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Learning Skills: Reading Strategies

Useful guides to help you succeed in your studies.

Tips for reading

Set yourself up to succeed

  • Reading texts takes focus and your full attention.
  • Remove any distractions, try turning off the television or loud music and putting your phone on silent. Some loud distractions like children or housemates can't be removed.  If this is the case it can be beneficial to find somewhere else to read.
  • The library is a quiet place where you can sit and study without being disturbed. 
  • Always read with a pen and piece of paper close by for note taking.
  • Sit up at a desk or table. Laying down in a warm comfy bed will never be the best place for you to stay focused while you do your reading. 


Break large texts into manageable portions

  • Large texts can be daunting, but setting a goal can help you work your way through.
  • Set yourself a time or page limit, e.g. after 10 pages I will have a 5 minute break.
  • This can help break a large task into manageable portions, motivate you to accomplish large tasks and prevent fatigue. 


Identify the purpose

Before you begin reading ask yourself these questions to help you determine which reading technique to use:

  • Why has the teacher assigned this reading?
  • What am I supposed to get out of this text?

Different reading techniques


Want to find specific information quickly?
  • Move your eyes over the content quickly.
  • Try to find the key words.
  • Once you have found the key word, stop and read the paragraph and sentence around it.
  • If this meets your needs, do not read or scan any more.
  • If this does not meet your needs, read the rest of the content.



Want to get the main idea?
  • Decide what you want to focus on.
  • Imagine your eyes moving quickly over the text like 'skimming' a stone over water. The stone keeps moving.
  • Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.
  • Read the foreword, table of contents, headings and sub-headings, first and last paragraph in each chapter, visuals, pictures, tables and graph summaries.
  • Note any parts that you would like to come back to and read in closer detail. 


Active reading

Need to get a detailed understanding of a text?
  • Ask yourself pre-reading questions. For example, what is the topic and what do I already know about it? Why am I reading this?
  • Put a mark beside the main idea of the reading.
  • Read the opening and closing paragraphs.
  • Make notes beside what you have just read.
  • Write questions in the margins and answer them later.

Why use different reading styles?

Reading for academic success is more than just ticking a box and highlighting a few words, it's also very different from reading a novel or newspaper. 

Applying these tips and technique will make the task easier and help you get more out of your academic reading.