6 Tips to Read More in Less Time

Be strategic to get the most out of your reading time.
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Got a long reading list? Welcome to graduate school! Expect to read multiple articles and, depending on your field, even a book each week. While nothing will make that lengthy reading list go away, you can learn how to read more efficiently and get more out of your reading for less time. Here are 6 tips that many students (and faculty) often overlook.

1.  Scholarly reading requires a different approach than leisure reading

The biggest mistake that students make is approaching their school assignments as if they were leisure reading.

Instead, academic reading requires more work. Read prepared to take notes, reread paragraphs, or look up related material. It's not simply a matter of kicking back and reading.

2.  Read in multiple passes

Sounds counter-intuitive, but the efficient reading of academic articles and texts requires multiple passes. Don't start at the beginning and finish at the end. Instead, scan the document multiple times. Take a piecemeal approach wherein you skim for the big picture and fill in the details with each pass.

3.  Start small, with the abstract

Begin reading an article by reviewing the abstract and then the first couple of paragraphs. Scan the headings and read the last couple of paragraphs. You might find that there is no need to read further as the article may not suit your needs.

4.  Read in more depth

If you deem that the material is necessary for your project, reread it. If an article, read the introduction (especially the end where the purpose and hypotheses are outlines) and conclusion sections to determine what the authors believe they studied and learned.

Then look at the method sections to determine how they addressed their question. Then the results section to examine how they analyzed their data. Finally, reexamine the discussion section to learn about how they interpret their results, especially within the context of the discipline.

5.  Remember that you don't have to finish

You're not committed to reading the entire article.

You can stop reading at any time if you decide that the article isn't important - or if you think you have all the information that you need. Sometimes a detailed skim is all that you need.

6.  Adopt a problem-solving mindset

Approach an article as you would a jigsaw puzzle, working from the edges, the outside, in. Locate the corner pieces that establish the overall framework for the article, then fill in the details, the centerpieces. Remember that sometimes you won't need those inside pieces to grasp the material.This approach will save you time and help you get the most from your reading in the least amount of time. This approach also applies to reading scholarly books. Examine the beginning and end, then headings and chapters, then, if needed, the text itself.

Once you step away from the one reading one-pass mindset you'll find that scholarly reading is not as hard as it looks. Consider each reading strategically and decide how much you need to know about it -- and stop once you've reached that point. Your professors may not agree with this approach, but it can make your work much more manageable as long as you review some articles in detail.