Reading is a fact of academic life. Many of us are being assigned 200-300 pages of reading a week and honestly sometimes there is just no way to get through it all. On those occasions I employ a little to tool I like to call comprehensive skimming. This is not skimming in the traditional sense of scanning pages. I’ve learned to skim with a plan that will ensure that I’m bypassing the information that may or not be as relevant while identifying and retaining the core concepts of the reading.
This is not a substitution for reading for class. Ideally we should all strive to complete our reading as assigned by our professors. However, acquiring the skill of identifying main themes in your reading is one that will serve you throughout your academic career.
The first thing about comprehensive skimming is reading on purpose. A lot of times we open our textbooks to our assigned pages/chapters and just start reading. That should not be your first step. Each class session is connected to the one before so review your class notes and your syllabus to gain an idea of what this week’s class (or the one you are currently preparing for) will be all about. If your teacher provides discussion points or reading guides that’s even better. He/she has done some of the work for you. Be sure to take full advantage. Use this information to help you hone in on what the key ideas are.
Secondly, read the introduction and conclusion sections of chapters and articles thoroughly. The introduction sets the stage and usually lays out the main ideas of the reading are. The conclusion does the same but tends to also include references and examples of the key concepts. I read these sections first to kind of guide me to the necessary information in the reading. Then I can use this information in sifting through the chapter/article looking for the portions of reading that discuss the main themes at length.
Lastly, read for understanding. Make sure that you’re not just reading the information to say you did it. Read with the intention of understanding the text. You should be trying to connect the reading to the overall class discussion, your own previous understanding/knowledge, etc.. Not just glazing over the words. I’m speaking directly to my rabid highlighters. Those who just color every word and line of the paper but couldn’t tell you what the hell the author is actually saying . To help with this process, I use my margins to paraphrase key concepts and make my own examples/applications of the subject matter. I also write down questions and identify areas that need further exploration. Engaging with reading in this way helps to make sure you’re genuinely digesting, conceptualizing and learning course materials.
This is one of the methods that I use in preparing for class, again I’m no genius and I don’t claim to do everything right. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned so far in hopes that it can benefit someone else. Happy Studying