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Reading and Note-taking

Critical Reading 

We read to… learn and understand content; create a foundation for our own workimprove critical thinking skills; improve communication skills; and prepare for exams, discussions, and debates.

Tips for critical reading:

  • Abstracts, introductions, and conclusions contain core ideas; read these first
  • Engage with texts by asking questions, being critical; know you won’t always agree with authors
  • Divide reading into chunks and set time-based or volume-based reading goals
  • Background knowledge matters—trust your ability to ask effective questions

 

The SQ3R Method is a strategy that can help you understand and retain information you read:

Survey: Preview to focus and set goals. Figure out direction or purpose of text and estimate time you’ll need to read it.

  • Skim. Look for end-of-chapter questions. Read first + last paragraphs or abstract + discussion.

Question: Engage your mind. Keep alert and involved.

  • Ask what you need to learn from the text. Turn titles and headings into questions. Use course objectives to create questions.

Read: Add information to mental structures you have built. Gain information, understand material, and make connections.

  • Look up difficult terms. Pay attention to headings, graphic elements, words in bold/italics. Write questions about anything that’s unclear or questionable.

Recite: Improve concentration and learning. Assess your understanding of the material.

  • Summarize purpose, main ideas, and key terms. Answer your questions. Look away from text to recall what you read.

Review: Begin building memory. Improve retention and move information to long-term memory.

  • Do 15-min. daily reviews, 30-min. weekly reviews, and in-depth monthly reviews. Don’t just reread: create flashcards, practice questions, and visual organizers; teach someone else!

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca.  

 

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