Developing your planning, reading, and note-taking strategies involves finding out, among other things, where and when you work best and how you get the most out of what you read. You can also use these strategies to prepare for the tasks that you need to do and to become more active during lectures and seminars.
As a university student, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the literature you need to read and all the tasks you need to carry out and complete at specific times. It is, therefore, a good strategy to make your own plan for the course or semester.
Here's how you can set up a strategic plan for your studies:
- Get an overview of the course or semester schedule.
- Find out which course literature needs to be read and by which date.
- Familiarise yourself with examination assignments as early as possible and plan for submission dates.
- Identify periods when your studies may be more intense, for example, just before sitting for exams or submitting your assignments, and make sure not to book too many other things then.
- Find out where and when you work most efficiently.
- Avoid things that can disturb your concentration and let those around you understand that you are busy.
- Schedule reading sessions, writing sessions, and breaks.
- Remember to set aside time for revision (before sitting your exams) and editing (before written submissions).
- Read and write consistently and set small, realistic goals for your study days.
It is strategic to read texts in different ways, depending on how you use them in your coursework. When you have a large amount of literature to familiarise yourself with, you need to find out what you need to read more thoroughly and what you just need to be familiar with.
Academic reading is facilitated by knowing the basic structure of scientific texts. These texts can look different and have different purposes, but typically scientific texts have a clear, overall structure with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Another common feature is that the content of each section is structured with the help of paragraph division and topic sentences, conjunctions, and a common theme or argument.
A basic prerequisite for reading effectively is to clarify what the goal of reading is. Reading in preparation for a sit-down exam to remember most of the content differs from getting an overview of a text to orientate oneself in a topic. This, in turn, differs from reading purposefully with a focus on a specific issue, for example, when writing an essay.
Different ways to read