Dr. Brian Monger
Content marketing and Social Media serve up a lot of material. A lot of it more that 140 characters.
If you have a lot of reading or study to get through, you will need to develop different types of reading skills. Reading technical material, as distinct from novels, requires that you quickly absorb a large number of ideas or the major points of articles and books, not the details.
There are a number of techniques which you can use to improve your reading skills. however, ultimately it is your purpose for reading which will influence your reading rate and how you will deal with the text (eg. take notes, underline key words etc.).
Below is a description of four different reading approaches which can be adopted according to your purpose and the reading material.
Reading for an overview of any material entails reading quite rapidly, reading the introductory and concluding paragraphs, noting the main themes or points and forming an overall impression of what you read. You are not concerned with specific details or a complete understanding of the material. You read for an overview when, for example, you want to:
* find out how this book or article might be useful to you
* decide whether to read a book or article in detail, or
* add to your store of information on a familiar subject area or topic.
Reading for Specific Information
To locate (or re-locate) a specific item or section in a book or article, read through most of the material quite rapidly, using such features as the table of contents, the index, chapter headings and sub-headings to guide you to the item or section you want. Then read the section thoroughly, possibly taking notes or underlining. Use this technique if, for example, your purpose is to:
* look for specific sections in this book
* locate biographical details on a literary figure, or
* find evidence for or against a case you will debate.
Reading for Central Ideas
To familiarise yourself with central ideas in any material, first take an overview of it.
Then read so that the structure of the material and its central theme, thesis or argument becomes clear enough for you to write it down or explain it to someone else.
Read for the central message or ideas when, for example, you want to:
* familiarise your-self with the main approaches to study presented in this book
* read an article as background for a research paper, or
* understand the central conclusions in an experimental report.
Reading for an in-depth Critical Understanding
When reading to understand an entire book or article as thoroughly as possible, first preview or overview the material. Then read the material in detail, section by section, criticising or evaluating it. As you read ferret out the structure to understand its main thesis, the information supporting this, its theoretical perspective and the underlying assumptions.
Reading in this depth does not mean laboriously reading every page word by word. It does involve making sure that you read actively, understanding each section so that you can reproduce clearly what you have read with the material set aside and so that you can see how each section fits into the whole. Seeing clearly how material is organised or structured can help you to understand its content.
Read for an in-depth critical understanding if, for example, your purpose is to:
* identify the assumptions underlying this material and to evaluate its usefulness to you as a student
* follow a complex argument
* understand each stage of an experiment in order to repeat it yourself, or
* to understand the material thoroughly so you can build on it in further learning.
The following guidelines provide you with a number of questions to consider while you are actively reading.
The author’s purpose
* Why has the author written the material? Are these purposes explicitly stated? Are there other implicit purposes?
* For whom is the material intended?
* What theoretical perspective has the author taken? How does this perspective relate to other material in this field?
* What is the main theme (thesis or argument) in the material?
* What main points are used to justify or support this theme?
* How does the author develop the theme from one main point to another?
* What explanation or evidence is used to support the main points?
* Do the evidence and explanations seem well researched and accurate?
* Is the factual information correct as far as you know?
* Which aspect of the topic has the author chosen to concentrate on and which to omit?
* Is the material presented in too much breadth or depth? Is the material dealt with superficially or in too much detail?
* Has a contemporary issue or a particular philosophy influenced the author’s purpose? Is the author defending a particular point of view?
* What are the author’s underlying assumptions? Are these explicitly stated?
* Is there any evidence of deliberate bias, such as interpretation of material or choice of sources or factual information?
* Is any irrelevant material included?
* Does any graphic material illustrate or restate the written content?
* Which of your questions about the subject does the author answer? Which are not answered?
* How do the contents relate to what you know about the topic?
* Do any items puzzle or intrigue you?
* What framework is used to organise the material? Is the framework clearly explained?
* How is the theme/thesis/argument reflected in the structure?
* How is the content organised and developed within the framework?
* How does the author introduce the subject?
* Does the author recapitulate what has been said at appropriate points?
* How does the conclusion relate to the introduction and to the rest of the material?
Style and format
In what style has the material been written? For example, is it formal or informal, simple or complex, didactic or persuasive, narrative, analytical?
How does the style and format influence your reaction to the material?