forcing yourself to read for longer periods than you actually can handle.

    Give yourself some planned pauses for a walk, a snack, or a little procrastination with a good conscience. Remember to reward yourself when you are finished with the day’s reading. You have earned it – and it unconsciously helps you to maintain your positive new habits.